Buhanga Sacred Forest is a hidden treasure located in Nyakinama Village, about 8 kilometers west of Musanze district (in the Northern Province of Rwanda). This precious jewel covers a small area of 31 hectares but the tremendous beauty and biodiversity it holds is beyond imagination. This forest is locally referred as “Igihondohondo” meaning yellow because the color that characterizes most of the vegetation. On your gorilla safari within Volcanoes National Park, don’t miss taking an excursion to this amazing site!
The moment you enter this forest, you will be welcomed by the sounds of the singing birds and colorful butterflies. Buhanga is a Kinyarwanda word that means “Creation” and this forest derives its name from the fact that before Rwanda was created, the first King called “Gihanga” (meaning creator) had his Kingdom at the site where the forest is found. This forest dominated by drago and Ficus is a site where all Rwanda Kings used to perform Rituals with the exception of King Kigeli Ndahindurwa who was dethroned in 1959 after an uprising that brought to an end the enduring Nyiginya Dynasty. All the fascinating attractions in this Sacred Forest are better seen than told, because everything in the forest has a significant meaning.
What to see and do in Buhanga Sacred Forest
Walking through this forest is not just an ordinary walk. This nature walk takes you through some of the riveting rituals and traditions performed by the former Rwandan Kings. One of such spectacular attractions you will encounter during the nature walk is the Cave that was often used for conducting the Coronation Ceremonies. It was a must for all Rwandan King to go ton that cave when being Coroneted. Even those Kings that lived in far distances where required to go to that forest for their coronation ceremonies. Another cave deep in the forest is where Kings used to take their ritual baths before being announced as “Umwami” (King) of the Nyiginya Dynasty.
According to the ancient tradition, after taking the ritual bath, the King would then be smeared with regal oil before being lifted to the Conference platform up on the Lava Rock from where he (the King) would be offered the instruments of power in the ceremony presided by the Clan leaders, Kingdom Advisors, elders and royal sorcerers. While on this rock, the King will receive endless blessings and protection from the gods of the Kingdom. It was believed that these rituals ensured that the Rwandan Kingdoms were free from external attacks especially from other Kingdoms and also ensured that all Rwanda’s invasions into other Kingdoms and battles were successful. This mysterious Forest will not cease to amaze you, because another interesting but scary attraction you will encounter is the Natural water spring known as “Gihanga”-named after the first Rwandan King, is surrounded by different tree species. It is believed that water from this natural water spring was used by the Kings during the ritual baths, and it is believed that this spring has spirits and powers that surround it. It is said that in the past, a local chief passed an order to his servants to drain the waters of this spring, and as loyal servants, they obliged and did as they were ordered but surprisingly before sunset the spring was overflowing again. As if that wasn’t enough, huge snakes were found at the Chief’s home where they camped for 7 days, and only left after the chief and his entire household had died. This strange spring always dried up during the Rainy seasons but surprisingly overflowed during the dry season. Isn’t it mysterious and scary?
This forest in a home to several magical tree species that include the Unity Tree (Inyabutatu ya Banyarwanda), with three trees intertwined into one big tree representing the three tribes of Rwanda i.e. Hutu, Tutsi and Twa who lived together in unity and harmony under one King. Other tree species in the local Kinyarwanda dialect include Umusando, Igihondohondo and Ibigabiro among others, most of which have survived for more than 300 years. It is because of the magical powers and spirits that are believed to be in this forest that has made it to survive to what it is today because many people still fear to cut the trees or misuse the objects from the forest.
This forest is a home to more than 150 bird species
The Entrance fee to this remarkable site is $40 per person and includes the Tour guide fees. With this small fee, you will be able to explore the rich culture and heritage of the Rwandan people, and the site is open for visitation from 8am to 6pm from Monday to Sunday.
In conclusion, Rwanda is blessed beyond primates and one of the spectacular sites rich with biological diversity is the Buhanga Sacred Forest. When you visit this Place, you will go back home totally speechless and will agree that Rwanda is blessed beyond Mountain gorillas.