A visit to the famous Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru caves is great for a stimulating hike and introduction to one of Tooro’s longest surviving legends. The caves are located below a limestone site and contain multiple stalagmites and stalactites, formed by the fusion of water and calcium carbonate.
Stalagmites rise from the floor of the cave, while stalactites form on the ceiling – both are very delicate, grow very slowly and once broken, cannot regrow within one human life span. Worldwide, both are recognised as natural heritage objects protected by law from mining.
As the legend goes, Bukuku, a king of the Batembuzi Dynasty that preceded the Bachwezi and Babiito dynasties had a beautiful but extremely proud daughter called Nyina Mwiru, who adamantly refused to marry any of the suitors that he presented. Nyina Mwiru, fed up with her father’s insistence that she marry, fled and hid in the caves but he tracked her down and as punishment, cut off her breasts and tossed them into the caves.
It is believed that the stalagmites and stalacitites, which are shaped like a woman’s breasts, are what became of Nyina Mwiru’s breasts. The cloudy liquid seen dripping from them was believed to be breast milk and this only strengthened the legend. The caves were christened Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru, which literally translates as ‘the breasts of Nyina Mwiru’.
The hike down to the caves can be challenging on a thick jungle path, but the first sight and sound of the waterfalls tumbling down a cliff to partially shield the caves like a natural curtain, is breathtaking. The caves are small and dark, with sides covered by thick green moss and ferns. The atmosphere inside the cave is very cool because of the moisture content from the waterfall that is trapped in by the thick forest cover around the caves, and the crisp, fresh air akin to that of an electric AC unit shocks many a visitor.
To top off the hike, three explosion crater lakes; Kigere, Nyabikere and Saka are located in the vicinity of the caves that are best viewed after a short steep climb up an overlooking hill. The caves and crater lakes are a convenient stop over for travellers staying in Fort Portal town, or those destined for Kibale Forest National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Location – Nyakasura, 7kms outside Fort Portal town on the Fort Portal-Bundibudgyo highway.
The Karambi Tombs are the sacred resting place of the last three kings of Bunyoro, Akabama Daudi Kasagama Kyebambe III, Sir George David Matthew Kamurasi Rukidi III and Patrick David Matthew Kaboyo Olimi III. Each Omukama is housed in his own house and on the adjacent grounds is a cemetery with the graves of several Babiito princes and princesses.
The tombs make for a peaceful excursion to listen to the caretaker’s tale about the history of Tooro and of the Abakama that are buried there. On display inside the the tombs are an assortment of royal regalia, drums, spears and other effects that were used by each of the respective kings during their rule.
Location – 7kms outside of Fort Portal Town, on the Fort Portal-Kasese Highway
The palace is an imposing circular building located atop the highest hill, Kabarole Hill, in Harukooto village in Fort Portal town. It is for many a symbol of identity and pride in their heritage, well referenced in the name of the hill on which it sits, Kabarole, which means ‘let them see’.
Tooro palace was constructed during the reign of Rukirabasaija Patrick Kaboyo Rukidi III in 1963, with the support and contribution of the Batooro people but fell into disrepair after the abolition of traditional kingdoms in 1967. During the tumultuous Idi Amin regime, the palace was ransacked and left in ruins.
While in Uganda in 2000, Libyan president Col. Muammar Gadhafi met Omukama Oyo Rukidi IV and was awestruck by the then 9year old king bedecked in his full ceremonial regalia. He invited the king to Libya and later that year returned to visit the Tooro Kingdom where he found the Batooro mobilizing to renovate the Palace. With his significant financial assistance, Tooro palace was fully rehabilitated in 2005.
The palace is not open to the public, but it’s grounds are still worth a visit just for the spectacular 360° panoramic views of Fort Portal and the green countryside dotted with extensive tea plantations. A guide on site tells the story of the kingdom and the ceremonies that are held at the palace.
In turn, Rukirabasaija Oyo Nyimba Iguru Rukidi IV bestowed on Gadhafi Tooro’s highest honour, Omujwara Kondo – Defender of the Kingdom. Gadhafi and Uganda’s President Museveni are the only two individuals to have ever received this honour since the founding of the Tooro Kingdom in 1830.
Location – Kabarole Hill in Fort Portal Town