The Batwa Trail

Location: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The dense forests at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes were home to the Batwa people: hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine thanks to ancient knowledge passed down for generations.

When Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was established, the Batwa were suddenly evicted from the forest and forced to abandon their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. Now landless, they work when they can for local farmers, and the only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guides on The Batwa Trail, where they invite visitors to discover the magic of their old home.

During this moving tour, the Batwa demonstrate hunting techniques; gather honey; point out medicinal plants and demonstrate how to make bamboo cups. Guests are finally invited to the sacred Ngarama Cave, once home to the Batwa King, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a striking and moving sense of the richness of this fading culture.

Highlights

  • Switch off your flashlight in the Ngarama Cave, as ghostly singing begins to echo in the pitch darkness
  • Making fire requires team work! Watch your Batwa guides create fire to smoke out bees
  • See a traditional Batwa grass hut – quick to build and to demolish which was essential for this nomadic culture
  • Enjoy the lively dance at the cave´s entrance as the Batwa women sing a traditional song to welcome their guests
  • Walk through the pristine Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, with spectacular views of the Virunga Volcanoes

Responsible Travel

  • Most Batwa are unable to earn money to provide for their families, as they have no land of their own. Part of the fee goes directly to the guides and performers, while the rest is put into a community fund which will help pay for school fees and books, and purchase land.
  • The tour encourages the practice of traditional skills such as sourcing medicinal plants, making bamboo cups and using bows and arrows – skills which are being lost as the Batwa integrate with the surrounding communities
  • The income provides an alternative to illegal poaching in the Park

Package Includes

  • Guided tour and performances

Contact The Batwa Trail for more information

Email:  uobdubatwa@gmail.com

Web: www.TheBatwaTrail.com

Phone: +256 486 430 140

Duration
Full day tour (Note: this tour involves hiking at an altitude of around 2,500m for at least 4-5 hours.)
OR
Half day tour
What to Bring
  • Packed lunch and plenty of drinking water
  • Good hiking shoes or boots, sun screen and a hat
  • The weather varies greatly at this altitude – we recommend bringing layers, including a waterproof jacket
  • Tips for the guides and performers
Price
$80 US per person (includes UWA park entry fee)
Book with these operators & lodges:
Contact us for more information about Pearls of Uganda

Email: info@pearlsofuganda.org

Rubuguri Village Walk

Location: Bordering Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Reached by rustic roads clinging to steep hillsides, this small community makes up for its isolation with the warm welcome of its inhabitants. The Village Walk takes you past a swamp to a small homestead, where you will have the chance to meet the residents and learn about life in Rubuguri, as well as participate in a crafts demonstration.

You will then visit the lively St Peter´s Primary school to meet the pupils and teachers, and to watch this region´s most famous cultural attraction – the dynamic Kiga dance. The best dancers are said to be those who make the earth shake – and as the barefooted students leap several feet into the air to the rhythm of joyful songs you will be able to decide for yourself if they achieve their goal!

Highlights
  • Get involved in daily life, with a visit to a traditional homestead
  • Be amazed at the energy of the local students as they leap into the air to perform the regional dance
Responsible Travel
  • This tour is operated by the Nkuringo Cultural Centre  (NCC) in Rubuguri, which creates work opportunities for local residents. It promotes tourism and related activities as an alternative income to the timber, meat and honey that residents used to obtain from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
  • The profits are split evenly between the site owners, the community guides and the NCC for community projects.
  • Handicrafts are sold at the nearby Wagtail Eco-Safari Camp – all proceeds are returned to the artisans.
  • NCC has begun an IT project – it will have four computers, and IT classes will be run for up to 12 students at a time with just a small fee to cover basic costs.
  • A stage is also being built at the Centre to allow for cultural performances to take place here, by local residents as well as the nearby Batwa community.
  • NCC has purchased costumes for the dance groups who perform at the Centre.
Package Includes
  • Guided walk and all demonstrations
Contact us for more information

Email:  info@pearlsofuganda.org
Phone: +256-414501866 / +256-772657700

Website: nkuringoculturalcentre.org

Duration
Two and a half hours
What to Bring
  • Walking shoes or boots
  • A waterproof jacket and warm layers – the weather is particularly unpredictable in this region
  • Sun screen
  • Bottled water
  • Camera
Price
$15 per person
Book with these operators & lodges:
Contact us for more information about Pearls of Uganda

Email: info@pearlsofuganda.org

Buhoma Community Cultural Walk

Location: At the main entrance to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Overlooking the imposing hillsides of Bwindi Impenetrable forest, with the mist swirling over the summits, this is one of the most dramatic settings for your cultural tour!

Your first stop is a handicraft shop run by the community women´s group. These skilled artisans create beautiful grass mats, wood carvings, dyed fabrics, handmade paper and natural beeswax candles. Next, you will meet the Batwa – former forest dwellers who perform songs and dances about the forest they are no longer permitted to live in. One of the most important community figures is the traditional healer – who not only treats the sick, but uses his knowledge to conserve and educate about the various medicinal plants. The primary school visit gives an insight into life as a rural child in Buhoma, as you meet the friendly teachers and pupils.

You are sure to see many, many bananas on your travels through Uganda – and this tour concludes with an explanation of the different types – along with a demonstration of how they are used. Watch, taste and enjoy!

Highlights

  • Purchase beautiful crafts made by local women – and know that your money will help them take care of their families and send their children to school
  • Hear the moving story of the Batwa people- they are working with local NGOs to purchase land in order to cultivate crops and finally become self-sufficient again.
  • Meet the local healer. He can treat anything from stomach aches to impotence – a form of traditional Viagra!
  • Learn the process of transforming bananas first refreshing banana juice, then to a popular beer (rwarwa) and finally to local gin (waragi). Will you dare to try it?!

Responsible Travel

  • All 12 guides used are local, and the banana brewing and the sale of handicrafts benefit local producers
  • The Batwa receive all the proceeds from their performances
  • 20% of the fee goes to Buhoma Community Rest Camp Council which supports community development projects
  • Since the Community Rest Camp opened, a community secondary school has been opened with funds from tourism. They also support a local primary school, are starting others, and fund local nurseries.
  • A maize mill has abeen funded by the Rest Camp
  • A microfinance “circle” has also been started in the community.

Package Includes

  • Guided tour
Contact us for more information

Email:  info@pearlsofuganda.org
Phone: +256-414501866 / +256-772657700

Duration
Three hours
What to Bring
  • Good walking shoes or boots – it can get muddy!
  • Waterproof jacket or poncho, and warm layers – the weather is extremely changeable in the mountains
  • Sun screen
  • Sun hat
  • Waterproof bag for cameras and other equipment
Price
$15 US per person
Book with these operators & lodges:
Contact us for more information about Pearls of Uganda

Email: info@pearlsofuganda.org

Ruboni Village Walk

Location: Bordering Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Stretching along the Congo border, the spectacular snow-capped Rwenzoris are the third highest mountains in Africa, but one of the most difficult to climb. The Bakonzo people have lived in the foothills for around 300 years, and invite visitors to experience daily life in their village, surrounded by rainforests, banana plantations, glacial rivers and the peaks of the “Mountains of the Moon.”

Discover the village of Ruboni, home to around 2000 Bakonzo. Walk with them as they demonstrate their daily activities, from tending to their animals and crops, to preparing meals with the freshest ingredients. You will visit a homestead, where food is cooked on an outdoor fire, as well as meeting the blacksmith, the traditional healer, basket weavers and storytellers. Additional activities include a vibrant dance performance by Ruboni villagers, accompanied by lively drumming; and for those who want to get even more involved, there is an African drumming class (both booked separately).

Highlights

  • The homestead provides an insight into authentic Ugandan life – see how daily tasks are carried out with no electricity, gas or kitchen appliances.
  • In remote areas such as this, the traditional healer takes the place of clinics, hospitals and doctors. Learn about the ailments that can be treated with plants from the surrounding mountain slopes.
  • Watch how a knife or panga (machete) is fashioned by hand from a shapeless lump of iron. The blacksmith´s essential work has changed little over the centuries.

Responsible Travel

  • Tourism revenue has funded a number of initiatives including a child school sponsorship program and a tree nursery project. Seedlings are given to local families or planted in the community forest.
  • Funds from the dance performance are invested in small-scale animal husbandry for the dancers’ families.
  • Income from the sale of crafts is used by the craftswomen to buy goats and pigs, as well as the promotion of a household savings and investment programme.
Package Includes
  • Guided village tour and all demonstrations
Contact us for more information

Email:  info@pearlsofuganda.org
Phone: +256-414501866 / +256-772657700

Website: www.rubonicamp.com

 

Duration

Two to three hours

What to Bring

  • Walking shoes or boots
  • Layers and a waterproof jacket (the climate is changeable in the mountains)
  • Drinks
  • Hat and sun screen
  • Cash for tips and craft purchases
  • Camera

Price

  • Village Walk: 15$ USh pp,
  • Dance performance: 1-5 people: 25$/ more than 5 people: 35$
  • Drumming lesson: 10$ per person (one hour)

Book with these operators & lodges:

  • GeoLodges Equator Snow Lodge

Contact us for more information about Pearls of Uganda

Email: info@pearlsofuganda.org

Kikorongo Equator Cultural Performance

Location: At lodges in and around Queen Elizabeth National Park

Kikorongo means “Too Much Sunshine” in the local language of Lukonzo – but the intense heat of the African plains has done nothing to diminish the energy of the Kikorongo Equator Cultural Performers! This vibrant performance is a wonderful glimpse of life in Kikorongo, with dance, drama, songs and even a fire-making competition.

Songs and dramas tell the story of a man looking for a wife, and a sick child who is brought to a traditional healer – an essential member of Ugandan villages even today. An energetic dance calls upon the ancestors, whose spirits take over the bodies of the dancers. Community members who are too old or infirm to dance are given wooden puppets – so that everyone in the village can join in! The lively performances are accompanied by the music of traditional drums, a flute and a wooden xylophone called ndara, which can be played by up to four skilled musicians at a time.

Highlights

  • Sit back and watch life in a Bakonzo village unfold in front of you! Stories of health, spirituality, celebration and romance are beautifully presented by the dancers.
  • Discover the ancient skill of fire making. As two villagers compete to create flames, you will see just how exhausting it really is!
  • Learn through music and dance. An interpreter presents each performance, translating the words of the songs and explaining the stories in the dramas

Responsible Travel

Several women in the group were widowed as their husbands were poachers. The performances give both married and widowed women the chance to uplift their social, cultural and economic status. The community has suffered from a loss of crops due to damage by wild animals. Participating in tourism activities allows them to benefit from the existence of the National Park, rather than being threatened by it.

Through dance and drama, the Kikorongo Women Community educates community members about safe motherhood, the importance of clean drinking water and hygiene, handicraft making and reducing poaching. Money raised through tourism allows this education to continue. The average household contains six people, but each household makes less than 40,000 Ugandan Shillings (less than $20 US) per month – so your money goes a long way!

Contact us for more information

Email:  info@pearlsofuganda.org
Phone: +256-414501866+256-414501866 / +256-772657700+256-772657700

Duration
Performances of 30 minutes and one hour are available
What to Bring
Tips for community members, and extra cash for craft purchases
Price
  • Free for lodge guests
  • 30 minutes: – 80,000 UGX at the Kikorongo Cultural Centre
  • 1 hour: – 150,000 Ugx at the Kikorongo Cultral Centre
Book with these operators & lodges:

Contact us for more information about Pearls of Uganda

Email: info@pearlsofuganda.org

Katwe Village Tour

Location: Bordering Queen Elizabeth National Park

What´s it like to live in this village next to the salt lake? This tour gives visitors the chance to meet the locals, and get involved in their daily lives.

You will be welcomed to a traditional homestead, to see what the villagers come home to after a hard day harvesting salt on the lake. Cooking demonstrations will introduce you to the food of this region and the traditional methods used to cook and prepare the meals.

Visitors will also enjoy a trip to the local school.

Highlights

  • Interact with community members and discover what life is like in Katwe
  • Know that you are giving something back! Profits from the tour support environmental and health awareness campaigns, as well as providing an income for those too elderly to mine salt.  Your visit will improve the lives of the people you meet!
  • Go back to basics – learn how to make traditional Ugandan food on an open fire

Responsible Travel

  • All guides used are local, and have received training
  • Profits raised have gone towards supplying desks for local schools, and supporting older residents who are no longer able to mine salt.
  • Local crafts and handmade batik and tie-dye fabrics are available to purchase at the main office – profits go to the craftswomen of the Katwe Women’s Group. The women perform dramas and songs in surrounding communities and schools to raise awareness of issues such as HIV and the environment, especially poaching.

Package Includes

  • Guided village tour and all demonstrations

Contact us for more information

Email:  info@pearlsofuganda.org
Phone: +256 414 501 866 / +256 772 657 700

Duration

Two hours, but flexible

What to Bring
  • Suitable walking shoes
  • Sun screen
  • Insect repellent
  • Bottled water and snacks
  • Light, long-sleeved shirt, hat and sunglasses are recommended
  • Binoculars for bird watching
  • Tips for guide and community members
Price

$10 for non-residents
$5 for Ugandans, with a discount for groups

Book with these operators & lodges:

Mubako Cultural Campfire Performances

Location: Bordering Murchison Falls National Park

The remote community of Mubako is located beside the sprawling savannah of Murchison Falls National Park, in the sun-drenched northwestern region of Uganda. The village is a collection of traditional thatched mud huts around a central clearing, where villagers gather to escape the midday sun und the shade of a large tree. In this dry climate, the community cultivates cotton and cassava, which is ground into bread flour or fermented to make waragi gin.

Mubako has a small craft shop selling carved wooden sculptures and handwoven items made by community members. At dusk, the local cultural groups Alur and Campfire perform vibrant songs and dances around the campfires of local lodges, accompanied by the beautiful sound of the adungu. This instrument, originating from this region, is made of cowhide and twine, and the harmonies of the various-sized adungus against the backdrop of a Nile sunset is wonderful.


Highlights
  • Hike the dusty road to Mubako from the nearly Nile Safari Lodge. Your friendly local guide will share tales of daily life in the community.
  • Watch the young dancers put on a lively show as the sun sets over the backdrop of the Nile
  • Enjoy the unique sounds of the adungus and the unusual percussion – all these instruments are made by hand!
Responsible Travel
  • Mubako Community has no access to Murchison Falls National Park, which means the people can not hunt or fish there. Generating income through village tours, the sale of handicrafts and cultural performances gives residents to benefit from the Park, as it brings tourists to the region.
  • Farming is difficult here thanks to the dry climate, and a limited diet can lead to malnutrition. There are few economic opportunities here, but with the money they earn from tourism, the community can buy produce from local markets.
  • The money also allows them to pay school fees, and to support a local nursery, which has around 90 children aged from 2-6 years.
Contact us for more information

Email:  info@pearlsofuganda.org
Phone: +256-414501866 / +256-772657700

Duration

One hour to 90 minutes

What to Bring
  • Cash for tips and craft purchases
  • Camera
Price

Free for lodge guests

Book with these operators & lodges: