Bigodi Wetland Reserve – Swamp Walk and Community Visit
Bigodi Wetland Reserve is a community development project on the edge of Kibale Forest National Park to help conserve the former Magombe Swamps. The reserve is located on the road between Kamwenge District and Fort Portal District in Uganda. In the beginning, the wetland was often called Magombe Swamp (graveyard in the local language) because many people died there while building bridges. In the 1990s, the wetland was known as the Bigodi Wetland Reserve.
Bigodi Wetland Reserve covers four square kilometers and is considered one of Uganda’s premier birding destinations. “Bigodi” is borrowed from the Rutooro word “Kugodja”. Kugodja means tired walking. The term was coined because people have to cross Bigodi Wetland Reserve on their way to Kibale forest. Walking through the swamp is tiring and they often have to sit and rest before going into the jungle.
Bigodi Wetland Reserve is an area rich in biological diversity. It is home to around 200 species of birds, including the crane and the elusive great blue turaco. The main plant is Egyptian papyrus, but the swamp is a favorite feeding ground for 8 species of primates, including baboons, blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mango monkeys, L’Hoest monkeys, red colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, chimpanzees, and Vervet. monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys. Other wetland animals include meerkats, wild boar, antelope, and otters that can be seen around the marsh.
Management of Bigodi Wetland Reserve
Bigodi Wetland Reserve is managed by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED). This community-based organization was established in 1992 to increase the self-reliance of local communities (reducing poverty) while protecting the environment. From just 4 people since its inception, the project has grown to over 200 members. Full membership is paid and those who live near the bog are automatically enrolled as non-voting members. The nine-member committee helps govern the organization for two years before electing new members at one of its annual meetings. Gender inclusion is paramount and will be considered when voting for members.
The founders of the project tried to organize poor communities around Bigodi Wetland Reserve to benefit from tourism. KAFRED uses funds generated from ecotourism to improve the quality of education and access to education in local communities by building schools and libraries. The program also pays students’ and pays teachers’ salaries. This is a remarkable achievement, as there were no secondary schools in the area before the project began.
Within the project, houses are built for medical personnel in health centers and local women are taught to be self-sufficient by teaching them to make handicrafts or enroll in a savings/credit institution. KAFRED also offers a housing loan program, builds water wells, supplies energy-efficient stoves, and employs many residents. Some community members use tourism funds to transform local huts into ideal homes for international tourists who want to experience life in an African village.
What KAFRED Has Done in Reserving Forest?
KAFRED’s success has set the bar high for similar community initiatives near Uganda’s national parks, but it has not been without its challenges. There are still occasional conflicts between some community members and the animals/birds that infest their gardens. Although poaching has decreased, some animals such as the Sitatunga are still hunted for meat. Perhaps the most serious challenge to the project is the population explosion.
The population around the wetlands increases every year and the marsh is always under pressure. The project addresses several issues and promotes diversification by participating in other businesses rather than relying solely on the benefits of tourism. Poaching has been significantly reduced by employing ex-poachers as guides. KAFRED’s work and tireless efforts to improve people’s living conditions have helped it win many local and international awards.
Activities at Bigodi Wetland Reserve
A visit to Bigodi Wetland Reserve is a must when visiting Kibale Forest National Park. It is more interesting and successful to find primates and birds in Bigodi Wetland Reserve than in Kibale Forest itself. The dense forest hides most of the primates and birds, and Bigodi can see all the creatures more clearly. By visiting Bigodi Wetland Reserve, you are directly supporting the local people while helping them realize the benefits of protecting the ecosystem for future generations.
A visit to Bigodi Wetland Reserve is usually planned in the afternoon after a chimpanzee trek in Kibale Forest. All activities start at the Bigodi Wetland Reserve Visitor Centre. The sport can last up to three hours, a 4 to 5 km walk along swampy promenades, villages, and forest paths. It’s perfect for a free experience that allows visitors to appreciate the park’s biodiversity. Some of the activities organized at Bigodi Wetland Reserve include bird watching, nature walks, community walks, and butterfly and wildlife/primate tracking.
Led by trained local guides who know the local terrain. They could identify all the species of animals, birds, and plants and explain the details of their brooding and breeding habits. Expect abundant vegetation, wild plants, and flowers. The guide will share information about the role of communities in protecting ecosystems and how their efforts can contribute to people’s economic well-being.
You can ask for a view of the forest and the large wetland from the high wooden cabin. There is a well-established network of boardwalks through the vast wetlands, allowing visitors to visit the best spots. Nature walks are best done in the morning and afternoon and last almost three hours. Nature walks cost $30 for international visitors and last 3 hours each. Morning classes start at 7.30 and afternoon classes at 15:00.
Birdwatching at Bigodi Wetland Reserve will amaze even the most seasoned birdwatcher. The diversity and density of birds are difficult to describe. Most birds find marshes an ideal refuge and breeding ground (with fewer predators). Bigodi Wetland Reserve is also a good foraging ground as it attracts insects and frogs which are favored by birds.
The main species found in the reserve are the Abyssinian Ground Thrush, African Pita Thrush, Black Thrush, Black-headed Thrush, Black-eared Thrush, Blue Stingray, Tawny Partridge, Throated Thrush, Crested Eagle, Black-winged Pita, Green-breasted Pita, Little Green Bull, Purple Thrush, Yellow Pletnicator and Tawny Plover. tin.
Culture and Village Walks:
The village of Bigodi is relatively small, but has all the characteristics of a typical Ugandan rural environment – mud/brick houses, surrounding gardens, children playing, women and women, and tending gardens or livestock. While visiting the village, visitors have the opportunity to taste local cuisine, learn about coffee farming and visit local schools.
You can also see how the Bigodi Wetland Reserve project has impacted the villagers by employing local people, helping to reduce school fees, building a medical center, and providing water to the community. You can also visit the Bigodi Women’s Group. The group consists of more than 40 people. They make beautiful African handicrafts, including beads made from recycled paper or materials from swamps. Bigodi Women’s Group products are exported internationally, providing great returns to women.
After monitoring the project activity, your guide can take you on a tour of local businesses or to a local place where bananas are used to make beer. Those who are more adventurous and curious can visit the pharmacy in the village. In ancient times, pharmacists were responsible for curing various diseases using local plants or invoking ancestral spirits. Despite the rise of Christianity and Islam in Uganda, these witch doctors/witch doctors still welcome many people into their shrines.
Although many people are uncomfortable being associated with these halls and shrines, they quietly attend in hopes of solving their life problems. If you’re not interested in pharmacists, visit the elders of the area to learn about village history, clans, ancient birth/marriage ceremonies, and more. You might be interested in our 3-Day Chimpanzee Trek in Kibale National Park.
Visit the New Snake Park:
The Bigodi Wetland Reserve is home to venomous and non-venomous snakes. Unfortunately, they are rarely seen unless you spend more time in the area. For visitors to see all the different types of snakes found in the area, the project offers a playful preposition – to create a small snake park. There will be all kinds of snakes in the park and as long as a nature or country walk book is available as a free pack. You can also choose to visit the snake farm on your own without participating in other activities.
Facts about Bigodi Wetland Reserve
- Bigodi Wetland Reserve is arguably the best example of how communities can manage natural resources for the benefit of all.
- About 6 hour drive from Kampala, through the beautiful and unusual landscapes to Bigodi Wetland Reserve.
- Although the wetlands are home to more than 135 species of birds, the great blue turaco is a favorite among bird watchers. This beautiful bird can be seen flying around the marsh and nearby forest.
- Before going birding, make sure you are assigned a knowledgeable and experienced guide.
- If you are wondering where to stay while visiting Bigodi Wetland Reserve and its surroundings, don’t worry too much. You can use the same hotels and accommodations used by visitors to Kibale National Park. Luxury hotels include Ndali Lodge, Primates Lodge, and Kyaninga lodge. A good mid-range lodge is Crater Lodge, while travelers on a budget can opt for Chimpanzee‘s Nest.