Ibanda in Uganda, hidden away just 70minutes from Mbarara which is about 4 hours drive from Kampala. Ibanda is a rather silent town with a lot of stories and history. From multiple caves to high rocky hills. A magical place to explore!
In March 2020, just after my birthday weekend, I travelled with the Mountain Slayers – a group of outdoor enthusiasts with whom I have had some of the best memories and experiences being outdoors in the last 3 years.
The trip took us a total of 5 hours leaving Kampala in the early afternoon and getting there just before 8 pm. The trip is smooth with tarmac all through.
The secret of Ibanda has not been out yet, there is only a handful of tourists that visit this place.
What makes Ibanda Special
Ibanda sits at the edge of the flatlands of Mbarara and the hilly lands of Buhweju. When ascending some of the hills of Ibanda, the view are breathtaking, flat lands where you see the winding Ibanda-Mbarara road for as far as you eyes can go on one side and the beautiful green hills of Buhweju on the other side.
Ibanda is one the very locations that were habitats for the Bachwezi – the Demigods that gave birth some of the kingdoms (people) in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and DRC, as well as the death place of one the British’s Sub-Commissioners in 1905.
Things to do in Ibanda
Honestly, there isn’t to a whole lot to do in Ibanda, other than hiking the hills and listening to the stories of the place. But that in itself is worth the 5 hours drive there.
The Mabanga Hills
One of the breathtaking hills in Ibanda. Covered in rocks, the trek to the top of the hill takes between 3 hours to 4 hours, depending on your speed and how much time you need to take in the views. There is a rather steep section that I just about 100meters long but can take you about 30mins to cover. The views from the tops, the thousands of rocks all over the top make it a great place to take a couple of minutes to take it all in.
This is a three-level cave that is believed to have been home to the Bachwezi who were last sighted in the 1970s in the area. There are a number of caretakers who are very happy to share the different stories about the caves and their original habitats. One thing that I found very fascinating is that every Friday, a big number of locals climb up to the caves where they worship and pray to the Bachwezi for blessings and more.
One of the caretakers told me a number of stories about the bachwezi; how they use to find fresh cow dung (still steaming) in the caves in the morning as well as bowls of fresh warm milk in the caves, yet it is practically impossible for a cow to make a climb up to the cave on the edge of the rocks.
What I found more fascinating is, he told me if I had asked him before we left the caves, that there is a local man that is empowered by the Bachwezi and he will give you all your family roots yet he has never met you before. I found that both scarily and weirdly intriguing – unfortunately, I did not get a chance to meet him.
Harry George Galt and Julia Kibubura
Harry George Galt died on 19th May 1905, but his death is more talked about than some of the biggest social events that happened at the time; like the 1901 Ankole Agreement. As much as the killer was found weeks later, there is no clear documented motive for his actions. There are stories that it was a jilted lover of Julia Kibubura that had him killed, others claim the Killer Rutaraka was hired to kill to due to the tortured he had taken the young men that carried him from Fortportal to Ibanda on their shoulders.
You can still visit the 5-meters in length and 3 meters high monument which the local were forced to build as a constant reminder of the tension that followed the death of a British colonial.
Galt’s killer, Rutaraka committed suicide in fear of the punishment that would come.
Julia Kibubura, who died on 27th December 1950, is another key element in the stories of Ibanda. She was the female political leader of the area. A lady so powerful, the locals called her Sir (Ssebo) When Galt was murdered in 1905, the held the body of the British Colonial at the place where the monument was set up – this act is still part of local songs in the area.
Kijongo Crater Lakes
Little is documented about the lakes. It is in my travel plans to go back to Ibanda to learn more about them.