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WEST NILE

How to take a trip through northern Uganda to the West Nile.

My 100% recommended travel destination in Uganda is the west Nile. This region is multi-ethnic comprising of four main culture groups: Alur, Kakwa, Madi and Lugbara. Beautiful and friendly people with rich cultural heritage and food delicacies that are unknown. For those with a taste of adventure, West Nile is also blessed with several waterfalls, the Albert Nile, and history of famous European explorers. Just open your mind to new tastes, sights and sounds. West Nile is boarded by 2 countries – South Sudan to the north and DR Congo (former Zaire) to the east. The region was initially part of DR Congo until it was annexed to Uganda in April, 1914. One can’t help but thank God for this beautiful region.

As one drives to Arua capital city arrives at the Majestic Karuma falls located about 250Kms northwest of Kampala capital city. It is found along the Kampala – Gulu highway at the point where the road crosses the River Nile. The falls stretch on an area of approximately 97 kilometers by road northeast of Masindi town. Just close to Tangi, the northern entrance gate of Murchison Falls national park. For keen photographers, the royalty nature of the Karuma falls commands attention as you draw closer. It roars like the lions in the jungle, one is speechless at the site of the royal waterfalls. Usually the monkeys are by the road side ushering us to the Karuma falls hoping to receive bananas from the visitors. The arrangement of beautiful rocks entwined with the great outlook, appearance of the Nile and the impressive white foam.

A West Nile Trip: rich wildlife and waterfalls along the way

The first time I saw these waterfalls, I couldn’t help but stare. The being in me that was tired of the long journey was rejuvenated. Creation is full of life and energy. Each area in this region amazes you with the beauty nature has gifted it. A distance away from the Karuma falls is the Murchison falls national park.

Karuma Falls, West Nile, Uganda
Karuma Falls, West Nile, Uganda (c) Uganda Safari Travel Guide

Located 305 kilometers north of Kampala in Masindi district, the park can also be accessed by air through Pakuba airstrip. The falls are the most spectacular attraction in this place which led to the uptake of the name Murchison falls. The park is home to giraffes, buffaloes, Uganda kobs, lions, baboons, chimpanzees, and elephants. The common activities in the park are game drives, boat cruise, bird watching, nature walks, and a hike to the top of the falls.

Chimp tracking is available at Kaniyo Pabidi Eco tourism site, Budongo forest. I am personally love the hike to the top of the falls due to the relaxing sounds of the falls. The hospitality at Fort Murchison, on the eastern banks of Albert Nile in Aswa Lolim wildlife reserve. This lodge is at the site where Sir Roderick Murchison (president of Royal Geographical Society) established a fort. It is one of our selection historic lodges and hotels in Uganda. Camping sites along the highway to West Nile: Red Chili Rest Camp and Karuma falls camp site. The cool breeze that hovers over the head carries secrets from the far north.

Where elephants and people live in harmony

The west Nile region still remains with a number of untapped potentials starting with the magnificent entry gate to the region – The Mighty Pakwach Bridge. Pakwach district is approximately 400kms northwest of the capital city. It was an area most known in history for a tale of two brothers: Gipir and Labong. Known as the elephant people, they’re the founding fathers of the Luo speaking in northern Uganda.

IMG Pakwach Bridge, West Nile, Uganda
Pakwach Bridge, West Nile, Uganda (c) courtesy

Once upon a time, Gipir borrowed a spear and went into the wild to hunt game to provide for his family. Along the way he noticed an elephant that had raided his crops in the night and speared it from behind. Unfortunately, the animal ran into the bush taking his weapon away causing both Gipir and the spear owner Labong frustration.

In the African culture, an iron spear symbolizes defense. I think he couldn’t live without it. So, Labong commanded his brother to search for it if they were to continue being friends. Gipir was lucky to find a woman who had rescued the wounded elephant and kept the spear. In order to get his weapon back, the woman asked why he had speared the elephant. Gipir confessed his guilt never to do it again. Ever since, all the descendants understand that killing wildlife especially elephants is bad. Self-motivated community conservation in Uganda. Elephant numbers are rising in Murchison Falls Conservation Area and elsewhere in Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo valley national parks.

Try local delicacies of West Nile people

In Pakwach, we find panoramic view of the mighty Pakwach Bridge. The calm flow of the river invites you to the peaceful and welcoming nature of the people of west Nile. This bridge marks the beginning of the deeper beauties of the region. Let the drive through begin, there is much more than just the gate! If the gate is as beautiful as this, then what of the palace! One can already begin to feel the beauty of west Nile.

Before you leave, don’t go without tasting the delicacies including finger licking Nang Nang (boneless fish) and Angara (salty fish). The fish known as Nang Nang got its name after a princess called Pa Nang (translated as Lady fish).

IMG Hippo Family on the West Nile, Uganda
Hippo Family in the West Nile, Uganda (c) Uganda Safari Travel Guide

Read the story behind the name: after she was divided into two halves to two different princes to be thrown into their kingdom rivers. So as both of them partake of the richness that shall come their way after they both had captured her heart equally. To bring peace in the land she sacrificed her life. When the bodies were disposed in the river they turned into fish with one rib cage each. Which applies to this Nang Nang fish too. It is usually found in the less saline waters — the fresh waters of the Nile river.

Roadside market in Luwero

This pineapple market is located in Luwero town where you will pass using the Kampala-Gulu highway to northern Uganda. Make sure to stop for community engagement as part of your walking tours in Uganda and to indulge in the aroma of a variety of roasted street foods such as Rolex, Mchomo, and chicken. The variety of fresh fruits that are grown locally. See what it means to grow up in an agricultural community and how men and women get on with making a living. The hardwork that farmers do gives you reverence for people who work with their hands to get something out of the ground.

West Nile
Balikyejusa Kasala Pineapple market, Luwero (c) Derrick Ssenyonyi

Gulu city, the largest town en-route to West Nile

West Nile
Main street, Gulu city (c) courtesy

Gulu is the largest city in northern Uganda and the capital of the Acholi chiefdom. It has a dark history of war waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army that terrorized people and left scars on them. After the rebels were driven out of the country in 2006, healing begun to take place and today Gulu is a vibrant city with a wide range of accommodations to stay and enjoy music and comedy performances at Jaca Gardens in Gulu city on your trip to West Nile. Locals have uncovered several attractions you can visit from Gulu city including Fort Patiko, Ajuku rock, Aruu falls.

More beautiful Waterfalls in Ombavu and Maracha district

Beyond the gate way to west Nile lays the beautiful hills and seasonal rivers that crisscross villages. The beautiful water falls in Ombavu –Adjumani – Arivu sub-county. The falls are known as Kurr. Just as the name would describe it all, that is the sound of the water. Kurr falls is a hidden gem yet to be tapped by the people in Uganda. The heavenly and pure nature of this place brings forth a refreshing nature in someone. It has one side with the falls and the other with the gentle flow of water that causes a relaxing effect. I can’t get enough of it when in this place. You can literally hear the insects converse due the quiet and calm nature of the area.

Scout with Lugbara

One other amazing thing about this place is the pond that contains different kind of fish. They recognize someone when they call them out to have a meal! The trees sway away all the panic as they sing along to the beauty of nature. Why leave west Nile without taking a glimpse of Kurr falls and a chance to scout with the mighty Lugbara people. You cannot leave West Nile without a hear say about the Miradua falls. The falls are hidden beneath the rocks in Maracha district. Begin to explore, Miradua waterfalls are located in Lici village 20kms from Arua Capital City. The captivating unique step-waterfalls can’t get off people’s lips in Arua. The attractive and glorious appearance leaves one dumbfounded. What more than just a day in this place? You can actually camp at this for more relaxing moments with these waterfalls.

If someone has been to Uganda and has not interfaced with the stunning nature of the west Nile region. Then they have certainly not done justice to Uganda’s tourism attractions. You could always explore more beyond the horizons. More than just the hospitality in this region but also the untapped beauties. Welcome to Uganda – Welcome to West Nile.

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