The snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains tower to the west, and the dense woodlands of Kibale Forest National Park stand to the north, stocking the Bigodi Wetlands full of water and wildlife. It is one of the best places in the world to see primates, with nine species jumping through the treetops during the day, and four nocturnal ones that emerge under the moon. Further, the birdlife in the swamps is exceptional, as the wooden walkways traversing them allow you to go deeper into the ecosystem than usual to find what is hiding in the reeds.
The quality of wildlife sightings is exceptional, especially compared to Kibale Forest National Park, where the dense forest, and high canopies mean species are often absconded far away. In Bigodi we got close enough to the red colobus monkey to see its long spindle fingers, sorcerer’s eyes, and ginger red hair. We snuck up on a pygmy kingfisher hunting above the walkway, and peered through a clearing in the bush to see a pair of red tailed monkeys swing through the branches playfully kicking each other in the face.
The experience is a great combination of first class wildlife sightings, with a social benefit for the local community. Tours through the wetlands are guided by well-trained community experts who wind you through the mazes of walkways and trails identifying bird calls deep in the bush, and introducing you to children carrying water along the way.
As the sun lowers through the palms, fig trees and papyrus reeds, casked hornbills flap their great wings overhead looking for a roost, and the monkeys chatter in the tree tops. Great blue turacos squawk in the canopies, and weaver birds return to their dangling nests for the night. Chimpanzees call from the forest, and the mosquitos descend for a meal, marking the time to leave the swamps, however you take with you the excitement of a day of discovery.
Author’s Note: Visiting Bigodi Wetlands is a great afternoon compliment to visiting the Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park in the morning, as you are unlikely to see chimpanzees in Bigodi, but more likely to see a diversity of primates and birds in Bigodi. Further, you get to support KAFRED, the local community organization set-up in 1992 with help from a Peace Corps volunteer.