KIGEZI - Like other hunter-gatherers of Central Africa who've been cast out of their jungle homes, when the Batwa forest people of southwest Uganda lost their forest, they lost their identity.
The Batwa were evicted from their rain forest kingdom in 1991, when two neighboring national parks, Mgahinga and Bwindi, were created to protect shrinking habitat for the endangered mountain gorilla.
Mgahinga National Park's 13 square miles are dense with towering bamboo, braided vines, wild fruit, forest elephants and cape buffalo. The place is also filled with poignant memories for the Batwa because they can no longer live here — they can only visit.
But the Batwa are heading back into their former kingdom, leading tourists through the jungle on the Batwa Trail. For $80 a person — lunch and rain gear not included — tourists can trek with the tribesmen deep into Mgahinga and encounter the lost world of the Batwa.
The Batwa Trail, now 2 years old, helps preserve and promote culture by having Batwa guides show tourists their traditional way of life.
It also generates money for the community: Batwa guides and the musicians earn the equivalent of $3.25 on days when there are tourists. The rest of the money goes to a tribal trust and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.