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Pearl of Africa Safari

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OVERVIEW

Uganda is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. It has with over 80 ethnic groups consisting mainly Bantu and Nilotic speaking people. The Bantu speaking groups occupy the central and western parts of the country, while the Nilotic speaking groups occupy the eastern and northern parts of the country. Some are organized in centralized monarchies spanning centuries. Others are organized as de-centralized chiefdoms or clan-based alliances.

On this trip you will see how Uganda has preserved its culture and heritage in a world that is increasingly becoming globalised. You will visit cultural sites, palaces, and native communities. You will enjoy excursions into game parks and experience wildlife in its natural habitat. And you will taste traditional cuisine, see how traditional crafts are made, and witness customary rituals like initiation ceremonies and cultural dances. The tour gives you a round trip of Uganda in which you will visit 9 ethnic communities cutting across the Bantu and Nilotic language divide. For your wildlife experience, you will have an up close encounter with Africa’s trending sensation—the Mountain Gorilla— and take game drives in Murchison Falls National Park.

PRICING

Pricing is per person and excludes international flights and beverages but covers accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Park fees and guiding fees are included in the cost.

See safari info for terms and conditions

 

Trip Outline

Day 1

Arrival at Entebbe, Uganda

Day 2

Kampala- Buganda Cultural Tour

Day 3

Kampala- Buganda Cultural Tour

Day 4

Jinja- City Tour

Day 5

Mbale, Kapchorwa- Bugisu & Sebei Cultural Tour

Day 6

Kidepo National Park

Day 7

Kidepo- Karimojong Cultural Tour

Day 8:

Kidepo- Excursion, Morungole Mountains

Day 9

Pakwach– Murchison Falls National Park

Day 10

Packwach- Acholi Cultural Tour

Day 11

Masindi- Bunyoro Cultural Tour

Day 12

Fort Portal- Toro Cultural Tour

Day 13

Fort Portal- Toro Cultural Tour

Day 14

Ruboni- Community Tour

Day 15

Kisoro- Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Day 16

Kisoro- Batwa Heritage Trail

Day 17

Departure

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1: Home Airport—Entebbe International Airport

You will enter Uganda via Entebbe International Airport where our Chief Experience Officer CEO will be waiting to pick you up. Look out for someone holding a placard with your name. He will welcome you, drive you to your hotel, brief you on what to expect the following day, and help you settle in. If you need any assistance, do not hesitate to ask our CEO.

Optional:

Day 2: Kampala, Buganda Cultural Tour

Our culture tour begins with Buganda, the kingdom which hosts Uganda’s capital city Kampala. Buganda Kingdom is famous for immaculate organization that rivaled European Kingdoms in the 19th century. It is located in central Uganda and is the largest in the country.

Today’s tour will focus on major royal sites. You will visit the royal burial grounds at Kasubi, a world heritage site; visit the royal palace at Lubiri (locally known as the Twekobe), the kingdom’s parliament (Lukiiko) at Bulange, and a man-made lake built for recreation by Kabaka Mwanga on the pre-colonial era.

After lunch you will visit the Uganda National Museum to learn about the country’s history and geology, and get insights which shall inform what you see on the rest of the trip.

Optional: Night Life

Day 3: Kampala, Buganda Cultural Tour

After breakfast, we’ll head over to Naggalabi coronation site where all Buganda’s kings (called Kabaka in the local language) have been crowned since the Kingdom was founded in the mid 15th century. You will meet Kingdom historians who shall regale you with ornate accounts of Buganda’s history before we break off for lunch— a treat of Buganda traditional dishes.

After lunch we’ll visit the tombs of Ssekabaka (deceased king) Ssuna, noted for having 148 wives and produced 218 children. He is the last Buganda King to have his jaw bone preserved in the royal shrine. It is believed to contain his spirit and is kept in a shrine looked after by his descendants.

Optional: Night Life

Day 4: Jinja, Source of the Nile

Today we head for Jinja, Uganda’s adventure capital located at the source of the Great River Nile. We leave early to beat the morning traffic and stop en-route at Ssezibwa Falls, a site of cultural significance to Buganda. From here we’ll continue to Jinja, arriving just in time for lunch at the source of the mighty River Nile. We’ll have a brief tour of Jinja town and check in at your hotel. If you’re up to it, there is an optional tour of Jinja’s night life.

Optional: Night Life

Day 5: Kapchorwa, Sipi Falls

We’ll have an early breakfast and head off to the slopes of Mt Elgon in the eastern part of the country. If you’re lucky to find the Bagisu’s Imbalu in season, we’ll stop at Mbale town to catch some of the action. The Imbalu is an initiation ceremony where Gisu boys get inducted into adult life by circumcision. It’s a colorful festival filled with electrifying music and dance that engulfs the town for days, and is still conducted as it was in the pre-colonial era. It takes place every four years.

If the Imbalu is not in season we’ll head straight for the enchanting hills Kapchorwa, the home of the beautiful Sipi Falls. The Sipi River flows over the slopes of Mount Elgon, forming a spectacular series of  three waterfalls (some nearly 100m high), surrounded by village walking trails and lush green coffee-producing hills. It is one of the most beautiful sights in the world!

After sipping in the beauty of the Sipi Falls, we’ll visit a coffee farm and savour the aromatic taste of hot coffee brewed with fresh beans picked from some of the richest soils on the globe. The farmers will induct you in the process of growing and brewing coffee, and when the day has worn off, you’ll head back to the lodge, kick off your shoes, and relax in the bewitching tranquility of the Kapchorwa night.

Optional:

Day 6: Kidepo National Park, Game Drive

Today you visit Kidepo Valley National Park for an experience the wild in Karimojong country. The drive is through scenic semi-arid terrain with views of open savannah, rock formation, and cattle-spotted flatland. Of all the parks in Uganda, Kidepo presents the biggest feast of game-viewing. It is famous for spotting large herds of zebra, antelope, bush back, and a wide range of herbivores. It is also home to Uganda’s largest population of lions.

Optional:

Day 7: Karamoja, Pastoral Lifestyle

The Karimojong people are a nomadic pastoral-warrior culture similar to the Masai, and one of few communities whose culture and traditions are still intact. Today you will spend a day among friendly Karimojong communities and witness traditional pastoral life first hand.

They keep large herds of cattle, live in puny huts known as Manyatta, and only recently began embracing clothes. A typical traditional Karimojong is happier walking about wearing nothing but a few beads over their loins. Spending a day among these charming folks is like going through a time machine and finding yourself in 10th century Africa… it’s an experience for a lifetime!

Optional:

Day 8: Karamoja, Morungole Mountains

Today we go for a hike in Mount Morungole where the ancient natives of Karamoja region dwell. The communities living in the mountains lead a remote life that has sheltered them from the winds of globalization and kept their culture intact. You will explore authentic tradition, religion, architecture, family bonds and other aspects of their culture.

The hike is resplendent with rewarding sights of Kidepo’s plains stretching for miles and the refreshing magic of high altitude air. You’ll return to the lodge in the evening, in time to refresh, have dinner, and kick off your heels to relax under as spotted Kidepo sky.

Optional:

Day 9: Pakwach, Murchison Falls National Park

The journey from Kidepo to Pakwach traverses through vast open lands with hilly backdrops and endless skylines, across Lango and Acholi country. It’s a long stretch of road flanked by small towns, rustic homesteads and farming fields, and semi-modern structures; the perfect scenery to capture rural life in Uganda.

We’ll stop to stretch our legs in Lira, the bicycle town and capital of Lango sub-region, and then continue to Murchison Falls National Park where we shall spend the night and prepare to explore Acholi culture the following day

Optional:

Day 10: Murchison Falls National Park, Acholi Culture

Today you will spend the entire day among the Acholi communities that neighbour Murchison Falls National Park. The Acholi are part of the Luo, a branch of the broader Nilotic group: a tour of their culture gives insights into Luo culture in general.

You will see their unique building architecture (step-thatched huts bundled together in clusters), witness how they’ve recovered from the civil war that ravaged the region two decades, and explore their way of life.

Optional:

Day 11: Hoima, Bunyoro Cultural Tour

We depart early for Hoima town, the capital of Uganda’s oldest kingdom Bunyoro-Kitara. Bunyoro’s history is rich and ancient, dating back a thousand years before the colonial era. Though now a far cry from its former glory, there is more Uganda history to be found within its borders than elsewhere.

Our first scheduled stop is at Kibiro Salt Gardens, en-route to Hoima. Salt mining in these gardens has supported livelihoods in the surrounding community since as far back as 900 years ago. Salt extraction is pre-dominantly a female occupation. The site is accessed on footpaths crawling up steep landscapes with a magical view of the plains below: a perfect recipe for exercise and recreation.

Lunch is in Hoima town, after which we visit Bunyoro heritage sites like the Royal Palace and tombs of Omukama (King) Kabalega, the last of mighty Bunyoro Kings famous for returning the Kingdom to glory days of its early years and commanding a 9 year guerilla campaign resisting British rule. He is the most famous and beloved of Bunyoro kings. The following day we visit neighbouring Toro which broke off from Bunyoro in the 19th century.

Optional:

Day 12: Fort Portal, Toro Cultural Tour

Welcome to the indigenous town with a Scottish name. Fort Portal is the capital of Toro, a Kingdom located in mid-western Uganda, at the foothills of the majestic Rwenzori Mountains. The town is named after Sir Gerald Portal, the Scottish general who helped defend Toro Kingdom against the conquest of Bunyoro Kingdom at the start of the colonial era.

Arguably the most beautiful town in Uganda, Fort Portal boasts of a landscape reminiscent of paradise. We arrive just in time for lunch before heading off to Amabere Ga’Nyinamwiru, geological site of significant cultural significance to the people of Toro and Bunyoro. The site contains breast-like features believed to be the breasts of Nyinamwiru, mother of Ndahura, the last King of the mighty Kitara, an ancient kingdom whose territory spanned three quarters of the Great-Lakes Region reaching into western Kenya, Eastern Congo, and Northern Tanzania.

According to local legend, the whitish substance oozing out of the breast-like rock (actually stalagmites and stalactites) is believed to be milk that Ndahura fed on. There is field of crater-lakes in a hill nearby. We’ll trek to the top of this hill and take in the scenery before returning to the lodge. Fort Portal is a tourist hub with a lively nightlife. If you have up for it, there is an optional tour of Fort Portal by night.

Optional:

Day 13: Fort Portal, Toro Cultural Tour

Today is the final leg of the Toro cultural tour. We’ll start with a trip to Toro’s Royal Palace. The royal palace rests on a hill overlooking the serene town of Fort Portal. A palace guide will give you a tour of the premises, show you some royal regalia and talk you through the coronation process and the major rituals around the kingship.

From here we’ll visit the royal tombs at Karambi, where the remains of deceased kings are kept; including Toro’s first king, Omukama Kaboyo (circa mid 19th century). We’ll dash back to the lodge for lunch in the afternoon you’ll participate in a naming ceremony in which you’ll be given an empako (pet name). Empako are special names (e.g. Apuuli, Acaali, Akiiki, Araali) that identify one as a member of the group.

Special naming ceremonies are held where one from outside the group is given an empako when one marries into the group, or when one is welcomed into the group as a special friend. The culture of using empako is unique. It is practiced in Toro and Bunyoro exclusively.

Optional:

Day 14: Kasese, Traditional Arts & Industry Tour

On the other side of the mountains of the moon, a stone throw away from Toro, is Rwenzururu— home to the Bakonzo, a Bantu speaking group with a mixture of agrarian and forest-dwelling populations. Here you’ll visit a bee keeping community and explore traditional methods of harvesting and processing honey, experience the rhythms of the local craft making industry, and visit the Rwenzori Art Foundation. Rumour has it that it’s the only bronze-casting centre still standing in Africa.

Optional:

Day 15: Kigezi, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

We leave early for the long drive to the southern most part Uganda. Our destination is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The drive goes through the impressive savannah landscapes of Queen Elizabeth National Park where you might sight some wildlife if you’re life. Brace yourself for the beauty of the Kigezi highlands. They have been known to make visitors want to shred their passports and settle there for life. We’ll spend the evening in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Enjoy the scenery and take it easy tonight. You’ll need all the energy you can save for the final leg of this safari.

Optional:

Day 16: Kigezi, Batwa Heritage trail

For your final leg of the tour, you will spend the day with one of the oldest communities in the world—the Batwa. The Batwa are a first nation people who lived in Uganda long before the Bantu and Nilotic peoples settled here millennia ago. They are reclusive forest-dwellers that have retreated further into the mountains as population growth and modernization eats away more of their homeland.

We set off early for a trek through the forests of Mgahinga in the company of the indigenous Batwa guides. It’s a mind-blowing experience to hear these guides interpret the forest landscape in the context of their traditions. They have a special relationship with the forest which has provided refuge in times of danger, for centuries.

You will learn about their honey harvesting techniques, traditional medicinal plants, edible roots, and visit Garama Cave which serves as a central place for the Twa community. Here you will be treated to traditional songs and dances that date back centuries before the first European saw the continent of Africa. The sound of Twa women singing soulful renditions of historical movements and cultural treasures is a memory to carry with you to the afterlife, especially when you consider that this culture may not survive the sweeping tides of modernity much longer.

Optional:

Day 17: Transfer to Airport

The drive back to Kampala is long so we’ll set off early and head straight for Entebbe. There’ll be plenty of stops for photo ops and shopping crafts for your loved ones at home. If you feel like extending your stay, don't worry; Uganda has this effect on everyone.

 

BOOKING INFO

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