Togetherness is strength; this is one of the beliefs that you will strongly buy into when you step foot in Haven Lodge Buhoma.
Located just a stone throw from the Bwindi impenetrable forest, the uniquely hand-crafted structure stands on a low hill in the outskirts of the beautifully dark forest.
The prompt gesture from the manager briefing you about the culture of things at the lodge will take you by surprise and then slowly draw you in as you mentally chew away on the amazingly unbelievable history of a great idea and now a property and business.
What took my heart was the calming knowledge that there are still some very great communities in Uganda that have not allowed to be beaten by the vices that come with harsh poverty, stinking health, corrupt leadership and a victimized mentality of this job-less era.
The people in Buhoma community are one with the land and the land is one with them. Through agreement, they allowed to migrate from the forest as step one to building a place, which was though seemingly cut off from the rest of the world by nature, would be so beautiful that it would bring the world to them.
The world has indeed been drawn to this pure and beautiful land. The nature that seemed to be fighting them off the world instead drew the world to Buhoma by keeping all the rear types of monkeys, birds , talent, and rich culture in one land, that can never be found elsewhere but in Buhoma.
Anyways, back to the Haven lodge, it is a people’s initiative. After they agreed to migrate from the forest to preserve it for wild life and therefore tourism, they went ahead and pulled all resources together to construct a state of the art lodge. By resources we are talking man power, money, time, ideas, skill, wood, ropes, papayrus and anything else that could contribute to the last detail of a magnificent structure for lodging of tourists.
Under the leadership of elect Chairman; Mr. Ngabirano Richard, the natives have managed to strongly carry on with Buhoma Community Development Association, that was formed by them with the help of one John Dubois in 1994 after the natives had migrated from the forest in 1993.
Under the association, the natives own Haven lodge and Buhoma Rest Camp (has been in existence since 1994), whose proceeds after tourists have visited go to community development.
Ngabirano informs that through the association, the natives of Buhoma village have managed to utilize tourism as a financial power to construct Buhoma High School, Buhoma Secondary School, create a Gravity water flow scheme that supplies over 90 homes with clean water, a micro finance institution that provides loans to natives at a very low interest rates and also secured scholarships for 54 students in the entire community on an annual basis.
For every tourist that spends a night at the Haven lodge, eight dollars is taken from their bill and used to subsidize the health costs of every member in Buhoma by Ugx 2000 under the association’s health insurance scheme.
Mr. Ngabirano also shares about the idea of community walks which are a part of the tourism packages that the community in Buhoma offers. The walks entail tourists taking a three hours trip on foot around the village where the locals show case their art crafts, dance and drama, culture (hunting, farming, brewing and weaving) and also pay a visit to Buhoma’s traditional healer who offers a 30 minutes lecture about the use of local herbs for treatment in the village.
The warmth of the people as they smile and offer inviting and welcoming hellos on the road sides, forest paths and every part of the village are another bundle of wealth on its own. Buhoma village is like a fresh light pink rose, it is calm and with every petal that you peel off, you unveil deeper and fresh beauty. The only difference here is that the petals of Buhoma never get finished, one petal just weaves into another and buds an extremely brilliant rose of its own. When you marvel at Haven Lodge, you get to realize that more than the comfy seats and contribution to community infrastructural development, there’s also lots of employment for the locals here as well.
My conculsion is if you really are a traveler, a get a way person, a writer, a photographer or a once in year picnic person and you want to do it in Uganda, in a place so natural, almost disobedient to the cruel developments of urban development yet still not as remote in behaviour and culture, well I would say that place is Buhoma village.
And when you do go through the very long ride to Bwindi impenetrable forest, rather than spend dollars in privately owned lodges whose owners are already rich and in it for the money, why not ask around for Haven lodge and Buhoma Rest Camp; sleeping here will be a guarantee of your indirect contribution to a great cause of a people so pure, trying to hold their community together to make it a better place for their children and children’s children as well as for the tourists and thus the country.