Mgahinga Batwa Trail
APPROX 4 HOURS | US$80 PER PERSON
Hike into the archaic hunter-gatherer cultures of Uganda's Twa forest people on this exciting Batwa Cultural Trail in Mgahinga National Park. The Batwa Trail leads from the base of Muhuvura Cave into the jungle museum showcasing a pygmy forest tribe that used to live in the rainforest Park. These tribesmen were hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine. In creating the Mgahinga National Park, they were forced out of the park and rehabilitated in the villages that surround the park.
The Mugahinga Batwa Cultural Trail
Usually taken after or before your gorilla tracking experience, the Mgahinga Batwa Cultural Trails gives you an experience into the ancient ways of the Batwa people who once lived within the forest and also explore their ancient cultures. The Batwa were the original inhabitants of the forests before Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park were gazetted into National Parks in 1991. The dense forests on the foothills of Virunga Volcanoes used to be their comfortable homes where they lived as hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors depending on the forest for food, herbal medicine and food.
Forced out of the mountain gorilla UNESCO world heritage park, the Batwa had to leave behind their native cultures and adopt to the ways of modern agriculture and pastoralism, this meant letting their original cultures die to the past. The Mgahinga Batwa trail is a way of teaching the world their rich culture and so that their later generations can find the written historical text like this one.
This walk is conducted by Batwa guides who provide insights into their traditional forest life and culture. The Batwa trail starts with the guide stopping and kneeling down at a certain hut to pray to the gods to bless the walk. This same spot is where the men in the ancient days used to kneel and pray to the gods before they venture into the forest to hunt. As you continue with the walk, you will stop to pick some berries that the hunter of olden days used to consume as a meal before hunting. You will be taken to a natural Pharmacy (local herbs in the forest). Here you will learn about the different plants and roots that the Batwa used as medicine to stop bleeding after child delivery, herbs for malaria, blood pressure and other ailments/diseases. For example the black cover of ant nests were used for treating skin fungal infections and for almost all illnesses. You will also be shown the leaves that are always ground into paste and used to get rid of evil spirits. Surprisingly no plant within the forest is a waste or not important. What seems as a wild yellow fruit or plant, the Batwa see it as a delicious vegetable sauce or even ingredients of a natural soap.
The Batwa will demonstrate their past hunting techniques; ways of gathering honey. They will point out the medicinal plants that were used and demonstrate how to make bamboo cups and several other sacred hunting techniques. You'll then finally be invited to the sacred Ngarama Cave, once home to the Batwa King.
On the trail you'll visit the archaic Batwa grass-thatched huts and see a demonstration of how those huts are constructed, maintained and shared among a Twa family. The women at the hut will demonstrate some family rituals like cooking, taking care of family and also perform a cultural dance, in which you'll be gracefully asked to participate.
The Batwa now live in permanent houses, some of their children now go to school and others are employed to earn a living for their families. The Mgahinga Batwa trail is a way to help them earn a revenue and slowly adopt the new way of life. This tour always takes 4 hours and costs US$80 per person per day. Part of the money that you pay is kept by Uganda Wildlife Authority to support Batwa Development projects like constructing schools while the other percentage is paid to the guides so that they can be able to support their families.