Be prepared to be amazed, when you take the western safari circuit, especially at the spectacular scenery slowly unfolding before your eyes. It never fails to impress. The flatlands and savannah gradually give way to a cascade of rising hills that never seem to end. Some basics are necessary to explain all this.
About 25 million years ago, Eastern Africa was wrenched apart by tectonic plates, causing land masses to rise and others to sink. The result is this landscape of high-altitude craters and towering mountains often covered by thick rain forests or snow.
A substantial part of western Uganda lies along the ridges and slopes of the western rift, consequently, it can get very cold, so make sure you take warm clothing along with you. The region is sometimes referred to as ‘The land of milk and honey’, with good reason because of the long-horned Ankole cattle which holds a cherished position among people. These noble slow-moving animals have originally herded down from ancient Egypt 2000 years ago.
One particular breed is known as the ‘Cattle of Kings’, a reminder that for hundreds of years it was kings who ruled here. However, the inhabitants of Western Uganda are descendants of both pastoralists and farmers. Those who till and grow crops along the steep hills today and do it in a manner that seems to defy gravity. In other areas, the terrace gardens become artistic wonders.
To better understand the people in this region including Banyakore, Banyoro, Batooro, Bafumbira and Batwa, the best place to start from is the Igongo Cultural Center and Museum. Luckily it is conveniently along the Kampala-Mbarara highway just before Mbarara town. There is also an annex that acts as a hotel for a longer stay.
Every aspect of these cultures is displayed and explained under one roof. Other groups of people across Uganda are also featured, but it is the story of Western Uganda the gets the spotlight. The region is famous for exorbitant game drives, mountain climbing, scenic views and the popular lifetime experience of Gorilla Tracking.
In a nutshell, after the mass migration of people from the direction of Egypt and Ethiopia, slowed to a halt, centralized kingdoms later emerged by the 15th century in Uganda, the most prominent were the Bunyoro-Kitara and Ankole kingdoms.