This is the newest and probably most captivating adventure on the list of activities in Bwindi. You will be spending time with the Batwa forest people. Choosing to visit the Batwa is a choice to learn the secrets of living in the richest forests of east and central Africa.
The Batwa people carry the most recent civilization on earth. They lived in this forest for over six hundred years before they were displaced. In the year 1992 when Bwindi was gazetted into a national park, this group of forest people was dislocated from the forest in the interest of conserving the endangered mountain gorillas that were at the verge of extinction at the time.
The dislocation of the Batwa from the forest has its own negative story to this group of people. However, this Batwa experience tour places the Batwa as experts of life in the forest rather than an attraction. This has given an opportunity for travelers who visit the gorillas to understand the forest beyond gorilla tourism.
This tribe caries the authentic story of the forest, the gorillas and their unique culture, than any other guide. The unique Batwa forest tour comes with their willingness to share their story with you when you visit the gorillas.
The good news is that Uganda Wildlife Authority has fully supported the establishment of this Batwa experience to shock absorb the likely suffering of the Batwa when they can earn a living from the same forest during the process of adapting the life in the modern world. Taking this Batwa experience supports the Batwa, the gorillas and the forest that is equally home to both races. This further offsets the carbon footprint of every traveler who chooses to visit the forest in this unique way.
This Batwa experience is inside the Bwindi impenetrable National Park. It is in the same forest where you will go for your ultimate gorilla tracking experience. This cultural experience is in two packages. You can choose to take the shorter trail that takes up to three and a half hours or take the longer one that lasts up to five hours.
Only the mountain gorilla can be better than a Mutwa guide, on the forest issues. During this 2-5 hours trek in the forest, you will have the Batwa as the guide. It is a privilege to have a very experienced guide that is part of this forest. You will be inspired when the Batwa prove to you the abundance that is within the forest. This guide will be interpreting both nature and culture as celebrated outside all aspects of luxury in modern life. Everyone including the local community members is new to this forest culture. From looking at the Batwa, you can learn that their participation further gives them the pride of practicing their traditional life. Here they take the joy to introduce new visitors to their way of life.
The Batwa experience tour in this forest is worth a try by everyone who visits the gorillas in Bwindi. It gives a worthy background of this gorilla habitat. You will also realize that the role Batwa played in the conservation of this ecosystem of very high ecological potential was vital for its survival.
Because they have lived in the forest longer than in the community, they still track their life and remember the caves, shrines herbs and many other aspects of the forest that count in their lives. With quite an amount if trekking time, you will be introduced to the secret place and cultural practices of the Batwa people. They used special herbs to cure all kinds of ailments. You will be given a glimpse of how these herbs are collected and processed to cure certain diseases. The practices you will be able to participate in include, natural honey harvesting, hunting carrying water using bamboo, starting a fire from two dry sticks, forest building techniques, and many others.
The pricing for this product is very friendly and flexible. The Batwa experience is located inside the park. However, if you do this experience on the day before or after the gorilla tracking the park entrance fee is waived. All guests who have not done gorilla tracking will pay the activity fee and the park entrance fee payable at the park gate. The prices for the activity are enlisted by Uganda wildlife authority. This makes it easy to arrange this experience from Bwindi or UWA headquarters in Kampala. Besides, all Ugandan tour operators are well placed to provide information, arrange or book the activity.
A group wishing to do this Batwa forest experience has a minimum and maximum size. The minimum number of people going on this tour is two people and the maximum is six people per group. However if on guest wants to take it alone they will have to pay a fee for two people as the minimum number. Currently, the price for one person is 20$ and the ark entrance fee is 40$. Guests can contact the UWA office during working days/ hours to find out the current prices of the product.
For those who want to do a Batwa experience without going to Bwindi, another Batwa experience tour is arranged by UWA in Mgahinga. The Batwa trail in Mgahnga costs 80$ including park entrance fee. In Mgahinga it takes 8 hours, a little longer than Bwindi. Other villages around Uganda, that can give a single Batwa experience visit include;
Unlike the two long Batwa experience trails in Bwindi and Mgahinga, these other community Batwa points will only show a staged showcase of the Batwa outside the forest habitat. The Bambuti tribe is a sub-group of the general class of the pigmies living in Ituri forest of Congo.
Those wishing to do the Batwa experience in Bwindi forest should come prepared. The trek takes through the forest and wilderness habitat. You should carry your long-sleeved clothing, hiking shoes, rain gear, packed lunch drinking water, and other personal items. We will supply a shopping list on request.
One of the most spectacular tropical rainforests in Uganda, Kibale Forest National Park is the world’s primate capital. This park was founded in 1993 with more than 1500 chimpanzees and more 13-primate species. It is no wonder that this park is the ideal destination for chimp tracking. This national park is located in the western part of the country straddling between Kamwenge and Kabarole districts.
Getting here to enjoy one of the best safaris in Uganda is a 6-hour drive 320 kilometers away from the city. However, this depends on the traffic. Accessing the park requires a permit that costs UGX.100, 000 East African residents, $100 for foreign residents, and $150 for foreign nonresidents. Since prices can change without prior notice, you may need to contact us for the latest prices at your time of visiting.
There is a chance to enjoy a discount when you come during March, April, or November. To enjoy a chimp habituation experience, the permits cost UGX.70, 000 for East African residents, $150 for foreign residents, and $220 for foreign nonresidents.
Apart from chimps, other primates you can’t miss here include:
This incredible adventure begins at Kanyanchu Visitor Center for a briefing by a park official. The briefing begins at 7:00 am and takes an hour before hitting the jungle to track the amazing primates. This expedition takes about 2 to 3 hours and the pack is strictly 6 individuals. It explains the importance of booking with a tour of your safari date in advance.
Deep in the forest, expect to hear the primates before seeing them. Chimpanzees are always screaming, panting, hooting, and barking. Luckily, this helps professional tour guides to locate the primates. Keep in mind that you have one hour for a face-to-face chimp encounter. Chimpanzee tracking is available in the morning or afternoon.
You can as well spend a day on a chimpanzee habituation experience. Kibale Forest National Park has 4 chimp communities set up for tourism and research. This has about 50 to 60 individuals with the second community at the heart of the park with about 200 chimps. The third community is at Kanyanchu, the center of the whole tourism experience in the park. For research, there is the fourth community at Sebitoli.
A fully-grown male chimp weighs about 35 to 70 kilograms and about 3 meters tall. Females weigh about 26 to 50 kilograms standing at about 2 to 4 feet. Chimpanzees have a life expectancy of about 40 years in the wild while those in captivity can last 60 years. Unlike mountain gorillas, chimps are man’s closest cousins sharing about 98 percent DNA.
Some of the human-like behaviors of chimps include:
Chimpanzees live in communities with a population of about 10 to 100. Here, the young ones are babysat and groomed by the elders. After 4 years, the young chimps can now live on their own. Just like other wild species, chimps can get very aggressive when irritated. These primates spend most of their time on the ground to feeding on flowers, fruits, leaves, and seeds.
This is an all-year-round activity. However, you better come during the dry season starting from June, September, December, and February. The wet season is during March, April, May, and November. During this period, it is a bit hard to track these primates. However, this is an ideal moment for bird watching.
Chimpanzee tracking is one of the most memorable experiences to make an ideal safari in Uganda. Kibale Forest National Park is full of chimpanzees and other primate species. It is the ideal location to give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch these magnificent species in their natural habitat. A great tour guide will always be handy to ensure you make the most of your safari.
Lake Katwe is located in the North of Mweya Peninsular of Queen Elizabeth National Park in the western district of Kasese. This place is famous for the most exalted crater lakes in this part of Uganda. The area has up to 52 craters that can be explored on several tours over days. Some of the craters in this part of the park include Lake Katwe and Lake Nyamunuka.
These crater lakes areas are ideal for hiking with an opportunity to catch amazing glimpses of warthogs, flamingos, buffalos, elephants, hippos and other animals or cultural encounters around Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Besides, Lake Katwe gives locals a source of livelihood through salt mining while other crater lakes are used for various activities such as fishing, drinking points for wild animals or providing water for domestic use, especially outside the park. A local guide from Katwe Tourism Information Center (KATIC) can take you on a guided tour of Lake Katwe to get the first-hand experience of local salt mining. During this tour, you will be inspired, to learn how much effort and risk the local communities take to get salt on the table of all local residents.
Salt mining at Lake Katwe dates back more than 700 years offering locals an appropriate source of income. European explorers John Speke and Graham Grant recorded about salt production in 1863 and 1864 respectively. This described the product as pure in taste and color. Lake Katwe has various tributaries bringing in water but without outlets to make the water saline.
In the dry season, extreme evaporation makes a concentrated salt solution to become salt rocks. The salt from this lake used to be exported to neighboring countries like to Rwanda and Congo before the discovery of deposits in other areas. The salt mining activity is steadily losing its spark because of the discovery of salt in neighboring countries. However, Salt mining is still a major source of livelihood for locals in Katunguru and Katwe communities.
The uniqueness of this place is not only limited to salt or wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Visiting the place is also an opportunity to meet the people of Uganda. The salt mining community is probably the richest representative of Uganda cultures. Evidently, Katwe salt lake and neighborhood is a community of an assortment of tribes and ethnic representative of up to 55 different tribes of Uganda. This makes it the workplace with the largest selection of all Ugandan tribes in one place, doing the same job. This representation gives proof of the importance of the lake as a source of livelihood. Visitors to the lake will get an additional opportunity to meet the people from different tribes of Uganda.
Incidentally, this salt mining is still being done the same way it was done at the beginning around the 14th century. This system is characterized by the use of hands and simple tools for all the mining work, creation of salt pans owned and run by different community members and division of labor between men and women, where men extract the base rock salt while women only work in the shallow salt pans to mine the table salt. Salt pans are depressions dug in the ground on the edges of the lake to collect table salt. The walls of the salt pans are built with wood and mud, to separate them from each other.
The salt from Lake Katwe is known to be too strong beyond scientific classification and could not be mined by modern machinery. This is why, up to now; this slat is better mined by hand. Around the year 1970, a European investor, Thysen, tried to take a venture in processing salt from Lake Katwe. Thysen tools and equipment for salt processing and mining were eroded by excessive sodium chloride. Until now, all possible modern investors have lost interest in the salt mining activity of this lake. In one way, this has become an opportunity for the local community members to retain ownership of their livelihood through salt mining by hand. There has been an attempt to acquire protective gear but the excessive heat of the area complicates the use of this gear.
Salt mining at Lake Katwe thrives during the dry season. This happens from January to March and July to September. The dry season encourages extreme evaporation making saline water in Lake Katwe to concentrate forming the salt. When collecting salt, a garden (salt pan) is prepared by clearing grass from the area. The grass is heaped along the edge of the pond then dry soil is scattered over the exposed wet surface of this grass. Saline water is channeled from the main lake to the pond and this separate pond is monitored for the salt formation and harvesting.
Within each of the ponds, called the salt pans, the salt formation processes are monitored and facilitated by the individual owners. Crusted salt forms on the surface of the water and is plashed with water forcing it to go down to the floor. It is then collected by mostly women and washed with the lake water until it is clear without adding any other ingredients. This salt is then filtered to make table salt. S The men shovel salt blocks from the lake bottom to the shallow end. Salt mines have wooden walkways where salt is extracted most times in large blocks. Highly crystallized salt is for human consumption as table salt. Rock salt is sold cheaply to farmers to add in cow feed and for tendering beans and meat in many households while the muddy salt is exported to be used in the production of fertilizers, manufacture of soap or use in the textile industries for dying fabric.
The livelihood of salt miners revolves around the lake. These miners spend whole days under the hot sun while enduring the bad odor from evaporating saline water. During the dry season, salt goes under depression and temperatures significantly drop. There are various health concerns resulting from the toxicity of Lake Katwe. Locals are deeply concerned about the effect of exposure to their reproductive system.
People are deeply worried about the salty water in the lake making men impotent and women unable to have children. Despite these health concerns, people have to earn a living since the lake is their source of income. The locals seem not to get up to date health facilities to enable them to operate more securely. This makes miners use various primitive methods to protect themselves. Women place flour in their private parts to avoid exposure to toxic water. Men go into the water wearing condoms to avoid the effect of the water toxicity on their reproductive health.
A visit to Lake Katwe takes a minimum of two hours during a tour of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Your guide will give you important information regarding salt mining and the history of the area. People here depend on Lake Katwe to earn income but business is no longer thriving than before. There is competition from other sources of salt. With low income, minors endure very poor standards of living although they have families to support. Since this lake is located within the wildlife area, ecotourism is one way to help the community members diversify their incomes as one way to sustain the local resources.
During your tour, you can support the local community by taking other tours or purchasing some memorabilia including art and crafts made by locals. These come in different varieties sold on the roadside to visitors. Selling these crafts is a way to diversify the income of locals. This prevents dependence on salt mining, which is no longer lucrative.
Apart from the salt mines, you can look for other attractions near Lake Katwe including:
For more information, you can check more about Lake Katwe in our related article.
Book your visit today
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the major attractions in Uganda. In your itinerary, you can’t miss out on a trip to Lake Katwe salt mining. You can book your tour today for a chance to discover how the activities of the locals here ensure that people have table salt to enjoy their meals.