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Cultural Encounters in Mgahinga

The Batwa Trail Experience In Mgahinga National Park

The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park introduces visitors on Uganda tours to the first people of the Forest “the Batwa People.”

Organized by Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Batwa trail is led by a local Twa (Batwa) guide, who explains how they used to live in the forest before being forcibly evicted when it became a national park. During the Batwa trail experience, you will learn about the Batwa hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

The event follows a trail along the lower slopes of Virunga to Garama Cave and involves the Batwa guides demonstrating several traditional practical skills such as;

  • Lighting fire by rubbing sticks together.
  • Bivouac building/the huts that they lived in.
  • Hunting and trapping techniques, target practice with a bow and arrow (meat may have been a rare dish indeed)
  • How to fetch water in a bamboo cup.
  • Food gathering (You will learn about nutritious leaves, plants, berries that are found in the forest that you might not even notice).
  • Gathering honey (The Batwa, like all of us, have a sweet tooth. Wild Honey, is a much sought-after treat. You will learn how to extract it, eat it in the Forest).
  • The plants, roots, herbs, bark from trees that the Batwa have used for centuries. (You see plants. The Batwa people see a pharmacy).

The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla Park ends inside Ngarama Cave, a low-ceilinged lava tube that is beneath the mountain where the chief used to hold his councils, and where women and children hid during battle.

It was also a self-contained hiding place for the community.  Water was available. Fires were lit to keep warm and to illuminate the area. There was a shaft for the smoke to escape from.

A group of Batwa women in the darkness sing and acts out a song of sadness about the loss of their beloved forest and their desire to return to what is now Mgahinga Gorilla National  Park.

The trail also includes a discussion of the current plight of the Batwa, who have been reduced to squatting in bivouacs on Bakiga-owned farmlands along the margins of the forest.

Batwa Trail Experience fees (per person)

  • US$80 for Foreign Non-Resident Visitors
  • US$80 Foreign Resident Visitors
  • UGX50,000 for East African Citizens

The fees include the park entrance and guide fees.

Part of the Batwa cultural trail fee goes directly to the guides and the rest goes to the Batwa community fund to cover school fees and books and improve their livelihoods.

How long is the Batwa Trail Experience?

  • Two variations are possible, both leaving at 08.30 to 09.00 and culminating in a visit to Garama Cave.
  • The short trail leaves from Ntebeko Gate and takes around three hours
  • The longer trail starts from Muhabura gate and takes up 7 hours

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