Delve into the mythical world of the Bachwezi and discover the splendours of this underrated region.
A mention of Ibanda to a casual observer will conjure up images of Mbarara’s poorer cousin; struggling for relevance in the shadow of its more illustrious neighbor. After all, it’s from Mbarara that Ibanda was curved back in 2005 with the elevation of Ibanda County to district status.
To call Ibanda, Mbarara’s poorer cousin though is obviously an overly exaggerated caricature that underestimates the cultural and historical punch this place packs. When you take a cursory look under the hood, you will find that the truth is more nuanced. Ibanda is a hidden gem.
Starting at Nyamirima, the trail leads through hills, gardens and homesteads right up to Nyakahondogoro caves with a brief ascent to the top of Mabanga hill and back to the main road.
- Visit the mystic Nyakahondogoro caves, believed to be the home of the Bachwezi, the founders of the ancient Empire of Kitara
The hike up Mabanga starts at Nyamirima and takes you through hills, gardens and homesteads right up to Nyakahondogoro caves with a brief but steep ascent to the top of Mabanga hill. From here, you will be able to take in 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape before descending back to the main road. The caves encountered along the way can accommodate more than 100 people and are a spectacle for their sheer size.
Located in Nyamirima, Nyabuhikye ward, Ibanda Municipality, they are a huge income-generating site for the local tourism industry. Most importantly for the locals, they are a holy site for believers, and allegedly home to the Bachwezi demigods:
Tracing the spirits of the lost Bachwezi tribe. To the local populations of Ibanda, this cave is a holy site for believers, some of whom are led by a woman called Nyamunyonyi. They come to make sacrifices to and to seek for blessings from their gods. The locals believe this site to be the home of the Bachwezi, the founders of the ancient Empire of Kitara. It’s incredibly difficult to talk to a local for longer than 5 minutes without hearing a word or two about these demigods who it is believed live among them to this day. They are said to announce their presence through night sightings of fires that cover the numerous hills surrounding Ibanda.
As a visitor to this region, you may win yourself a beating by relaying anthropological studies that show that the Bachwezi have never disappeared in thin air and are indeed still resident among us mere mortals but not as demigods but as black people who, like the Bantu, migrated south from Egypt following the liquidation of the Egyptian kingdom and subsequent amalgamation into the Persian empire around 525 BC when Cambyses, the King of Persia took it upon himself to kill the black natives. Whatever the truth may be is entirely dependent on how much one wants to believe in the existence of people flying on brooms and hills burning with no actual fire insight.
Also worth a visit: The Galt Monument
There is a special place in the annals of colonial history for a certain inconspicuous pile of stones just outside Ibanda town. It forms the shape of a pyramid and it marks the spot where a British colonial administrator was murdered in 1905. The exact circumstances of Harry St. George Galt’s death would have remained a minute footnote in the history of the British Empire but being the first of its kind in Uganda, it attracted a massive reaction by the administration. The assassin would later commit suicide for fear of what was to come.
Need to know
Want to read more about our trip to Ibanda? Take a look at this informative and entertaining write-up by slayers Anthony Natif and Dibo: The Beauty and Mystery of Ibanda.
Where to stay
Mayor’s Garden Inn offers rooms and camping space at reasonable prices.
The Hill Trekkers of Ibanda are a fantastically fun and helpful group of hiking enthusiasts.
Contact them at 0779 793287 to enquire about guiding services.