This small sanctuary which protects the Magombe Swamp, adjacent to Bigodi trading centre and immediately outside the national park boundary, is and admirable example of conservation and tourism having a direct benefit at grassroots level. Bigodi Wetland is one of the biodiverse spots in Uganda and an exceptional area of birders interest while on Uganda safari. Located within Magombe Swamp, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is about 6kms from Kanyanchu Visitor Center of Kibale National Park. The scenic wetland sanctuary lies in Western Uganda and it is not only a birders paradise but also a home to countless primate species.
Bigodi Wetland derives its name from the local word “Bigodi” which in Rutooro can be translated as to walk wearily. It is believed that the local residents who could walk to the sanctuary got there when they were totally exhausted.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary a 4sq.kms wetland stands out as one of the endowed tourist sites worth visiting on Uganda safari. It is a typical example of community based approach to natural resource management. Safaris to Bigodi can be incorporated with chimpanzee tracking safaris in Kibale National Park. The park is a natural treasure for bird watching or birding safaris offering birders incredible sight of important bird species.
Run by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environment Development (KAFRED), all money raised from the trail is used in community projects in Bigodi, it has so far funded the creation of a small local library as well as the construction of a new secondary school in the village.
A total of 138 bird species call Bigodi a home making it one of the best birding safari destinations in Uganda. The birds to expect to identify on Uganda birding tour in Bigodi Wetland include the Great Blue turaco, Western Nicator, White spotted flufftail, Hairy breasted barbet, Black crowned waxbill, Brown throated wattle eye, Brown backed wattle eye, Grey winged robin chat, Yellow billed barbet;
Superb sunbird, White breasted negrofinch, Black bishop, Bocage’s bush-shrike, Black and white shrike flycatchers, Brown crowned tchagra, White tailed ant-thrush, parrots, hornbills, kingfishers, weaver birds, purple breasted sunbird, Black capped apalis, Grey winged robin, etc.
A total of about 8 primate species are all concentrated within Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary making it a treasured primate watching area. The primates of visitor interest on Uganda safaris in Bigodi Wetland include olive baboons, the grey cheeked mangabeys, red tailed monkeys, olive baboons, l’hoest monkeys, vervet monkeys, red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, etc.
Other mammals of interest on a nature walk in Bigodi Wetland include sitatungas, otters, bush pigs, mongoose, bush bucks, etc. Bigodi Wetland is run by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED).
Safari Activities in Bigodi Wetland
Bigodi Wetland is an ideal spot to enjoy a guided nature walk to explore different primates, birds, flora, butterflies and other mammals. Community walk taking 3-4 hours which includes visiting the traditional healer who will give you deep insight into the important plant species of medical significance, herbs, spirits, etc. Enjoy the stories told by the elderly, cultural practices- this is the best place to experience the actual rural life.
Primate watching- Over 8 primate species all await you to explore- from vervet monkeys, olive baboons, grey cheeked mangabeys, blue monkeys to black and white colobus monkeys.
Birding in Kibale N/Park- Enjoy the best of Kibale birding safaris to explore some of the 375 bird species that call this beautiful park a home. Kibale is a home to diverse birds such as white collared olive backs, papyrus gonoleks, papyrus canary, white winged warblers, green breasted pitta, black bee-eaters, white thighed hornbill, little greenbul, yellow spotted nicator.
Practical Tips to Plan Your Safari
- The guided 4.5km circular trail through the swamp is also one of the best guided bird trails in east Africa, as well as offering a realistic opportunity to see up to six different primate species in the space of a few hours. The trail starts at the KAFRED office on the Fort Portal side of Bigodi. Here a visitor is allocated a guide; a serious birdwatcher should mention their special interest, since some guides are better at identifying birds than others and if you don’t have a field guide and binoculars, then make sure your guide does.
- Afternoon walks technically start at 15:00 and generally take around three hours, but dedicated birders will need longer and are advised to get going an hour earlier, there are enough guides for you to start whenever you like.
- For morning walks, it is worth getting to the office as early as you can, or possibly even arranging a dawn start a day in advance. The trail is very muddy in parts, and if you don’t have good walking shoes, then you would do well to hire a pair of gumboots from the KAFRED office.
- For general monkey viewing, it doesn’t matter greatly whether you go in the morning or afternoon, but birders should definitely aim to do the morning walk. The sanctuary’s main attraction to ornithologists is quality rather than quantity. You would be lucky to identify more than 40 species in one walk, but most of these will be forest-fringe and swamp specials, and a good number will be West African species at the eastern limit of their range.
There are other places in Uganda where these birds can be seen, but not in the company of local guides who know the terrain intimately and can identify even the most troublesome greenbuls by sight or call. One of the birds most strongly associated with the swamp is the greater blue turaco, which will be seen by most visitors. Another specialty is the papyrus gonolek, likely to be heard before it is seen, and most frequently encountered along the main road as it crosses the swamp or from the wooden walkway about halfway along the trail.
Other regularly seen birds include grey-throated, yellow-billed, yellow spotted and double-toothed barbets, speckled, yellow-rumped and yellow throated tinker-barbets, yellowbill, brown-eared woodpecker, blue-throated roller, grey parrot, bronze sunbird, black-crowned waxbill, grey-headed Negro-finch, swamp flycatcher, red-capped and snowy-headed robin-chats, grosbeak and northern brown-throated weavers, and black-and-white casqued hornbill.
Butterflies are abundant in the swamp, and it is also home to sitatunga antelope, serval, a variety of mongoose and most of the primate species recorded in the forest. The red colobus is the most common monkey, often seen at close quarters, but you are also likely to observe red-tailed monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey, black-and-white colobus and grey-cheeked mangabey. If you are extremely fortunate, you might even see chimpanzees, since they occasionally visit the swamp to forage for fruit.
Where to stay
While on Uganda safaris in Bigodi Wetland, tourists can spend a night at the lodges, campsites, bandas and hotels nearby. They include Crater Safari Lodge, Nyabulitwa Country Resort, Rwenzori Guesthouse, Kibale Forest Camp, Primate Lodge, Ndali Lodge, Chimp’s Nest, etc.
Getting to Bigodi Wetland
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is 330kms from Kampala, about 6 hours’ drive via Mubende-Fort Portal Tourism City route. From Fort Portal city to Bigodi it is about 1 hour’s drive and from Kanyanchu Tourist Centre, it is 6 kilometers’ drive.