Most tourists find interest to visit the unique indigenous Batwa trail after gorilla tracking to discover how the Batwa used to live and survive on row fruits, bush meat, wild honey and then gather at their famous Garama caves just 3 km from Ntebeko visitors centre.
Along the trail the Batwa guide clearly narrates their story before eviction from the forest and many young Batwa women and boys will perform traditional beliefs such as dances to entertain visitors, fire making, hunting techniques right at the entrance of the 342 km cave.
Visitors can enter inside to have a look at the ancient sitting places, rocks carvings that acted as their shelter during war times. A visit to this trail is a way of contributing to conservation of Batwa cultures which are vulnerable to extinction and proceeds have helped most of them to improve their lives, access education like never before.The other dominant people in the region are the Bafumbira and Bakiga who are also friendly and welcoming.
Experience the Batwa Trail
The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park allows you to experience the interactive ways of the ancient Batwa People who once lived in these forests for 500,000 years. These where hunters, gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine. When the national park was established the Batwa were evicted from the forest and abandoned their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. The only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guides on the Batwa Trail, on which visitors will discover the magic of the Batwa’s ancient home while enjoying nature walks and learning about the cultural heritage. The Trail” is part of a project to restore dignity and hope by keeping the Batwa Culture and Traditions alive to the Batwa People, give employment to those who are in involved in the day-to-day project of the “Batwa Trail” from the dancers to the guides, pay for school fees for their children, books and beyond that buy land for the community.
How the Batwa Trail is Conducted
Your participation in the Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park is a half day activity will not only be an informing and interesting time for you, but aid the Batwa Pygmy Community. The walk starts out with a Batwa elder dressed in skins telling the story of the Batwa creation and how they became people of the forest.
Walk along in the shadows of Mount Muhavura also called Muhabura – meaning the guide and Gahinga Volcanoes as your guide stops and kneels down. Has he spotted an animal but he asks his God to bless the walk as the hunter of old did as they went to hunt in the forest of old.
Further down you may stop for a few berries that the hunter used to use for a meal prior to hunting. Learn the value of plants used for medicine such as blood pressure and other medical needs. The black crust of ants nests used for applying to fungal infections of the skin. You will notice them demonstrating hunting and trapping techniques, starting a fire with stick, gathering honey, the huts that they lived in and more. Most conservationists argue that their lifestyle had a low impact on the forest environment and their surroundings. However, they can no longer stay in the forest!
The Batwa Trail allows them to return to the beloved forest and show others about how they lived and potentially keep some of their ways and crafts such as making bamboo cups, clothing beyond this generation of the Batwa people.
Proceed to the Garama Cave – the residence of the King of the Batwa People. No outsider was allowed to enter though you have special permission. The cave was also used for the Batwa people to hide from their enemies. You will enter the cave if you are a bit claustrophobic and relax – it will be fine. You enter down – darkness embraces you and you hear mournful chants of the Batwa women – mourning the loss of the beloved forest. A dim light illuminates the cave and you see them dancing with the words like tears pouring forth – a most meaningful time.
Outside there are celebratory dances and music demonstrated by these Batwa people also known as the pygmies of Uganda. Experiencing the Batwa Trail is commonly done if you are tracking Gorillas in the Nkuringo, Rushaga Area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Try it.