The Nkokonjeru tombs are the resting place of Ankole’s last two kings; Omugabe Edward Solomon Kahaya II who was buried in 1944, and Omugabe Sir Charles Godfrey Rutahaba Gasyonga II who died in 1982. Both tombs are located inside a deserted colonial-style house, marked by 2 concrete slabs, and outside are 9 several tombstones marking the graves of other royal family members.
Location – The Nkokonjeru Tombs are located in Kakiika, 3kms from the Mbarara Town centre
Igongo Cultural Centre
This cultural centre that is dedicated to the preservation of Ankole’s rich and diverse culture, is positioned where an Omugabe’s palace once stood. The cultural centre showcases the culture of the peoples of Southwestern Uganda.
Its main attractions are the Erijukiro Museum with historical and cultural artefacts from the region; the Eitaramiro Cultural Village whose highlight is the clay model of a traditional homestead complete with actual milk gourds, calabashes, hides and skins a communal fireplace, farming tools and millet grinding stones; the Nkwanzi Craft & Book Shop with beautiful collectables from the various cultures of the region; and the lush Mburo gardens that are littered with life-size sculptures of animals and historical figures, where one can enjoy a traditional Ugandan meal.
Location – Igongo Cultural Centre is located in Biharwe, 10kms before Mbarara Town on the Mbarara-Masaka highway.
This is one of Ankole’s most significant cultural sites, for it was here that Wamala, the last King of the Bachwezi crafted the sacred Ankole royal drum called Bagyendanwa. Bagyendanwa is the ultimate symbol of power and legitimacy in Ankole culture and an Omugabe only recognised if he possesses it. The drum is so revered in Ankole that it is believed to be able to sound itself, when something bad happens in the kingdom. Also significant about Itaaba Kyabanyoro is that it was the birthplace of the founder of the Ankole Kingdom, also the first Omugabe, Ruhinda the son of Wamala. It was at Itaaba Kyabanyoro that Ruhinda was crowned as the people and rulers transitioned from Bachwezi to Banyankole.
Itaaba Kyabanyoro is located on a flat-topped hill with a good view of Mbarara Municipality. Visitors can see the tree stump from which the Bagyendanwa Drum was cut, and three grass-thatched houses – Kakama, Kahima and Keiru – that represent the original ones used by King Wamala. One of the current claimants to the throne, Omugabe Asiimwe Ntare VI Rubambansi is using his palace located on the hill as a learning centre that focuses on telling and showing the history and traditions of the Kingdom of Ankole.
Location – Kinoni Rwampara, 10 kms from Mbarara town on the Mbarara-Kabale highway
Kitagata Hot Springs
The natural twin-hot springs located in Kitagata are believed by many to have healing powers, and every week, about 800 people of all ages, from all corners of the country, visit in search of a miracle. One of the springs is commonly known as Kitagata Ekyomugabe, because it is said that in the old days, only the Omugabe of Ankole used this spring. The other more popular of the two, Kitagata Mulago is named after Mulago Hospital, Uganda’s largest Referral Hospital, and it is here that many people can be seen half-dressed and sitting in the waters that they believe wash away disease.
Many visitors even drink the water from the bubble source called Akaswonswo once it has cooled, while others bring takeaway containers to carry some of this mystical water with them. Interestingly, even though many sick people communally use this spring, contagion has never spread in Kitagata. Contrarily, there have been several undisputed cases of healing of skin, muscle and joint ailments
Kitagata in the local dialect means ‘warmth’ and the pond water in between the scattered rocks here can warm up to 80 °C, enough to boil an egg! The scenery around the springs is dreamlike, with steam rising from the bubbling ponds to settle at the base of the numerous conical rocky outcrops against the backdrop of lush vegetation.
Location – Sheema District, 62kms west of Mbarara Town
Sanga Cultural Village
Sanga, located just outside Lake Mburo National Park is a great stop to have a peak into the customs and history of the Banyankole and more specifically, the Bahima. The Hima community that surrounds the park started the cultural centre to offer guided and experiential cultural tours in a traditional Ankole setting, complete with typical Hima households, herds of Ankole cattle and crafts villages making assorted local handcrafts.
Location – Sanga Gate, Lake Mburo National Park