Before the Bwindi forest was turned into a national park to protect mountain gorillas and their natural habitant, the forest was also home to the Batwa pygmies and were known as the forest keepers. According to anthropologists, the pygmies tribes such as the Batwa have existed in African’s equatorial forests for over 60,000 years and more.
As forest dwellers, the Batwa survived on hunting small game, fruit and vegetable gathering from with in the forest. They lived in small grass and leaves thatched huts which were not for permanent stay since they moved constantly in search for fresh food and wild animals. For a long time, they co existed peaceful with the rest of the forest animals including mountain gorillas without being a threat to their survival.
When the Bwindi impenetrable forest was turned into a national park in 1992, the Batwa were chased out of the only place they called home. Since they had no “land title” to claim the world heritage site their home and survival, they were given no compassion, but to look for exile else where. This greatly affected their way of living as the only way of living they were accustomed to was depending on forest fruits, vegetables, herbs and hunting and they faced a very hard time surviving in an unforested land. Many of they died during the early years of exile and their tribe was threatened to extinction.
Salvation for the Batwa pygmies was brought by American medical missionaries Dr. Scott and Carol Kellermann who have dedicated themselves to saving the Batwa in southwest Uganda. The Kellermanns purchased land and established development 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 Batwa cultural experience was put in place by the displaced Batwa pygmies to educate their children and to share their amazing heritage and traditions with the world. The Experience takes place outside of the park in an old-growth forest on land that is next to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park. The Batwa experience begins with a nature-walk, hike through the forest seeing the forest in a new way, through the eyes of the original people of the Forest. Learn how they hunted the small animals they used for food, what things they gathered, how traps and nets were used.
The Batwa Experience will also show you how they lived in huts made of grass, trees, the use of tree-houses, caves. Experience the Batwa village life of old, the sharing, of living as a community, as a people, learn the things that they revered and cared for and almost lost.
Embarking on the Batwa experience exposes you to:
Hike in the forest with the people of the forest with the help of a Batwa guide and he will provide you with the chance to see the forest and its habitats through their eyes.
See how they lived and hunted in the traditional manner. Enjoy trying out your hunting techniques as the Batwa teach you how to shoot with a bow and arrow.
Visit a traditional Batwa homestead and learn from the women how to prepare, cook and serve a meal. You will also have the opportunity to sample the prepared dishes.
Talk to a medicine men and learn about the medicinal properties of the forest flora.
Hear ancient legends and traditional songs.
Today, that Batwa are mainly living in the districts of Kisoro, Kabale, Kanungu, Bundibigyo, Mbarara, Ntungamo, some in Lwengo and Mubende and other places therefore they are scattered.
Batwa Trail in Bwindi National Park
The hike to the Batwa pygmies local village is situated up a steep hill where you get to meet them and interact with the community pygmies. One you reach their village, your welcomes with an open big smile. During your visit, you will learn how to hunt, honey gathering, making medicine from herbs, how they made clothing while they still lived in the first, how they kept their children as they did their house duties. They also prepare lunch during the train and later a very beautiful dance and drumming. The Batwa trail is a very wonderful experience which you can add on your gorilla safari while in Bwindi national park.
The Batwa trail can be done the day you go your gorilla tour if you see the gorillas early or the evening you arrive in Bwindi. You can plan a 4 Day Bwindi Gorillas & Culture Safari so that you can experience both adventures within the park.