African wetlands – full of mosquitoes and awful smells, right? Wrong! Many travellers do not look forward to this part of their trip around Uganda, – others just expect something nice, –– but the couple of hours spent at Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary can be a real highlight of your holiday.
Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary – a Jungle Swamp is an award-winning community sustainable Tourism project where visitors have the opportunity to see a Jungle Swamp. Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary is unknown to most visitors to Uganda. Those who know Uganda know Kibale Forest and its neighbor Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary realize that it is one of Uganda Must-Visit Places.
Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary is rich in Biodiversity; its Flora and fauna which makes it worth visiting. Wild Palms, Polita Fig Trees, and the ever dominant Papyrus among the many other plants, flowers, and trees await you. It is almost the perfect setting for an adventure tale from the past. You see an expansive variety of animals too - birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and lots of invertebrates.
A visit to Kibale National Park is primarily for the Chimpanzee Tracking. On the Chimpanzee tracking, the focus is entirely on tracking the chimps – NO attempt to pause, track or identify other inhabitants of the forest. Going on a leisurely Bigodi Swamp walk offers you the opportunity to spot other mammals, insects and lots of birds! This is a long scenic tour where you learn a lot about the wildlife and the local people. – Its simply an excellent sanctuary for bird lovers, primate lovers, entomology lovers and plant life.
The walk around the wetlands is 4½ – 5km but certainly doable as it takes nearly 3 hours because there is so much to see. The takes you through different terrain; swamps and farmland, on mostly flat ground. It is basically flat with wood walk ways over all of the wetter areas. This is close to where you would do a chimp experience at Kibale, so worth doing if you're in the area.
Best time to visit, early morning at 7:30 am – good for birders, or afternoon (2pm or 3pm) after chimpanzee tracking in Kanyanchu – Kibale. This is the best time to catch up with primates busy stocking supper, or filling empty stomachs. Walking around is quite productive so you can combine this with a morning Forest Walk the same day.
Since your feet might get wet, they offer you rain boots but if you have you own that can be a plus as they are excellent for the gorilla, chimpanzee and rhino tracking
Avery greatly colonizing papyrus type of vegetation, to tropical moist type of forest, and this change in vegetation makes it a rich home for primate diet. At least 10 primate species can be seen here, both diurnal and nocturnal species.
The velvet monkeys, black and white Colobus, Red Colobus, and red tailed monkeys, Olive Baboon Grey Cheeked Mangabey, L'hoest Monkey, Vervet Monkey, and the Blue Monkey are seen here regularly.
The swamp is also a haven for other mammals such as bushbucks and otters, the semi-aquatic Sitatunga Antelopes (they have webbed toes) who make their home here. There are also Bush Pigs, Bush Bucks, Otters, and other mammals found there.
Can all see some small forest antelope too if you are lucky and one of the biggest Green Mambas you will ever see.
The birds here are amazing – the Sanctuary is proudly referred to as "Home of the Great Blue Turaco," which is one of the two-hundred species found here. Bird species that include Hornbills, Turacos, Parrots, Cranes, Kingfishers, and many more swamp endemics.
The Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary walk costs about $ 20 US
For the non-wildlife enthusiastic, there is something quite different for you. You can spend an afternoon visiting 4 Bigodi cottage "industries", a banana beer and gin still, a coffee roaster, a medicine man and a group of basket weavers. 2 hours focused on visits to the local village where we learn how banana beer and gin are made with sampling available, basket weaving by ladies in the community, a woman taking coffee beans sifts and roasts them, then the opportunity to sample. Then the visit to the medicine man, - the art and tools passed down from his father. You learn (through the interpretation by your guide) how to cure female lack of sexual appetite to chasing away an unwanted neighbor.--- Very interesting. You however have to ask for a combination with a village walk, this was quickly arranged so you can visit both with limited time allocated to the swamp
The guides are truly outstanding in their knowledge and expertise! They are very informative, fun and can explain all of the agriculture around the outside of the wetlands too - explanations of how the people, plants and animals live and the history of this place. They know many bird calls and it's interesting to hear them call out and have birds respond. These guys can spot birds which you will never spot.
There is a tall wooden tower that was constructed specifically to give visitors an overview of the area.
The Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary project was initiated by a man who understood that to sustain the wetlands you need to involve the local people in the tourism. It's community based project is run by the locals and the guides are all locals. It's also aimed at conserving the wetland that acts as a buffer for animals in Kibale National Park.
All benefits of the guided tours go directly to the local people so this village was already able to build a school and a health center. Also it's interestingly cool to learn about efforts going on to educate children and young adults about the importance of environmental science and wildlife conservation. The walks are run as part of a community business group called KAFRED (Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development). By taking this tour you are enabling the local community to make a living out of keeping their wetlands protected, and that's got to be a good thing. It's also a UNESCO recognized as a Sustainable Tourism Project.
Bigodi Swamp walk is a necessary, authentic and a great way to spend your afternoon following your Chimpanzee tracking experience while in Kibale Park.
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