Uganda is well known for being the source of the great White Nile River. However, another river means more to the people of Western Uganda. The River Rwizi is the lifeblood for thousands of people and their cattle in the different districts through which it flows and few get off the beaten track to national parks to stop and take a look.
Travelling to Mbarara District, the Rwizi serves the districts of Mbarara, Ntungamo and Bushenyi. It originates in an area called Buhweju in a cluster of hills before it grows and gathers strength reaching far. It continues its journey until it reaches Lake Mburo National Park, where it provides life too much of the fauna there – the most famous of which are the many zebra.
To get to River Rwizi from Mbarara, you will need to drive for about 10 minutes from the town centre. You have to go past the Mbarara University of Science and Technology, the main hospital, and a road leading you to Ibanda. Once beyond that, you’ll see the bridge, which looks a new in the distance. This is the Rwizi.
The river is admirable for many reasons and you’ll find some excellent opportunities for photography as water animals are plentiful and the songs of crickets and birds fill the air. It’s a picture-perfect postcard as well as a wonderful place to pass a few hours with a picnic or simply sitting in the quiet listening and watching.
The river is also critical for the cattle keeping communities in the area and anything that affects it would endanger the economic activities in the area. Cattle can be seen coming to drink at various points along the river and you are usually always within hearing of some children laughing as they come for a dip.
Many people who grew up around the river hold fond memories of sojourns to the banks where they would spend hours playing instead of drawing the water they would have been sent to fetch.
Unfortunately, the beautiful cattle that give the river its serene picture are also part of a problem plaguing it. Reports have been coming out for years about the increased pollution of River Rwizi. Activities like sand excavation, car-washing and bush burning along the banks have led to the shrinking water levels, according to NEMA, the country’s environment watchdog.
Visitors interested in nature can stay at a number of hotels near the river including the Rwizi Arch Hotel, Pelican Hotel and Oxford Inn. Prices at these hotels range between 45,000 UGX for a single room to 60,000 UGX for a double. According to Robert Begumisa, a guide who works in Lake Mburo, there are a number of tourists who pass through to first see River Rwizi first before they proceed to the other national parks like Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Kibale Forest Primate Reserve and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
If you’re travelling by public transport then you can take a bus or matatu to Mbarabra. Fares from the bus terminals range from 15,000 UGX to 20,000 UGX. You can use a Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi) from the town centre in Mbarara, which should take about 15 minutes. The road is good in that area so you’ll be comfortable.
River Rwizi is definitely one of the features that residents of Mbarara, or the greater western Uganda, will list as a top tourist attraction. And they would be right on the money.