Almost unnoticed and certainly without much fanfare has the Mount Gahinga Lodge, located just outside the main park gate of the Mgahinga National Park, opened again earlier this month, reason enough to boost their re-entry into the Ugandan hospitality market. The lodge is not only a base for gorilla and golden monkey tracking on Mt. Gahinga’s Ugandan side or for hiking to the top of the volcano but has also established itself as a central point for visits to the Batwa communities living nearby.
Developed together with Volcanoes Safaris’ Partnership Trust (VSPT), the new interactive Batwa visit experiences provide guests with a rare opportunity to learn about the unique cultural heritage of the arguably oldest surviving peoples of the great Central African rainforest.
Aimed at giving the disenfranchised community an economic opportunity and reviving their cultural traditions, Volcanoes Safaris invites guests to experience different activities at the Mount Gahinga Lodge such as visits to the Cultural Heritage Site where Batwa community members demonstrate their traditions through interactive activities such as fire-making, setting traps and identifying and utilising the forest's medicinal herbs.
A vocational centre nearby teaches Batwa women to learn skills such as sewing, basket weaving and craft making that will help them earn a living and train other members of the Batwa to also earn a livelihood.
Finally there is a new agricultural group which is open to guest visits where one can learn about farming on their land which the VSPt has allocated to the Batwa to practice sustainable farming and help foster independent livelihoods. This latest initiative follows the Volcanoes Great Ape ecotourism model, creating sensitive eco-tourism that is linked to conservation and communities, thereby creating an opportunity and generating an income for the Batwa. In early 2014 Volcanoes Safaris will be launching a campaign to raise funds to secure land for the Batwa as well as building a daycare centre for the Twa children. The VSPT welcomes donations on PayPal via the VSPT Facebook page and website for these activities.