Cultural Encounters Around Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale National Park is surrounded by various communities which form the ground for cultural encounters around Kibale Forest National Park.
The communities of the Batooro and the Bakiga have got impressive traditions and cultural practices that can be explored while on a safari tour in Uganda.
The community tourism initiative of Bigodi is the most successful community tourism initiative in Uganda where the locals gathered under one umbrella the KAFRED to tap the potential of community tourism development.
The Bigodi wetland walk is an eco-tour designed to stretch to the local homesteads and schools and the traditional healer which combines to bring out the heritage of the local people for exploitation. The arts and crafts music dance and drama are also arranged within the center.
People And Culture Around Kibale National Park
The people living around the park are mainly indigenous Batoro and Bakiga migrants. The Batooro have a rich cultural heritage of their Kingdom, a scion of the ancient kingdoms of Africa’s Great Lakes region.
The Omukama (the Toro king) and the kingdom embodies the traditional and cultural values of Batoro while the Bakiga immigrants still preserve their tradition and culture through folklore, dance, and language. You can explore the unique culture of these people by visiting the Bigodi village, Bigodi Cultural Centre, Amabere Caves, and the royal Toro Kingdom Place.
Bigodi Village is located about 9 kilometers from Kibale National Park Kanyanchu Visitor Center.
The Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED) offers village walks in Bigodi in which you can explore the daily life of Batooro.
In the village of Bigodi, there are traditional healers who will happily share their knowledge about spirits, herbs, plants, and local medicines with visitors.
You visit the homes of elderly men and women who tell interesting stories about birth, marriage, ceremonies, clans, and their traditional life. You will also learn more about the history and issues that they face as a developing community in rural Uganda.
Along the way, you will also be given the chance to experience the Ugandan school system, and visit a local church and Bigodi’s trading center, a hub of rural life and activity.
Bigodi Women’s Group
Visitors on Uganda cultural safaris around Kibale National Park can visit the Bigodi Women’s Group. This group consists of 150 weavers, chaired by Betty Tinka who have worked cooperatively for more than 15 years to perfect their crafts and to expand their markets worldwide.
The group sells baskets, mats, bags, jewelry, and other crafts at the KAFRED office in the Bigodi trading center, at the Kanyanchu Visitor Centre in Kibale Forest National Park, and worldwide through export.
The women use local materials such as millet straw, banana fibers, raffia and Phoenix palm leaves, and natural dyes, all from plants that the women grow themselves at their homes.
Ten percent of all sales from crafts go into community development. Over the years, this income has funded the Bigodi Pre-Primary (Nursery) School, and it has helped support orphans, widows, the disabled, and other disadvantaged people in the community.
The group promotes conservation, takes school children on field trips, and produces songs and plays with conservation messages, as ways of creating awareness among the wider community.
Buying handicrafts is onsite and prices vary depending on the size, materials, shape, dyes, etc.
Bigodi Cultural Centre
This is situated right opposite the Bigodi Swamp walk office. It is a small museum displaying traditional clothes, grinding stones, musical instruments, and other such artifacts. It is a private venture, a brainchild of an experienced and articulate national park guide.
Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru Caves
The Amabere caves are situated about 32 kilometers from Kibale National Park, west of Fort Portal city. It is the reputable birthplace of the founding King of the legendary Bachwezi people, called Ndahura.
The Amabere Caves are named after the live stalactite formation Amabere ga Nyinamwiru (literally, Breasts of Nyinamwiru), which supposedly resemble the twin breasts of a woman.
Amabere is today a popular goal for a day hike. The main cave is very small and it is supported by several pillar-like formations of connected stalactites and stalagmites.
Alongside it, you can stand on the moss-covered rocks behind a powerful small waterfall and watch ice-cold water plunge down right in front of you. The riparian forest around the waterfall is rattling with birds, and it supports black and white colobus monkeys.
From Amabere, a 10-12 minute walk northeast leads to Kigere Crater lake. Kigere means footprint and this lake is said to have formed in the footprint of Nyinamwiru. The lake is encircled by dense stands of plantains and palms and is safe for swimming.
About 2 kilometers from there is located Nyakasura School founded by an eccentric Scotsman in 1926 and whose male students still wear kilts (a garment resembling a knee-length skirt).
Toro King’s Palace
Toro King’s Place is located about 27 kilometers from Kibale National Park. Looking down at Fort Portal City from its highest hill, the palace is worth a visit purely for its 360-degree panoramic views.
It’s the official residence of King Oyo of the Toro Kingdom who ascended the throne in 1995 at the age of three. This kingdom is the youngest of Uganda’s traditional kingdoms. It is in fact ruled aptly by the world’s most youthful monarch.
The palace is a circular structure, built in 1963, but fell into ruin after the abolition of the royal kingdoms Milton Obote. It was restored in 2001 after Colonel Gadaffi met the king and donated the money for repairs.
While on your Uganda cultural tours here, you will learn about the fascinating history of the kingdom and the ceremonies that take place here, but you can’t go inside.