The Twa or Batwa are pygmy people who have lived in the Albertine Rift Valley region since immemorial time. They are great story tellers and dancers. The Batwa are nicknamed as the “keepers of the forest” because they spend most of their time in the forest. In Uganda, Batwa have their origin in the impenetrable forests of Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga which is dating back nearly 60,000 years, making them one of the oldest groups of people inhabiting the earth. Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga National Park are best two Uganda safari destinations famous for gorilla tracking, Batwa Experience and Batwa trail. Traditionally, the Batwa are hunter and fruit gatherers for survival.
The Batwa people are also found in Rwanda, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. However, to conserve the forests, the Batwa were removed from the forest and given no compensation, making them like refugees. They have relocated in areas far from the forests and many of them have found new sources of income as others became destitute. By the year 2000, the number of Batwa was about 80.000 people distributed in different countries.
It is unfortunate that the Batwa have little access to formal education and their communities have limited representation in local and national government. The following Batwa cultural activities are true cultural experiences which link conservation and development as an eco-tourist project.
The Twa Cultural Experience in Bwindi Forest, south western Uganda:
The Batwa Cultural Experience is a 100 acre forested site next to Bwindi Forest in Uganda, the best destination for gorilla trekking in the world! This is an ecotourist site created by the Batwa Development Program (BDP), a registered organization founded primarily by donations of Kellermann Foundation. The project was created with the objective to educate the children and to sensitize the world to the rich cultural heritage and traditions of the Batwa. Moreover, it generates income through ecotourism activities.
Traditionally, batwa people have unique performance in music, dance and drama which is enjoyed by tourists who visit Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks for gorilla trekking safaris. We have what we call “The Batwa Experience” in Bwindi and the “Batwa Trail” in Mgahinga National Park where you spend a day with the Batwa people, learning more about their cultures and historical ways of life.
The Batwa or Twa trail of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda:
Mgahinga National Park is found in the far south western Uganda at the boarder of Uganda and Rwanda.
The Batwa Trail runs across the lower slopes of the two volcanoes Muhavura and Gahinga, a forest containing rich biodiversity including the endangered mountain gorillas. Led by local Batwa guides, visitors experience the forest through the unique perspective of the Batwa. Moreover, this activity has relaunched the small and little known Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which is only 33.7 square kilometers (and therefore the presence of gorillas cannot be stable in this small area).
During cultural encounter tour, the Batwa demonstrate hunting techniques; gather honey; point out medicinal plants and demonstrate bamboo cups. Guests are finally invited to the sacred Ngarama Cave, a 200 meter-long lava tube beneath Mountain Gahinga that was once home to the Batwa King, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a striking and moving sense of the richness of this fading culture. This is truly a unique experience for visitors to learn about the traditional culture of the indigenous people.