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Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, located in the 4-square-kilometer Magombe Swamp on the outskirts of the Kibale Forest, is a great place to see birds and primates. It is situated 6 km south of Kanyancyu, the Kibale Forest’s administrative hub. On elevated wooden walkways, go into the swamp where you may spot some unusual and colorful birds, colobus monkeys, and other tiny swamp-dwelling creatures like otters. Chimpanzees and the endangered sitatunga are also known to browse along the swampy margins of the marshes. Keep your binoculars close at hand in case you are fortunate enough to get a peek.

The old Magombe Swamp is being protected by the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary, a community development project on the outskirts of Kibale National Park. Between the Ugandan districts of Fort Portal and Kamwenge, there is a refuge that may be located off the beaten path. Due to the amount of persons who perished there while building a bridge, the marsh was once known as Magombe swamp (graveyard in local language). The marsh was renamed Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary in the 1990s. Four square kilometers in size, Bigodi Swamp is regarded as one of Uganda’s top birding locations.

The Bigodi Wetland is a very biologically diverse place. Around 200 different bird species live there, including the rare Great Blue Turaco and the crested crane. Egyptian papyrus predominates, but eight species of primates, including baboons, blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, L’Hoest monkeys, red colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys, choose the marsh as a feeding site. Mongooses, wild pigs, antelopes, and otters are among the other creatures that may be spotted in the marsh.

Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary administration

The Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED) is responsible for overseeing the management of the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary. This locally oriented organization was founded in 1992 to improve local community abilities for self-reliance (by decreasing poverty) and environmental protection.  The initiative now has more than 200 participants after starting off with just four. Those who live near to the swamp are automatically enrolled as non-voting members, while full members must pay a fee. Before new committee members are chosen at one of the annual meetings, a committee of nine members assists in managing the organization for a period of two years. Inclusion of both genders is essential and taken into account while choosing members.

The project’s creators wanted to unite the underprivileged local communities around the Bigodi swamp so they might profit from tourism. By constructing schools and libraries, KAFRED has improved the quality and accessibility of education for the neighborhood’s residents using revenue from ecotourism. Additionally, the project covers student costs and makes a contribution to instructor wages. This is a fantastic accomplishment considering that there were no secondary schools in the region prior to the project’s inception. By training local women how to manufacture crafts or join savings/credit institutions, the project has helped them become self-sufficient and constructed homes for medical staff in the health clinics. Additionally, KAFRED offers family financing programs, constructs water sources, provides fuel-efficient stoves, and hires a large number of locals. Some residents of the community are profiting from tourism by converting their neighborhood huts into ideal residences for foreign tourists eager to experience life in an African village.

Although not without difficulties, KAFRED’s success has raised the standard for comparable community-based projects in Uganda that are near to national parks. There are still sporadic disputes between certain locals and animals or birds that attack their gardens. Despite a decline in poaching, there are still instances when animals are slaughtered for their meat, including Sitatunga. The project’s greatest obstacle may be the population expansion. There will always be pressure on the swamp since the wetland’s surrounding area’s population is growing annually. By fostering diversification via the pursuit of other businesses in addition to tourism, the initiative has addressed some of the problems. By using former poachers as tour guides, poaching has been significantly decreased. KAFRED’s efforts to improve peoples’ quality of life via its work have earned it several national and international honors.

Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary Activities

Visiting Kibale National Park is not complete without taking a tour of the Bigodi wetland. In fact, the Bigodi swamp is a more intriguing and fruitful place to look for monkeys and birds than the Kibale forest itself. Most monkeys and birds are hidden by the lush forest, but in Bigodi, it is possible to see all the animals more clearly. By going to the Bigodi Swamp, you may directly benefit the locals while also educating them about the advantages of protecting the Eco-system for future generations.

After chimpanzee trekking in Kibale forest, a trip to Bigodi Swamp is typically scheduled for the late afternoon. The Bigodi Wetlands Visitor’s Center is where all activities begin. Walking four to five kilometers via communities, marsh boardwalks, and woodland trails can take three hours. It’s ideal for a gratis experience that lets guests enjoy the richness of the park. The Bigodi Swamp hosts a variety of events, including butterfly viewing, wildlife/primates tracking, nature hikes, and bird watching.

Nature Walks: These are given by qualified neighborhood guides who are extremely familiar with the topography in the area. They are able to recognize any kind of animal, bird, and plant species and give specific information about how they reproduce and mat. Be prepared to come across abundant greenery, wild plants, and flowers. The guides will include information on the community’s participation in ecosystem preservation and how this work benefits the economic well-being of the residents. You might request a high tree house from which to observe the forest and extensive swamp. The extensive wetlands have a well-established network of boardwalks that guide visitors to the best locations. The greatest times to go on nature hikes are early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

Bird watching: It is impossible to put into words the overwhelming diversity and density of birds. Because there are fewer predators, the majority of birds find the marsh to be an ideal haven and nesting habitat. Because it attracts insects and frogs that birds like, the Bigodi Wetlands reserve is also a fantastic place for birds to get food.  The sanctuary’s primary species are the Abyssinian ground thrush, Green-breasted pitta, African pitta, Black-capped apalis, Black bee-eater, Black-eared groundthrush, Brown-chested alethe, Blue-breasted kingfisher, Collared apalis, Dusky crimson wing, Crowned eagle, Little greenbul, Yellow spotted nicator, Purple-breasted sunbird, and the Yellow-rumped tinker bird.

Cultural and Village Walks: Although Bigodi village is not very large, it has all the features of a typical rural Ugandan community, including mud/brick buildings, surrounding gardens, playing children, ladies and women caring for the garden or domestic animals. Visitors get the chance to sample the cuisine, see how coffee is cultivated, and visit the local schools while touring the communities. You may also visit and observe the effects of the Bigodi Wetlands project on the locals. Another option is to go to the Bigodi Women’s Group. There are over 40 people in this group. They use materials found in the marsh or discarded paper to create lovely African crafts, like beads. The products of the Bigodi ladies’s group are sold abroad, giving the ladies healthy profits.

Your guide can take you to local companies or locations where local beer is created using bananas after you’ve observed project activity. The village healer is open to inquiring and more daring thoughts. In the past, medicine men were in charge of healing all types of illnesses using local plants or by calling on the spirits of the departed. Even though Christianity and Islam have become more popular in Uganda, these medicine men and witch doctors continue to draw large crowds to their shrines. If the medicine man is not your thing, talk to the elderly residents for information about the clans, the history of the hamlet, old birth and marriage customs, and much more.

Visit the new Snake Park: Both venomous and non-venomous snakes may be seen in the Bigodi wetland. Unfortunately, unless you spend more time in the region, it is uncommon to spot them. The initiative has come up with a unique preposition: build a tiny snake park. This would allow visitors to observe all the many varieties of snakes that can be found in the region. As long as one registers for the nature or village walks, this park, which will hold several snake species, will be supplied as a complimentary package. Without engaging in any of the other activities, one may also choose to travel alone to the snake park.

Accommodations near the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

You don’t need to worry too much if you’re wondering where to spend the night while touring the Bigodi wetlands reserve and its surroundings. You can stay at the same inns and motels as guests of Kibale National Park do. The luxurious hotels consist of:

Kyaninga Lodge: Fort Portal, a small, thriving town, is an excellent spot to stay if you wish to see Kibale Forest as well as the foothills of the northern Rwenzori Mountains and the Semliki Valley. Fort Portal is about 30minutes away from the forest. The Kyaninga Crater’s rim is lined with opulent cottages fashioned from enormous eucalyptus logs by self-taught carpenters, which stare down into the lake’s 220-meter depth.

Primate Lodge: It goes without saying that a lot of tourists want to stay in the forest rather than just visit it to experience the change from day to night and to be surrounded by the countless sounds of birds, insects, and other animals scurrying through the underbrush and the torrential tropical rain. Primate is a stylish and pleasant hotel with eco-friendly accommodations that is within a 5-minute walk from the start of the chimp treks. Eight opulent, wooden platform-supported, grass-thatched safari tents with an African aesthetic are available.

Ndali Lodge: This charming lodge, with views of the Rwenzori Mountains’ peaks to the west, has a quirkiness reminiscent of an English country home.

The eco-friendly resort Chimps’ Nest Uganda is situated in Nyabubale, close to the communities of Bigodi and Nkingo. The lodge employs solar lights and was constructed with local materials. In addition to having self-contained tree homes and cottages, Chimps’ Nest is bordered by sizable fields of pineapple, ginger, peanuts, and coffee. Observing creatures including chimpanzees, elephants, monkeys, and birds is a frequent visitor activity around the lodge. The resort offers guests the chance to go on nature hikes and admire the breathtaking Rwenzori mountain ranges.

Nyinabulitwa Country Resort is a low-cost and mid-range hotel that provides tastefully decorated, independent cottages with single and double beds. On-site dining options include a restaurant serving both regional and international cuisines and an African craft shop. A number of tourism activities are available for visitors, including forest and village tours, primate tracking, birding, fishing, canoeing, mountain hikes, and animal viewing, including elephant, buffalo, and bush pig sightings.

Kibale Forest Camp: The opulent Kibale Forest Camp is located along the Kamwenge-Fort Portal route and next to the park. Seven opulent tents with double beds and attached bathrooms are available at the lodge. Visitors may enjoy breathtaking views of the park, trees, and birds from the room verandahs. Visitors may go on village strolls, hike the Rwenzori mountain slopes, search for chimpanzees, and observe wildlife in its natural habitat.

How to Get to Bigodi Wetland

It takes five hours to travel 330kilometers to get to Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary from Kampala. Even though the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is only a short drive from Fort Portal, it is a worthwhile stop whether you are heading to the Kibale Forest or farther south to Queen Elizabeth National Park.