Located in Kitagata Town Council, south in Sheema District, the hot springs are approximately two kilometres from the trading centre. Travellers can access Kitagata either by branching off at Ishaka Town on the Mbarara-Kasese Road or at Kagamba, on the Ntungamo-Rukungiri Road. The springs can also be accessed through Kabwohe, on Mbarara-Kasese Highway.
According to Nazario Bishanga, the Kitagata hot springs caretaker, the facility attracts hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists every week.
The springs are revered by neighbouring communities and the Ankole sub-region consider it to be sacred, with healing powers. I gathered that some people throng the site to perform some rituals.Top tourist destination
Over the years, Kitagata hot springs have become a desired tourist destination in the western region. Everyone that visits the site marvels at nature with bubbling hot water. There are recreation centres and hotels where tourists can secure descent accommodation.
The hot springs are near national parks such as Lake Mburo , Queen Elizabeth, Mountain Rwenzori, Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga. Visitors to these parks can make a stopover at Kitagata and enjoy the natural wonder. BBC
According to the caretaker, Kitagata hot springs has never registered any cases of spreading diseases or infections. People with muscle aches and skin complications have found their way to the springs.
The water from the springs is believed to have rich mineral content that has healing properties to eliminate muscular and joint pains. Some tourists carry jerrycans to take hot water back home for drinking.
The springs also provide a natural spa treatment with water’s therapeutic benefits. Here, you can lay back and relax after a long day. Residents in Sheema and Bushenyi are known for flocking the springs after work for a sensational experience.
The place is busy. It is a ‘hospital’ where patients admit themselves and discharge themselves after treatment. Whether or not they recover completely from their ailments, is subject to debate.
Students from primary and secondary schools within and outside the district visit Kitagata hot springs regularly for learning purposes. According to science, hot springs occur when rainwater or groundwater is heated by magma beneath the surface of the earth.
Cracks or faults on the surface of the earth allow water to flow deeper into the mantle, where contact with hot rocks that heat water happens.
Other theories say hot springs are formed by cracks extending down towards exceedingly hot temperatures of the mantle, and water seeping downwards is heated and forced back up under pressure to bubble.
Besides the hot springs in Kitagata, you can also visit Muhito hills. The hills stand a few kilometres away from the springs. Activities such as hiking, bicycle riding, picturesque moments of sunsets will make your tour experience worthwhile.
Hiking can also be done at Kyangyenyi hill in Bushenyi greater sub-region with an elevation of 1916 (6286ft) above the sea level. It is located in Kyangyenyi Sub-county, north of Sheema District and it offers magical moments of rolling hills and valleys of Muzira and Ryamasa.
Around Kyangyenyi, residents sometimes offer free guiding services and company, taking you to the summit and back. To hike Kyangyenyi hill, you need to be mentally prepared and physically fit to avoid cardiac accidents as you trek to the summit and descend.
Bwayegamba and Nyakwebundika are small hills that rise from gently sloping plains between Masheruka and Itendero, also in Sheema District.
They are located about 30 kilometres from Kitagata hot springs. These inselbergs provide a spectacular scenic view of agricultural activities on the slopes.
The hot springs are surrounded by the prominent Keitambogo swamp and river, some of the features that offer an opportunity to spot rare species of birds and monkeys. It is fascinating to see monkeys playing around the hot springs.
Communities around Sheema engage in agricultural activities that have boosted the economy within the region. The area is also known as a food basket in the Ankole sub-region. Visiting areas around Kitagata will give you a hint on how different food crops are grown.
About the traditional dishes, you cannot talk about food in Ankole and leave out Eshabwe (ghee sauce). Eshabwe is a traditional dish prepared in many parts of Ankole. It is usually prepared for guests or during special events.
It is found in towns of Kabwohe, Bushenyi, Ishaka and in hotels along the Mbarara-Kasese highway. People here eat their eshabwe with millet bread.
You are likely to see crafts and artifacts made by communities surrounding Kitagata hot springs such as ornaments, beads, earrings, décor materials, books, traditional wear and household items. These can be found on highways and craft shops where they are always displayed.
With all its potential, Kitagata hot springs are still underutilised. Negotiations aimed at transforming Kitagata into a geo-tourism centre and a major revenue earner have been ongoing, but these efforts have not yielded any fruit.
In 2019, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in partnership with a Hungarian firm, proposed to establish a health and wellness spa in Kitagata, but not much can be seen on the ground.
According to Ian Ibara, a caretaker and one of the stakeholder of the hot springs, about 500,000 domestic and foreign tourists visits the site annually.
Fishermen also carry out minor fishing activities around the wetland.
Besides Kitagata Hot Springs, other major hot springs in Uganda include Sempaya Hot Springs, Rwagimba, Amoropii, Buranga, Ihimba, and Kibiro Hot Springs.