Blog

Guide to Uganda

Birds of Africa, “Why Uganda is a Birdwatchers Paradise?”

Uganda is undoubtedly a birder’s paradise.  More than half of all bird species in Africa can be spotted on a Uganda safari tour , making the country the richest African birding destination.  Even within the surroundings of its capital Kampala City, you can record up to a more than 300 different species of birds in a single day, and all this is credited to the richly diverse of habitats from the scenic shores of Lake Victoria to the abundant forests of the Albertine Rift and the banks of the World’s longest River, the Nile.

Though Uganda boasts of only one Endemic bird (Fox’s Weaver) which can be commonly found in moist savanna, tropical seasonally wet or flooded grassland and swampy areas, there are also up to 23 Albertine Endemics that can be seen on a Safari to Uganda and can be difficult or next to impossible to come across somewhere else.

guide to uganda

These include Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori Turaco, African Green Broadbill, Dawrf Honeyguide, Red-throated Alethe, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Kivu Ground Thrush, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Short-tailed Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Collared Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Rwenzori Batis, Strip-breasted Tit, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Dusky Crimsonwing, Regal Sunbird, Strange Weaver, and Shelley’s Crimsonwing.

African Birding Journeys to Uganda are special in way that you will experience unique and authentic bird encounters, with a record for number of species of birds that can be recorded in a three-week period of about 665 birds. And on this very tour you can’t afford to miss the rare, elusive–looking Shoebill stork. With the Mabamba Swamp being the Best Place for seeing Shoebill Storks in Uganda and Murchison Falls National Park also among the popular spots along the banks of the Nile River.

Uganda offers more than just birding safaris though, here you will find the friendliness of the Ugandan people, amazing safaris like mountain Gorillas trekking safaris in Bwindi impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Forest National Park in the South-Western part of the country to see the critically endangered mountain Gorillas in the wild and cultural tourism attractions found nowhere else in Africa.

Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park is perfectly located at an estimated distance of 235square kilometers on the Eastern part of Uganda from Kampala. The Park in the east of Uganda stretches to cover a geographical spread of 1,279 km² split in the two parts with the Kenyan side taking 169km and the Ugandan side taking 1110 Sq.km
Mount Elgon National Park rests on the Elgon Mountain whose volcanic base is the largest in the world stretching to 4,000km and the mountain stands as the oldest free standing Volcano in the region of East Africa. The 80m diameter rise to 3,000m above the surrounding plains and the cool mountain tops present relief to the hot plains below providing a refugee of counts of flora and fauna.
It can be noted that Elgon Mountain was at one time the highest on Africa far exceeding Mount Kilimanjaro which currently stands at 5,895m before it was reduced to 4,321m above sea level by the forces of denudation standing as the fourth peak in the East African region and the 8th on the African Continent.

The slopes of Mount Elgon support counts of support a range of vegetation that range from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the giant lobelia and groundsel plants. The vegetation changes with the change on altitude where the slopes of the mountain are covered by olive Olea hochstetteri and Aningueria adolfi-friedericii wet montane forest. At the raised landscape, there the vegetation is altered to olive and Podocarpus gracilior forest, and then a Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina zone. As you continue higher, there is a Hagenia abyssinica zone followed by moorland with heaths Erica arborea and Philippia trimera, tussock grasses such as Agrostis gracilifolia and Festuca pilgeri, herbs such as Alchemilla, Helichrysum, Lobelia, and the giant groundsels Senecio barbatipes and Senecio elgonensis.
The park’s botanical diversity incorporates giant podocarpus, juniper and Elgon olive trees cedar Juniperus procera, pillarwood Cassipourea malosana, elder Sambucus adnata, pure stands of Podocarpus gracilior and many orchids. Out of the 400 Species noted in the area, the following thrive only in the high altitude broad-leaf montane forest: Carduus afromontanus, Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Echinops hoehnelii, Romulea keniensis and Ranunculus keniensis.

mount-elgon-hiking

The Mount Elgon National Park is a habitat to around 300 bird Species among which include the endangered Lammergeyer. The park is also a home to small antelopes, elephants and forest monkeys. The raised landscapes of the Park present an extensive Trans boundary conservation area that has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve.
The Mountain is a traditional to the two tribes namely the Bagisu and the Sabiny along with the marginalized Ndorobos who were forced to dwell deeper in the Benet forest. The Bagisu who are also known as the Bamasaba believe that Mount Elgon is an embodiment of their founding father Masaba and thus refer to the mountain by his name. The ascent to the Elgon Mountain presents a magnificent and virgin wilderness with not the summit oriented approach which seems to be common to many highlands. The ultimate encounter of reaching the Wagagai peak is not the final ascent to the Wagagai peak towering to 4321m above sea level but surprisingly the commencement to a descent to the expanse 40km2 Mount Elgon Caldera which is the largest Mountain Caldera in the World.
Attractions
Flora
Elgon’s slopes support a rich variety of vegetation ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the giant lobelia and groundsel plants. The vegetation varies with altitude. The mountain slopes are covered with olive Olea hochstetteri and Aningueria adolfi-friedericii wet montane forest. At higher altitudes, this changes to olive and Podocarpus gracilior forest, and then a Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina zone. Higher still is a Hagenia abyssinica zone and then moorland with heaths Erica arborea and Philippia trimera, tussock grasses such as Agrostis gracilifolia and Festuca pilgeri, herbs such as Alchemilla, Helichrysum, Lobelia, and the giant groundsels Senecio barbatipes and Senecio elgonensis.
The botanical diversity of the park includes giant podocarpus, juniper and Elgon olive trees cedar Juniperus procera, pillarwood Cassipourea malosana, elder Sambucus adnata, pure stands of Podocarpus gracilior and many orchids. Of the 400 species recorded for the area the following are of particular note as they only occur in high altitude broad-leaf montane forest: Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Carduus afromontanus, Echinops hoehnelii, Ranunculus keniensis (previously thought endemic to Mount Kenya), and Romulea keniensis.
Wildlife
The Park supports a variety of wildlife including rock and tree hyraxes, elephant, buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, oribi, bushbuck, duiker, forest hog, bush pig, leopard, civet and serval cats, serval cats, spotted hyena; aardvark and several rodent species. However these animals are rarely observed in the forest setting. More commonly seen creatures are the black-and-white colobus; baboons; red tailed, vervet, De Brazza’s and blue monkeys; duiker and tree squirrel.
Birds
The Mountain is home to 300 birds including 40 restricted range species. 56 of the 87 Afro-tropical highland biome species live here, notably the Moorland Francolin, Moustached Green Tinkerbird and Alpine Chat. Birds whose Ugandan range is limited to Mount Elgon include the Jackson’s Francolin and Black-collared Apalis. Among those limited to just a few mountains in eastern Uganda are the Black-shouldered Kite and Tacazze Sunbird. Mount Elgon is one of the few places in Uganda where the endangered Lammergeyer can be seen, soaring above the caldera and Suam Gorge.
Forest Exploration Centre
The Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwaiis located just 13km from Sipi town, doubles as an educational Centre for schools and the trailhead for climbers using the Sipi trail to the caldera. Three circuits of between 3-7km run through the surrounding regenerating forest, where visitors can visit caves, waterfalls, escarpments and viewpoints; and observe birds and primates. Bird species encountered here include Hartlaub’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Dusky-Turtle Dove, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Thick-billed Honey guide, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike.
Caves
Mount Elgon’s slopes are riddled with caves left by moving lava and erosion of soft volcanic deposits. The most accessible are Kapkwai Cave, near the Forest Exploration Centre, and Khauka Cave on Wanale Ridge. Historically, such features acted as shelters for locals and their livestock; later on they provided manure in the form of bat droppings. More recently, they were used by climbers and their porters, and even today, campsites are still located at Hunters Cave, Siyo Cave (near the hot springs), Mude Cave and Tutum Cave – ideal for overnight expeditions.
Jackson’s Pool and Jackson’s Peak
Jackson’s Pool stands at 4,050m and is a natural pool with shallow waters. This pool lies in the shadow of the 4,165m high Jackson’s Peak, a free-standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of the mountain. These features were named after the explorer Frederick Jackson, who in 1889 was the first European to climb Mount Elgon. The peak is used by the locals as a spot to communicate with their ancestors.
The peaks and the caldera
Mount Elgon’s highest peaks are formed by high points around a jagged rim enclosing one of the world’s largest calderas, at 40km long and 8km wide. The tallest peak is the 4,321m Wagagi, followed by Sudek (4,303m), Koitobos (4,222m) and Mubiyi (4,210m).
The Caldera was formed as a result of magma being drained from the chamber. When it could no longer support the overlying volcanic cone, it collapsed into a depression-like shape. In the eastern corner of the caldera, hot springs are found at the start of the deep Suam Gorge. In the northwest, Simu Gorge was formed by the sheer weight of the water in the caldera cutting two stream beds out of the weak volcanic ash and agglomerate walls.
Nkokenjeru Ridge and Wanale
Nkokenjeru Ridge is a distinctive finger of forest extending outwards from the main massif of Mount Elgon. It lies at an elevation of 2,347m and covers a 25km-long tongue of lava that flowed out of the side of the volcano after the cone collapsed to block the main vent. Nkokenjeru Ridge culminates at the superb Wanale Cliffs which tower above Mbale Town; the seasonal Nabuyonga and Namatyo Waterfalls are located here. A trail at this western end of the ridge leads you to Khauka Cave where petrified wood can be found.
This ridge also offers grounds for those interested in paragliding over the Mbale town.
The Nabuyonga Trail is a 5km loop with birding, fauna and flora. Viewpoints overlook Mbale town, Lakes Kyoga, Bisina and Salisbara, and the rugged mountains in Karamoja region. On a clear day, you may enjoy vistas of Wagagai peak and even areas of western Kenya. Beware of throwing a stone into the Nabuyonga stream – local folklore claims that if you do so, a thunderstorm will strike before you leave!

Outside the park

Sipi Falls
The northern and western sides of Mount Elgon rise in a series of massive basalt cliffs, often several kilometers in length, over which the mountain’s rivers plunge as beautiful waterfalls. The best known are the three waterfalls at Sipi on the Kapchorwa road, just outside the park. The lowest of these falls is the most spectacular as it cascades over a 100m cliff. The second, known as Simba, plunges 69m over the entrance to a cave. Visitors can stand in the cave and enjoy a view of the back of the falls. The third waterfall, also known as Ngasire, gushes over an 87m high ridge. Sipi Falls is less than an hour’s drive from Mbale on a paved road.
Easily accessible waterfalls are also found at Sisiyi, Bulago, Chebonet and Wanale and many more are scattered across the mountain, offering spectacular views.
Tewei Hill

Outside the park overlooking Sipi falls is the hill where, during the 1960s, Chemonges Kingo, King of the Sabiny would meet his subjects. From the top you can view the three falls, the Karamajong plains and the Wagagai peak.
Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve and Matheniko Bokora Wildlife Reserve
The wild life Reserve is located in the plains of Karamoja region which is situated on the northern part of Mount Elgon. Matheniko Bokora Wildlife Reserve and the expansive Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is the second largest protected area in Uganda, with an estimated area of 2,788km2. Wildlife found here and these includes unique species of the roan antelope, lesser kudu, Bright’s gazelle and ostriches .These species are only found here and in the beautiful flora of Kidepo national park since they lie in the same region in the Uganda.,
Wildlife in this part of Uganda is mainly concentrated around one place called Loporokocho swamp. The swamps within the wildlife reserve also host different bird species and the most chich can be easily encountered here include Hartlaub’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, and Lemon Dove, Dusky Turtle Dove, Black-throated Wattle-eye, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Thick-billed Honey guide and Grey Cuckoo-Shrike.
The interesting Rock paintings found at different sites within the Matheniko Bokora Wildlife Reserve are believed to date back over 3000 years and were created by the Kushite and Nilotic peoples.

Nyero Rock Paintings

The site is located in Ngora just a distance of 65km direve north of Mbale, the Nyero Rock Paintings are the finest of several rock art sites in the region. Three panels are found within the extensive granite outcrop of Moru Ikara, 10km from Kumi Town and 55km from Mbale on the Soroti road. The most impressive is Panel Two which includes two canoes bearing human figures.
Scenic Points outside Mount Elgon National Park
A detour to Bulago off the Mbale-Sipi road reveal a village standing high above a waterfall facing the Simu Valley towards Butandiga ridge. The route to Kapchorwa beyond Sipi Falls to the north provides a stunning view towards Mount Kadam and the vast plains of Karamoja. The top of the Sironko Valley in Budadiri, enclosed by the Mudangi Cliffs and the Nkonkonjeru Ridge, provides a picturesque view of the montane forest and caldera peaks. Visitors should also drive to the top of Wanale Cliff for panoramic views over the town of Mbale.

Tourist Activities

Birding

The famous Mountain is home to 300 birds including 40 restricted range species. 56 of the 87 Afro-tropical highland biome species live here, notably the Moorland Francolin, Moustached Green Tinkerbird and Alpine Chat. The existence of different bird species makes the park an excellent birding area in Uganda and around the park the unique bird spotting points include Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre, in particular in the secondary forest and thick shrub along the loop trails extended to cover Cheptui Falls. It supports the African Goshawk; Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Fly-catcher, Chinspot Batis, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Dohertys and Luhders Bush-shrikes, Baglafecht Weaver, Cinnamon Bee Eater, Moustached Tinkerbird, Hartloub`s Turaco, Tacazze Sunbird, Olive- and Bronze-naped pigeons, Black Kite and Black-collared Apalis.

Hiking/Nature Walks

In the mountain Elgon, Nature walks are done in the 7km mountain bamboo trail to Kapkwai Cave passes through tropical and bamboo forest and the walk takes around 4 hours for one to explore it. Along the trail one can watch the various species of the primates, birds and rare trees such as Elgon teak and Elgon olive. The 5km walk to the Chebonet Falls and 3km walk to the Kapkwai caves follow the ridge view trail. There is also an 11km hike to the Tutum Cave, with the option of camping overnight beside the cave.
In Wanale, a visit to Khauka Cave takes three to four hours. Alternatively one can go to the viewpoint through Nabuyoga loop where he or she can see Jackson’s Summit and Wagagai peak.
In Budadiri, short day hikes are available covering the Mudagi Cliffs, Sasa River Camp and Drigana lower falls. These are great for bird watching, nature walks and overnight camping.

Mountain/Volcano Climbing

Many travellers find Mt. Elgon an exciting alternative to the more strenuous climbs in East Africa. It is easier to access throughout the year, less congested and has many of the same attractions, with a milder climate and lower elevation. Climbing the peaks requires no special equipment or technical experience.
The Sasa trail is the shortest but toughest route to the peaks, traversing the community land and allowing you to explore BaMasaba farming settlements and culture. The round trip takes four days and starts at Budadiri town at an elevation of 1,250m. The toughest climb of over 1,600m is completed on the first day, before crossing the park’s largest area of bamboo forest and passing Jackson’s Pool on the way to Wagagai Peak.
The Sipi trail (four to six days, 56km round trip) starts at 2,050m at the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre. It is the longest trail to the peaks, passing through the northwestern mountainside through Tutum Cave to enter the caldera and reach Wagagai Peak. The trail begins gently, but becomes tougher on the third day from Kajeri Camp.
The Piswa trail (seven days, 49km round trip) is long and the gentlest trail. Starting at the village of Kapkwata on the north side of the mountain, it traverses the soft wood plantation to the Podocarpus forest. It’s notable for its rich wildlife and spectacular views of the Karamoja plains in Uganda and the Nandi and Kapeguria hills in Kenya. The Piswa trail also passes the hot springs on the way to the caldera and the peaks.
Alternatively, the various routes can be combines, ascending the Sipi/Piswa/Sasa Trail and descending along the Sasa/Sipi Trail for example. This allows a traverse of the caldera and a visit to the hot springs.

Transboundary hike/cross border tourism:

The higher slopes of Mount Elgon are shared with an adjacent national park in Kenya and a Tran’s boundary hike can be arranged. After ascending to the caldera with a UWA guide, climbers cross the border to descend with a Kenya Wildlife Service escort.
Cultural Encounters

Sipi Widows’ Group

Find out where your coffee comes from. Grown on the mountain shambas (an area of cultivated ground) of Mt Elgon is the Arabica coffee also named Sipi or Bugisu by the farmers – who have a reputation for producing some of the finest washed Arabica in Kenya and Uganda. The Sipi Widows’ Group will take you on a guided walk through the coffee plantation demonstrating how to plant, pick, grind, store and wash the coffee.
Visitor will also learn about life of the Sabiny as one can meet local residents, and participate in different traditional weaving. Learn about interesting African cuisine through the preparation, cooking and tasting of local dishes. A visit to the women’s handcraft shop in the trading Centre is also highly recommended. Proceeds from the tour and shop are invested in maintaining the coffee trees; raising awareness about the dangers of female circumcision (traditionally practiced in this region); and paying school fees for orphans.

Budadiri Community Walks Ecotourism Experience

This community group, based in Budadiri, offers accommodation, car hire, cultural dances, guided coffee tours and community nature walks. Visitors can discover the region’s cultural dances, food preparation, folklore and its famous malewa bamboo shoots.
There is also a tour of Mt Elgon’s famous Arabica coffee processing plants, which supports local farmers. Nature lovers can indulge in one of the three trails – the full-day Namugabwe Cave Trail, passing through BaMasaba community land and banana plantations to reach a historical cave filled with bones; the Dirigana Loop Trail to the Dirigsana Falls and Gabushana Cave past local markets and the “Walls of Death”; or the three day walk to Sipi Falls which reveals the culture of two neighboring tribes.

Mountain Biking in Mt. Elgon

A mountain biking trail runs from Sipi trading Centre to Chema Hill in Kapchorwa town. It should take 1.5 hours and provides views of various waterfalls and the Karamoja plains. Bikes can be hired from Sipi River Lodge.

Nature walks in Mt. Elgon
A full-day nature hike leads from Budadiri to the Mudange cliffs, known as the Walls of Death, at the boundary of the national park. These cliffs are located in the tropical forest, and blue monkeys, black-and-white colobus and baboons are likely to cross your tracks. At Sipi Falls, guides from the local community can organize walks of a few hours up to a full day around local viewpoints. In Kapchorwa, a 20-minute Sunrise Trek at 6am from Noah’s Ark Hotel leads to the nearby Tewei Hill to watch dawn spreading across the vast Karamoja plains at the base of the mountain.

Rock climbing in Mt. Elgon
Rock climbing takes place outside the park at Sipi. There are 14 climbs requiring various levels of rock scaling techniques, and all equipment can be hired from the Sipi Falls Tourist Guides Association. The toughest is a 35m climb while the easiest is 15m. Both command a picturesque view of the main falls and the Karamoja plains.

Sport fishing in Mt. Elgon
Sport fishing is done above the highest peaks of the three waterfalls at Sipi outside the park. It provides exciting challenges to anglers who take pride in battling with the rainbow trout because of its beautiful coloration and fighting ability. The largest can weigh 3kgs.Fishing is restricted to designated sites and places and advance booking is not necessary. Interested sport fishers are urged to bring their own equipment and secure a permit from Sipi River Lodge.

Getting Here

Mount Elgon National Park lies 235km east of Kampala. A tarmac road runs through Jinja to Mbale town at the western base of Mount Elgon, before climbing to Kapchorwa on the mountain’s north-western flank. Dirt roads lead off the Mbale-Kapchorwa road to reach the various trailheads.
Accommodation
Mount Elgon Hotel & Spa
Mount Elgon Hotel & Spa, conveniently located in Mbale opposite Mt Elgon National Park Offices is a hotel offering superb guest accommodation
that include standard rooms, superior rooms, executive rooms and Junior suites. All guest rooms now feature Satellite TV, free wifi access, complimentary access to swimming pool, sauna, steam bath and jacuzzi.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga national park Uganda is located in the south-western part of Uganda near the town of Kisoro. The park is lies in the area occupied by the Virunga Mountains and its neighboring the Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and the Virunga National Park in the Congo. Mgahinga is positioned just 15 kilometers (9.3 mi), by road, south of the nearest town of Kisoro and an estimated distance of 55 kilometers (34 mi), by road, west of Kabale town, the largest city in the sub-region. The entire park is perfectly situated in Bufumbira County, in Kisoro District.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest protected area in Uganda and it covers an estimated area of about 33.7 Square Kilometers. However the smallest part is very significant in the country Uganda because it’s the only second park in Uganda that houses the endangered species of the mountain gorillas.

mgahinga-national-park

Uganda’s smallest national park was gazetted in 1991 and it constitutes part of the Virunga Conservation Area. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park experiences two wet rainy seasons i.e. February – May and September- December of each year. The maximum amount of rainfall in a year is 250mm (October) and Minimum is 10mm (July).
The national park also covers three of the eight Virunga volcanoes and among the three include Mount Muhabura as well as Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo which is the oldest Volcano, all of these lie on the border between Uganda and Rwanda border. Any of these can be climbed in one day from the park headquarters. These three conical, extinct volcanoes which form part of the spectacular Virunga Range are the striving features of Mgahinga national park and the volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
In spite of the fact that the park is important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the traditional inhabitant of the forest before they were pushed out the park.

Tourist Attractions in Mgahinga national park Uganda
The Virunga Volcanoes

virunga-volcanoes-rwanda

The Virungas are the wonderful chain of eight volcanoes which dot the borders of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Three of the conical peaks are in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mount Muhavura (4,127m). It is the highest of the peaks in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The name means guide, and the Batwa used to look for its high peak to help orient them in the forest. Muhavura has a crystal clear crater lake about 36m wide at its summit. The top commands panoramic views far into Uganda, Rwanda and along the length of the Virunga chain
Mount Gahinga (3,474m). It is the shortest of the Virunga volcanoes and it was named after the local practice of tidying the volcanic debris that clutters local farmland into neat cairns or Gahinga. Its swamp-filled crater is around 180m wide.
Mount Sabinyo means old man’s teeth, a reference to its jagged summit which is dissected by deep gorges and ravines. The countries that share the Virungas – Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo – meet on the highest of Sabinyo’s stumpy peaks.

Caves
Some of the steep mountain slopes contain caves formed by lava tubes, one of them being the famous Garama Cave located near the park headquarters. This is a sacred place for the Batwa, and during the Batwa Trail visitors can discover how it was used as a shelter during battles and as a place to store looted treasures.

Ntebeko Visitors’ Centre
The Visitor Centre at Ntebeko is the starting point for nature walks, volcanoes hiking, golden monkey and gorilla tracking and the short (4km) Batwa Trail. The trailhead of the long Batwa trail is at the base of Mt Muhavura. Exhibits inside the building explore themes relating the Virunga environment. A trail along the stone Buffalo Wall – built to keep animals out of neighboring farmland – provides good birding and views of the volcanoes.
Outside the Park
Lake Bunyonyi
A worthwhile diversion on the route to Mgahinga from Kabale, Lake Bunyonyi is dotted with at least 20 small islands and encircled by steep terraced hills, Africa’s second deepest lake is unforgettably scenic. Visitors can stay overnight at a number of lakeside resorts or simply follow the lakeshore road to Kisoro and Mgahinga.

Mountain Gorillas

gorilla-families-in-mgahinga

Mgahinga is home to the habituated Nyakagezi gorilla group – a fairly nomadic bunch that has been known to cross the border into Rwanda and the Congo. The family includes the lead silverback identified as Bugingo who is around 50 years old and father to most of the group; his silverback sons, Mark and Marfia; and two blackbacks, Rukundo and Ndungutse, who love to pose and play in the trees. The two females, Nshuti and Nyiramwiza, both have babies Furraha and Nkanda respectively.
Golden Monkeys
The endangered golden monkey is endemic to the Albertine Rift, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a rare chance to track these striking creatures, high in the dense bamboo forests on the Gahinga trail. There are estimated 3000 – 4000 individuals in the Virunga area which a good number of them are habituated in Mgahinga.

Other Wildlife
Mgahinga is home to 76 species of mammals, although they are difficult to glimpse in the wild forest vegetation. They include giant forest hogs, bush pigs, forest buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, golden cats, side striped jackals, black fronted duikers and South African porcupines.
Birds
The varied habitats of Uganda’s smallest park make it home to a variety of birds with 179 -184 species recorded. The list includes the Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Speckled Mousebird, Stone Chat, Grey-capped Warbler, Wax Bills, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Firefinch, White-naped Raven, Black Kite, Rwenzori Turaco, Blue-headed Coucal, Paradise Fly-catcher, Rwenzori Batis, Double-collared Sunbird, Rwenzori Nightjar.

Tourists Activities
Mountain Gorilla tracking

gorilla-trekking

With a diverse collection of tourism activities, gorilla tracking stands out to be the leading activity at Mgahinga Gorilla national park and 75% of Mgahinga’s visitors come to view the primates. With Uganda left with about 400 mountain gorillas, the park is one of the two places where a visitor is guaranteed to have a glance at the endangered species. It is the best point to trek the Nyakagezi gorilla group which frequently moves adjacent in the forests of Congo and Rwanda. The other park where gorillas are found is Bwindi Impenetrable and these two parks are near each other making it possible for one to trek through both of them on most of Uganda safaris. Normally, Gorilla trekking Safari starts from Ntebeko Entrance gate at around 8:00am in the morning daily taking 2 – 8 hours. However, if the gorillas are on Muhabura side, then the tracking definitely starts in Muhabura station. A visitor is expected to budget for his/her time well while with a gorilla family since the maximum time allowed to spend with them is one hour.
When to go gorilla tracking to Mgahinga Gorilla National park

The best time to visit the place for tracking is during the two dry seasons when the park is easily accessed. It is during this time that the thick forests can be penetrated easily and when the paths are not as muddy as it is in the rainy season. The two dry Seasons are the best for Gorilla Safari in Mgahinga and this season runs from mid-December to end of February and June to October. However, gorilla tracking tourism is possible throughout the year.

Birding in Mgahinga Gorilla

The three to four hour Gorge Trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo provides a spectacular sightings of the Dusky turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Kivu-ground Thrush, Olive Thrush, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill and Streaky Seedeater.
The other interesting birding areas in the park include the bamboo belt found at an estimated altitude which is about 2,500m above sea level, and the tall montane forest at 2,660m. The Rwenzori Turaco is mostly sighted and viewed at around 2,700m above sea level. Along the Uganda-Congo border especially on level ground, one can easily view the Chubb’s Cisticola, Red-faced Woodland Warbler as well as Banded Prinia and Doherty’s Bush-shrike are vocal yet inconspicuous inhabitants of the tangled vegetation at the forest’s edge.

Hiking and Nature Walks

nature-walks-mgahinga

A hike through the forest to the deep Sabinyo Gorge – a massive gash in the flank of Mount Sabinyo .Hiking to the summit of Sabinyo provides good birding opportunities and the chance to find the Rwenzori Turaco. This walk takes four hours, and passes through the Rugezi Swamp which is fanastic for bird watchers.
The walk to the Congo border transcends different vegetation zones. Hikers can sight the calderas on top of the Gisozi hill, look out for Kisoro and Bunagana towns and be captivated by Lake Mutanda.
The golden monkey track is a gentle steep but an interesting two-hour trek through former farmland to the bamboo forest. On a clear day, one may view the Virunga Volcano range and come across buffalo and duiker.

Mountain/Volcano Climbing

All the three volcanoes found with in this park can be summited. Mt. Sabinyo, at 3,669m, takes about eight hours to cover the 14km round trip, following a steep ridge up to the peak.
It takes around six hours to ascend and descend Mt. Gahinga (3,474m), topped by a swamp-filled crater and giant lobelia. Lucky climbers may spot golden monkeys on their way through the bamboo forest.
Mt. Muhavura is the highest peak at 4,127m, and this 12km round trip takes around eight hours. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded on a clear day with views of the Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Edward, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the peaks of the Rwenzoris.

Sabyinyo (366m) – ‘Old man’s teeth’
Like an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to peak. If you are to continue, the climb to the peak 11 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda, a dual experience you will achieve here. Finally, the hike up to the peak 111 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak111! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, what a triple experience this is!!! The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14km stretch.
Mt. Gahinga (3474m)
On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields. The local people call such a pile a ‘Gahinga’. Mount Gahinga is quite bigger than the average ‘gahinga’ but sitting next to Mount Muhavura does make it look small. A hike, which takes you about, six hours round trip, goes through a good example of a pure Bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a Crater Lake on top but time has changed it into a Lush swamp. Distance to the swamp is 8km.

Mt. Muhavura (4127m) – ‘The Guide’
Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip covering 12km.You are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before the site has no facilities so you need a tent, water, food and sleeping gear.
Cultural Encounters

The Batwa Trail
Mgahinga’s dense forests were home to the indigenous Batwa- hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine among other needs. When the national park was established, the Batwa were evicted from the forest and abandoned their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. The only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guides on the Batwa Trail, on which visitors will discover the magic of the Batwa’s ancient home while enjoying nature walks and learning about the cultural heritage.
The Batwa demonstrate hunting techniques, gather honey, point out medicinal plants and demonstrate how to make bamboo cups. Guests are invited to the sacred Garama Cave, once a refuge for the Batwa, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes easily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a moving sense of the richness of this fading culture.
Part of the tour fee paid by the tourists goes directly to the guides and musicians and the rest goes to the Batwa community fund to cover school fees and books, and improve their livelihoods.
How to get there
By road, one can access the park by use of a car from Kampala via Kabale to Kisoro. This journey takes about 8 hours.
By air, one can board a plane from Entebbe to Kisoro Airstrip which is near the park. This is the quickest mode of access and it takes about 1 hour. There are daily scheduled flights which must be booked long in advance with your local Uganda safari operator
Accommodation in the park
Luxury
Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge (Volcanoes)

mount-gahinga-lodge

The Mt. Gahinga Safari Lodge is situated at the foot of the Virunga chain at Uganda’s smallest park Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Rounded by Mounts Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhuvura, this unique lodge has stunning scenery around it and its nine Banda huts. Every room’s design is got from ancient traditional Batwa culture paired with world class comfort as well as beautiful garden with rustic styles setting.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to, rare golden monkeys, Unique Mountain Gorilla, the extinct Volcanoes of the Virunga, atmospheric bamboo forests and the sacred Ngarama Cave – once home to the King of the Batwa Pygmies. When visitors gets done with all activities organized in day such as mountain Hiking, Wild Game viewing and cultural trekking there is no better place to relax than Mount Gahinga Lodge.
The lodge is the best place to relax yourself after your Uganda adventure and what makes it different from others is that it has a massage room, warming open fireplace where visitors can chill in the evening hours, delicious three course meals and blissful views of the mighty volcanic peaks, this lodge is a wonderful place to recuperate after your Ugandan adventures.

Guests are guaranteed a great night’s sleep in our comfortable separate cabins, surrounded by nice-looking terraces and gardens to make the most of the views and native birds and butterflies.
The Lodge provides number of Amenities and these include; Restaurant and bar, Open fireplace, Laundry service, On-site wildlife viewing, Outdoor sitting area for bird watching, surrounded by wild plants, A sunroom facing the volcanoes and Solar power. The Lodge’s room description is that it has eight attractive bandas which are nestled in the wild gardens at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes.

All bandas have their own specific seating area with even privates’ bathroom, composting toilets and bush showers.
Lighting is solar powered, making them extremely environmentally friendly. Mountain Gahinga Safari Lodge has a variety of activities to Guest as seen below. Guests can spend the day climbing the Muhavura Volcano. (Elevation 4137 m) Its name means “the guide.” The typical cone-shaped mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Most of the climbing activities are carried out in a rocky surface full of grasses and small shrubs. Hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga Volcanoes when they reach on the top.
While at this lodge guests can spend their day climbing the Gahinga Volcano. (Elevation 3473 m) A hike, which takes you about 6 hours round trip, goes through a good example of a pure bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a crater lake on top but time has changed it into a lush swamp. (Distance to the swamp is 8 km.)
Guests can take part in a full day Batwa pygmy experience. This cultural walk begins at the base camp, which is located almost 30 minutes from the lodge. Members of the Batwa community and Ugandan Wildlife Authority guides help take to take visitors through the dense forest and educate visitors on the Batwa ways of life. You will see traditional dwellings, shoot with bows and arrows, learn about medicinal and edible plants, and visit the Garama Cave for a song and dance performance.
High Season Low Season
Single $401 Single$354
Double $330pp Double $295pp
Budget

Amajambere Iwacu Camp –Budget.
Amajambere-Iwacu-Camp

The Community Camp is situated by the entrance to Mgahinga National Park and is only 12 km from the southwestern town of Kisoro near the Rwandan border.
At the camp, visitors can enjoy the magnificent views of the famous Virunga Volcanoes and take part in monkey trekking. The camp is built at a best beginning point for golden monkey trekking through the national park.
The following Amenities are provide to the clients at the Camp
Camping facilities and 4 bandas, Spacious gathering shelter with indoor and outdoor dining
Well-stocked canteen serving beers, sodas, snacks and basic essentials and Restaurant serving typical Ugandan meals
The camp has variety of Rooms and this means that Guests can choose between bandas, dormitories or campsites. It has a large area for camping as well as five well-built bandas, which too serve as dormitories and they provide accommodation facilities for back packers, students.
Amajambere Iwacu Camp has a lot of activities provided to Guest and among these involve , Guided walks through the village and to a nearby lava tubes ,caves and Crater Lake. Traditional performances in form of cultural dances which are organized by the local women’s group and the Batwa people and Guided climbs of the Virunga volcanoe as well as having community walk.
RATES BED ONLY BED AND BREAKFAST FULL BOARD

Double $40 $50 $80
Twin $30 $40 $70
Dormitory $10 $15 $30
Cam( ten provided) $10 $15 $30
Self-camping $5 $10 $25

Countryside Guesthouse Kisoro

Countryside Guest House is located a few minutes’ walk from Kisoro town Centre. At Countryside, you will be welcomed with genuine warmth and friendship. We are surrounded by rolling hills, evergreen farms and splendid views of the Virunga Volcanoes. We are ideally located for visitors planning to visit the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Nkuringo sector of Bwindi Impenetrable national Park
Just like other important guest houses in the region ,country side provides amenities such as ; On-site restaurant, Tour/Travel desk, Conference Facilities, Internet Access, Gift shop, On-site Bar, Fitness Room/Gym, Laundry/Dry Cleaning.
Rates charged by the Guest House involve even Break Fast as seen below in the table.
Rates Bed and Breakfast
Single 25,000Ushs
Double 45,000Ushs
Twin 45,000Ushs

Virunga hotel and campsite
It is a small and friendly hotel situated behind the National Parks office in Kisoro town on Mutanda Road. The hotel offers a cozy atmosphere and is furnished in warm colors with welcoming public areas. On-site amenities include a bar, a breakfast room and a 24-hour front desk with an experienced staff who will be pleased to provide you with any information you may need.
The facility has clean toilets and hot water showers, a Restaurant and bar, spacious campsite; secure parking, free evening entertainment, wireless internet, elegant and warm rooms, lovely gardens, maximum security, information and business desk.
The facility is a popular hangout for backpackers and independent travellers travelling with or without their own vehicles that wish to stay in Kisoro town. They have loads of Gorilla trekking knowledge on their notice board and can offer help in areas such as obtaining permits for gorilla trekking in Rwanda and DR Congo.

Golden Monkey Guest House

golden-monkey-guest-hotel

The Guest House is ranked among the best Budget lodges in Kisoro town and it is a home away from home. They also offer a wide range of delicious food menu with meat and vegetarian options. The Guest House offers a wide range of accommodation options ranging from single and double, self-contained rooms to dormitories. Visitor’s choice of accommodation should be dictated by visitor’s personal travel budget but also guest’s own interests to give guest a total relaxation and peace of mind to make guest feel at home.

Golden Monkey guest house provides an excellent base for trekking the Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi, Golden monkeys and volcano hiking at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They also arrange canoe trekking trips to the beautiful lake Mutanda, which is just an hour away on foot. Community activities like market visit or village walk can be arranged.
Golden Monkey Guest House can be accessed by Road, Travel from Kampala crossing the Equator through Mbarara – Kabale onto Kisoro. Golden monkey Guest house is behind the Uganda wildlife information office in Kisoro town and well sign posted. And our newly open Rafiki guesthouse is along Bunagana road a few meters next to the famous Travelers Hotel
By Road: Travel from Kigali to Cyanika Boarder then proceed onto Kisoro town

Mutanda Eco Community Centre (M.E.C.C)
Located just 6 kilometers away from Kisoro town in south western Uganda, Mutanda Eco Community Centre (M.E.C.C) is a community owned eco-lodge located at the south shores of Lake Mutanda. The camp provides accommodation, camping facilities and food. Because of the camp’s proximity to Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks, Mutanda Eco Community Centre is the perfect choice for accommodation for tourists who are considering mountain gorilla tracking.

The suite camp consists of a structure of a platform on pillars and a roof. The platform is lifted from the ground and provides a floor for a number of tents. The tents are provided by the Centre, and work like a simple version of lodging, or an advanced way of tenting where you will not have to bring your own tent. Here one is protected from the ground and from the rain, while keeping the feeling of camping. In future the roof will be covered with solar panels, gathering energy from the sun. The roof will also protect the suite camp from different weather conditions. The roof can also provide smaller windmills to compensate for days with less sun. The suit camp is already in place and it has three tents which can accommodate six people.
The Centre also offers ample camping place for those guests who do come with their own tents. The prices for such facilities are affordable and can be accessed on M.E.C.C information board at the Centre or one can ask the staff members at the Centre.

There are several ecotourism activities that can be carried out at Lake Mutanda and these include swimming, canoeing, boat riding, snake safari, otter viewing and village visits.
They also offer volunteer opportunities for clients interested in supporting community projects. The volunteer experience entails teaching swimming lessons to children, working at the health centers and teaching conservation education at the nearby Chihe Primary School.
The table below shows the prices charged by the Mutanda Eco Community Centre.
Room Type Room Only Full Board
Dormitory US$ 10 US$30
Single US$40 US$55
Double/Twin Room US50 US$80
Camping US$6

Midrange
Kisoro Tourist Hotel

tourist-hotel-kisoro

Kisoro Tourist Hotel in Kisoro south western Uganda is the best option for anyone visiting the southwest of Uganda, on the way to Rwanda, Congo and Bwindi for gorilla tracking.
The region of Kigezi is well known as “The Switzerland of Africa” for its evergreen forests, lush valleys, and numerous lakes and hills.

The hotel boasts a strategic location which is at the foothills of Mount Muhavura, and guests can enjoy a good panoramic view of the nearby mountains and volcanoes along the borders with Rwanda and the Congo.
Kisoro Tourist Hotel is the most pleasant and comfortable hotel at a budget tariff price and offers best accommodation facilities in their self-contained rooms.
Enjoy the warm atmosphere of the lounge provided by a true fireplace. When visitors get done with their daily activities in the nearby area, they can relax with a romantic massage done by well trained workers and also steam bath. The hotel has one of the best restaurants recognized in country for the high-standard food preparation in both traditional and international dishes.

The hotel provides the following amenities on-site are; On-site restaurant, Tour/Travel desk, Conference Facilities, Internet Access, Gift shop, On-site Bar, Fitness Room/Gym, Laundry/Dry Cleaning, Library/Reading Area. The hotel rooms also have TV-Cable/Satellite were visitors can watch international and local updates, The TV can get Local Stations clearly, Fans, Hot water, Private Bathroom are also provided to ensure that visitor get better stay.
Due to the need to protect the environment and giving back to the local communities, the hotel organizes different responsible tourism activities such as
The women´s dance group performs organized by the hotel have massages that raise awareness about how the environmental can be protected and also through the drama performances, the young people in the community are encouraged to stop illegal activities such as poaching wild animals in the park.
The women´s group performs traditional dances and drama, and has used the profits from their performances to purchase a piece of land, which they plan to build more accommodations for the guests. The hotel also provides assistance to AIDs awareness campaigns in local schools and focus on stopping young people from involving in the acts that may lead them to contract AIDS.

The hotel also has a craft shop at the hotel Centre and host cultural dances where community members can perform. These offerings help raise money for the surrounding communities.
The table shows the prices charged by Hotel for both Bed and Breakfast and Full Board.
Room Type Bed and Breakfast Half Board Full Board
single USD 60 USD70 USD80
Double USD75 USD95 USD115
Triple USD135 USD165 USD1195

Kisoro Travelers’ Rest Hotel

kisoro-travellers-hotel

Travellers Rest Hotel is a colonial-style hotel located just 14km from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park outside Kisoro Town, in the extreme southwestern part of Uganda, providing a perfect point for trips into Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. When the visitor is just entering, he or she is welcomed by the ibis typical sound. The wonderful-green surrounding garden is the home of various birds species. When the guest is just seated on the terrace he is paid by nice smell of the sweet perfume from the honeysuckle, and in the cool evenings one can experience a warm atmosphere which is provided by the fireplace in the lounge, surrounded by unusual African artifacts and a huge collection of Congolese masks.
The surrounding landscape, dominated by the peaks of the Massifs of Virunga Volcanoes has very interesting beauty. The volcanoes offer spectacular views of the Rift Valley and the emerald-green Lake Mutanda in the distance.

In the sixties the famous American ‘gorilla-woman’ Dian Fossey visited Travellers Rest many, many times to do paperwork, relax or meet people. Fossey said of the hotel: “It was my second home.”
The Lodge Amenities in this precious hotel are; Restaurant,, Travel desk, Bikes to rent, Lounge area with fireplace, bar and large meeting table Internet access, Massages, Laundry service, Gift Shop, Enclosed garden, Huge selection of Congolese masks
All the Spotless private rooms lead out onto the pleasant garden and have private bathrooms with hot water. Available rooms include single, twin, double, triple and a suite.
The activities organized by the hotel are, Paying visits to the a local primary school where the deaf children study from and here willing guests are welcomed to make donations, also the hotel organizes traditional performances done by the local orphan group and some of the activities also include having cycle ride to lake Mutanda, visiting the local market mainly on market days, Batwa Forest Trail through the National Park among others.
Most of food prepared by the rest Hotel is sourced from Kisoro market, which is supplied by the local Bafumbira and Bakiga communities. The hotel staffs are mostly from Kisoro. Staff training and career development of the staff members is of great importance to the Hotel management.
PRICES
Room Type Room Only Half Board Full Board
Single USD70 USD85 USD95
Double/twin USD80 USD110 USD130
Extra bed USD25 USD40 USD50

Bunyonyi Overland Resort

The Resort is strategically located near the loviest Lake Bunyonyi in Kibale district south western part of Uganda.
The Resort offers to visitor’s superb accommodation in comfortable safari tents, rooms, cottages and family cottages. All the accommodation rooms offer splendid view of the beautiful surrounding. The lodge also provides camping option for visitors with their own Camping equipment and a comfortable ‘rent a mobile tent’ with or without bedding arrangement is also present in the lodge’s pleasant gardens. While staying at the resort, visitors will find lots of interesting tourist’s activities to keep visitors more than occupied and busy.
The lodge has ten Furnished Safari Tents which are set on raised platforms and hence visitors can enjoy wonderful views and sights of the green vegetation and the interesting sights of the Loviest water of the bilharzia free lake Bunyonyi. Each of the tents has its own terrace and wonderful views over Lake Bunyonyi.
The wonderful 12 cottages found in the lodge offer classic accommodations and panoramic views up the lake. The cottages offer both twin and double occupancy options. The two family cottages are completely self-contained and fully furnished to ensure visitor’s convenience. The family cottages have Satellite TV where visitors can watch both local and international news.

For budget travellers without their own camping equipment, the lodge offers mobile rent and some of the tents have bedding facilities and others without bedding. Travellers with self –camping equipment can utilize the beautiful gardens and the set side camping area for tourists interested in enjoying serene environment.
The other Lodge Amenities offers to visitors in the resort include On-site restaurant, Tour / travel desk, Conference facilities, Laundry / dry cleaning services, Internet Access, On-site bar, Library / reading room, Souvenir / gift shop. On-site Facilities offered by the lodge include Secure car parking, Restaurant with fireplace, Conference room, Craft shop, Picnic and relaxation areas, Library, Travel information, Satellite TV, Grocery store with essential items, Storage or safe custody of personal effects, Car hire and taxi, Laundry service, First aid, emergency contacts, 24 hour security, 24/7 internet connection Ushs 100/- per minute
Activities organized at the Lodge include Volleyball, badminton, indoor games, swimming, canoeing, boat-motor hire, Bird watching, Mountain biking, Fishing, Community walks, Twice weekly local market tour.
In terms of Responsible Tourism, the lodge has been implementing a tree planting campaigns at lodge and in the surrounding areas. The lodge also encourages visitors to at least to plant a tree during their stay at the lodge to promote the environmental conservation campaign.
The lodge works directly with local guides on village walks. This helps tourists attain the most authentic experience while simultaneously giving back to the community. All the hotel staff and guides are from the local community.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National park is located in western Uganda and it’s shared by three district of Kiruhura, Mbarara and Isingiro Districts. The park is situated about 30 kilometers by road, east of Mbarara, the largest city in the sub-region. The location of the park is approximately 240 kilometers or150 mi, by road, west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. The coordinates of the park are: 00 36S, 30 57E and it covers an approximated area of 370 square kilometers.
The famous Lake Mburo was originally gazetted in 1933 as a Controlled Hunting Area and later upgraded to a Game Reserve in the year 1963. In spite of the fact that the area around Lake Mburo was gazzatted game reserve, the local Banyankole Bahima residents who are the traditional inhabitants of the area around Mburo continued to graze their long horned cattle in the Reserve until it was upgraded to National Park status in 1983. The Obote government’s decision to upgrade the Park was reportedly in part intended to weaken the Banyankole, who supported anti-Obote rebels. It came at the time of the Operation Bonanza massacre of 300,000. As the evicted pastoralists were not compensated for lost grazing land or assisted with resettling, many remained hostile to the Park’s formation. The rangeland outside the park was subsequently subdivided into small ranges and subsistence farming plots.

bahima cattle of mburo
In 1985 the second Obote regime fell and the previous residents of Lake Mburo re-occupied the Park’s land, expelling park staff, destroying infrastructure and annihilating wildlife. Less than half of the Park’s original land area was eventually re-gazetted by the NRM government in 1986.
Lake Mburo national park is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and underlain by ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back more than 500 million years. It is home to 350 bird species as well as zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck.
Together with 13 other lakes in the area, Lake Mburo forms part of a 50km-long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these lakes lie within the park’s borders. Once covered by open savanna, Lake Mburo National Park now contains much woodland as there are no elephants to tame the vegetation. In the western part of the park, the savanna is interspersed with rocky ridges and forested gorges while patches of papyrus swamp and narrow bands of lush riparian woodland line many lakes.

Tourist attractions

Horses boats and Quad bikes mburo

Wildlife
The Park’s varied habitats support 68 mammal species. Rarities include impala, which, in Uganda, only lives in Lake Mburo, and Burchell’s zebra and eland which are found only here and in Kidepo. Other species include warthog, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck and reedbuck. Leopard and hyena are also present while crocodile and over 300 hippos are found in the lake. Previously extinct in the park, lions have recently been sighted again.
Birds
The Park is home to an estimated number of around 350 bird species that have been recorded to date. Some of these bird species include the Red-faced Barbet, only seen in Lake Mburo, the endemic African Finfoot and the rare Shoebill if found in the swampy areas of Lake Mburo national park. Other unique species found within this protected area are the Brown-chested Lapwing, the Papyrus Yellow Warbler as well as Saddle-billed Stork, African-wattled Lapwing, African Scops Owl, White-winged Warbler and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. Acacia woodland bird species are especially well represented, while forest species may be found in Rubanga forest. These include Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Hairy-breasted Barbet and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, among others.
Culture
Lake Mburo National Park is perfectly located in the traditional hunting grounds of the Banyankole -Bahima cattle keepers who utilized the land for grazing their Ankole long horned cattle and hunting wildlife . The geographical landscapes extending from the stretched valleys to the ancient Precambrian rocks, rolling hills like Kazuma, and historical lakes like Mburo have got a cultural attachment to the local people that live in the sounding areas to the park. Following the establishment of the park in 1983, the local people who were settling in the park evicted from the area and they settled in the nearby areas and since then, their local traditions, beliefs are still alive including the music dance and drama, unique long horned Ankole cattle, arts and crafts, values and customs and protected landscapes. Currently, the Enyemebwa cultural center is found on the park margin presenting the Hima heritage and conserving the beauty of Ankole long horned cattle.
Lake Mburo
Lake Mburo is a natural haven for fauna and flora. The bank teems with animals and birds. Crocodiles and hippopotami are permanent residents, and buffalos come to drink during the dry season. The wide variety of resident birds includes Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Rufous Long-tailed Starlings, Blue-headed Weavers, Green-necked Doves, Hammerkops, Pelicans, Herons, Cormorants and even rare Shoebills.
Rubanga Forest
Though small, this tract of forest on the western side of Lake Mburo provides a taste of tropical high forest with a closed canopy and a viewing platform for visitors. It is home to a variety of forest birds; commoner species include the Harrier Hawk, Green Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Grey-backed Cameroptera and Double-toothed Barbet. Rubanga can be explored with a ranger guide.
Tourists Activities

Zebra tracking of mburo
Birding in Lake Mburo National Park

The best birding spots in Lake Mburo National Park include the swampy valleys of Warukiri and Miriti, and the roadsides between Rwonyo camp and the jetty. There are also ideally-situated viewing platforms at the salt lick, in Miriti Valley, and in Rubanga Forest. Species observed at these locations include the Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard, Brown-chested Lapwing, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Brown Parrot, Red-headed Lovebird, Ross’s Turaco, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Green Wood-hoopoe, Common Scimitar bill, White-headed Barbet, Red-faced Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-winged Tit and Finfoot among others.
Rubanga Forest can be visited using a vehicle or on foot. This is a real draw for keen birders, and prior arrangement should be made with the warden. The rare Red-faced Barbet – only seen in Lake Mburo National Park – is one of the of the forest’s featured species.
Game Drives in Lake Mburo
The network of game tracks in the east of the park passes a variety of landscape features; acacia woodland, wetlands, grassy hillsides, rock outcrops and seasonally flooded valley floors. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to roam the park in search of wildlife. An alternative view of the park, hopefully including sightings of animals rarely seen during the day, is provided by guided night drives. These start between 6.30-7pm and last two to three hours.
Zebra tracks. The Zebra track offers impressive views of Burchell’s Zebra alongside other species like bushbucks, oribi and reedbucks. The track connects to Ruroko track junction traverses through the wetland and thick acacia woodland marked by olive trees and eurphorbia species. The adjoining Ruroko track takes you the rocky out crops with opportunities to spot a Klipspringer.
The Kazuma track. This track passes through grassland dotted with wood species where the black-bellied bustards are common sightings. You climb the splendid Kazuma hill which offers the great scenic views of Lake Mburo National Park and beyond considering its altitude. The wild game tend to graze on the lower layers of the hill while the open hill top allows you to explore all the five lakes in Lake Mburo National Park.

Kigambira Loop. The Kigambira loop trails traverses through the woods and spaced thicket which opens you to bush duikers and bushbucks.
The Lakeside Track. The Lake side track allows you to explore the water environment featuring the water flora and fauna. The range of water birds dwelling in the water logged areas and swamps that surround Lake Mburo can be seen long this track not forgetting the swamp dwelling animals like the Sitatunga.
Game drives are best done in the morning and in the evening and tend to last 3 – 4 hours. The drives are taken along various tracks considering the factor of season and weather. For example in dry seasons, animals assemble around water bodies like lakes and swamps which tend to offer extraordinary photo sessions when herds of animals congregate in mutual co – existence on water shores.

Hiking and Nature Walks in Lake Mburo
Unusually, the whole park is open to walkers as long as they are accompanied by a ranger guide. At Rwonyo, a guided walk leads to a salt lick where many animals are attracted to the salty rocks. Walks on the western side of the lake begin at 7am and take two hours. At this time of day, you may encounter hyenas returning to their dens and hippos retreating to the lake. Hikes through the woodland provide an opportunity to sight forest birds and mammals, while the walk to the top of the hill rewards visitors with a spectacular view of 9 of the region’s 14 lakes. Of particular interest to walkers and birders is Rubanga Forest, which may be visited by prior arrangement and in the company of a ranger.

mount-elgon-hiking

Horseback safaris in Lake Mburo
Horseback safaris are an exciting way to view wildlife, including eland and buffalo. Also commonly sighted are warthog, topi, impala, duiker, bushbuck, waterbuck and zebra. The four-hour hacks take visitors up to hilltop viewpoints with the option of bush breakfasts or sundowners. This activity is arranged at Mihingo Lodge.

Launch Trips in Lake Mburo
Lake Mburo national park is located in the middle of the park and the tranquil, calm waters of the lake offer opportunities for launch cruise and the activity takes two hours .The activity done in the afternoon hours enables one to explore the wildlife-rich eastern banks of Lake Mburo and species which can be viewed include the crocodiles, buffaloes and hippos as well as colorful Kingfishers, magnificent Fish Eagles, Hammerkops and their enormous nests and even the prehistoric-looking Shoebill. Voyages depart from Rwonyo jetty every two hours (subject to demand) starting at 8am.

Sport Fishing in Lake Mburo
Lake Mburo contains around six species of fish, with tilapia being the most common. The designated fishing spot is at Mazinga and visitors planning to participate in sport fishing are requested to come along with own fishing equipment and obtain a permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority. In Uganda sport fishing is only done in two protected areas i.e. Murchison falls and Lake Mburo national park.

Cultural encounters in Lake Mburo national park.
The local communities living around Lake Mburo National Park possess unique cultural heritage that originates from their traditional activities of cattle rearing. The Ankole long horned cattle kept in this part of Uganda are stunning species that can be encountered by any traveller alongside other unique practices of the local communities. While in this part of the country Uganda, One can take a look at the local traditional homesteads of the local Bahima people, arts and crafts, music dance and drama among other cultural products. Visit the Enyemebwa center to participate in cow milking, churning, rearing and cattle watering.

How to get there.
Lake Mburo National Park can be connected to from the following originating areas;
Two roads lead to Lake Mburo branching off from the Masaka – Mbarara road.
One helps you to enter via Sanga gate 37km east of Mbarara. While the other helps you to enter via Nshara gate 20 km from Lyantonde and 50 km to Mbarara.
You can also use public means to transfer to Lake Mburo National Park where you can board a bus up to Sanga town and then get a private taxi or a boda-boda to take you to Lake Mburo National Park.

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. The park is located at kabarole district just 320 square kilometers on the western part of Uganda. Kibale Forest is interspersed with patches of grassland, swamp and dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau of 1,590mabove sea level. The lowest point is 1,100m on the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley in the southern part of the park.
It’s approximately 326 kilometers by road west of Kampala, Uganda‘s capital city. Despite encompassing primarily moist evergreen forest, it contains a diverse array of landscapes Kibale is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests. In East Africa, it sustains the last significant expanse of pre-montane forest.
Kibale National Park covers an approximated area of 795 square kilometers and the park is one of Africa’s foremost research sites. While many researchers focus on the chimpanzees and other primates found in the park, others are investigating Kibale’s ecosystems, wild pigs and fish species, among other topics. The park is strategic place where Makerere field station for research is located.
Kibale’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from wet tropical forest on the Fort Portal plateau to woodland and savanna on the rift valley floor. The forest park is proud of 351 tree species that are recorded in the park; some of the trees rise to over 55m and are over 200 years old.
The park was gazetted in 1932 and formally established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logged Forest Reserve. The park forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park. This adjoining of the parks creates a 180 km (111 mi) wildlife corridor. It is an important eco-tourism and safari destination, popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and 12 other species of primates. It is also the location of the Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS).
The inhabitants of the park are majorly two tribes, the Batooro and Bakiga, inhabit the area around the park. The two tribes use the park as source of food and fuel as well as other natural resources with the help of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. In the last century, the population around the park increased by sevenfold. This was assumed to be so because the park directly brings in revenue for those living around it and the tourism industry creates jobs. In addition, many farmers believe that the soil is better for growing crops year round. This increase in the population has caused the area around the park to be divided and developed or turned into plantations and farmland. This fragmentation of the area outside the park has begun to affect the biodiversity inside the park.
Kibale National Forest has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey (status: Endangered) and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey (Vulnerable). The park is also home to over 325 species of birds, 4 wild fellids, 13 species of primates, a total of at least 60 other species of mammals, and over 250 tree species. The predominant ecosystem in Kibale is moist evergreen and semi-deciduous forest. Much of the forest was logged during its time as a Forest Reserve, and some exotic species of trees were planted in plantations (pines and eucalyptus). Since the national park was gazetted many of these introduced trees have been removed and logging has ended.

Tourist’s attractions

chimpanzee trekking

Primates
Kibale National Park Uganda is the only park in Africa with the highest diversity and density of primates. The most famous of its 13 species is the chimpanzee, our closest relative. Kibale’s protected area houses an approximated area of 1450 chimpanzees. This represents Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate. The forest is also home to East Africa’s largest population of the threatened red colobus and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey. Other primates include the black-and-white colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto.
Other Wildlife
At least 70 mammal species are present in the park though ground-dwelling animals are difficult to see in dense forest. Forest elephants are present, along with buffalos, leopards, warthogs, bush pigs, golden cats and duikers. A keen observer may spot reptiles and amphibians as well as a colorful variety of 250 species of butterflies.
Birdlife
The Park boasts more than 375 species of birds. Kibale specials include the African Pitta, Green-breasted Pitta, Afep Pigeon, White-naped Pigeon, Crowned Eagle, Red-chested Owlet, Black Bee-eater, Western Nicator, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Little Greenbul, Brown-chested Alethe, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Grey Parrot, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Brown Illadopsis, Black-capped Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Collared Apalis, Dusky Crimsonwing, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Yellow Spotted Nicator, Little Green Bul, and Black-eared Ground Thrush.

Areas of Interest outside the Park

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
Rich in biodiversity and beautiful scenery, the wetland is a birder’s paradise with about 138 species. Located outside the park in Magombe Swamp it also hosts eight species of primates including the black-and-white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed, L’Hoest’s and blue monkeys, and olive baboons. Bushbucks and mongooses can also be found here. The sanctuary was set up to preserve the exclusive environmental features along with the wetland and is managed by the local community.

Kihingami Wetland
Located near Sebitoli in northern Kibale, this community-run project offers excellent bird watching and visits to the local tea estates and factory. Nature walks will bring visitors up close to primates such as the black-and-white colobus, red colobus and red-tailed monkeys. Other animals like otters, mongooses and bushbucks can be observed in the wetlands.

Tourists Activities
kibalemulti

Birding in Kibale
Bird watching tours start at 7am at Kanyanchu and visitors are advised to book in advance. Rare species include the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, White-collared Oliveback and Papyrus Canary. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, located just outside the park, is home to 138 bird species which may be seen during guided walks along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms. These could include the White-spotted Flufftail, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Western Nicator, Grey-winged Robin-chat, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Superb Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, Black Bishop, White-breasted Negrofinch and Black-crowned Waxbill among others.
Chimpanzee Tracking and Habituation in Kibale
Kibale’s most popular activity is the Kanyanchu Primate Walk. Thirteen species can be sought, and a good variety of diurnal monkeys invariably encountered, but the stars of this trail are the chimpanzees. Kanyanchu’s chimps have been tracked since 1993 and the chances of locating them are excellent. Guided walks start at 8am and 2pm and last an average of three hours, depending on various factors.
The full-day Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (CHEX) works with a chimp community which is undergoing habituation. Early visitors can watch chimps leaving their overnight nests between 6:00 – 6:30am before feeding, copulating, hunting, breastfeeding, resting, patrolling and displaying until it is time to build new nests around 7pm.

Cultural Encounters in Kibale

Kibale Association for Rural Environment Development (KAFRED)
KAFRED is a community-based organization which promotes local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation through ecotourism. During the nature walk, a local guide will take visitors along the boardwalk through the Magombe swamp wetlands. Tourists are likely to see wildlife at close-hand, including several of the 200 species of birds, eight varieties of primates and numerous butterflies, along with unusual swamp vegetation.
The daily life of the Batooro can be discovered during the village walks. The tour stops by the village’s primary school, church, and traditional healer. During the cultural encounter one can learn about the role of women in the village and traditional ceremonies, and the history of Bigodi is told through the story of the “Village of Two Tribes”, describing when the indigenous Batooro were joined by migrating Bakiga from southwestern Uganda in the 1950s.
Income from this activity is invested in education, health, sanitation and improving the livelihood of local residents. It is also used to help raise awareness of the value of biodiversity through music, dance, and drama performances at local schools. In 2010, KAFRED they won the prestigious UNDP’s Equator Initiative Award and it has also won Silver at the Africa Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 held in South Africa.
Night Nature Walks
When chimpanzees and other forest residents rest up at dusk, a nighttime shift of rarely seen creatures becomes active. Night walks though the darkened forest use powerful torches to seek nocturnal creatures such as the potto, bushbaby, nightjar, cricket and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek, as well as the occasional civet or serval cat. Night walks leave the camp at 7.30pm and last between one and a half and two hours.

Accommodation at Kibale National Park

Primate Lodge –Luxury
Primate Lodge
Primate Lodge Kibale is a fashionable Eco-lodge located within Kibale National park. It’s enclosed by a flourishing tropical forest that is a habitat to many different species of primates for instance the chimpanzees. It’s secretly sheltered in the rainforest, it’s one of the lodges that give a really dependable jungle familiarity and it’s the most favorable place for tracking the primates in Uganda. Primate lodge Kibale has accommodation for all visitors ranging from luxury, cottages as well as tents. This lodge gives a chance to take your time in the morning and first have breakfast and later on plan for the day and how you are going to track the chimpanzees without much trouble.
The lodge has about 8 lavish safari tents, wooden platform with a thatched roof that tends to match well with the environment. The verandahs on each tent offer a beautiful view of the enclosed forest. The inside of the lodge is designed with an African style with beautiful beds. The bathrooms and toilets have a natural touch of the environment made out of local stones, wall paintings as well as bamboo.
The lodge has about 7 friendly cottages are secretly located in the forest. The rooms are big with double beds, a sitting room with an African design and standard en suite bathrooms and toilets.
Sky Tree House Another exciting adventure is the sky tree house, it has a bedroom with other facilities that can enable you enjoy a nigh there. It’s suited at a 10 minutes’ walk from the major lodge. Giving you a perfect view of the Elephant lurch. At night, all elephants gather at this point.
The restaurant serves both international and local foods with hospital waitresses. Next to the restaurant is a fully stocked bar with a beautiful scenic view of the forest.
The lounge has well designed chairs; soft cushions along with sofas that will make you enjoy the red-tailed monkeys in the forest.
Cultural dancing at the fire place. The evenings are usually enjoyed around the camp fire to give you all the warmth you need. Late in the night, you will experience the great sounds of the forest as well as the winding forest elephants.

Nyinabulitwa Country Resort

The resort is located just about 20 Kilometers off Fort Portal in the western part of Uganda. The resort surrounds Kibale Forest National Park acknowledged to be the most gorgeous tropical rainforest in the country with eye-catching birds and insects. It has different species of primates with about 1400 population of Chimpanzees.
The resort has well designed accommodation with self-contained cottages that put up both double and single beds with high quality services.
The Restaurant serves both international and local cuisines and some of the food is got from the garden and is prepared to the visitors.
The resort has a craft shop with all African items managed by the community women group. Get for yourself something that will always remind you of Uganda as a great country.
The Resort is located in Surroundings of Kibale forest which is habitant to many animals such as buffaloes, bush pigs, elephants, duikers and many reptiles. The resorts have tour guides that will lead visitors through the forest. The tree house will give one a perfect view for seeing birds and monkeys. A forest walk will give you a chance to get closer to some primates and birds. The lake offers many activities such as swimming, fishing, canoeing as well as Kayaking. Mountain biking and hiking are also great games.
The resort has a craft shop with all African items managed by the community women group. Get for yourself something that will always remind you of Uganda as a great country.

Kyaninga Lodge

Kyaninga Lodge is located just mere 15 minutes’ drive outside Fort Portal town. Perched on top of a hill overlooking a stunning blue crater lake, the lodge enjoys spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, set against a magnificent backdrop of the Rwenzori Mountains in the distance. The lodge accommodates twenty guests in eight raised log cabins.
The rooms have got space more than enough and if that piece of earth is not enough one can spend his or her afternoon with a tennis match on grass ground.
This lodge consists of a series of lofty thatch cottages, each gracefully perched on stilts, marching up a steep hilltop, and culminating in a double-story log structure with Reception, Bar/Sitting Room, and a Dining Hall, complete with a loft for those wanting to dine apart from the crowd. The cottages are interconnected with a glorious Escher-like cascade of suspended wooden stairways and bridges, and overlook a stunning landscape of fields and forests on one side, a spectacular crater-lake and mountains on the other. The interiors are tastefully finished in wood and thatch, with custom-designed wooden furniture. The level of service is exceptional, and the food served at the lodge is excellent. The environmentally-friendly banana-leaf wrappings to packed lunches are an experience. Facilities Swimming Pool, Tennis, Badminton, Croquet, Bar/Lounge, and International Chef
Kibale Forest Camp-
Kibale Forest Camp is situated in a patch of indigenous forest, just outside Kibale Forest National Park. It borders Bigodi swamp and is located on a mere 4 km from the starting point for chimpanzee tracking. The camp is a renowned birding paradise, not only frequented by our human visitors, but also by the black and white colobus, the red colobus, the red tailed monkey, the bleu monkey and the grey cheeked mangabey.
The complex is a beautiful wooden construction with a grass thatched roof which blends perfectly in the forest surroundings. The open construction permits our visitors to fully enjoy the beauty of this magical place.
Due to the remote location of the camp they work with set menus: delicious 2 course lunches and fine 4 course dinners. If you have any dietary requirements or allergies, it is wise to inform them at your earliest convenience.
The camp consists of 7 African safari style tents, which are comfortably furnished with twin or double beds. Each tent has its own private ensuite bathroom with an eco-friendly toilet, a dressing room and a bush shower.
The tents are placed in thick forest, are on raised wooden platforms and have their own verandah from where the forest and all its secrets can be observed.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Uganda is located in southwestern Uganda in edge of East African Rift Valley. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and it is situated along the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. It comprises 331 square kilometers (128 sq. mi) of jungle forests and contains both montane and lowland forest and is accessible only on foot. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was gazzetted in the year 1991 and it was declared UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site in the year 1994.

This biologically diverse region also protects an estimated 320 mountain gorillas which is representing half of the world’s total population of the endangered species of the mountain gorillas, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked in the park. In addition the park provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics. The park houses220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species. Floristically Bwindi is amongst the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns. The northern (low altitude) sector is rich in species of the Guineo-Congolian flora. These include two species internationally recognized as endangered, the brown mahogany and Brazzeia longipedicellata. In particular the area shares in the high levels of endemism of the Albertine Rift.

Gorille de montagne, gorillon  / Mountain Gorilla, Gorillon

Geographically the park consists of Precambrian shale phyllite as well as quartz, granite, quartzite and schist. It is positioned at the edge of the Western Rift Valley in the highest altitude parts of the prominent Kigezi Highlands in south western part of Uganda which were formed by tectonic forces of up-warping which forced the Western Rift Valley to rise up. The topography around Bwindi National Park is rugged, with narrow valleys crossed by rivers as well as the steep hills. The Altitudes in popular Bwindi Impenetrable National park ranges from 1,190 to 2,607 meters above sea level. The highest elevation in the park is identified as Rwamunyonyi hill found in the eastern extremity of the park and the lowest part of the park is found at the park’s northern part.
The area around Bwindi Impenetrable National park experiences a tropical type of climate and the annual mean temperature of the Park Range from a minimum of 7–15°C to a maximum of 20–27°C. The park’s peak rain pour is from the month of March to April and also from the month of September to November and during this period the rain fall received in this places ranges from 1,400 to 1,900 millimeters.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is very remarkable water catchment area because much of the park’s rain fall creates streams and the forest has calm dense network of water streams. This makes the forest to be the source of various rivers that mainly flow into the low altitude northern, southern and western parts of the park. The notable rivers that originate from the park are Ivi, Ishasha river, as well as River Munyaga and Ihihizo river and these prominent rivers in the area with the park flow direct to Lake Edward were they pour there water.
The park is covered with rare vegetation type which is afromontane unique in the whole of African continent. The park is located at point of conjunction between the mountain forests and the plains and in the park there is varying difference between low-altitude to high altitude primary forests in the park. Bwindi Impenetrable National park is a sanctuary for colobus monkeys as well as chimpanzees and various birds’ species fir instance hornbills, turacos among others.
The popularly known park Bwindi Impenetrable forest park is home to an estimated total population of a round 340 individual member mountain gorillas also known as Gorilla beringei beringei. The total number of the mountain gorillas surviving in park constitutes almost half of the total population of mountain gorillas surviving in the whole world and the rest of the other half of the surviving mountain gorillas are protected in the neighboring parks of Virunga national park in Congo and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.

Tourist Attractions.

Mountain Gorillas
Bwindi has a population of around 400 Mountain gorillas. Gorillas are intelligent, majestic, gentle giants that share over 90% of their genetic material with humans. All of Bwindi’s habituated gorillas are known individually by the rangers and have been given names in order to identify them. The males can weigh more than 500lb and some silverbacks exceed 6ft.
The research that was carried out by Craig Stanford showed that the Bwindi gorilla’s mainly feed on leaves, fruits, shrubs, and generally they are vegetarians. In Bwindi national park, mountain gorillas are habituated in four main regions within the park and these regions include Buhoma region which is the first region where gorillas were first habituated and opened into tourists by the year 1993, Nkuringo as well as Rushaga and Ruhija regions.
Buhoma
Buhoma region is located to the northwest of the park in Kanungu district and faces the dark, hilly forests of Bwindi. Buhoma region is well known by tourists because it was the first region where mountain gorillas in Uganda where first habituated and opened to be visited by tourists in the year 1993 .The region has three gorilla groups that can be trekked by the tourist in this region and among this includes the oldest gorilla group that was first habituated in this region i.e. Mubare gorilla group Mubare Group which received its first tourists in the year 1993, the group which had around 18 members since then has lost most of its group members and current the group has only 5 individual gorilla members.
The second gorilla group in this region is the Habinyanja Group that was habituated in the year 1997 and managed to receive its first time visitors in the year 1999 .The group has total number 17 individual members and these include the two silver backs that lead the group.

Gorille de montagne, gorillon  / Mountain Gorilla, Gorillon
The third group of gorillas in Buhoma is the Rushegura Group that was habituated in the year 2000 and received its first tourists in the year 2002. Currently it’s the biggest group with 19 individual members of gorillas including one silver back within the Buhoma trekking region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park.
Besides mountain gorillas, there are also community-run village walks for exploring the culture and lifestyle of the local Bakiga and Batwa tribes. Bird watching is also a major activity with great opportunities to see various Albertine Rift endemics such as the Short-tailed Warbler. Other activities include mountain biking and nature walks to waterfalls and parts of the forest.
Buhoma region of Bwindi Impenetrable National park has various lodges and these involve luxury, mid -range and Budget accommodations for instance Luxury lodges are Buhoma Lodge, Gorilla Forest Camp and Mahogany Springs. Mid-range properties such as Engagi Lodge, Silverback Lodge and budget accommodation such as Buhoma Community rest camp and Bwindi View Lodge.

Nkuringo Region.
Nkuringo gorilla area is located on the southwest side of the Bwindi forest and lies near to the well –known Buhoma region at an estimated distance of round10km from Buhoma through the Impenetrable forest and roughly takes visitor 4 hours walk to link to Nkuringo. Linking by the car from Buhoma to Nkuringo takes about 7 to 8 hours’ drive due to the hilly nature of the land. The gorilla group which can be trekked here is the Nkuringo group. Trekking gorillas in this area offers tourists an exciting but challenging experience because the activity is done through walking in the steep hills forest side. But the region is not busy compared to Buhoma.
The Nkuringo gorilla group which can be found here has 19 individual members. There are also other opportunities to discover the Bakiga culture through village walks, and here visitors can have cultural encounter filed with vibrant dance performances and cultural workshops organized by community groups.

Rushaga Region.
It is situated in the southeast of the Bwindi and it was opened for gorilla tourism in the year 2009 and positioned in Kisoro district. There are five Gorilla groups which can trekked in this area i.e. Nshongi as well as Mishaya and Busingye, Kahungye and Bweza. The trail in this area takes visitors into the Centre of the Impenetrable forest straight to the south part of the park. It lies between Kabale and Nkuringo for those coming from either Ruhija or Kampala.
Rushaga regions as well as the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are located at highest point in terms of altitude. The region is mainly occupied by high hills and this has resulted to subdivisions and separations of different habituated mountain gorillas in this area because the different groups have ended up occupying separate hills found in the region.
Due to the presence of many hills in the region gorilla trekking is bit hectic because it involves hiking hills when searching for mountain gorillas Because of these hills, however tourists participate in gorilla trekking in this area are highly rewarded with great scenic views plus even enjoying the sights of the Virunga Massifs both in Uganda and Rwanda and Uganda and these involve views of the Mt. Mgahinga as well as Muhavura Volcanoes plus the oldest Mt.Sabinyo and the highest Karusimbi mountain, Bisoke among others. Avisit in this area also offers opportunities to visitors to enjoy Lake Mutanda Uganda’s lava damned lake

virunga view from nkuringo

Ruhija Region
The region is positioned on the eastern side of the park but sitting on top of the hill at an estimated height of 2,345m. Ruhija region is habitant to three Gorilla groups’ such as the Bitukura gorilla group, Kyaguriro and Oruzogo Gorilla groups. The region is Uganda’s trekking trail located at highest altitude and its one of the only two regions in the park where elephants reside.
The six-hour bamboo trail in this region takes visitors to Rwamunyoni Peak (2,607m,) which is the highest point in the whole of the Bwindi Impenetrable National park and its recommendable region for bird watching activities. The other interesting bit to bird lovers is the three-hour trail which descends to Mubwindi swamp where the rare endemic African Broadbill species can be easily seen.

Other Wildlife Species
There are least 120 mammal species living in the forest, making Bwindi second only in mammal numbers to the vast Queen Elizabeth National Park. The eleven primate species found here include black-and-white colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys, baboons and chimps. Of Bwindi’s 200 butterfly species, 42 are endemic to the Albertine Rift.
Birds
Bwindi offers some of the finest montane forest bird watching in Africa, and is irreplaceable destination for any birder visiting Uganda. There are an estimated 350 bird species with 23 endemic to the Albertine Rift and 14 recorded nowhere else in Uganda. Globally threatened species such as African Green Broadbill and Shelley’s Crimsonwing are also found here. Other birds include the Handsome Francolin; Black-billed Turaco; African Broadbill; Black and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters; Western Green Tinkerbird; Purple-breasted, Blue-headed and Regal Sunbirds; Short-tailed and Black-faced Rufous Warblers; Mountain-masked and Collared Apalis; Mountain and Yellow-streaked Greenbuls; and Many-colored Bush-Shrike, among others.

Tourist Activities

Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is found in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley, about 530km from Uganda. The gorilla trekking activity is carried out in four (4) regions of Bwindi that have got habituated gorilla groups. The Buhoma region in the north is gifted with Habinyanja gorilla family, Rushegura Gorilal Family and Mubare gorilla family; Rushaga in the south with five (5) gorilla families namely Bweza, Kahungye, Busingye, Nshongi and Mishaya; Nkuringo in the south west with one (1) Nkuringo gorilla family and Ruhija in the east with three (3) habituated gorilla families namely; Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguliro. Each gorilla family takes eight (8) gorilla trekkers per day and the gorilla trekking encounter commences at 8am with briefing at the respective park headquarter per region. The duration for gorilla trekking is unpredictable and it would definitely depend on the gorilla movement that day. However, the acceptable duration range is between 2 – 8 hours. And because of this extended time packed lunch is relay necessary.
Birding
The varied habitats of Uganda’s oldest forest mean it is the ideal habitat for a variety of birds, with 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) such as the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Easy to see are the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill. Birding takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija

Nature Walks
It is at this sector where other walks have been developed including; the Munyanga River Trails in the valley of Buhoma, which is a short walk for viewing birds and primates along the forest edge. The waterfall trail which passes beneath tree ferns, epiphytic ferns as well as orchids to visit three dazzling waterfalls. The Rushura Hill Trail, Muzabajiro Loop Trail and the River Ivi trail of which the latter follows an old road through the forest, emerging near Nkuringo on the southern edge of the impenetrable forest.
Cultural Tours
The Buhoma community walk and cultural performances which takes up to three hours visiting a typical homestead, the traditional healer and a banana beer brewery is organized by the local community. Of recent, the Batwa cultural experience has been developed in this section of the park.
Buhoma Community Tours / Mukono Development Association
The three-hour village walk begins with a visit to the handcraft shop – selling handmade artifacts such as fabrics, beeswax candles and wood carvings, all produced by talented local craftsmen and women. The neighboring Batwa community performs songs and dances about their former life in the forest, introducing you to another unique local culture. You will also meet the traditional healer who treats the sick with medicinal plants, and the teachers and pupils of the local primary school. Finally, you can learn how bananas are used to make juice, beer and gin – and taste the results!
Proceeds from the tour support community development projects such as a secondary school, maize mill and microfinance circle, and the Batwa receive all proceeds from their performances.
Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation (NCCDF)
Set in a lush hillside bordering Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with dramatic views towards Congo, Nkuringo is a wonderful place to visit for those who want both a cultural experience and beautiful scenery.
A visit to Nicholas the blacksmith rewinds time to the Stone Age with the sound of sheepskin bellows spewing air into a charcoal-fired furnace, from which Nicholas hooks out red hot metal and hammers it into tools; from knives to machetes. Sesilia welcomes you into her home – a series of traditional huts housing a millet-grinding stone, cooking pots and apparatus for distilling local waragi banana gin. Pena is the village´s traditional healer who uses native plants to make tea, ointments and herbal powders that cure a range of ailments.
NCCDF supports local artisans and the local Batwa community through its crafts shop. They train orphans who perform at a nearby lodge, and can make arrangements for visitors to sponsor them.
Buniga Forest Nature Walk
Discover the gorgeous hidden treasures of Buniga Forest and its diverse flora and fauna on this trail, led by locals who are expert regional guides.
Buniga Forest Reserve is one of the three remaining pocket forests adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Due to the increased encroachment on the forest and associated loss of biodiversity and other forest resources, the trail was created by Nkuringo Community Conservation and Development Foundation (NCCDF) to protect the forest and manage it for ecotourism activities. As well as protecting this precious forest, proceeds from the tour also benefit surrounding communities, and encourage them to actively participate in its conservation.

nature-walks-mgahinga
Nkuringo Cultural Centre (NCC)
Why not learn a new skill during your trip to Uganda? At Nkuringo Cultural Centre, after a long day spent tracking gorillas or bird watching, you can enjoy one of our fascinating cultural evening workshops. Choose from African cooking, traditional weaving, or for those who are feeling a little more energetic – a dancing and drumming workshop is available.
You can also take one of our guided village walks during the day to meet the residents, learn about life in Rubuguri and participate in a crafts demonstration. You will then visit the primary school 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!
NCC creates employment opportunities for local residents and a percentage of profits is used for community projects such as IT classes and a stage and costumes for local dance groups.
Nyundo Community Eco-Trails
Nyundo’s residents were firsthand witnesses to climate change. They cultivated crops on the hillsides bordering Bwindi Impenetrable forest, but noticed erosion, changing rain patterns and the disappearance of the characteristic mist. Ultimately, their crops began to fail. The community decided to protect the land and allow the forest to grow back, and now the trees, the rains and the mist have all returned.
Nyundo Community Eco Trails were developed by community members as a sustainable alternative to agriculture, poaching and logging; providing both an income and an incentive to conserve the forest.
On King Bakyara’s Waterfall Trail, enjoy spectacular scenery surrounding a waterfall where only kings may bathe! Visit a blacksmith, a local banana beer distillery, a beekeeper, a cattle farm and a banana plantation.
During the Traditional Skills Trail, learn about millet-bread preparation, yoghurt making and craft making. Visit a traditional birth attendant and traditional homesteads, and meet the friendly villagers.
Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH)
Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) is a grassroots organization that has improved the health of wildlife, livestock and some of the poorest people in Africa. In Buhoma, visitors can take a tour of the Gorilla Health Centre to learn about their health and how diseases are transmitted between wild animals and livestock, as well as other conservation issues addressed by CTPH.
Tour the Village Aquaponics project where you will learn about sustainable methods of farming fish, which is then sold to local lodges. If booked in advance, CTPH staff can also offer presentations on conservation issues in Bwindi and guided tours of local communities to demonstrate how improving the health and livelihoods of people and their livestock supports the conservation of gorillas.
Lodging is available at the Gorilla Conservation Camp; all fees support the work of CTPH. There are also volunteer opportunities and working holidays which contribute directly to all these activities.
Rubuguri Village Walk (NCC)
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!

BATOORO CULTURE

The Batooro people live in the Kabarole, Kyenjojo and Kasese districts in the west of Uganda. It can be noted that their area has been infiltrated by a range of immigrants from different parts of Uganda mostly the Bakiga from South Western Uganda. They border with the Banyoro, Bamba and Bakonzo, Banyankole and the Baganda. The Batooro speak the language Rotooro and it has great attachment with the Runyoro.
Regarding the origin, the Batooro assert that they originated from the Batembuzi and the Bagabu the initial inhabitants of the earth. The other tradition notes that the Batooro have got a descent from the Bachwezi and the Babiito lineage. However, the majorly accepted description puts the Batooro among the Bantu group that entered Uganda from the southwestern side hailing Central African parts.

tooro king

L-R: Former Tooro King, current king when he was declared youngest king and how he looks like today

The Society of the Batooro was divided into the Bairu and the Bahuma and the relationship amongst the two was much of caste other than differentiation of class. The Bahuma carried out pastoralism while the Bairu were cultivators. These two groups lived symbiotically with the Bahuma providing milk, meat, hides along with other cattle products while the Bairu provided beer along with other products of agriculture.
Regarding Marriage, the Batooro attached great significance to marriage as the man would never be regarded complete before he got a wife. The marriage would be put together by the parent’s children without seeking the consent of the bride and groom. An intermediate would be sought by the side of the boy locally known as Kibonabuko whose duty was to investigate the character of the gorilla along with the general setting and background of her family. He would go ahead to secure the girl from the girl’s family to the boy’s family. This person would get to the girl’s family in a certain day and declare the intentions to marry their daughter. He would mention the following words to the father of the girl; that Sir, I have come to you that you should build a home for me. I am pleading hat you become part of the clan and thus i have come to ask for a wife who is the builder of the home.

The normal feedback from the father’s girl would be; I do not have a child and the intermediate would insist that the gorilla is there. He would then be asked on who the girl after which he would mention the name and if he girl’s father consented, the intermediate would definitely kneel down and thank the father by kneeling down. The family of the boy would bring beer to the girl’s family and then the bride price would be fixed. The bride wealth varied among the Bahuma and the Bairu. The Bahuma gave six (6) – twenty (20) cows while for the Bairu had a ceiling of eight (8) cows. For the Bairu, they would often give goats and hoes. The bride price delivery ceremony was marked with lots of celebration including eating and drinking. After this function, the boy’s family would then send a bark cloth and some skins to make the dress for the bride. After this encounter, the marriage formalities would be formalized. The bride would be collected in the evening at around 6pm or 7pm. Before the bride leaving her parents’ home, she would have to sit on the laps of her parents as a ritual locally known as Okubukara. The bride would then be lifted up to the groom’s home. Upon arriving at the boy’s home, she would also be carried on the laps of the parent’s in law where she would be sprinkled with herbal water aimed at welcoming and blessing her. The groom would go with the bride to the Bed for another ritual before the feasting started. After this, the parents would be given coffee berries beer and smoking pipes and then food. If the girl was found virgin, the cow or a goat would be sent to her mother for raising her responsibly. The relatives and the friends would bring gifts to the bride on a third day and see where she had been taken. The bride would spend some days in confinement and after that a ceremony would be conducted to bring the bride out and embark on her duties including housekeeping and cooking. Regarding divorce, the bride wealth would definitely be refunded however, when the woman had already had children, part of would be retained.

Men at a wedding in Tooro, The bride, and the bride price
Men at a wedding in Tooro, The bride, and the bride price

Regarding religion, the Batooro had a concept of the Supreme Being named Ruhanga. Ruhanga was known to have created everything. The Ruhanga was considered to be good who could hardly any bad to people unless wronged. They also agreed that the world was full of evil doers including sorcerers and evil spirits. These evil doers would use magic to cause misfortune, disease, bareness, droughts and death among other bad things to the people. The Batooro also believed that there existed mediums some of which were bad working for the devil while others were good working for the Supreme Being. The Batooro also had belief in the Mambwa cult and every home had a shrine to worship the cult. The drums and trumpets would be blown to please the cult and people would put on skins crafted with beads and cowrie shells. The most significant medium of the cult could out on 6cm bark cloth material that had horn on its head and the process of praise and worshiping included rating ad drinking. In case of a misfortune or death, a witch doctor would be consulted and the after the appropriate attempts would be conducted to please the spirits and thus avert the misfortune. The Mandwa (cult) supplications would be conducted at night. The man would lit up fire in front his house and then utter his problems to the cult. The language used was slightly altered from the traditional Rutooro and surprisingly it would involve much of the Runyankole words. Fore example, they would call Omukama, Omugabe, Omwaana Omwerere among others.
Apart from their family names, the Batooro have got pet names just like the neighbouring Banyoro. The pet name (Empaako) was considered as a sign of social identity. When the related people greeted each other, the younger would sit on the elder’s lap. Among the Babiito, the young would have to touch the forehead and the elders’ chin prior to announcing the empaako.

empaako in tooro
Regarding the blood brother hood, just like the neighboring Banyankore, the Batooro also carried out blood brother hood. This function included coffee berries, a knife, bark-cloth, fig tree branches and grass sprouts called Ejubwe. The blood got from the cut below the naval would be put in a coffee berry and consumed by the two to mark the climax of the function. After this, the two would be considered as brothers. An old man and woman would act as witnesses on the event.
Regarding the economy, the Batooro carried out both pastoralism and crop growing. The Bahuma reared cows while the Bairu grew crops. The cows carried much significance with the both groups and they were always regarded as a symbol of wealth. The Batooro cultivated a range of millet, bananas, sorghum, among others. They were also potters while the women carried out craft making including basket weaving.
Regarding the political setting, the Batooro had a central government led by the King of Tooro Kingdom locally known as Omukama. The Tooro Kingdom was founded in 1930 by the Prince Kaboyo after seceding from Bunyoro Kitala Kingdom. The Kings of Tooro hail from the Babiito clan and the royal regalia included spears, drums, iron forks, beads, chairs, wooden spoons, knives and axels.

Buganda Culture

BAGANDA CULTURE

The Baganda are noted to be the largest group of all ethnic tribes thriving in Uganda. They inhabit the Central Part of Uganda and thus can be traced in the districts of Mukono, Kampala, Wakiso, Kalangala, Mubenede, Mpigi, Mityana, Masaka, Butambala, Rakai, Kiboga and Kayunga.

buganda map and Kabaka

The region occupied by the Baganda at the moment was previously known as Muwaawa prior to 12th Century a word that literally means a land that is sparsely populated. The belief has it that the Baganda emanated from Abyssinia traversing the rift valley system and the Elgon Mountains.

The Baganda were organized in groups with a common ancestry which formed the core of the most significant unit in Buganda and this was the clan. The clan leader was a chief and controlled a given section of the territory. There are five original clans of Buganda namely: Ffumbe, Ngonge, Lugave, Nyonyi and Njaza and these were referred to as Banasangwa. These clans later expanded to form the 52 clans by the year 1966. These clans were ruled over by the Bataka and there was no generally recognized leader, everyone could rule depending on his demonstrated might in the battle field. The range of powerful leaders are noted to have established themselves in the region before the coming of Kintu and these included; Buwumpya, Sseguku, Bukokoma, Bandi, Bukulu, Beene, Kyebagaba, Ggulu, Muyizzi, Bukadde-Magezi, Bukuku Nakirembeka, Maganda, Tonda, Bemba and Mukama. Bemba is however noted to have been a contemporary leader of the time.

The land Muwaawa later became Buganda during the region of Ssekabaka Kintu after taking over from Bemba. At that time, there clan called Ffumbe was the headed by a man called Buganda Ntege Walusimbi who control over other clans.   The head of the clan Walusimbi had a range of children including Kisitu, Makubuya, Kato Kintu and Wasswa Winyi. When Walusimbi passed on, his son Makubuya replaced him who was also replaced by his brother Kisitu upon his death. During the reign of Kisitu, the renegade Bbemba from Kiziba in the current northern of Tanzania and set his camp at Naggalabi Buddo from where he started to hatch plans of destabilizing the Kisitu leadership. Bbemba was ruthless and a cruel person that the natives could not bear to have him as a ruler. Kisitu out of fear declared that whoever fights and wins Bbemba would be given Authority to rule over land. The Ssemagulu which was the chair of Kisitu was to be given to whoever wins and Kills Bbemba. Kintu took advantage of the situation of the situation and gathered his followers and attacked Bbemba. Nfudu from the Lugave clan beheaded Bemba and took the head to Kintu who also took it to Kisitu who abdcated his throne and gave in favor of Kintu. However, Kisitu wanted to retain his leadership of the Ffumbe clan, he advised Kintu to start his own clan and that the Kingdom should be called Buganda in honor of their ancestor Buganda Walusimbi Ntege. From there a royal lineage as created distinct from the Ffumbe clan. The chronology has been passed from generation to generation until the contemporary times when it has started to be recorded in the books.

However, there other traditions that shows the origin of Buganda. The Bemba and Kintu were brothers and they had power struggle. Bemba overpowered Kintu and Kintu sought refuge in the Ssese Islands from where he organized himself and his followers and came to attack Bemba winning him at Nagalabbi Budo. It is noted that Bemba was a ruthless Leader and people nick named him Bemba Musota meaning Bemba a Cobra, so when Kintu returned all people rallied behind him and took over the Bemba’s leadership.

It is noted that Kintu returned from Ssese Islands using the eastern route through Mount Elgon and gathered a strong force that overpowered Bemba. Kintu Kato is not the first Muganda but the grandson of the first Kintu who descended directly from heaven and was married to Nambi Nantululu.   After the Kintu’s Victory, he slept in Bemba house a symbol of victory and Bemba had named it Buganda from which the name rolled on to cover the whole territory that Kintu ruled. Even up to today, the coronation of the Kings of Buganda tales place at Naggalabi commemorating the victory of Kintu over Bemba.

naggalabi

The region was a bit disorganized at the time of Kintu’s arrival and had only five clans. He reorganized the society and merged the people that he had come with and they together formed thirteen (13) clans. The initial clans included Lugave clan, Ffumbe clan, Ngeye clan, Nyonyi, Njaza clan and Nyange clan and are locally referred to as “Ebika Binansangwa”.

A general meeting was organized with the clan leaders at the Magonga in Busujju on Nnono Hill and the form of governance and clan and the King relations were formerly agreed upon.   The principal attendants of the meeting included; Bukulu from Ssese was the chairperson of the meeting, Kintu Kato became a King, Mukiibi Ndugwa of the Lugave clan whose son Kakulukuku became the first Katikiro (Prime Minister) of Buganda, Kisolo from the Ngonge clan and also became Katikiro of Buganda, Kyaddondo from the Nvuma clan who became Ssabaddu, Kayimbyobutezi from the Njaza clan, Mwanje from the Ngo clan, Balasi, Kagobe from the Ffumbe clan, Kayimbyokutega from the Mpeewo clan and from Kyaggwe, from Kyaggwe and of the Mpeewo clan, Kiwutta Kyasooka, from the Mbogo clan, Kyeya Mutesaasira of the Ngo clan, Nnyininsiko from the Njovu clan, Bakazirwendo Ssemmandwa from the Ngeye clan, Kakooto Mbaziira from the Nnyonyi clan and from Bulimo in Kyaggwe county, Nsereko Namwama, from the Kkobe clan, Nsumba, from the Mbogo clan, Kisenge from the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county, Kyeyune from the Nnyonyi clan from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county, Mubiru from the Mmamba clan from Bumogera and Mutasingwa, from the Mbwa clan

After the meeting Baluku had to return to his place Ssese Islands and Kintu established his palace at Nnono Hill where he awarded chieftaincies to his trusted followers. And this explains why Nnono is still a site of historical and cultural significance to the Baganda. A fetish doctor locally known as Omulubaale who kept the Nagalabbi the throne’s traditional name gave Kintu one stick and requested him to break it into pieces which Kintu did at ago and the total of nine sticks were put together to form a bundle (Kaganda) and organized more others to form a range of Bundles (Obuganda) and then told Kintu to break them like he had done for one stick but Kintu failed to break them with ease like what he had done with the initial stick. From there the Mulubaale told him that it was easy to break one stick but difficult to break bundles (Obuganda) and thus he should rule his people as bundles not as sticks. It is from here that the name Muwaawa was dropped and Buganda adopted and every one would refer to the region of Kintu as Buganda Bwa Kintu. The Kingdom became Buganda; the people became Baganda singular Muganda, Language Luganda and the Culture Kiganda.

628x471

Another theory about the origin of the Baganda states that the brother of Rukidi of Bunyoro named Kato Kimera transferred to Buganda and established a royal dynasty in Buganda.

Regarding religion, the Baganda believed in spirits and they took different forms according to their specialized acts like Ggulu, god of the sky who was the father of Kiwanuka the god of lightning, Kawumpuli the god of plague, Ndaula the god of small pox, Wamala the god of Lake Wamala, Musisi the god of earthquakes and Mukasa the god of Lake Victoria. There was also Kitaka the god of the Earth and Musoke the god of the Rainbow. There were traditional temples dedicated to these gods spread in different parts of Buganda and people would approach such sites for worship and consultation. There were special shrines of worship for the King and the King’s sister Nnaalinya to take charge of the temple of the King.

Regarding marriage, the Muganda woman could not be respected unless she is married and the same applied to the man. The Baganda were polygamous and the man could even take up to 5 wives considered that he can manage to look after them, Also in Buganda, bride wealth was not a major concern and divorce was very common too than in other parts of the country. The parents would organize the marriages for the children. The father would choose the husband for his daughter without question from the daughter. However, as time continued, boys started selecting the wives for them. The introduction would be made and he marriage arrangements be conducted. The girls contributed nothing other than consenting. The marriage ceremonies included dancing and feasting. The man was not expected to marry from his clan. If the bride was still a virgin, she would be escorted by her Aunt and if she wasn’t, the escort would not go. The aunt would pass through the rear door from the couple’s house and go back home where the goat would be slaughtered and consumed without salt.

wedding

Regarding death, the Baganda were afraid of death and did not have faith on life after death. When someone passed away, they could weep around the corpse and someone who desisted from crying was regarded to have had a hand in the death of the deceased. They never believed that death was a natural phenomenon and rather a work of sorceress or witch craft. The duration for the burial was five (5) days hoping that the body might still be having a life in it and may be it can come back. The women were buried faster than men because they were believed to rot faster than men. After the burial, there funeral rite would take place after the 10 days from the date of burial and his was known as Okwabya Olumbe. This was a great ceremony as all clan heads would be invited along with many people to attend the function which involved lots of drinking, eating, uncontrolled sexual intercourse among the members present and it is at his occasion that heir would be installed considered if the deceased was the head of the family. The incumbent heir would stand close to the door putting on a ceremonial bark cloth holding a spear and a stick and hen the elders would instruct him to take care of the beneficiaries. Then the deceased’s children could be covered with the bark cloth and would go crying to the planation in order to drive the ghost of the deceased away from home. They would also shave off their hair.

Regarding birth, when a Muganda woman got pregnant she would start using Nalongo a traditional herb in her private parts at the six months of pregnancy of it was her first time and at seventh month of it was her second time to enlarge them. After producing, the afterbirth (Kigoma) would be buried close to the door way and this was meant to prevent it from the evil seekers who could harm the baby and or the mother. The mother would take 3 days in confinement and the period sometimes depended on how long the umbilical cord takes long to dry. The husband would then have sex with her after two weeks and this was a ritual function that was connected to the child health and don that day, the child would be named.

Regarding the social setting, the Baganda seemed to have a united society compared to the neighboring parts of  Ankole, Toro and Bunyoro. The Buganda society was structure that any person of a certain ability or talent would raise to a considerable position in the society. However, this does not conclude that there were two classes in Buganda. There was Bakopi literally serfs at the bottom of the society who simply would not matter in society and these derived their livelihood on the mercy of the Chiefs (Baami) and the Princes (Balangira) the other two groups in the society of Buganda. The Bakopi used to depend on land though they had no ownership over it. In fact, the Bakopi were serfs of the King and the Chiefs. From the Bakopi class, there came the Baami class who were not born but were appointed by the Kabaka. The chiefs were the middle class and initially they were the clan heads, However, post 1750, the Bakopi also bean to be elevated to the similar status. The Baami were differentiated into three patterns including; the Bakungu, Bataka and the Batongole. The last and the highest societal class in the Kingdom of Buganda were the Balangira. These were Royals who were close to the King and in his ancestral blood. The notable ones included the Kabaka, the Queen locally known as Namasole, Kanyabibambwa or Nabijano, the Royal Sister known as Lubuga, the Kimbugwe and the Katikiiro.

 

Regarding their social character, the Baganda are social people and are welcoming. They rarely pass by a person without greeting him and they dressed neatly in other traditional bark cloth and with the event of Gomesi they adopted it as their traditional dress. They enjoyed cooking and their famous Luwombo meal still exists up to today. The men and women would all sit on a mat for a meal and upon finishing; everyone would say Ofumbye Nyo to the person who prepared the meal and Ogabude to the Head of the family.

Regarding the economy, the Baganda were primarily agriculturalists and the main crops grown included sweet potatoes, bananas, beans, Cassava, Cow peas, and a range of green vegetables. The Baganda also kept goats, chicken and cattle. Land was an important asset in Buganda and it all belonged to the Kabaka. The granting of land would go along with an office such as Saza chief, Gombolola Chief or Parish (Muluka) Chief. The Muluka Chief would then grant the land to the people in the area to cultivate. When the chief lost the seat, he would also loose the control over land and thus the loss of rent paid to him by the peasants. The Bakopi (peasants) had to give part of the produce to the chief as Obusuuli or envujjo for cultivating the land. However, this system slightly changed on 1900 when the land was divided into Crown and Mailo land where by the crown land belonged to the Her Majesty the Queen of England and Ireland while the Mailo land was granted on free hold basis to the members of the Kabaka’s family and the chiefs and the Bataka (clan heads) were not considered. The Bakopi however remained in their exploitative form until 1927 when the Nvujjo and Busuulu were scrapped off.

mayiga and kabaka

The Baganda were also good in art works, bark cloth makers, potter and weavers. They made shields, arrows, bows, spears, baskets, pots, chairs, drums and other instruments like Indigidi. They also did hunting and fishing. The women attend to house hold work while men were more into fishing, hunting and fighting. The later times such as the middle of the 18th Century, the Buganda took over the position of the Bunyoro as the center of trade in the region and started trading in ivory, white ants, dried bananas, and a range of crafts with their people of the interlucustrine region and the coastal Arabs from the Middle of 19th Century. With the arrival of colonialists in 1890s the Baganda became active in supporting them and thus adopted a new economy mode that was based on production of cash crops and trade and at the moment, the Baganda are the richest people in Uganda.

Regarding political setup, the Baganda has the most organized centralized form of governance by 1750 with King (Kabaka) as the head. The clan heads (Bataka) also had good political effect though they were subject to Kabaka and they referred to him as Sabataka. After 1750, the Kabaka assumed the position of greater political influence which was far above the Bataka level and the title was hereditary but the King would marry from a range of clans and each 52 clans hoped that one day each clan would produce a King. There were other two people of political and social significance in the Kingdom and these included the Prime Minister (Katikiiro), the Royal Sister (Namasole) the naval commander (Gabunga) and Army Commander (Mujjasi).

buganda leadership center

Buganda Kingdom was divided into administration units ranging from the Counties (Amasaza), Sub Counties (Amagombolola), Parishes (Emiruka) and Villages (Bukungu). The leaders at all these levels were appointed by the Kabaka and would dismiss and appoint them at will. However, after 1750, the chieftaincy was no longer hereditary and the person would be appointed on merit. There was also a practice called Okusenga where the Children of the Bakopi would go to the homes of the Chiefs and the King to grow up from there. The distinguished ones would be given political appointments.

Following the death of the Kabaka, there would follow a succession disorder though with time a range of modifications were carried out to resolve such disputes. One of the ancient forms of succession was that the King would kill his other sons and spare the only one that would be heir to the throne. As the time went on, the King would nominate the heir before he died and then the final decision would be taken by the Katikiro – the Prime Minister, the Kimbugwe who was the traditional Buruli Saza Chief and Kasujja – Lubinga who was a chief appointed to look after the Balangira Bengoma (the heirs to the throne) the other princes who would not become Kings would be called Mituba and were controlled by the old prince called Ssabalangira. Though in 1900 Buganda Agreement tried to alter this arrangement and setting that the kabaka is to be elected by the Lukiiko before being approved by the Queen of England, the suggestion remained paper and the subsequent Kings including Mutesa II and his son Mutebi II were nominated by their fathers.

Regarding their death of Kabaka, the Royal drum (Mujjaguzo) would be taken away to a safe place until the appointment of a new King. The Lugave Clan was the guardian of the Royal drum. The sacred fire locally known as Gombolola that kept burning at the palace entrance would be extinguished. This fire would be re-lighted with the coronation of the new King. The customary phrase to describe the death of Kabaka would be Omuliro gw’ Buganda Guzikide which mean that the fire of Buganda has extinguished. Another phrase would be Agye omukono mu ngabo literally translated as He has let the Shield loose. The body of the Kabaka would be wrapped in suitable clothing and would be placed in Twekobe room. The two chiefs Mugerere – the chief of Bugerere and Kangawo the Chief of Bulemezi would be put in charge of the body immediately. The King’s body would be preserved for six (6) months. Since the Baganda believed that the man’s spirit remained in the jaw bone, the one of the Kabaka would be removed and placed in a special Shrine for preservation.

 

 

ALUR

The Alur people are among the diverse ethnic groups that thrive in the west part of the Nile popularly known as West Nile. The Alur live amongst the Lendu, Okebu, Alinga and the Kakwa along with other ethnic groups in West Nile. The Alur are Luo and they belong to the same language group like the Japhadhola, Acholi, the Kenya’s Jaluo, Anuak and Shiluk of Northern Sudan.

The Alur tradition notes that they migrated from South Sudan along the Nile banks and their original place is noted to be Rumbek at the convergence of River Nile and Bahr el Ghazel. They moved along the Nile and reached a point called Pubungu where they got dispersed with some of them continuing to Bunyoro while others settled in Acholi and others to the East of Uganda where some continued to the Nyanza of Kenya while the Alur continued to the West Nile. Though the historians claim that the Alur are not pure Luos and that they are intermarriage.

 

The Alur Legend states that there was a King called Atira who is noted to have been a direct descent of God and after his death; he was succeeded by his son Otira. Otira was later succeeded by Opobo and he ruled from a place named Nyraka in the county of Lango. After the death of Opobo, he left three sons named Nyapiri, Tiful and Labongo.

Nyapir one day borrowed the Spear of Labongo to spear an Elephant and unfortunately an elephant took away with the Spear. The news of the Spear reached Labongo and he reacted demanding the brother to bring back the Spear regardless of Nyapir’s plea to provide a substitute. As a result, Nyapir resolved to follow the elephant and after crossing the River, he found himself in a very good land with a cool atmosphere. He started to wander in this land until he encountered an old woman who took him to a place where many Spears were gathered and Nyapir was able to locate the Spear of his brother Labongo and also the woman gave him a bead.

Nyapir returned home and presented the Spear to his brother and it was amazement to everyone and also the issue of the bead. He handed the bead to everyone to look at and unfortunately in the process the Labongo’s infant son swallowed it.

This was the time for Nyapiri to pronounce his revenge and thus demanded that his bead be returned to him. Nyapir refused all other substitute avenues and with no other alternative left, Labongo handed the child to Nyapir to open his tummy and retrieve the bead. Nyapir killed the child and got his bead. This was an epitome of the brothers’ disagreement and they resolved to part ways.

One of the brothers Tiful had already been impressed by the story of the good land beyond the River and thus opted to get his followers including the Okebu and the Lendu to the highlands of the West. The descendants of Tiful are noted to be including the Alur of Zaire. Nyapir also followed his brother Tiful and moved along the western bank of Victoria Nile and eventually camped with his followers at a place opposite Pakwach. There was no good grazing land and there were no salt licks on the area. The cattle began grazing away and one day some of the cows which were noted to have disappeared made their way back by themselves and had salt licks adhering to their hooves. Nyapir got together his people and followd the tracks of the cows in ot the West Nile Highlands. Nyapir left behind one of his sons named Dosha to reign in Pakwach and he then established himself in the highlands of West Nile.

ALUR MUSIC

However, historians have always argued that the Alur’s entry into the West Nile embedded in the legend of Spear and the Bead was in reality a power struggle and that the spear was part of the Royal Regalia. When they entered West Nile, they are noted to have mixed up with the Okebu and the Lendu along with the Sudanic Madi in the north and later with the Bendi, Nyali and the Bira in the southwest.

Regarding the Alur religion, their religious worship rituals were cultivated and protected by the Bandwa, Jupa Jok and Jupa Jogi. These people were the equalities of the clergy. The God’s equivalent was called Jok and the manifestations of Jok were often not in personal terms. As a result, Jok could be a male or female, old or young among others. But at times, Jok could be conceived of in non-personal forms like a situation. Thus there ultimate Jok’s nature was every unknown.

Amongst the Alur, the issue of worship wasn’t a routine thing such as morning, evening or Fridays, Saturday and Sundays. It was facilitated by misfortunes of some sort which required the Jok should be appeased. The Alur people believed that the misfortunes like diseases and other were not natural consequences but rather caused. The causes of these misfortunes were though in differing dimensions. Special parties or dead ancestors could demand beer, food, meat and other sorts of comfort by inflicting punishments on the living people such as deadly diseases, slight sicknesses that would end up serious if not attended to and other misfortunes. These could result into body paralysis, dumbness, mental breakdown among others.

At times of misfortune such as sickness, the head of the family along with his brother and two associates would head to the diviner named Julam bira, Julam wara or Anjoga for diagnosing the misfortune. The diviner would then use the range of instruments at this disposal to derive the trouble cause. Appropriate measures would be taken to avert the misfortune. The Misfortune could be caused by either evil spirits or by evil person who would use magic to harm the healthy person.

The Alur had a religious marriage conveyed in the Mukeli gagi rituals.

The man had to be initiated into the religious cult of the woman in order to be officially recognized as the married people. The Man would retain the religious status that he was given at the time of marriage.

At times, the married woman would be attacked by the ancestral spirits from her side and then the man would take the Cowrie shells to her home. The shells would be tied on the pole of the ancestral shrine of her father and the husband would be pledging to pay two goats that is a male and a female in the process of rescuing the cowrie shells that were not supposed to remain at the home of the father in law forever.

If the husband had been initiated into the religious cult, he would then rescue the shells himself but if he wasn’t, then he wasn’t supposed to know. But there was a possibility of going there if accepted to be initiated there and then. This was preferred most since at the end of the ritual the woman would cease being his if he was not a believer and the sexual relations would stop immediately. The woman would then be married to another man ritually if the former hesitated on being initiated. The ritual husband could go ahead with her and even produce children.

The process if ritual joining started in the late evening as the believers sung to alert the people in the environs about the going. The woman would seat in the circle center and after showing signs of possession, she would be led to her chosen place where a goat would then be slaughtered and eaten. The believers would also be given another goat to slaughter and eat.   The husband and wife would then lie down facing one another on a papyrus mat and the man would be asked to throw his hands and legs on the woman while the woman was asked to assume the posture and then they would be asked to play sex. This process was called Ariba (joining). After this encounter, the couple would be given grass stems to be simultaneously broken. This woman would by all means have power over the other wives of the man if they were not ritually joined with him. If the husband is not the initiated one, he would go ahead and pay the bride price and if he was confirmed, he would retrieve his wife and even if the ritual husband had already had children with her, he wouldn’t complain, he was meant to treat them well hoping that at one time he will also be initiated with another man’s wife and produce children.

Economically, the Alur are settled agriculturalists and they grow a range of crops including millet, cassava, sorghum, potatoes, simsim and a range of beans. They also grow coffee and cotton. They also keep cattle, goats, chicken and sheep.

 

ACHOLI CULTURE

The Acholi are of Luo Nilotic ethnicity that thrives in the northern part of Uganda popularly referred to as the Acholi land. The land includes the district boundaries of Amuru, Agago, Gulu, Nwoya, Kitgum, Pader and Lamwo. It is noted that about 1.17 million Acholi exists as per the 2002 population Cenusus thoufhh more 45,000 Acholis are known to be thriving in South Sudan.

The language of the Acholi is a western Nilotic Language and is classiefied as the Luo and it is mutually intelligible with he Lango, the Alur and the other Luo Languages. The Language Luo in a common dialect spoke by a range of tribal groups of Luo attachment inhabiting the parts Eastern Uganda, Western Kenya, Northern Uganda, South Sudan and the West Nile.

It should be note that the Acholi word is a misnomer that was adopted for convenience over the years referring to people that are known locally as the Luo Gang. In fact, their neighbors in Lango refer to the Acholi as Ugangi which means people of the home.

The Acholi people are known to have migrated from Bahr el Ghazal in the South of Sudan around 1,000 CE to the present day northern Uganda. Towards the end of the 17th C, a new socio political order developed amongst the Luo in the north of Uganda marked mainly by Chiefdoms by Rwodi or Rwot literally translated as the ruler and the chiefs traditional emerges from one clan and every chiefdom had a range of villages that were made up of various patrilineal clans. In the middle of the 19th C, around 60 minor chiefdoms were in existence in the east of the Acholi land. In the 2nd half of the 19th C, the Arab traders who had come to the area started calling them Shooli, the term that later resulted into the Acholi.

The traditional Acholi Communities were arranged hamlets where they lived in circular huts marked with a peak with a mid-sleeping platform, a fire place and jars of grain. The women smeared the walls with mud with conventional or geometrical decoration designs of grey, white or red. The Acholi Men were primarily hunters and used nets and spears to capture wild game and get meat. They also kept livestock including cattle, sheep and goats. The Acholi women were agriculturalists who grew and processed a range of crops including simsim, millet, sorghum, peas, and vegetables among others. In times of war, men were so active and would use spears, long and narrow shields of giraffe of hides of ox.

When the British colonialists came to Uganda, the Acholi were preferred in the military service and manual labor creating sort of military ethnocracy. This stereotype stayed longer even after when Uganda had gained her independence.

The 1995 constitutional reform recognized the cultural leaders as they had been removed by the Obote I government in 1966. With the recognition of cultural leaders, the Acholi Rwot gained ground the chiefdom of Acholi reigns up to now. In the traditional African society before the coming of colonialists, the Acholi believed in Nyarubanga through an intermediary called Jok-ker meaning a ruling deity. To kill a person was prohibited among the Acholi Culture but it happened, the negotiations for blood money were spear headed by the victims of family with agreement which was followed by the reconciliation ceremony rituals to restore the killer back to the community and to re-establish peace between the clans. The Acholi have got important rituals that are meant to cleanse sites and homes, welcome back the people who have stayed away for some time, clearing spirits from killing places and welcoming people who have been in captivity. For example the Lords Resistance Army returnees counting to 12,000 are noted to have undergone Nyono tong gweno literally translated as stepping on the egg which was meant to restore them back into the community. The Acholi elders in some parts of the Acholi Community are still practicing the acts of atonement and purification.