Are you curious in exploring about the Batwa people and mountain gorilla tourism in Uganda? The Batwa are regarded as “pygmies” whose ancestral home was the tropical rain forest in Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda but later got displaced due to need to conserve valuable wildlife species like the critically endangered mountain gorillas. These forest hunters and gatherers were evicted from their treasured forest some thing which made them conservation refugees at the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park.
|Bwindi Impenetrable Forest-the ancestral home for the Batwa people|
Like any one can tell his or her creation history, these unusual pygmies too have a remarkable creation story that is worthy sharing! If our creator rewarded others with fascinating heights and abundant land, the Batwa pygmies got it all “African tropical rain forest.” But what seemed a demeaning moment for these creatures was the 1990 conservation eviction, which left them perplexed like their Almighty God had finally abandoned them. Today, visiting these unique pygmies is one of the criteria to retain their historical practices and culture a live.
|The Batwa people making fire|
As well, several people still ask if surely there is a peaceful life between the forest dwellers and mountain gorilla tourism or conservation. Well, we can say there is or there was harmonious survival between two because it happened for a thousand centuries without any kind of environmental effect and why not coexist with nature? However, different misconceptions have been said about the Batwa pygmies; others have called them “conservation killers” but this does not matter because they never did it as said or even tasted the mountain gorillas. But due to interface with the modern life after the eviction, they found that money was used as an inducement a reason they are misunderstood as gorilla killers.
What is interesting about the Batwa and the mountain gorillas?
Despite the blame that has been passed onto the Batwa pygmies, they should be credited as “The keepers of and protectors of rain forest”, that provided an ideal refuge for the world star attraction-the mountain gorillas. This serves as a reason why several of the largest primates are concentrated within Uganda and thousands of visitors are attracted for gorilla trekking or tracking throughout the year. Not until the Bantu people migrated into the area that deforestation and cattle grazing were initiated in the beloved tropical forest that the gorilla refuge an impact was noticed. To day the Uganda boasts as the best tourist destination because of abundant wildlife especially in magnificent national parks like Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park but we as well applaud the work of these amazing pygmies. Even at the time Rwanda was turned into a kingdom, still the Batwa people could pay tribute to the Tutsi king in several occasions and they even included in the king’s court as advisers, warriors and dancers. Their source of money was from the forest encroachers, the caravans and traders who would encroach on their place.
1991 was a year of disgrace to these pygmies when Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park were established to protect several species like birds, plants, and world’s largest primates. This made the Batwa the marginalized species around the two parks. However, with current intense pressure from surrounding communities still, we can say it was in deed an important initiative to gazette the forest because they wouldn’t be available, and hence we applaud mountain gorilla protection and tourism that have kept the primates home.
On other hand, it was unfortunate that these forest dwellers who had a harmonious life with several species, took only what they needed, went with no compensation! Although these are Ugandan nationals, they had no human rights some thing that made them to be refugees around the two national parks. The preconception that went against these pygmies really made them to be neglected including the government.
However, their customs and ancient practices almost disappeared and it has now turned to be history in the ears of the Batwa children since they have not encounter ancient forest lifestyle their ancestors experienced. Never the less, these pygmies have currently got a voice for their views to be heard using several Batwa organizations and currently these organizations have caused a positive impact on them. Hopefully, they may wish to return to the forest and still have a peaceful stay with the Giant Apes but this probably won’t happen in any way!
These pygmies are currently not more than 3000 but the ancient Batwa traditions and coexistence with the jungle, wildlife that includes the critically endangered mountain gorillas is under going revitalization by concerned agencies. These agencies include the American medical missionaries by Dr. Scott and Carol Kellermann; Carol Kellermann for instance bought land and built schools, hospital and clinics, water and sanitation as well as several projects that help in income generation. All these support activities are currently belonging to Batwa Development Program (BDP) and it is supported by the Kellermann Foundation; a US based non profit organization.
Are there exciting things to enjoy in the Batwa community?
Oh! Yes, there are more than mountain gorillas in South-Western Uganda. Meaning visitors get authentic cultural experiences with the Batwa people much as they are restricted from staying in the forest. We appreciate Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Netherlands Embassy in Kampala for initiating the “Batwa Cultural Trail” at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The Batwa Trail Experience has helped the Batwa Guides to realize their potential while guiding the visitors via the jungle, explaining to them the old ways of hunting and gathering, the different ways that they used to survive while in the forest. Come and enjoy your stay with the Batwa people! Its in deed an incredible experience for visitors here especially encountering the eyes of forest dwellers and exploring the Garama cave where the Batwa king lived and then be welcomed by a thrill of lamenting song from the Batwa women as they mourn why they no longer stay in the forest. This activity is currently serving as a source of survival.
|The Batwa Trail Experience-Mgahinga Gorilla National Park|
In addition, the International Gorilla Conservation Program started the Buniga Batwa Forest Walk and Village visit program. At extreme southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is where Buniga forest is situated, it is not included in the Bwindi jungle but just a portion of the similar vegetation, wildlife species and apes that are shared between them. To reach Buniga forest, one can go through Nkuringo, Rushanga, Lake Mutanda or Kisoro. While here, visitors who get into this are get filled with informative stories concerning the Batwa pygmies and their ancient practices like bee-hives and handcraft making as well as seeing the original forest dwellers.
Further more, there is also the Batwa Experience at Buhoma-Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where visitors come to explore more on ancient hunting and gathering as well as food preparation and also discovering the value of forest to man. It is delightful sharing a meal with these pygmies; let it be your memorable experience as you include it in your safari! Come and compare the current state of the forest and the past.
In conclusion, equally gorilla tourism and the Batwa pygmies should be credited for the protection of the mountain gorilla, forest, birds and several species that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park boast of today. Visiting the Batwa is one of the remarkable experiences any one must not miss while at a gorilla safari in any of the two parks in South Western Uganda. With 3 unusual cultural activities to do in the Batwa community, visitors can take part in the Batwa Trail Experience, Buniga forest walk and Batwa Experience at Buhoma area and no regrets are attached because they are areas to up date memories with the first forest dwellers. If you are interested in any cultural activity; please consult Maranatha Tours and Travel and they will be of great value to you!