The Batwa Experience is a living history encounter unlike any other. Visit it just outside the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda, home of the mountain gorillas. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet, a profusion of exotic plants and animals that includes the endangered mountain gorilla. For thousands of years, the forest was also home to an indigenous people the Batwa pygmies. The Batwa were traditionally hunters and gatherers, the two Bakiga and Bafumbira, have always been farmers.
The Batwa History
As the original migrates of this ancient jungle, the Batwa people were known as “The Keepers of the Forest.” The history of these small-statured people is long and rich. The Batwa survived by hunting small game using arrows or nets and gathering plants and fruit in the rain forest. They lived in huts constructed of leaves and branches, moving frequently in search of fresh supplies of food. The Batwa lived in harmony with the forest and its creatures, including the mountain gorillas, for millennia.
In 1992, the lives of the Batwa pygmies changed forever. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest became a national park and World Heritage Site to protect the 350 endangered mountain gorillas within its boundaries. The Batwa were evicted from the park. Since they had no title to land, they were given no compensation. The Batwa became conservation refugees in an unfamiliar, un forested world.
Many Batwa died during the early years of exile, and the tribe’s very existence was severely threatened. Beginning in 2001, American medical missionaries Dr. Scott and Carol Kellerman dedicated themselves to serving the Batwa in southwest Uganda for nearly a decade. The Kellermans purchased land and established programs to improve conditions for the tribe home-building, schools, a hospital and clinics, water and sanitation projects, income generation, and the promotion of indigenous rights.
The routes lead to welcoming local people who are proud to entertain in the widest sense of the word visitors from around the world.
The Batwa Experience is located in southwestern Uganda adjacent to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on the Buhoma side.
The Batwa Experience
The Batwa Experience is on old-growth forest land adjacent to the Bwindi National Park, but not in it. No park permit is required. Come to the Buhoma side of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Just before the main entrance gate to the National Park, you will see the Batwa Craft Banda on the left side of the road. Inquire here for reservations and detailed information. Visitors will gather at the Batwa Craft Banda (near the Buhoma-side Bwindi Impenetrable National Park gate).
The Batwa Experience guide will take you from there to the trail head. The hike and visit take a total of 5 hours or less, depending on the interests of the client and on the pace. The start time is flexible; the latest time to leave is 2:00 p.m. Afternoon hikes are not advised during the rainy season. The Batwa Experience guide will advise as to the best times to visit. We can take 2 groups per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, except during rainy season.
The hike is moderately strenuous. Parts of the trail are steep but manageable. The path is well-maintained, and the guide will travel at your desired pace. The hike is not recommended for clients with major mobility issues or severe health problems that could place them at risk in an isolated environment. While Planning for gorilla trekking safaris include the Batwa trail and carry your own water and possibly some snacks. At the site, the Batwa will prepare you a traditional meal of matoke, goat stew, and fruits; if you cannot eat these foods, plan to carry your lunch as well. Wear athletic shoes or hiking boots and long pants; bring rain gear. Use insect repellent. The minimum is 1-2 visitors and the maximum is 12 in a group. Up to 2 groups a day can be accommodated.
The proceeds generate income for individual Batwa families and support funding for Batwa healthcare, education, and community development through the Batwa Development Program. Batwa elders created the Batwa Experience to preserve their forest culture, teach Batwa children about their heritage, and introduce visitors to their rich culture and fascinating history.