BIGODI WETLAND SANCTUARY
The Bigobi Wetland Sanctuary perched in Magombe swamp is an enchanting natural habitat rich in enormous biodiversity of flora and fauna. It is located 6km from the Kanyanchu gate of Kibale Forest National park in Kabarole district. It has natural swampy vegetation. Numerous primates species which include the red colobus monkey, baboon, blue monkey grey cheeked, mangabey, vervet monkey, red-tailed monkey black & white colobus monkey, and the L’Hoest monkey. Mammals such as chimpanzees, mongooses, bush pigs, otters, sitatunga and bushbucks are rare visitors to the swamp coming from the nearby Kibale National Park and all these attract most people to visit this peaceful sanctuary.
The sanctuary name was derived from a local Rutooro word, “kugodya”, that means ‘to walk tiredly / wearily’. It is assumed tourists who got to Bigodi swamp on foot they were always exhausted to continue up to Kibale Forest so the swamp acted as the resting area.
The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is one of the tourism community-based approaches to natural resources management which has benefited the local communities. The swamp is managed by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (Kafred) which was started in 1992. The benefits of conserving this swamp have tangible financial benefits. It receives more than $150 000 from tourists fees per year. Some of this money was used to construct Bigodi Secondary School, nursery school and payment of school teachers’ salaries. Some of the other benefits include:
The market for craft materials and fruits
Currently, a group of 40 members was started by the Bigodi Women Group. They make craft materials like colored attractive beads using re-cycled paper plus additional materials got from this swamp-like; raffia. Weave baskets using phoenix-palm leaves. These products are also exported to the white man’s country. The fruits and vegetables grown by farmers are marketed and sold in these communities.
Some local people have become guides they are paid for taking the tourists around as well as earning a tip for the good services offer. Even those that work in the local restaurants earn a tip.
Some tourists have over a number of years been sponsoring many lucky children in the Bigodi community some have even been educated up to higher levels of education.
The wetland development has played a great role in fighting against poaching within this region The local people who were once involved in the act are now local guides taking tourists through the swamp as well as a guide during the community walks in the villages.
Village roads, bridges, and streams have also been constructed within the Bigodi community by the funds collected by the Bigodi swamp project.
ACTIVITIES DONE IN BIGODI WETLAND SANCTUARY
This is one of the dessert or starter for tourists who visit Kibale Forest National Park for chimpanzee trekking. Visitors may tour the wetlands only when accompanied by a trained Sanctuary local guide for 3 hours. The walk is best done in the morning at 8:00 AM or afternoon at 2:00 PM however, visitors have a choice of the time. Local and knowledgeable guides will take you on an interpretive tour as they escort you through the lush vegetation. This is the perfect opportunity to view wildlife such as animals and birds from the forest pathways, boardwalks and atop a tree house tucked high in the canopy as you take some pictures for memories.
Village walks and Cultural Encounter
A professional guide will take you for the village walks in the areas surrounding the wetland. You will enjoy the walks as the guides keep on explaining almost everything that you find along the way. During the walk, you will observe and experience enormous local activities like; basket weaving, taste the different local food that is prepared by the locals’ cultural dances and performances that are portrayed by the different people as they welcoming the visitors and a sign of hospitality. A number of local people have transformed their homes into African-homesteads for tourists to visit. This actually offers tourists a closer encounter with the day to day lifestyle of the local resident people.
There is no doubt Bigodi Wetland is a paradise for bird watchers, 138 species of bird have been recognized within the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary and experienced birders can spot up to 50 new species on a bird list. The Great Blue Turaco is the main bird of the swamp.
The bird can easily be seen during a guided walk along the boardwalk trail as well as on the viewing platforms. Some of the birds include the Black-crowned Waxbill, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, Yellow-billed Barbet, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Black & white Shrike-flycatcher, Western Nicator, Superb Sunbird White-spotted Flufftail, White-tailed Ant-thrush White-breasted Negrofinch, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Black Bishop, Grey-winged Robin-chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, plus the Brown-backed Scrub-robin just to mention but a few.
It is 6km from Kibale Forest National Park. Approximately 381km from Kampala to Bigodi via Masaka – Mbarara High-way taking you about 6 hours’ drive on tarmac road. 389km and 7 hour’s drive using Kampala- Hoima- Fortportal route.
Bigodi wetland Sanctuary shared the same accommodation facilities with Kibale Forest National Park. The facilities are well organized ranging from luxury, mid-range to budget so as to fit in your pockets. They have well trained professional staff who provide excellent customer care service, spacious rooms (luxury and midrange) prepare figure licking local and continental dishes. Most of them have nice views of the wetland and the forest and cool fresh air surroundings. Some of them include; Kyaninga Lodge, Crater Safari Lodge, Kibale Forest Camp, Kibale guest Cottages, Isunga Lodge, Rweteera safari Park, and Chimp Guest House.
The Bigodi wetland sanctuary visit can be combined with Chimpanzee and Gorilla Trekking Safari on your way back or from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park to get a full package experience about primates.