The Nakayima witch’s tree

 

 

The Nakayima witch’s tree

The Nakayima witch’s tree : is one of the oldest trees of the ancient times regarded as a witch tree due to its historical background. The tree is nestled on top of Mubende hill in Mubende district on Kampala-Fort portal Road with a short distance of 4kilometres from Mubende town.  The Nakayima tree is believed to have super natural powers for healing fertility wealth, good health, curing some diseases and solving many other problems.  The tree derives its name from Nakayima who was a royal princess and a daughter to the last king of the Bachwezi Ndahura, Nakayima is said to have disappeared in a tree which today is believed to have natural powers. The tree stands at about 40meters high and is estimated to be 400 to 600 years of existence and what catches your eye as you approach this mysterious tree is its impressive root system, whose tree base has got a large tree buttresses and its hooks can easily be seen on top of the Mubende hill from Mubende town which is 4 kilometers west of the hill thus explaining why it is considered an amazing attraction to both the locals and the tourists. The root system of the Nakayima tree formed three room divisions or compartments that the locals believe to be bed rooms of JJaja Musoke, JJaja Masaka, kilunda, Ddahula and Nalongo. The hill also consists of eighteen rooms and is also believed to have been the official residence of Nakayima and acted as a fort of the Bachwezi dynasty.

The tree comprises of eighteen compartments and prayers are held in these grass carpeted compartments. The old tree commonly known as the witch tree is surrounded by a number of other trees and is also visited by people paying homage to Nakayima of the Bachwezi dynasty, a dynasty said to have supernatural powers and are historically known as demi-gods. Nakayima is also claimed to have mystic powers that made her able to treat people especially the small pox victims who were treated to full good health. She would also treat other diseases that wouldn’t be treated by any other herbalists around the community leaving alone blessing barren women with children. It is claimed that Nakayima was not only a keeper of the tree but also a medium through which the spirit of Ndahura and get small pox for a good number of days until Ndahura’s spirit leaves her. The Nakayima tree is believed to be a sacred tree by a number of people in the surrounding area and far beyond. The mysterious ancient tree awaits you along with its keepers, spirit priestesses that are locally termed as witches specifically those with needs, seek them out. One of the known and famous requirements or requests that are brought to the Nakayima tree may start from the physical ailments to wanting to bear children. Besides that people looking for a miracle in relationships also visit the place plus those seeking for good fortune. They come and pay respect, appeal to the spirits past and present the living medium at the Nakayima Tree. They bring offerings raging from cash to beer, the witches or witch doctors smoke special pipes whose smoke is supposed to allow them communicate with the spirits in the spiritual world. At the time when there was an outbreak of small pox, the Bachwezi influence on the Hima pastoralists came to stand still and the clan powers were no more a new dynasty of Bito rulers that were formed and the Bachwezi King’s residence came to be known as Mubende meaning “there is another one” not another king or person but another ruling power. In the year of 1988, there was a religious conflict between the Buganda and Bunyoro, Nakayima Nyanjara was forced to flee only to return a year later and all the seven huts had been destroyed and the graves of predecessors have been defaced and in 1899, king Kabalega visited Mubende hill to pay tribute to Nyanjara. Later on Mubende hill was placed under a chief known as Muganda Saza by the indirect colonial rule of the British government in the year 1902, this made Nyanjara shift to Bugogo where she died in 1907 and was not buried in the traditional cemetery but near the sacred tree. Today the Uganda national museum contains Nakayima Nyanjara regalia that was captured, she was buried at the base of Mubende hill and one of the items in her regalia are the two large ancient pots. Those who wish to visit the tree to witness the splendor that Nakayima tree holds, it’s usually given as a bonus to those travelers and most tourists stop by as they are moving to Fort portal and to Kibale forest national park.

How to get there

Nakayima tree can be accessed through driving via the Kampala-Fort portal Road and it is a short distance drive of four kilometers from the town of Mubende.

Bigo Bya Mugenyi in Uganda

Bigo Bya Mugenyi in Uganda

Bigo bya Mugenyi in Uganda : is characterized by wild flowers, savannah grasslands, shrubs, woodlands and crickets, due to the Bachwezi people having no historical backgrounds; the place has been used for social studies in primary schools and has been kept as one of the country’s cultural gems. It is located in the interlacustrine region of southwestern Uganda in Mawogola county situated on the southern shore of river Katonga and its an extensive alignment of ditches and berms comprising ancient earthworks. It is best described as having two elements; the first one consisting of a long, irregular ditch and bank alignment with multiple openings that effectively create an outer boundary by connecting to the Katonga river in the east and the Kakinga swamp to the west. Towards its eastern end, the outer ditch branches further to the east to encompass a nearby crossing of the Katonga River. The second element consists of a central, interconnected group of four irregularly shaped ditch and bank enclosures that are connected to the Katonga river by a single ditch. It consists of three mounds which are associated with the central enclosures; two within and one to the west. The word Bigo Bya Mugenyi is translated to mean “The fort of a stranger”. The fort is a prehistorical place in Mawogola county and it’s said that the Chwezi also known as the Bachwezi were the first people to settle in the Bigo bya Mugenyi. These people are also believed to have been the first people to settle in Uganda during the 11th to the 16th century. They had mysterious tendencies for example disappearing in thin air and leaving foot marks on the rocks where they had stepped and flying with the wind. The most recent traces or marks are at the Amabere ganyina mwiru another yet popular attraction in fort portal, the Kigere are said to be foot prints of the Bachwezi which correlates with the assertion that they used to disappear and leave footprints back when they disappear in the air. 

There are two trench synergies at Bigo bya Mugenyi; the inner is made up of 4 openings that pour into each other while the outer is the one that trails and connects with river Katonga. The earthworks at the fort are claimed to be linked to the ancient Chwezi people, a duo-rule dynasty that didn’t last long. Bigo bya Mugenyi spans an area of approximately 10 kilometers squared. The Bachwezi had a system of governance and they were presided over by two kings namely King Wamala and King Ndahura who was said to be the last king of the Chwezi people. When tourists visit this historical site, they pass through Kabeho, a place that has ancient spears, arrows, shields and many more that guards used at the camp before making their destination to the Katonga river. This is a spot where tourists fetch water for cleansing themselves before making the long stride to Bigo bya Mugenyi. The idea of cleansing yourself is an act of seeking for protection from the gods so that they don’t get annoyed with you. The cultural site consists of several grass-thatched huts that were set up to shelter the keepers. Right next to them is a fenced and well-maintained site on an elevated ground where people seek for blessings and wealth from the gods. The identity of the Chwezi people is enigma no one knows where they went or where they came from, they were believed to have been demigods. Bigo bya Mugenyi has been re-declared by the jungle and it is believed there is a number of dangerous wildlife which supplements the cultural expeditions such as the leopards, bushbucks, water bucks, duikers, snakes but surprisingly they have never attacked anybody, even after setting sight on them. This is one of the signs of the presence of the gods in the area. Tourists can also engage themselves in visiting the local people in the communities surrounding the site. These local people believe that when it rains while tourists are still at the site, then something bad will happen. There is a big hut with calabashes and mats where people carryout milk sacrifices from and also taking water and milk. The Chwezi earth works were excavated to protect the Chwezi Empire from the foreign Luo from Sudan.

How to get there

Bigo bya Mugenyi site can be accessed 60 kilometers from Sembabule town. Tourists visiting the site are supposed to report to the tourism police that’s a short distance from the site before visiting.     

The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

 

The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) : is a semiaquatic mammal found in Africa. It is one of the only two species in the family Hippopotamidae namely; the common or river hippo and the pygmy hippo. The river hippo is the larger of the two and its populations are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.  The pygmy hippo, a native of West Africa, is both solitary and a nocturnal creature that lives in forested areas and survives on an herbivorous diet of grasses and leaves. Both species require the cooling, restorative powers of muddy waters and rivers and spend much of their time with their bodies almost fully submerged. Though their skin appears to be rough and rugged, it is actually very sensitive to the intense sun and needs nearly constant hydration. Whilst the common hippo lives in large groups led by the most dominant male, yet pygmies prefer to stay on their own or in much smaller groups.

They are one of the largest animals on the planet

Leaving alone the rhinoceros and the elephant, the common hippo is one of the biggest animals on our planet. A fully-grown male can weigh up to 7,000 pounds while the female will generally weigh about 3000 pounds. At birth, baby hippos can weigh around 60 pounds, but it doesn’t take them long to gain weight and in less than 3.5 years, a hippo is considered mature.

Hippos can’t swim

Hippos are always seen in water but actually can’t swim or float. They spend hours in rivers and lakes and sometimes with only their eyes showing but they remain in shallow waters and find sandy river banks and bottoms to stand on. Most of their foraging activity is done at night, since they’re nocturnal animals, but during the heat of the day they strive to find a way to protect themselves from the midday sun. The water and mud act as a barrier to soothe their skin and regulate their temperatures.

 Calves possibly suckle underwater

Hippos are vegetarians, but during the first year of life hippo calves nurse on milk from their mothers. Once they are born, they stay close to their mothers relying on them for food until they can survive on their own in the wild. They are best known to ride on their mother’s backs sometimes. Interestingly, the hippo’s body has an adaptation to allow the calves to feed both on land and underwater. The eyes and nostrils close to prevent the calf from ingesting water and they can maintain this position for some good time. Alongside the rumors, hippo milk is not pink in color and like other mammals, their milk is whitish-yellow in color.

Hippos can hold their breath

What hippos lack in swimming skills is the ability to hold their breath for long periods of time? A thick membrane covers their eyes and their nostrils close, creating a protective water-tight seal. The species will do this when they sense danger or feel threatened by something in their environment. They may move to another area or just stay still until they feel it is safe to come back up to the surface. Strangely enough, hippos are even able to sleep underwater using this same reflexive instinct and can hold their breaths for up to five minutes.

Vocalizations

Hippos are very loud and use a series of noises to communicate with one another in their groups. These sounds are quite distinct and have been described as honks, whines, squeaks and growls. At times, it also resembles the sound of human laughter. On land, it is believed that their calls can be heard up to a mile away, but hippos have also been known to vocalize underwater. Nothing much is understood about what each call means or why they utter the sounds, but like other animals, it is their way of spreading messages, they could be alerting other hippos to danger, signaling a time to move or to stay still or even calling after their young ones.

Hippos are polygamous

Hippos are species not known to mate for life and a male may obtain 10 mates in a lifetime. Because it’s the dominant male hippo that rules the rest of the group or school, it’s always a challenge for younger males to secure a female to breed with. In a season, a male will usually mate with more than one female to ensure offspring. After the birth of the calves, they will all stay together in his territory, where he can protect, defend and shelter them from other competing males, intruders and predators.

Hippos can mate in the water

Hippos mate every two years and most of the mating takes place in the water. Both males and the females use Vocalizations, body language and even their own faeces and urine to display or show their interest or even to disapprove. A male will travel, compete, defend and fight other males in order to get the mate he wants. In conclusion, only dominant and powerful hippos are allowed to mate successfully.

Gestation period

More like a human, female hippos have quite a long gestation period. Hippo’s gestation period is 8 months approximately 237 days and they will only have one baby at a time. The calf will remain besides its mother for approximately a year, suckling milk as it grows and gains strength. After some time, it will quit nursing and feed on vegetation.

They live in groups

Hippos are often found in large groups called schools, sometimes these groups can include up to 100 hippos in total. This allows for safety and security and also gives males control over their families and territories. The main predators of hippo are crocodiles, hyenas and large cats which often opt to go after the smallest offspring, especially if they have wandered away from the protective groups and safe bounds. They also look for the old and injured hippos that are vulnerable and unable to defend themselves.

Hippos mark their territories

Defending their territories is one of the reasons as to why hippos are considered dangerous. Female hippos will fiercely protect their young, but it’s the males who are most vicious and threatening. They will go after any hippo, animal or human that dares enter their personal territory or space. While on land, they may use their tails to launch their faeces around the area to mark and show their territory to others. Other territory defending signals include loud noises, honking, yawning, wheezing, wide open mouths and charging. Besides smell reception of urine and dung showering, hippos also use the vomeronsal organ, operating like an underwater syringe to draw in urine, to communicate or know the reproductive status of a male or female.

Bigodi wetland sanctuary

 

Bigodi wetland sanctuary

Bigodi wetland sanctuary : is a fascinating area, located in Magombe swamp near Kibale National Park, 6 kilometers away from Kanyanchu Information Center in Kibale district. The name Bigodi is a Rutooro word derived from Kugodya and it is translated as “to walk wearily”. It is known to be more of a swamp but it is a community-based project that is managed by the local community organization called “Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development” (KAFRED), which was established in 1992 to support eco-tourism enterprises to ensure that local communities benefit from tourism hence reducing poverty while protecting the environment.

The fund collected from the visitors is used to construct roads around the Bigodi village, schools such as Bigodi Secondary School and Bigodi Nursery School which are used to provide education to the orphans and support to the widows, elderly and people with disabilities in the area. The wetland has rich green and beautiful vegetation comprised of trees, wild palms, polite fig-trees, dormant papyrus, raffia palms, plants and flowers that are used in making handcrafts like baskets, mats among others. Bigodi wetland favors wildlife including 138 bird species, butterflies, insects, 8 primate species including chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, red colobus monkey, red-tailed monkey, olive baboon, vervet monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey and L’Hoest monkey, mammals like sitatunga, otters, bush pigs, warthogs, bushbucks, mongoose and reptiles such as snakes, frogs, lizards many more.  It has also got a circular 4.5 kilometers trail with wood platforms to enable the visitors to take a guided nature walk in the swamp to view wildlife and the extensive array of biodiversity.  However, KAFRED is planning to setup a snake park in order to protect several snake species since it’s not easy to sight them from the thick bushes and the swamps. This will attract a number of visitors to the sanctuary to have a look at different snake types thus increasing the revenue.

Activities in Bigodi wetland sanctuary

Birding

A knowledgeable tour guide in birding will take you through this activity, explaining about different bird species as you trail along the swamp and thick lush. Bird species encountered during the activity include the great blue turaco which is known as the “Royal lover” due to the fact that it stays single for the rest of its life once it has lost its loved one, flycatcher, western nicator, Abyssinians, white spotted fluff tail, black capped apalis, green breasted pitta, brown chested alethe, yellow billed barbet, grey winged robin chat, brown throated wattle eye, cuckoos, king fishers, sunbirds, tinker birds, cranes, egrets, parrots to mention a few.

Wildlife viewing

Tourists follow different trails in the swamp with an experienced guide who will help them in spotting the animals. Wildlife viewing can either be down in the morning or in the evening but animals are most active in the morning. While the activity, different primates will be spotted such as chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, red colobus monkey, red-tailed monkey, olive baboon, vervet monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey and L’Hoest monkey and animals like otters, bush pigs, sitatungas, mongoose, bushbucks, civet cats, warthogs among others.

Community visits

Your guide will lead you to the local community which consists of both the Batooro and Bakiga people where you will get to interact with them. You will visit the Bigodi women group who make art and craft materials such as bags, mats, ropes, beads and baskets with the materials got from the swamp. Tourists also visit the local community businesses, medicine men who treat different diseases with herbs, homestays made of mud and bricks and gardens to see how they grow and process coffee, experience local foods and enjoy performances from the enyange dance and drama group which will give you a lifetime experience on your safari.

Guided nature walks

With the help of your guide, you will trail through the swamp and in the process you’re able to see fauna and flora found in the area such as the beautiful vegetation full of tall trees, several mammals, papyrus plants, amphibians, reptiles, insects and also butterflies. The walks are best done in the morning when the swamp habitats are most active as you see several monkeys in the trees, bushbucks, sitatungas, birds nesting, and chimpanzees since they sometimes move from the park to the swamp.

Benefits of conserving the Bigodi wetland

Not like other wetlands in Uganda that have been destroyed for constructions, there are several benefits that have been realized after the conservation of the Bigodi wetland sanctuary and these include;

  • Bridges have been constructed over the wetland and this has eased the ravel between the forest area and the villages.
  • Farmers are now able to sell their produce to tourists which helps them earn a living and also sustain their standards of living.
  • The community has been able to construct schools from nursery to secondary levels which has enhanced the education levels in the area.
  • Some orphaned children have gotten a chance to be sponsored by tourists through out their education and giving them a chance to improve on their future chances in the world.
  • There has been construction of health centers and their facilities to improve on the health of the local people in the area and tourists can now easily get medicine if needed.
  • The women have been able to set up a women’s group called the Bigodi women group where they use recycled paper material that are used in making beautiful necklaces, arm bands, hand bags and earrings from the beads and phoenix palm leaves that are used to make baskets ropes and mats. These are sold to the different tourists who come to visit the Bigodi wetland and others are exported to outside countries especially to Europe.

How to get there

You can get to Bigodi wetland sanctuary through Kampala – Mubende – Fort portal – Mbarara – Kamwenge and it is approximately a 6 hours’ drive from Kampala. The sanctuary can be visited throughout the year.