The Batwa people are a marginalised community within Uganda who lost their right of access to the forested lands they once inhabited when the forests became national parks. Being a nomadic community, they had no claim to the land and therefore were not compensated for their loss, unlike the local farmers. Through various charities, however, land has been provided to create a livelihood for the Batwa, but they still face many challenges. The growth in cultural tourism has provided the Batwa with one avenue to a sustainable income.
Currently, there are a number of projects offering visitors the opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of the Batwa people through a living history experience. The fees from visiting tourists are given to the Batwa project and the Batwa delight in welcoming visitors to the village and demonstrating how they make weapons and cook. The Batwa tour usually concludes with a demonstration of their unique dancing and fire making. There is also an opportunity to purchase locally made crafts either direct, or from the BATWA craft shops.
A visit to the BATWA is recommended for those interested in unique cultures and tribes and far from exploiting the people or being 'touristy', these encounters provide valuable support to the batwa and offer tourists a fascinating insight into the ongoing challenge of balancing wildlife conservation and human population expansion with the impact on a tribe’s traditions and culture.
We support the BATWA encounters in Buhoma and Nkuringo. Both areas offer a talk with the chief and community guides (translators) as well as hiking options. In Buhoma (northern Bwindi) you can hike to the caves in the forest where the batwa used to live (extra cost applies) and the hike is quite challenging and steep but the views are wonderful. Occasionally we have had clients pass the gorillas on the way!
In Nkuringo (southern bwindi) the forest trail takes around 3 hours and is a more gentle hike.