Buhanga Eco Park is a small forest within the volcanoes national park which sits on 31 hectares of land. The Eco Park is famous for its sacred and spiritual importance for the people living around the area. The place is where the inauguration of the kings of Yore was carried out. The kings would undergo rituals of initiation and enthronement for their kingship role within the forest. The forest has a rich eco system but a visit is a bit demanding as the terrain is majorly stony and the trees are big and tall with some climbing plants whose roots and branches will keep jumping over as you make tour way into the forest.
The forest is blessed with a number of butterflies to identify while on the nature walk and it’s as well a home to many birds. The forest has varying appearances depending on the seasons of the year as well as the time of the day and that’s why it’s advisable to visit in the morning and afternoon hours in case you want to see birds as you enjoy them chirping in the forest topping the sounds of the forest. While in the forest, you will get to feel nature in its most raw state and get to visit the various sectors of the park and every sector has a story to tell basically on the ceremony of the kings as well as the tradition of the Yore people. The forest is as well famous for its three in one tree that has three different tree species intertwined in one tree. The species are locally known as Inigabiro, Umusando and Igihondondo.
There’s another tree within the forest called Umuvumu translated as curse which is said to have killed about 30 and more men that tried to cut it down in the past days thus the name curse. However the forest is divided into sections and each section has its own right and specific story about the Rwanda Yore Royals and kings, their imitations and different traditions and the sections include;
This is where the herbs for the king’s birth would be picked from by the king’s assistants. The king’s assistants were known as the ‘Abiru’. These herbs were mixed with water got from the spring that was for the ritual bath of kings. These herbs were meant to cleanse the water before the king took his bath. At the ditch, there’s a flower thicket and lava stones. This will be your first stop while on your safari to Buhanga Eco Park then proceed to the Dark cave.
THE DARK CAVE
The cave is an attraction within the park and it’s bordered by big boulders and this is where the kings wheeled to in a royal carriage all the way from the king’s palace in Nyanza. The royal carriage is as well known as `Ingobyi’ in the local language and they could first make the first stop to take a bath in the water from the spring and it would be mixed with some herbs from a ditch that was known for a fortune giving bath. After the bath, the king would wipe and his entire body would be smeared with royal oils and his highness would continue to the conference podium.
THE CONFERENCE PODIUM
This is where the king would handle his royal instruments that he was to use when in power and as well received blessings and protection from the gods of the forest. After visiting the conference podium, the king would officially receive his title as the `Umwami’ of Rwanda which was given to kings. The advisory council, clan heads, royal sorcerers and the elders of the clan would preside over the ceremony in accordance to the cultural beliefs of the ancient people.
The ceremony was carried out in a bid to ensure the kingdom was protected from the external enemies or bad wishers and it also led the kingdom to win attacks from various territories. The podium is formed from the lava rocks that were cut to make a table and it has stairs on the edge and it’s covered by green algae giving the podium a green look.
SMALL DARK WATER SPRING
While on the safari at the Eco Park, you will conclude your visit with a walk down the small dark water spring where the water for the king’s bath was collected. A local chief in 1988 ordered men to clear the spring but all efforts were a failure and the next day the residence 9of the local chief was surrounded by big snakes for 7 days and the chief plus his family died on the eighth day. The spring is one amazing as it overflows during the dry season and during the wet season it’s almost dry. A visit at the Eco Park is 40 USD for foreign travelers and it’s open from 8am to 6pm.