A round the world, few destinations can match Uganda’s long human history, the people and their tradition is one way to best describe it as a “melting pot of culture.” Uganda is the only destination where countless tribes are all harmonized within the same country and yet also promotes tremendous cultural exchange among themselves. In terms of diversity, Uganda is a true melting pot of cultures with the renowned 65 tribal groups that have positioned the country to be one of the best places for cultural safaris in Africa. Despite the intense wildlife, Uganda is a true haven of unexploited culture which is represented in all the regions. Uganda’s cultural diversity is distributed in different landscapes which also posses distinct life styles and traditions ranging from the staunch pastoralists in the Northeast to the Batwa pygmies-the original forest occupants in extreme Southwest. With this diversity, Uganda’s culture offers a great deal to the tourism industry especially for safari visits on cultural experiences. Ugandans either have the same culture or totally different which makes it one of the most outstanding products for one to have total satisfaction about real African culture.
Besides wildlife safaris, a cultural trip to the remote national parks, kingdoms, historical sites among others is one thing that can make your safari in Uganda complete. Cultural tourism in Uganda has showed some growth rate with several visitors who get into the country. Culture has a bigger impact in the tourism industry especially for authentic exploration of ones history in many cultural sites in Uganda.
|UGANDA'S CULTURAL DANCE|
Below is a list of various cultural encounters that can help your stay in Uganda enjoyable besides the renowned mountain gorillas-chimpanzees-birds and big five game.
The Batwa pygmies:
The Batwa people were the first people to live in Uganda’s dense tropical rain forest-Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They lived in this forest for almost 500000 years simply because they discovered the hidden treasures in Bwindi's jungles right from shelter to food. Unfortunately, there was need to conserve the biodiversity in this area especially the mountain gorillas and the Batwa had to be forced out of their home some thing that left them marginalized on planet. Although they have taken up tour guiding as one way to improve on their lives, they still wish to return to the jungles to resume their life style. If you are planning for your gorilla safari in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, endeavor to include the Batwa Trail Experience or Batwa encounter in South-western Uganda. The Batwa trail offers tourists a great opportunity to explore their life styles in the forest at a time which is indeed an authentic African experience as they take through the same places where they lived harmoniously with the forest for centuries. Visit the Mgahinga and take up the Batwa trail, Buniga forest walk or experience the Bwindi Forest with the Batwa in Buhoma sector.
Buhoma community village walk:
Culture is centered on traditional dances, people, art and craft of which Buhoma community village walk offers you an opportunity if you are in Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The three hour village walk is worth as it takes you through unique traditional ways like the locally made crafts, dances, food preparation, brewing and traditional healers.
Ruboni is main refuge to the Bakonjo, the renowned keepers of the Rwenzori Mountain of the Moon. Visit the village and experience how the traditional healers in this area do his things, while the village leader/elder takes you through the historical back ground of the Bakonjo people. As well, never miss to pay a visit to local blacksmith as he uses the ancient ways to produce the tools that people need. Have you ever prepared your own food? Pay a visit to this village and select a home and be part of food preparation team, dancing or get drumming lessons and many other things for you to learn. For accommodation, you can spend a night at Ruboni Community Camp or Equator Snow Lodge.
The Karamojong Manyattas:
Visiting the Karamojong people is such an incredible experience as you explore the life style of these ancient and proud warrior pastoralists and their families in Manyatta houses. The Karamojong are fierce and proud semi nomadic pastoralists in the remote North Eastern Uganda. Their behavior is more of resistance and for long; they are believed to have resisted most of modern projects and centered their minds in pastoralism.
The IK tribe:
Still, in North Eastern Uganda comes another incredible group of people for you to interact with. The IK people are popularly known as the “Mountain people.” They decided to isolate themselves from the rest and stayed on Mount Morungole. Visiting the Ik people means you have to hike up to the top point of Mount Morungole-North Eastern, Uganda. If you visit Kidepo Valley National Park, never miss to encounter 11000 Ik people on their mountain. The Ik people are believed to be the remotest tribes in East African region with their traditional practices and the historical background that will make up your experience just like the renowned Batwa pygmies in south western Uganda. They are said to be the first inhabitants in North Eastern region prior their shift to the mountain. Historically, this small tribe first had their representative in the Ugandan Parliament just of recent.
This place is recognized for unique cultural legend just near Kampala city. The place is still vital for Bagandas to whom the ancient ways still hold value. Interestingly, the recent Kabaka Ronald Mutesi has planted a tree in this area. In the previous hundred years, there was a woman called “Nakangu” from the FOX clan who was almost giving birth to twins but gave birth to two rivers and two streams. Currently, other people can be seen with lots of sacrifices of local brew beer, chicken, goats and bark cloth. There is also fertility shrine in a depression in the rocks by the falls. The falls also has restaurant for you to have some lunch and if you are interested in nature and birding walks, you can still choose to do it in this place.
Nakayima witch’s tree:
The tree is just 3 hour drive from Kampala on Fort Portal-Kibale Forest National Park route. It is a renowned place for traditional and cultural practices. Getting into this place offers you great opportunity to explore the traditions and practices that have been conducted under this tree for more than 500 years. You will be told the oral traditions concerning the area, the ancient Nakayima and the way the spirit world the lives of Ugandans still intertwine today. Visiting this place offers the most fantastic legends and tales, scenic beauty especially the beautiful plateau.
The Imbalu male circumcision ceremonies:
Have you ever visited Mbale, Eastern Uganda? The Bagisu people have one of the rare traditional practices famously known as “Imbalu.” This practice always occurs in even years and it is a public circumcision ceremony where boys are turned into men. Whenever the event occurs, thousands of people come from various parts of Uganda and adjacent Kenya and many tourists also attend this event. The event occurs at the beginning of August up to December of even year. This is an important event for the Bagisu people and the tourists have sighted it as a time of cultural exploration while visiting Uganda.
The Abayudaya Jews of Uganda:
The Abayudaya Jews of Uganda are not Jew per say but by choice and they suffered a lot during Idi Amin’s days. Currently, they are small, thriving, religious community that has a clinic and a dental clinic, plants coffee along with Muslims and Jews and they contribute to community at large. For interested visitors, you need to plan it early enough for your experience with the Jews of Uganda. Interestingly, the Chief Rabbi is an MP who was elected by all people and not just the Abayudaya.
This is a place of historical and natural wonder near Fort Portal and Kibale Forest National Park. Tourists can as well plan for full day safari with their packed food and then go for a guided nature walk as they visit three crater lakes. Traditional stories say that the King cut off the breasts of his daughter as a punishment for her ill behavior, while the dropping water seemed milky by the calcium carbonate was termed by locals as “breast milk.” Scientifically, they are actual stalactites made of calcium carbonate when mixed with water drip to form stalactites.
Nyero Rock Paintings:
Nyero rock paintings are situated next to Kumi town in the village called Nyero. Visitors who get into this place get chance to explore the three cave shelters and be able to see the ancient rock paintings in Uganda that describe the Iron Age times. If you are an archaeologist, Nyero Rock paintings are worth visiting; for visitors to Kidepo Valley National Park, they can combine their safari with that of rock paintings shelters caves. The three caves can be reached by visitors who travel to Kidepo, Sipi Falls or Mbale Town.
Ndere Cultural Dance and Music Troupe:
Ndere Troupe is Uganda’s cultural dance group that has kept the diverse culture in the country live through creativity and performances. While in Kampala, you shouldn’t miss this wonderful experience of a life time as they demonstrate Uganda’s cultural dances, traditions and where possible have a traditional dinner at Ndere cultural center. Ndere center is situated around Kampala area.
Sosolya Dance Performers:
The Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy is a cultural center for talented children and youth in Uganda. They mostly teach and perform African Music and Dance for visitors who get into Uganda. This group normally performs every Sunday afternoon at 4 pm and beyond at Hotel International around Muyenga Area of Kampala. The group is composed of young talented people who demonstrate several dances across the Great Lakes Region of Africa. You can choose to dance or drumming classes from this group and it will be organized for you.
The Royal Drum Makers:
The Mpambire cradle of Drum making in Uganda is a known drum makers of Mpambire that demonstrate the old ways of making drums. This group is not known for drum making only but also they are Royal Drum Makers for the Kabaka of Buganda Kingdom. If you are interested in safari to Western Uganda and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or even Queen Elizabeth National Park, you can still pass by Mpambire and make a stop over the Royal Drum Makers of Mpambire. You can as well get one drum from Uganda’s Royal Drum Makers.
Igongo Cultural Center and Museum:
In South-Western Uganda still, never miss visiting Igongo cultural center a natural and cultural heritage for all the Ankole cultures. Igongo is the best stop over on your en-route to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. You can have lunch and then enjoy the local Ankole culture and their history.
Uganda’s Martyrs shrine and Museum at Namugongo:
Every year, 3rd June is a public holiday in Uganda where Christians gather to commemorate the lives of 22 Catholics and 23 Church of Uganda (Anglicans) who were executed for their faith and denounce of Kabaka Mwanga’s orders at a time (3rd 1886). The shrine can be visited at any time of the year. You can as well join thousands of pilgrimage at Kibeho on 27 May and Namugongo on 3rd June as proceed for your gorilla tracking or wildlife safari in Lake Mburo. In 2015, Pope Francis happened to be the third Pope to visit the shrine and museum and you too can come and experience the Faith that Ugandans have in their hearts.
In conclusion, Uganda is a true melting pot of cultures where you can experience lots of legends and tales in various Kingdoms with unique scenic views, ideal climate and welcoming people in African continent.