Located in Nyakinama about 8 kilometers west of Musanze town, Buhanga Sacred Forest is exceptionally a hidden secret in Rwanda. For magical safaris in Rwanda, consider visiting Buhanga Forest a must while you are on a safari to Africa. It features not only its spectacular flora but also credited for cultural traditions that are linked to it. The forest straddles within a 31 hectares of land and it acts as an important ecological site in Rwanda. In Kinyarwanda, Buhanga means creation and the belief has it that the creation of Rwanda began from this point.
The first King of Rwanda known as Gihanga is famous to have lived in this area to form the Kingdom of Rwanda. Due to this, all the kings of Rwanda prior the fall of the monarchy used to conduct ritual in the forest that made it a sacred ground and feared among the locals. Its sacred touch has left it intact even when Rwanda is encountering lots of land fragmentation and scarcity. The forest is currently covered by drago and ficus trees which feature spectacular canopy where most of Rwanda tour undertakers find a tranquil environment to walk under. Guided forest walks are carried out along the paths that are made of Lava stones.
Buhanga forest comes with a cave where the coronation ceremonies of Kings of Rwanda used to occur. It is a remarkable site and central to the traditional Rwanda customs as the kings of Rwanda could move from the southern parts of Nyanza and Butare to come to Buhanga for coronation. There are also other tremendous caves where the kings could have a bath for cleansing prior being declared kings-Umwami. Given the compulsory ritual bath, the kings were smeared with regal oil after which they are would be transferred to the Lava rock that acted as conference podium to be given instruments of power presided over by the advisory council of the Kingdom, clan leaders, elders and royal sorcerers. The belief is that the king secured considerable blessings from this area and the protection of the kingdom by the gods.
Buhanga forest also comes with spectacular spring of natural water known as Gihanda which derived its name from the first king of Rwandan monarchy. The water was used for ritual bath is said to have come from the springs. The legend has it that the local chief at a time ordered his drain the spring but by evening it was already flowing again. The following day the chief’s home was full of big snakes for nearly a week and left after death of the chief and his entire family.
Buhanga forest walk allows you to explore one of the spectacular trees like the Inyabutatu Ya Rwanda which denotes a unity tree that appears like there are 3 trees in one. The tree gives an insight of 3 tribal groups of Rwanda-the Tutsi, Hutu and Twa. Other trees are available and they have stayed for over 300 years some of which include Umusando, Igihondohondo and Ibigabiro. The walk through the forest takes you through the 150 birdlife as well as distinct butterflies that call Buhanga forest their home. For this experience, visitors pay $40 and it is usually done between 8:00am to 6:00pm. For interested visited visitors, the forest can be best visited early morning when the birds are still active and bird songs fill the air.
In conclusion, a visit to Buhanga Forest rewards visitors with amazing experiences of lifetime. If you are planning to go for mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda, do not forget to include Buhanga Forest walk in your bucket list. For cultural enthusiasts, this is the best spot that you shouldn’t miss to visit while on safari in Rwanda.