Forest Clubbing Returns to Roots Retreat Resort Over Easter Weekend

About four weeks ago, Roots Retreat and Camping Resort introduced Forest Clubbing.

The idea, according to Ronnie Mpagi the manager, is for revelers to enjoy a trans-night dance in the middle of the forest that surrounds the resort.  With live entertainment from selected artistes such as Radio (below) and Weasle, the forest dance party has been able to attract some of Kampala and Entebbe socialites, working class as well as lovers of nature.

“The Easter weekend is very long. However, one can enjoy a whole different activities such as a live comedy show from Theatre Factory and cultural performances by Mizizi Ensemble on Friday and Saturday before the forest clubbing on Saturday night. It is a trans night affair,” Mr. Mpagi says.

Revelers can also enjoy family dinner, hill hiking and sport fishing among others. For three years, the resort, an echo-tourism vacation spot located between Entebbe and Kampala has been the ideal location for international, local guests and travelers.

Located in Sisa, Lumuli, along the Entebbe Highway, the resort offers friendly accommodation, a daily barbecue, children’s playground and sun terrace, and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant. Free private parking and WI-Fi is also available on site.

According to Sam Okello, the proprietor, some rooms have a seating area to relax in after a busy day. “Each room includes a private bathroom fitted with a bath or shower. Guests can enjoy various activities in the surroundings, including fishing and canoeing. The resort also offers car hire in Uganda,” which you can later use to explore other parts of the country, visit our “website” and book the 4×4 vehicle that best fits into your budget and we have got the best deal ever for long term travelers.

Rukararwe: Where the Community Enhances Tourism

The beautiful Irembeezi hills landscape and a canopy of different tree species surround cottages and the green compound to create an aura of serenity.

Such is the environment at the home of Rukararwe Partnership Workshop for Rural Development (RPWRD) centre located about 4kms off Bushenyi-Kasese highway in Nyakabirizi Division, Ishaka-Bushenyi municipality.

Although it gives one an experience of nature, the Eco-tourism Uganda centre is your ordinary tourism site.

Founded in 1986 by the late Samson Nyine Bitahwa, Rukararwe was established to reduce the community dependence on donors through hosting different projects to enhance financial dependence.
The centre oversees various projects, for instance, the Crafts against Poverty (CAP), which comprises women who make handcrafts that are sold at the site. The project enables the members utilize their skills, earn a living and sustain the environment.

Another project is the Bushenyi Medical and Traditional Healers Association, which was established in 1988 as an association of traditional and western-trained healers. The association is composed of 75 healers and it operates a clinic (and a laboratory).

In touch with nature

Nicholas Kahamire, the head of forestry department, reveals that Rukararwe is also home to various bird species in the surrounding four-acre forest. All the birds can be tracked on the premises.
They include the Crested Crane, African Paradise fly catcher, Ibis, Common bulu-bulu, Sun birds, Sparrow, Hammer cop, Wood pecker, among others.

Birds such as the red and black feathered Rose Taracho can be seen when they are feeding between 11am and 2pm whereas others such as the Owl can be seen in the late evening hours or at night.
Visitors to Rukararwe also get to experience nature walks to Irembeezi hills and interact with members of the community who welcome them with the Ankole traditional dance “Ekitaguriro”.
Climbing Irembeezi hills is also said to be therapeutic to patients suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure due to the physical activity involved.

Tourists are also exposed to community activities like the process of making local brew known as Waragi and wine from bananas (eshande), Eshabwe from cow ghee, as well as preparation of Matooke and Karo with a local touch.

Colfer Humes, a german tourist at Rukararwe, says she will never forget the taste of Eshabwe with Millet bread. “I took the meal on my first dinner. I can’t stop yearning for more,” Colfer says.

Accommodation

The centre maintains an African touch even in accommodation facilities. The 12 conical cottages are representative of the traditional African hut which would be shaped like a cone. The cottages are furnished with single and double beds made from the pine tree timber.

The huts are named after animals common in Africa such as Elephant hut, Giraffe hut, Lion hut, Antelope Hut, Monkey and Zebra hut.

“It makes meaning when someone finds they are going to sleep in the Lion hut. They would want to identify themselves with the king of the jungle. Six of our cottages are unique because they have four double rooms with double bed and a single bed. This means that the centre has space for several guests or families with children.” Abby Ayebaze, the project supervisor at Rukararwe, says.

The compound is very natural, with ample space to allow one to camp under the stars in the night, and wake up to the warm sun rays.

Accommodation facilities reflect quality and affordability. Foreign and local clients pay the same amount of money. Double bed rooms go for Shs50,000 whereas singles go for Shs30,000.

Although the scenery is breathtaking, it is the food that Ayebaze boasts about. “A restaurant will serve you African dishes such as Karo (millet bread), vegetables and beans, among others which are prepared in pots,” she says.

But for those who love diversity, international dishes can be made available in the restaurant.

background to the crafts against poverty project

The CAP project started as a joint venture programme of two Ugandan NGO’s Youth Social Work Association (YSA) and Rukararwe Partnership Workshop of Rural Development.

In September 2010, the project started with an information day at Rukararwe. All interested women in the area were welcome and by the end of the day 33 of them filled their entry forms to become members of the CAP group.

The women learned how to use old papers like calendars and advertisements to produce beads for different types of jewellery such as Necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Bracelets are sold between Shs2,000 and Shs5,000, beads, necklaces, ear rings and paper beads go for Shs2,000 – Shs1,000 depending on the quality and quantity. Glass beads are sold at Shs7,000 each. Drums cost Shs20,000 – Shs50,000.

“The quality improved a lot with time and today you can’t even realise that they are made out of paper. We also varnish them which makes them water resistant, shiny and durable. There is variety of different forms and colours in our shop on Rukararwe grounds,” says Ms Ayebaze.

The women also make music instruments such as drums, harps and shakers out of different tree species. Drums cost Shs20,000 – Shs50,000.
Rukararwe also has a traditional healers association that caters for the community’s ailments with 30 different categories of herbal medicine.

UN Peacekeepers Must Protect Cultural Sites—UNESCO Chief

A picture taken on October 13, 2010, shows people visiting the Roman period ancient fortress city of Hatra that dates to more than 2,000 years ago and is located in a desert area about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of Mosul in modern-day Iraq’s Nineveh province. With a unique blend of eastern and western architecture, Hatra is one of only four UNESCO world heritage sites in Iraq. In March, Israeli authorities reported that the Islamic State had begun demolishing Hatra’s ruins.

UNITED NATIONS – UN culture chief Irina Bokova urged the Security Council on Monday to task peacekeepers with protecting cultural sites and to help prosecute those who destroy historical treasures.

International alarm has been growing over the fate of artifacts and monuments in Iraq and Syria after videos surfaced of jihadists destroying priceless works.

Bokova deplored the “cultural cleansing” being carried out in Iraq and Syria during a special Security Council meeting.

The director of the UN’s culture agency UNESCO said protecting national heritage must be included in the mandate of peacekeeping missions as is the case in Mali following the destruction of Timbuktu shrines.

Bokova said she was also working to encourage the International Criminal Court to open investigations on the destruction of sites.

The Security Council in February adopted a resolution that seeks to cut off financing to the Islamic State group from the smuggling of antiquities.

It slapped a ban on the sale of antiquities from Syria, while a 10-year-old ban on those from Iraq remains in force. —Agence France-Presse

Uganda Tourism reloads Batwa cultural trail

Tourists visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Kisoro District now have a new activity to look forward to following the launched 8-kilometre mountain trail.

The new trail route, which takes tourists up to 2,700 metres above sea level during a four-hour walk in the forests along the Muhabura mountain ranges, offers visitors an opportunity to learn the history of the indigenous inhabitants of the forest and experience the life that they live.

The Mgahinga area was home to the Batwa, a Bantu group living on the mountain ranges sitting astride Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo, before the government gazetted it as a national park in 1991 to protect its biological diversity and endangered mountain gorillas which promotes Uganda Gorilla & Cultural Safaris.

The eviction of the Batwa, numbering 6,705 people, according to the 2002 census, left them landless and without reliable sources of livelihood. With the launch of the trail, however, there is anticipation of some change in their fortunes.

Before the launch of the Batwa Trail initiative, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Kisoro District Local Government and the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU), signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The three organizations will manage revenues from the project.

The Director for Tourism at UWA, Mr. Stephen Masaba, said part of the agreement stipulates that up to 50 per cent of the revenue from the trail will be shared with the Batwa Community. “Even the 50 per cent that UWA gets, by law 20 per cent is given back to the community as revenue share,” Mr. Masaba said. “This is one way UWA empowers the community.” He added that in the agreement, UWA also offers to market the trail, provide training, access to the park for the Batwa to get materials for handicraft, interpretation and construction.

The Commissioner for Tourism, Ms Grace Mbabazi Aulo, who was the event’s chief guest, said the Batwa Trail project will not only compliment tourism at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, but also provide a reliable source of livelihood to the Batwa.

“Through the Batwa Trail project, the community here, especially the Batwa who have been disadvantaged through cultivation, settlement and gazetting of the park, will now have an opportunity to generate income by sharing their cultural heritage as they guide tourists through the trail,” she said. “The trail will not only bring revenues to the Batwa Community but also the other sectors such as transport, leisure and hospitality,” Ms Aulo added.

Hope for development

The Chairman of Kisoro District Local Government, Mr. Milton Bazanye, expressed his appreciation for the initiative. But he also decried the state of the roads leading to Mgahinga and Bwindi national parks, saying they are almost impassable. “The district needs money to fund the rehabilitation and maintenance of these roads and provide other social services to communities around the protected areas. If this is not done, tourism development in Kisoro will remain skewed,” he said.

UOBDU chairperson Elias Habyarimana said the project will not only allow them to share their culture with the world, but also help them to preserve their culture for future generations. The trail ends with a descent into a rock cave about 200 metres long, which is believed to have acted as the Batwa Palace (Ulutale) and a hideout after raids for food and other necessities.