Welcome to Gulu! Home of the tall dark and handsome Luo Nilotics. Located in Northern Uganda, Gulu boarders Amuru and Nwoya District in the west and south west respectively, named after its administrative and commercial centre Gulu town. The district has a growing population of 298,500, most of the inhabitants are Acholi that moved and settled in the region many years and call the district Acholi land.
Gulu district has been ravaged by war but this community has proven resilient over the years thanks to the numerous NGOs and the Ugandan Government that have brought healing to the community. Today most of the people have moved from the concentration camps back to their villages, building new lives and looking to better Horizons. Gulu is also home to Opio Oloya now a Canadian radio host and one of the most prolific poets Okot p’Bitek who wrote the interesting and famous poem “Song of Lawino”. When in Acholi land you are likely to see the watmon cultural group performing famous Acholi dances like “larakaraka” also known as the “lamokowang”, a courtship dance performed during the dry and harvest season in December and January. The dance incorporates the calabash as an instrument, vigorous movement of women clad in traditional beads and Men clad in leg tambourines and ostrich feathers, talk about a phenomenon cultural experience.
These are 5 things you must do when visiting Gulu district.
- Stop at the independence Monument for pictures. This Monument marks the sun setting on the British Empire in Uganda. It is said that that is where the Uganda flag was raised when she got her independence. You may find its location a bit peculiar as it is in the compound of Mega FM station.
- In honor of the children that were abducted and killed by the LRA, you can visit the monument put in their honor not far from the Gulu town Head Quarters.
- Visit Fort Patiko. Also known as Baker’s fort. Fort Patiko was a slave market before Sir Samuel Baker fought off Arab slave traders and captured it in 1870. He later established it as his military base. The spot is covered by a flat rock 900 meters wide, you can stand on the rock and gaze upon the beautiful view of Gulu. It is located long the Sir Samuel and Lady Becker trail that stretches up to south Sudan. By all means watch the Larakaraka dance! A sensational experience of Gulu culture and pride. Most likely to enjoy one at the hotels there as an entertainment offered.
- Be sure to shop for souvenirs and there is lots to choose from as women in Gulu are handy with beads in assorted colors and size, particularly the eco friendly paper beads made from recycled paper. This way you get to take home a little bit of Gulu with you.
Nearby accommodations: Acholi Inn. Boma Gulu, Pagoda Guest House.
Weather: Hot and dry 23Oc/73OF
Mbale district is located East of Uganda bordering Kenya and in the west bordering Budaka district. The area is 2,467 square kilometers wide with its largest town named after it. The hugest monument of Mbale District is Mountain Elgon. It is the oldest and largest solitary volcano in East Africa, covering an area of around 3500 km² with its highest peak Wagagai entirely located within Uganda.
Naturally the main economic activity in Mbale is agriculture, strategically located at the slopes of the mountain ranges. The main crops grown are coffee, beans, maize, sweet potatoes, onions and carrots. The main ethnic group in the district are Bagisu or as they like to be called Bamasaba, who speak the language Lugisu. Mbale is also a hub for higher learning as 3 main universities are located there: The Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU), Uganda Christian University (UCU) and Livingstone International University (LIU). People from Mbale are well known for their rituals and ceremonies of twinning and most popularly observed is the “Imbalu” or circumcision ceremony. This ceremony marks the transition of a boy to Man. It is the most powerful ceremony that has been going on from centuries before. Usually you will hear sounds of horns, whistles; drums and bells go through the valley announcing the biennial traditional circumcision. For the Bagisu culture is the way of life and it is carried in high esteem.
These are 5 things you must do when visiting Mbale district.
- Hike on the slopes of mountain Elgon. You will require going through Mountain Elgon National park and hiking through the forest where you will see a variety of bird life, primates and plants.
- Though not directly located in Mbale town, you can visit the Nyero rock paintings 8km west of Kumi town on the Ngora road. Archaeologically, the site dates back to the Later Iron Age, it is not every day that you see pre historic rock art.
- For an adrenaline rush try paragliding a new activity handled by the Fly Mami Afrika tours that has won great reviews on tripadvisor.
- In case you are driving through Mbale and you’re held up by a procession of Imbalu dancers. Stop and watch the spectacular spectacle carry out the biggest Gisu ritual, circumcision. This way you too will have been a part of a vital transition.
- Be adventurous and taste the staple food for the Bagisu, Malewa. This is a vegetable soup made from tender mountain bamboo shoots. Bon appetit!
Nearby accommodations: Protea Hotel Mbale, Mbale Resort Hotel, Mountain Elgon Hotel
Weather: Scattered showers. Partly cloudy temperature of 82°F.
Presenting , the third largest town in Uganda, second busiest commercial centre in the country, home of the River Nile and Uganda’s number one adventure sport destination, Jinja district. Located in eastern Uganda approximately 87km East of Kampala, Jinja is a strategic gem of Uganda on the shores of Lake Victoria near the source of the Nile. The origin of its name comes from two ethnic tribes of the Baganda and Bagisu who lived on either side of the Nile, in both languages ‘Jinja’ means rock, which is seemingly as the area around Jinja is a place where the river can be breached due to large rocks near the Ripon falls.
Agriculture thrives in Jinja due to fertile soils, abundant water source and reliable rainfall. Other industries include Metal, Leather and Paper processing, Grain milling, sugar, organic fruit and coffee growing for export and brewing for local sale. Local attractions of Jinja include white water rafting on the Ripon falls, visiting the source of the Nile where it is said Speke himself stood in amazement upon his discovery. While at the source of the Nile you will also see the Mahatma Gandhi’s Monument, it is said that some of his ashes were scattered there.
These are 5 things you must do when visiting Jinja district.
- For an adrenaline junkie you must try out white water rafting a heart pumping experience.
- Be a part of history and kill two birds with one stone by visiting the source of the Nile standing on Speke’s Monument and paying respect on Mahatma Gandhi’s Monument that sands on where his ashes were scattered.
- Leap over the Nile, Bungee jumping on the highest point built on New Zealand standards, for a thrilling experience deep a little in the river as you bungee jump.
- Go on a quad bike safari with All Terrain Adventures in Bujagali and as they say have more fun than a barrel full of monkeys!
- Make sure to take a little bit of Jinja back home with you. You can buy souvenirs from craft shops in Jinja town and in the suburbs. You are likely to find hand woven baskets, bags and mats from papyrus plants.
Nearby accommodations: Jinja Nile Resort, The Haven, 2 friends Jinja
Weather: Hot, Humid and windy Max 26oC Min 21oC