The Batwa Cultural Tour in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

The Batwa cultural tour in Bwindi will treat you to some of the most fascinating traditional folklore, melodies, dances and other performances.

The Batwa cultural tour is an excursion to visit one of the most popular and indigenous tribes of Uganda – the Batwa pygmies in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Take back to ancient times and explore how the Batwa lived for millennia in Bwindi, one of the most magnificent forests on the African continent and home to the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. Enjoy a fantastic walk on the outskirts of the park with Batwa guides, learn about their origin, traditions, customs, and lifestyles, as well as enjoy breathtaking sightings of birds of Uganda, primates, etc. the Batwa cultural tour in Bwindi will also treat you to some of the most fascinating traditional folklore, melodies, dances and other performances.

About the Batwa of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Located in western Uganda in Kanungu district, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park protects some of the vast biodiversity on the earth, with a plethora of rare flora and fauna, including the endangered mountain gorillas. For thousands of years, the forest was also home to an indigenous tribe known as the Batwa pygmies who solely depended on the forest for food, shelter, and medicine. The Batwa are said to be one of Uganda’s first ethnic groupings, often recognized for their small and short size, in addition to their archaic hunting and gathering practices.

For thousands of years, the Batwa lived in deep forests around the Great Lakes area and they stayed away from tribes dwelling beyond the deep woodlands. Because no one could beat them in jungle combat, they were feared and left alone. Originally, the Batwa were restricted to mostly the Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but eventually moved east to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga Forest still in western Uganda and some continued to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Nonetheless, other groups of the Batwa traveled up to Uganda’s Echuya Forest Reserve in search of better food and shelter.

Being the first inhabitants of Bwindi, the Batwa were known as “The Forest Keepers” of this pristine forest. With their unique cultural heritage, the Batwa were majorly hunter-gatherers who picked fruit and honey, as well as hunted animals for food. They possessed excellent hunting skills and great knowledge of herbal medicine. They lived in shelters made of leaves and branches, traveling regularly in quest of fresh food supplies. For thousands of years, the Batwa lived in peace with the forest and its inhabitants, including mountain gorillas. For so long, they survived in the forest without a problem in this world until the early 1990s. In 1991, the government gazetted Bwindi Impenetrable Forest into a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site to protect the forest and the endangered mountain gorillas. As a result, the Batwa were forced to evict the forest and forced to find a livelihood somewhere else. Having only survived in the forest, the Batwa found it a challenge to cope with the outside modern world. With nothing to their name, they had to work as porters, and cultivate land, among others to survive. While many died due to disease and hunger, others faced alcoholism, poverty, and tribal conflicts.

By the late 1990s, the total population of the Batwa had rapidly dropped to about 3000 individuals something that caught the attention of several local and international organizations. Among these include Dr. Scott and Carol Kellerman, American medical missionaries, who committed many years to finding and establishing systems to help improve the livelihoods of the Batwa of western Uganda. In 2001, the Kellermanns acquired property and created initiatives to provide shelter and construct schools and hospitals. They also introduced projects to provide water and sanitation, revenue-generating, and indigenous rights promotion. In 2002, the United Group for Batwa Development (UOBDU), was established in conjunction with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to socially and economically empower the Batwa through tourism revenues and support activities that aid in revenue production, housing, forest access, land, education, etc. Moreover, the Batwa were settled into camps in proximity to the national park to make them feel closer to the forest, their ancient home.

The Batwa/Pygmy Cultural Tour in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Known as the Batwa Cultural Experience, the Batwa cultural tour in Bwindi is a walk led by Batwa local guides that take tourists to explore the way of life of the Batwa on the outskirts of the park. Together with the Batwa cultural trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the initiatives were established by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, in partnership with the UOBDU and USAID to help the Batwa gain from tourism and attract additional money. The Batwa Cultural trail in Mgahinga and the Batwa cultural experience in Bwindi progressively evolved into a key tourism activity. Today, the tour is offered as an add-on to Uganda gorilla trekking tours. Visitors will have an opportunity to see the Batwa pygmies demonstrate their interesting cultural heritage and history.

On a nature walk, explore the original home of the Batwa through their own eyes. The experience starts from the Buhoma sector of Bwindi at the Batwa Craft shop and head office. With the assistance of a Batwa guide, hike through the forest with the forest’s people who will show you the forest and its habitats through their eyes. Explore how they lived as they show you their ancient skills of hunting, take time to visit a medicine man, and explore their unimaginable knowledge of herbal medicine. After that, take to the communities and spend time with the Batwa women and learn how to prepare their various dishes. The experience will end with traditional performances including folk songs and dances from Batwa traditional dancers.  

How Much Does the Batwa Cultural Experience in Bwindi?

The Batwa Cultural Experience in Bwindi is a 2-hour walk and it costs $80 per person. For a group of two individuals, it will cost $70 per person, and for a group of five and above, the experience costs $60. If you would wish to film the Batwa cultural experience in Bwindi, it will cost you $400 per day

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