The Batwa pygmies in Bwindi
The Batwa pygmies are the original dwellers of the Bwindi forest a reason they are called the keepers of the forest. They are small short people that used collect honey, gather fruits, and used to kill small animals for meat using bows and arrows to survive. The Batwa pygmies used to stay in small houses that were grass thatched and made of tree branches as well as caves while they stayed in the park.
The Batwa people stopped staying in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park between the years 1991 and 1992. In those years the government was telling the Batwa pygmies to leave the park so that they gazette it to make it a national park. The Batwa people were evicted out of the park to protect the park animals, especially the mountain gorillas that were getting to extinction.
The Batwa pygmies left the national park and they now live outside the park boundaries as well as in the villages around the park. When the Batwa pygmies agreed to live Bwindi forest, they were given land and grow crops that they would feed on instead of killing the small animals in the park for meat. As of today, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park protects more than 600 mountain gorillas, other 10 primates, 350 birds, and 120 mammal species.
A visit to Batwa pygmies
The Batwa cultural experience was started by the Batwa pygmies to allow tourists that come to the park learn about the culture of the small stature people who used to live in the forest of Bwindi and spread it to the outside world. Most of the tourists that visit the Batwa pygmies are those that visit the park for mountain gorilla trekking activities and would want to experience their culture.
A visit to the Batwa homesteads can be done in the morning or afternoon while on your gorilla safari in Bwindi. The activity is one of those you shouldn’t miss out on while in the park for any safari. The Batwa cultural experience starts in the Buhoma region at the Batwa craft shop and it takes 3-4 hours to go through the thick forest and get to the Batwa communities around the park. The whole journey to the Batwa community is less strenuous because the trails taming you to their homes were well designed.
Tourists that have heavy luggage like those that are going for filming activities can hire porters at an affordable fee to help in carrying the luggage. The porters are from the surrounding areas looking for money to feed their families and also go to school. The Batwa cultural experience is led by a local guide who is also from the Batwa pygmies and knows all the information about the tribe.
The activity starts with a nature walk in the jungle where the Batwa guides keep telling you different information about the jungle and how they used to survive in it. The time you go through the forest gives you an opportunity to know how these people used to survive in the jungle gathering fruits, collecting honey, and killing small animals using arrows and bows. While in the forest, you will be shown different plants that are used to cure illness and are still used by the traditional healers around their communities.
When you reach the Batwa community, you will be welcomed by the traditional dancers who will entertain you through dances and drama. You will go around different homes where you will meet different people doing their day to day work like women preparing food, children fetching water, men digging, and much more. you can taste their local food or be part of the food preparation. You will visit gift shops and see some of the crafts they make, meet traditional healers that will show you how different plants cure illnesses and you will meet the elder people that will tell you stories of long ago.
How much does it cost to see the Batwa pygmies?
For you to participate in the Batwa cultural experience, you don’t need to pay park entrance fees because the activity is done outside the park. All you need to pay is a ticket of $40 for both foreign non-residents and foreign residents then UGX40,000 East African citizens. The money collected from travelers that visit the Batwa pygmies is used to increase the incomes of the support the community members and grow some of their businesses. Apart from the money collected, the travelers who visit Batwa pygmies do donate to the needy things such as clothes and scholastic materials.
What to pack for the Batwa cultural experience?
Tourists intending to visit the Batwa pygmies on a gorilla safari in Bwindi should pack energy-giving snacks and drinking water because the journey is a bit difficult and tiresome, long-sleeved clothes, and a rain jacket because it can do rain at any time of the day in Bwindi, waterproof hiking shoes and long cotton stocks to pass you through rugged terrain, insect repellents, face mask, sanitizer, a camera, and a pair of binoculars.