Bwindi Folklore: How Bwindi Got its Name

Approximately 100 years ago a considerable number of people migrated from Rwanda, Zaire and the southern edge of the forest to the area north of the forest. At that time, the area north of the forest was sparsely populated. For the majority of these people, the migration involved a long walk through the forest. The tale tells that a family was attempting to cross the forest and came to a large swamp. The spirits of the swamp saw that one of the family members was a beautiful young maiden named Nnyinamukari. The spirits demanded that the family give them the maiden in return for safe passage across the swamp. The family was caught in a dilemma and stayed at the edge of the swamp for 2 days not knowing what to do. Finally, they decided it was impossible for them to return back home, they threw Nnyinamukari into the swamp and crossed safely to the other side.

The tale about the sacrificed maiden spread throughout the area and people began to very afraid of the forest and the swamp in particular. People began to call the place Mubwindi bwa Nnyinamukari. Nnyinamukari is the name of the maiden, Bwindi means a muddy, swampy place full darkness. The surrounding communities have referred to the forest and the swamp as Bwindi and the Mubwindi respectively ever since. When the forest became a National Park, Bwindi became its official name.

This story was told by Phenny K. Gongo in his handbook of Bwindi forest called “Agandi Bwindi”.