Bigodi wetland Sanctaury | Nature walks in Kibale forest national park
Bigodi wetland sanctuary is located 6kms South of the Kibale National Park, at this point the visitors centre at Kanyanchu. Bigodi village is situated in the highlands of western Uganda, in the shadows of the Rwenzori Mountains. In this sanctuary no park permit is required, it was established by the local Development Organisation to protect the 4km² Magombe swamp that is home for over 200 species of birds the most highlighted include the Papyrus gonolek, white-winged warbler and great blue Turaco.
The name Bigodi is originally got from a local Rutooro word ‘Kugodya’ meaning ‘to walk tiredly or wearily’. So in the past, tourists used to reach the Bigodi swamp on foot and were so tired therefore, most times they could rest in this place.
This sanctuary is a right Birder’s paradise with about 138 bird species and the commonly one being the great Blue Turaco. It’s a must visit for everyone on a Uganda safari because of its richness in Biodiversity and scenic beauty. It is also 5kms long walk that will take you through the important wildlife corridor of Kibale forest and takes about 3hours.
Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED) is an important stakeholder in the Eco-tourism in Bigodi and the revenues generated from tourism flow back to the Local community in form of different projects.
KAFRED was founded in 1992 in order to conserve areas of rich biodiversity outside nationally protected areas like the wetlands in particular and also to benefit communities from tourism business in the area mainly in Kibale National Park. Mark Noonan of Massachusetts an American Peace Volunteer together with 6 other founders steered the formation of this Community Based Organization. Now days, membership has grown to 150 members like the Kiyoima Women’s Group with 30 members, Bigodi Women’s Group with 40 members and The Enyange Dramactors singing and acting group.
The KAFRED’s founding members overwhelmingly agreed on the need to conserve Magombe swamp which is today known by Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, it stretches an 8km long and a third a kilometer wide attached to Kibale National Park at both ends. A large trench that runs through the middle of the wetland is an old Hippopotamus trail from the 1960s. because of the wetland’s biodiversity, it was resolved that the tourism could bring benefits to the community and hence encourage conservation of this important natural resource.
There are also additional benefits that include;
The sales from fruits and vegetables goes to the farmers therefore there is economic development for families.
Some tourists sponsor a number of children living within this village for advance studies.
Women have created a group called Bigodi Women Group (BWG) that consists of 40 members presently. They make unique beads using recycled papers, weaving baskets, making bags and other beautiful products from papyrus of which they are exported as far as Europe.
A number of local people have transformed their homes into African-Homesteads for tourists to visit. this brings tourists into closer encounter with the local residents hence learning the lifestyles, traditional cultures and many others.
The traditional Poachers are now serving as Tour Guides who take tourists through the impressive swamp as well as guide during the community walks in the villages, this has tremendously reduced poaching nearly to stoppage.
On the funds earned by the Bigodi swamp Projects, they have constructed a road to ease the transportation of visitors, goods and services have made their way to that place.
Projects run by KAFRED
The main project is the Water project, this organization has funded the construction of water kiosks in the community which provide the community with clean and safe drinking water for over 2000 households. KAFRED has built 8 water pumps in houses of the community members which are also accessible by the inhabitants. This has reduced water-borne diseases, walking distances in search of water and reduced the cost of a 20 litre of water from 800ushs to 200ushs.
Bigodi Secondary school
In 1993 KAFRED began the construction and management of Bigodi Secondary School with 350 students and has become the best secondary school in the surrounding area. This has reduced the walking distance to school by many children and students. It has also increased the on-going school children and higher education level in the parish.
KAFRED has created awareness on the impact of dumping garbage to the local people like climatic change, degradation of nature, disturbance of biodiversity and many other disastrous consequences. In 2016, fuel efficient stoves were introduced to lower the consumption of charcoal which results into decreased deforestation and in 2017, the incinerator project was launched to teach families how to build a non-biodegradable waste.
KAFRED started the beehive project as an income generating activity. The organization constructed wooden shed to house a number of beehives. This shed serves as a protected area for the bees to live in and produce honey.
ACTIVITIES AT BIGODI WETLAND SANCTUARY
- Wildlife viewing
- Bird watching
- Community visits
The wetland is home to a variety of wild animals like the primates, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Visitors to Bigodi wetland follow various trails in the swamp led by experienced Guides who help in spotting various animals. For safety, visitors are reminded to tuck their trousers into the stockings to prevent bites from termites such as the red aunts.
As earlier said, Bigodi wetland sanctuary is a paradise for birders because it shelters over 200 species of birds. The great blue Turaco also known as a loyal lover is one of the unique birds with an intriguing story. This bird is believed to remain single after the death of its loved one. The other birds residing in the wetland include purple breasted sun bird, African pitta, Abyssinian ground thrush, collared apalis, black capped apalis, crowned eagle, green breasted pitta, king fisher, weavers, cuckoos, horn bills, papyrus gonoleks, flycatchers, black bee eater, little greenbul, brown chested alethe, blue breasted kingfisher, yellow rumpled tinker bird, dusky crimson wing, black bishop, western nectar and many others.
After swamp tour, the visitors always connect to the neighboring communities and visit the community projects that originate from the wetland. These organized groups make crafts such as beads, baskets, bags, and mats most of which are exported to Europe.