Bigodi wetland is a small sanctuary that protects the Magombe swamp situated on the edge of the Bigodi trading center outside Kibale National Park in Kabarole district. Bigodi wetland is located 6 kilometers from the Kanyachu information center and measures about 4 square kilometers. Bigodi wetland sanctuary 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.
Bigodi wetland derived its name from a local Rutooro word Kugodya which means to walk tiredly. The history behind Bigodi says that when travelers visited Bigodi swamp on foot would get too tired and decide to rest before continuing to Kibale national park for chimpanzee tracking or other activities. Bigodi wetland has rich green and beautiful vegetation comprised of trees, wild palms, polite fig-trees, dormant papyrus, raffia palms, plants, flowers that are used in making handicrafts like mats, baskets among others. It favors wildlife including over 138 bird species with the Great Blue Turaco, butterflies, insects, eight primate species including Chimpanzees, Monkeys, Mangabey, mammals like Sitatunga, Mongoose, Otters, Bushbucks, warthogs among others. Bigodi wetland has a circular 4.5km trail with wood platforms to enable the visitors to take a guided nature walk in the swamp to view wildlife, biodiversity among others.
Bigodi wetland swamp which is managed by KAFRED receives money from tourists which is used to fund community projects for example it was used to build Bigodi secondary school and a nursery school where students living within the village get sponsorships for advance studies, pay half school fees, used to pay school teachers in schools, build streams within the village, bridges over the swamp, construction of the road through the village, construction of health centers, creation of Bigodi women group that consists of 40 members who make beads,, baskets, bags, mats among others from swamp materials like phoenix palm leaves, raffia among others, the products made by the Bigodi women group are also exported internationally to Europe. Money raised has from tourists has changed the peoples’ standards of living in Bigodi village hence protecting the environment and promoting tourism in Kibale national park.
Getting to Bigodi wetland sanctuary
Bigodi wetland sanctuary is situated outside the park, located about 6 kilometers away from the Kanyachu information center south of Kibale National Park. You can get to Bigodi wetland by either private means with a tour vehicle or public means of transport in a taxi between fort portal and Kamwengye which takes around 45 minutes to drive on-road and a
6-hour drive from Kampala to Bigodi wetland sanctuary and can be visited all year round.
Activities done in Bigodi wetland sanctuary
There are various activities that visitors can participate in on their safari in the Bigodi wetland sanctuary which include nature guided walk, village walk, bird watching, wildlife view, night walk among others.
- Bird watching in Bigodi wetland sanctuary: Bigodi wetland is a home of over 138 bird species with some endemic to only the Bigodi swamp. Bigodi wetland is a breeding and feeding ground for the bird species because the swamp attracts insects and frogs which birds feed on. Birding in Bigodi wetland starts in the morning at 8:00 am from Bigodi wetland visitors center where you walk along the broad walk trail and the viewing platforms in the forest led by an experienced bird guide who will provide information about the birds spotted including the unique Great Blue Turaco which is known to remain single for life after the loss of a loved one and others species including Papyrus Gonolek, white-winged warbler, Great Blue Turaco, White-breasted negrofinch, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, yellow spotted barbet, white-spotted fluff tail, Hairy breasted barbet, Western nicator, Grey-winged robin chat, White tailed ant-thrush, Brown-backed scrub-robin, Black and white shrike flycatcher, Superb Sunbird, Black bishop, Black-crowned waxbill, Brown-throated wattle-eye among others which gives the bird lovers a great experience .
- Wildlife viewing in Bigodi wetland sanctuary: Bigodi wetland is not only a birder destination but also a habitat of wildlife species including reptiles, amphibians, eight primate species and mammal species. Visitors follow different trails in the swamp either an experienced guide from KAFRED who helps in spotting the animals. Wildlife viewing can either start in the morning at 8:00 am or in the afternoon at 3:00 pm where the visitors start from the wetland visitor’s center for the briefing and are supposed to wear long sleeved trousers and shirts with stockings and hiking boots to avoid bites from the termites or red ants. Different primates will be spotted including Black and white colobus monkeys, Red colobus monkeys, Blue monkeys, Baboons, Mangabey, Grey-cheeked monkey, Red tailed monkey, L-hoest, Vervet, Chimpanzees among others and animals like otters, bush pigs, sitatungas, mongoose, bushbucks, civet cats, warthogs among others which make your safari in Bigodi swamp interesting.
- Community visits: This is a must-do activity in the Bigodi wetland sanctuary where you visit the local community comprising of Batooro and Bakiga where the visitors get to interact with them, visit the community projects in including the health center, church, Bigodi secondary school which is fully established and sponsored by KAFRED. Bigodi women group that consists of 40 members who make art and crafts like baskets, mats, bags, beads with the materials got from the swamp and most of the products are also exported to Europe. The project provides employment where the people in the community earn income to improve their standards of living and promotes conservation and tourism in Bigodi. Tourists also visit the local community businesses, medicine men who treat different diseases with herbs, community homestays make of mud and bricks, their gardens how to grow and process coffee, the domestic animals, experience local foods, see performances from community groups inform of plays, music, dance, and drama which will give visitors a lifetime experience on the safari.
- Nature walks in Bigodi wetland sanctuary: This is an activity where the visitors walk on broad walks through the wetland on foot with trained local guides who will lead them to the best areas to view the forest and the wetland from a tall tree house and also identify the vegetation types, animals, plants, bird species among others. Guides will share information about the role of the community in preserving the eco-system and how the Bigodi community has benefited in preserving the environment. Nature walks in Bigodi wetland sanctuary can be done in the morning at 8:00 am or afternoon at around 3:00 pm with a briefing at the Bigodi wetland visitor’s center and it lasts between two to three hours. Visitors experience a cool and quiet environment in the forest where they get to relax their minds, have a clear view for great pictures.
Bigodi has a number of luxury, moderate and midrange accommodations where visitors can stay during their safari in Bigodi wetland sanctuary or Kibale national park including Rweteera safari park, Crater safari lodge, Lodge Bellavista, green home cottages and campsite, Primate Lodge, Ndali lodge, Kyaninga lodge, papaya lake lodge, chimpanzee forest guest house, chimps nest, Kibale forest camp among others. Lodges offer conducive, comfortable and great views of the wetland, forest, wildlife, quality meals and drinks which help visitors to relax after bird watching in Bigodi wetland sanctuary or chimpanzee tracking in Kibale national park.
“Bigodi wetland sanctuary is a beautiful place to visit with sweat natural smells in the jungle and beautiful sounds of the birds which make your safari complete after chimpanzee trekking in Kibale national park with an experience that cannot be replaced anywhere in East Africa.”