Located on the outskirts of Kibale National Park along Fort-Portal Kamwenge Road is Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, the capital of green life.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is one of the intact natural areas in Uganda managed by the Kibale Association for Rural Environmental Development (KAFRED), which is a successful example of a community based approach to natural resource management. KAFRED ensures that local residents in the area get economic benefits from wetland.
Time check; 6am, l and my companions assemble at the briefing center of KAFRED where we met Robert Bagonza Amooti, who introduced himself as our guide.
Bagonza said that the sanctuary is a fascinating area that is recognized for an extensive array of biodiversity and covers 4 square kilometers of Magombe Swamp.
He also took a moment to explain what the name ‘Bigodi’ meant.
“Bigodi was derived from the word ‘Kugodya’, a Rutooro word meaning ‘to walk tiredly’. It is supposed that when visitors reached the Swamp on foot, they were always exhausted to go on and visit the jungle and for this reason they decided to rest there”.
Walking through the swamp along walk boards, the scenes; it’s truly a live rejuvenating experience;
There’s everything to enjoy from all shades of green, little beautiful flowers and plants bursting through the soil, rich papyrus, lots of vegetation and tree species which are home to other wildlife species.
We saw different kinds of butterflies, primates including Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Grey Cheeked Mangabey, Red Tailed Monkeys, Baboons that somersaulted from one tree to another.
Mammals that can be found in the wetland include Mangroves, Statungas, Otters, Bush Bucks, Bush Pigs and many more.
“Bigodi is a paradise of Bird Watchers. The sanctuary is home to more than 200 bird species among which is the magnificent Great Blue Turaco,” the guide explained.
Bagonza told us the revenue collected from both local and international tourists is used to support local projects like schools, water projects and health centers.
The project also supports the women though the Bigodi Women Group Project. The group consists of about 40 members, who make crafts and sell them to the tourists.
“Some tourists have over the years sponsored students from the area for further studies which is a great opportunity for them,” Bagonza says.
This is pretty much new in the system of Uganda’s tourism sector but because of the increase in the number of tourists, Robert says that many community members have embraced and are earning big from Homesteads.
“Many people in the area have transformed their Homes into African homesteads which provide tourists with traditional African prepared meals and decent accommodation,” said Bagonza.
According to John Tinka, one of the top homestead owners and member of KAFRED, this idea presented itself as the best way to ensure that money from tourists stays among the natives.
“We the natives did not have money to construct lodges and yet there was high demand of accommodation facilities. That’s when I decided to host tourists at my home,” he said.
Tinka who also hosted us at his home added that one needs 2 to 4 rooms at their home that can be used by tourists.
“At my home all the services are offered by us the family members and the food is got from the local community. We prepare for the tourists our local dishes so that they can also experience them,” he said.
He added that for 27 years now, many natives can proudly say that they have earned a living from the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary.