Nestled in the Albertine Rift at the northern base of the Rwenzori Mountains, the forested Semuliki National Parks Valley is a haven for rare birds and mammals. This alone has put on the top Uganda’s most visited destinations by people on Uganda birding safaris during their Africa safari holiday. Semuliki National Park protects an eastern extension of the Congolese Ituri Forest making it one of the alluring ornithological destinations in Uganda, with roughly 400 recorded species being Guinea-Congo biome endemics known from no other locality in East Africa.
The Batwa/Bambuti pygmies in Semuliki National Park Uganda
When we trace the roots of the stone age period, the closest relatives to the stone-age people in Uganda are the Batwa and the Bambuti. The Bambuti are often referred to as pygmies and they are believed to have been the original inhabitants of the Rwenzori Mountain areas before the arrival of the Bantu. Their original home is said to have been the Congo forest. Their language is called Kumbuti. It is said to be very complex and difficult to learn.
Although some people believe that the Bambuti pygmies are closely related to the Batwa around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. These people are even smaller in number than the Batwa Pygmies and have more interesting activities that include growing and smoking of marijuana. The similarity between the Bambuti Pygmies and the Batwa Pygmies is that they all once lived within Forests, were hunter-gatherers and were all evicted from their ancient homes.
They live by hunting and gathering and they do not have permanent dwellings. They tend to be semi-sedentary, camping for a time where food can be obtained. However today, this is probably so because there is no longer much scope for survival by hunting and gathering because of increased population encroachment on gathering grounds.
The way of life of the Bambuti
The Bambuti are nomads always on the move from place to place, hunting and gathering. They are said to be cannibals and their average height is about 1.5 meters. They have a light bronze colour and a beautiful complexion. They have the same curly, wooly hair as their Bantu neighbors. Their faces are broad, their nostrils wide and their lips are extraordinarily thick.
Their huts are built in the same model as Bantu huts but are made of leaves, not grass. They round, very short, and with a small entrance so small and low that they crawl on their hands and knees when entering and getting out. Their huts are temporary due to their nomadic life.
Their diet is basically composed of meat. Often, they supplement it with bananas and sweet potatoes which they obtain by bartering meat for them with Bantu neighbors. They obtain their food by hunting and they are very skilled at it. When in the forest hunting, a dozen of them will make less noise than that of the animal being tracked.
Their dress is composed of a belt wound round the waist, with a piece if bark cloth attached to the belt in the middle of the back, brought down between the legs and fixed against the belt front. This type of dress suits both men and women but it is not very common for the Bambuti to put on clothes.
The Bambuti‘s economy is just as simple as their general way of life. They are wanderers by nature with no fixed residence. Their chief means of subsistence is meat and the forests where they live abound with elephants, monkeys, lizards and some antelopes. The Bambuti prey on these animals and several others which the forest contains.
As one would expect, the Bambuti have no home industries. Their mode of life is purely subsistence and they do not seem to be troubled by lack of home comfort. If a Mwambuti can find some where to sit and a skin to sleep on, if he has eaten and drunk he finds nothing to trouble the world for.
When on their normal travels, the women carry all the family property. They also do all the work including construction of huts. The man only carries his spears and arrows. The men do the hunting and really excel at it.
For visitors on short Uganda wildlife safaris, the main focal point on their safari Uganda to Semuliki is the steaming Sempaya hot springs, which are reached via a short walking trail along which a full seven species of forest hornbill may be seen, among them the immense black-wattled hornbill, along with the likes of Nkulengu rail and swamp greenbul. Common primates include grey-cheeked mangabey, red colobus, black-and-white colobus and red-tailed monkey, and bush pig, forest buffalo, chimpanzee, sitatunga, white-bellied duiker and water chevrotain are also present.