Off the beaten track options

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Spice up your tour!

Uganda is an amazingly diverse country with plenty for a traveller to see and do. Unfortunately, we can't put all options in our itineraries and therefore we have made a list of some spectacular options that you can add to your tour. In this way you don't have to miss out on anything!

What about sleeping in a tree house in the deep forest? Or visiting a traditional tribe, hike to the peak of Rwenzori Mountains (5109m), do some horseback riding among buffalo and zebra?  You can even opt for a full-day chimpanzee habituation tracking instead of the standard one-hour tour!

Matoke Tours is known for going off the beaten track and we recommend that you add one of those great "off the beaten track options" to your itinerary to spice it up a little....

 

Visit a Karamajong Tribe

Karamoja is an isolated area in northeastern Uganda where a unique tribe lives. Related to the Maasai in Kenya, the Karamajong live and dress similarly, though are hardly ever visited by tourists in contrast with their Maasai brethren.

The organization of this tour is in cooperation with the Ugandan Red Cross which runs an aid project in the small Karamajong town of Kotido which can be reached from either Kitgum/ Gulu or from Kidepo N.P. Since tourism isn't developed at all in this region you will be staying in a simple guesthouse that is part of the local church in Kotido. All profits of this tour go to toward the project budget and contribute to the development of the area.

Another reputable organisation running cultural visits in Uganda is "Pearls of Uganda".

 
 

Experience village life in Namwendwa

Matoke Tours, in cooperation with Sawadee Travel and the association of dairy farmers in Kamuli, developed a tour whereby you can take part in community life. You won't just SEE a village, but rather EXPERIENCE the inhabitants' daily activities! The village of Namwendwa is located in Kamuli district, an hour and a half drive north of Jinja.

During the visit, you will:

- camp in the garden of a farmer,

- help cook local food,

- visit the school,

- visit the gin ('Waragi') maker,

- visit a local bar, and

- take a bike tour through the village.

All guides are from the village itself and the whole community is benefiting from your visit. We guarantee that you will have the warmest welcome. It's just impossible to leave without a smile from ear to ear!

Another reputable organisation running cultural visits in Uganda is "Pearls of Uganda".

Farm Visit in Luweero

An estimated 85% of the population of Uganda depends on farming. During a half-day visit to Kigoman Mixed Farm (on your way to Murchison falls N.P.) you can learn about organic vegetable farming and the growing and harvesting of bananas (matoke) and other important staple crops. The programme will conclude with a local lunch.

Another organisation running cultural visits is "Pearls of Uganda".

 
 

Visit a project of War Child in Gulu

The Lord's Resistance Army of Joseph Kony was killing and raping people in Northern Uganda for over 20 years and trained children to be sex slaves or soldiers. This terrible war has finally come to an end and the area is safe again.

War Child is an Non-Governmental Organisation based in the war-torn area and coordinates projects aiming to reintegrate the younger victim of this harrowing chapter in Uganda's history. Because they were never able to go to school, a whole generation has been left without the skills and knowledge to contribute to their communities and support themselves. By focusing on vocational skills training (mechanics, carpentry or hairdressing), the youths are able to generate an income and gain self-confidence.

Matoke Tours will give you a first-hand look at a War Child project in Gulu where you can meet the children and see how the project works. It is a fascinating experience for both you and the children, who are more than proud to show you what they are making out of their lives. For groups of 4 or more clients we can organise a visit to the family of the children in the village during a local dinnertime. Matoke Tours contributes 30 dollars per person for each person visiting this project.

Other cultural visits can be organized by "Pearls of Uganda" - a reputable Matoke Tours partner.

 

A night in a forest tree house

For the truly adventurous, we offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A 15-minute walk from the lodge's restaurant -deep into Kibale forest- you will find a cozy tree house with en suite bathroom. Perched 12 meters above the ground, you will be immersed in the forest with all its sounds and nocturnal monkey visitors - sometimes even the curious chimps!!

 

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

 

Full-day chimpanzee habituation tracking

Chimpanzee habituation in Kibale National Park is an experience which is truly unique. You will be allowed to join Kibale's researchers and assistant 'habituators' during their daily activities with the chimpanzees. You will spend a full day with your closest relatives and it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Make sure you give us plenty of advance notice if you wish to book this option. There are only six habituation permits available per day and they are sold out far in advance!

A day with a chimpanzee

Together with a senior caregiver, you will interact with several chimpanzees, all ranging in age from 5 years to 9 years of age. In direct contact with the apes while they are reintegrated to life in the forest, your assistance is leading to a possible future release back into the wild. The chimps that you will accompany during either of these one-on-one activities with our chimps (the walk through the forest or in the outdoor enclosure) are accustomed to human contact; some will merely walk along holding your hand while others will climb on you, grab your glasses, and/or pull your hair.

PLEASE NOTE: Anyone signing up for the forest walk must be aware that there is no guarantee that this activity will be possible due to logistical issues with the older chimps staying overnight in the forest. As well, please note that the programme is rather expensive and you are not allowed to take photos. There are a number of extra vaccinations that you must have in advance of your visit.

Make sure you book this far in advance as spots are limited.

All profits go towards the protection of chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall Institute.

 
 

Horseback Ride through the Park

If you are in or passing near Lake Mburo, don't miss the chance of going on a safari on horseback. You'll ride for two full hours sighting zebra, gazelle, buffalo, while also enjoying wonderful landscapes along the way.

The horses are very well trained and maintained by their German owners. There are horses available for riders of different levels of experience.

Shoebill Safari

The shoebill stork is a spectacular and endangered bird, and Uganda is one of the few countries where you can find it in the wild. Many birders come to Uganda and the shoebill is always high on their list. Even those not normally excited by birdlife won't want to miss out on spotting this ancient-looking bird.

We will take you to Mabamba Swamp (between Kampala and Lake Mburo N.P.) where you will be taken by local boat on a shoebill sighting safari. There is no place in the world where you have a better chance of spotting one in the wild!

 
 

Semliki National Park

Semliki N.P. is often forgotten by travelers which is shame because the park has wonderful scenery and is home to a good range of small mammals and many birds.  Semliki is also one of only two places in Uganda that caters for night drives guided by spotlight.

The park covers a remarkably varied habitat: hot springs, swamps, grassy woodlands and small plains. In addition to adventure trekking, activities in Semliki include fishing along one of the park's many waterways, bird watching and visiting the Batwa (pygmy) tribes.

Kidepo Valley N.P.

Kidepo Valley is perhaps the only national park left in the whole continent where you can have the park all to yourself. We believe that safaris in this park must be like safaris were in Kenya some 35 years ago before the start of mass tourism. If you meet more than 3 different cars on one day you're unlucky! The great savanna landscapes and the mountains in the background make you feel like being at the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater at the same time.

Kidepo also hosts the most animal species of any national park in Uganda. These include lion, giraffe, elephant, buffalo, leopard, ostrich and cheetah. If you go for bush camping you'll have a good chance of being visited by lions and jackal in the night.

Kidepo is definitely the best-kept secret in Uganda! It has even been rated 3rd-best National Park in Afrika by CNN.

 

Workshop African Jewelry in Gulu

In Gulu, AVSI and Matoke Tours work with the Cooperative Wawoto Kacel or "Walking Together" in the local language.

This project is a unique case of an arts and craft cooperative that provides for its 130 members (most of them vulnerable, HIV positive, or disabled) a place to earn an income through fair work, to express creativity, to find a positive social interaction, and especially to build up a world of dignity for themselves and their families.

Matoke Tours offers exiting workshops to travelers, whereby they can learn how to make African jewlery or postcards from banana leaves. The income generated through this workshops will help the cooperative to increase its production while providing social security to its members.

For more information about the project click here.

Note: This workshop in Gulu can be booked in combination with trips to Murchison Falls NP or Kidepo Valley NP.

 

 
 

Shea Butter Experience Pader (Northern Uganda)

The Shea Butter community project was born in mid-2006 when the peace agreement was signed between Lord's Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda.

Shea butter is an off-white or ivory-colored fat extracted from the nut of the African Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion. Shea butter is edible and is used in food preparation in some parts of Africa. 

Extracting this oil is a welcome income-generating activity to the Kalongo community, where a women’s group, supported by AVSI, is responsible for this process.

You can visit this women’s group and be part of their daily work. You can see and learn how products are made and you can assist them during this visit. Of course you can buy some of the products as well.

The Acholi people are as well known for their tasty food.  Women will prepare a very taste meal for you, of course using the Shea butter as one of the main ingredients.

Find more information about the project itself by clicking here.

 

Climb Mount Oret in Kalongo

In Kalongo you can climb Mount Oret, a wonderful mountain from where you have a stunning view over the Acholi region.

The hike will take about 3 to 4 hours and on top of the mountain a wonderful local lunch will be served. Make sure you bring good hiking shoes and sun protection.

Your guides fully trained and AVSI has also provided them with a photography course. AVSI intends to use the proceeds from Matoke Tours travelers to support the Secondary and Vocation education of the youth in Kalongo.

For more information about the project please click here.

You can book this option in combination with tours to Kidepo Valley N.P.

 

Delta Boat Safari

Murchison Falls is one of Uganda's most wonderful parks. We would advise you to stay at least three nights to be able to enjoy all the options in the park!

Almost all visitors to Murchison Falls make the boat safari to the top of the falls. Not many of them, however, do the delta boat safari and we believe that's a huge mistake! The delta area is spectacular in landscape and you are likely to see huge crocs, bathing elephants, black and white colobus monkeys and maybe even the famous shoebill stork. Your boat safari will be much longer than the trip to the falls and you will be on a smaller boat so you can get closer to the wildlife. Brunch can be served on board!

Bush Walks

Uganda is full of diverse landscape and potential activities. Indeed, your options for safaris are a perfect example: not only can you go by car, but also by boat, horse or your own two legs!

Uganda offers some great bush walk options in both Kidepo Valley N.P. and Lake Mburo N.P. Inquire about making these part of your itinerary when you are at one of these parks.

 
 

Hiking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

For many travelers to Uganda the opportunity to track mountain gorillas is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, there is so much more to appreciate in this beautifully remote corner of western Uganda. The region is endowed with the most magnificent scenery and landscapes you are ever likely to witness on the planet. Having come so far (or better yet, before leaving home) plan into your itinerary a couple of days on an imaginative walking safari and get so much more out of your rainforest experience.

We recommend that you book guided nature walks between Buhoma in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the town of Kisoro via Nkuringo. This experience offers a low-cost insider's perspective of village life in rural Uganda and will give you the chance to experience some of the wonders of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest at your own pace.

Trekking Up Mount Elgon

Lying on the border between Kenya and Uganda, Mount Elgon is the extinct volcano with the largest surface area in the world (50 by 80km) and a caldera which covers over 40km2 at the top of the mountain. The highest peak is Wagagai, at 4,321m. The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes five days to complete, following either Sasa or Sipi trails.

We organise this tour to start from Sipi Falls. Full-board accommodation before and after the trekking is included at the great Sipi River Lodge overlooking one of the many waterfalls in Sipi. A day of hiking to the falls (1800m) is also included to help you adjust to the altitude and climate. Hence, you will need to allow a total of six days for this option.

All equipment is included, so you only have to bring good clothes, your camera, and... eh... yourself!! The best times to climb Mount Elgon are during the dry seasons of June-August and December-March. No technical climbing equipment or skills are required to reach the main caldera or the peaks. A choice of trails are available, making for interesting and unique flora, fauna, waterfalls, lakes, caves, gorges and hot springs.

 
 

Trekking Rwenzori Mountains

The Rwenzori Mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are considered some of the most spectacular mountains in Africa. With more vegetation, endemic plants and bird species and more snow on its peaks, the Rwenzoris are much more spectacular than Kilimanjaro. It's tougher to climb, as well! In the past, the guides and routes did not meet standards of safety and professionalism, but you now have a chance to see this fantastic scenery in a safe way!

Accommodation is provided in 12x20-foot 8-person permanent tents with a 10-foot annex. Cots and mattresses are provided, but you'll need to bring a warm sleeping bag and clothes. All treks include accommodation and meals. Equipment such as crampons, boots, harnesses, sleeping bags, woolen hats, gloves, and raincoats are available for hire.

* Options include one-, two-, three-. four-, five-, and six-day treks, plus an eight-day climb to Mount Baker (4620m) and a 10-day climb to Margherita Peak (5109 meters).

Fishing for Nile Perch

Both the Nile River and Lake Victoria are home to one of the largest freshwater fish species in the world, the mighty Nile Perch.  We can now offer you the opportunity to pursue these fish on both water bodies. You can book from Jinja either full day, morning, or afternoon trips which cater for either the first-timers or the experienced anglers. Multi-day camping trips can also be organised.

All fishing gear, camping equipment (if staying overnight), safety gear and drinking water is supplied.

Target species on the lake also include tilapia and on the river yellow fish, tilapia and the occasional catfish can be found.

 
 

2- or 3-day Canoe Trekking on Lake Bunyonyi

These options combine dugout canoeing and hiking around Lake Bunyonyi, as far away from touristy areas as humanly possible. You get to know several islands, stay with local families, meet the Batwa ('Pygmies') and admire views of volcanoes. Accommodation is provided in tents and the food is a mixture of traditional meals, fruits, and lakeside picnics, as well as restaurant cuisine.

Quad Biking Around Jinja

If you really like to dirt and speed, quad biking might just be something for you. You can book a quad biking tour in Jinja and explore the villages along the banks of the Nile. You'll arrive back at your lodge completely covered in mud except for the white smile on your face...

 
 

Horseback Ride Along the Nile (Jinja)

When you're in or near Jinja anyway you don't want to miss the chance to ride horseback for a different perspective. A two- or three-hour ride on these great healthy horses is just one of those special experiences you will not soon forget. The views over the Nile are great and the people waving to you as you pass their local villages will surely bring a smile to your face.

The horses are very well trained and maintained by their Australian owners. There are horses for riders of all experience levels.

 

Visit a Batwa ('pygmy") Hideout at Garama Cave

Nearly a century ago there was a conflict among the people in the area. The Bantu traibes lived in villages and practiced farming, while the Batwa remained in the forest as hunter-gatherers.

Sometimes, the Batwa warriors would raid the villages and disappear once again into the forest. The Bantu had no idea there was a hidden cave in the forest and therefore could not find the crafty Batwa.

The cave is 343m long and 14m deep, and is now inhabited only by bats, but your guide will explain how the Batwa lived and fought from this cave. The walk to and from the cave passes through montane woodland with plenty of opportunities for birdwatching and simply enjoying the scenery (US$85,- pp, including park entrance fees).

Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking time: 3 - 4 hours
Distance: 3 km
Elevation gain: Very little

This makes for an easy sidetrip on any tour passing through Bwindi, Kabale, or Kisoro.

Hike to Sabyinyo Gorge

This hike takes you deep into Sabyinyo’s lush gorge where you'll find thick wet vegetation and a beautiful moss-lined stream. At the end of the gorge you'll find yourself looking straight up at the peaks of Mount Sabyinyo with the sounds of a small waterfall by your side. Keep your binoculars ready because the gorge is one of the best birding spots in the area. Look for the Rwenzori turaco, duikers, and golden Monkeys. (Cost: US$50,- pp, including park fees).

Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking time: 4 - 5 hours
Distance: 6 km
Elevation gain: Little

This makes for an easy sidetrip on any tour passing through Bwindi, Kabale, or Kisoro.

 
 

Climbing Mount Muhavura

Visible from all over Kisoro district, Mount Muhavura truly helps to orient yourself in the area. Towering above the land, this typical cone shaped volcano provides some of the best views in Uganda. On a clear day trekkers can see all of the other Virunga volcanoes, plus Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and the peaks of the Rwenzoris.

Muhavura does not have the thick forest of Gahinga and Sabinyo. Much of the climb is a gradual incline up a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. The low vegetation gives you excellent views of the area throughout the day. At the top (4127m) you are rewarded with fine views over Congo and Rwanda with a crystal clear crater lake in the foreground. Look out for scarlet-tufted malachite sunbirds among the giant lobelias (Cost: US$65,- pp, including park fees).

Difficulty: tough, very steep!
Hiking time: 8 - 10 hour
Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 1700 m

This makes for an easy sidetrip on any tour passing through Bwindi, Kabale, or Kisoro.

Climbing Mount Sabyinyo

Mount Sabyinyo (meaning 'old man's teeth') offers three challenging peaks to climb. The trail takes you up a ridge along the Eastern side of peak 1. If you wish to continue, the climb to peak 2 involves walking a ridge with breathtaking drops into the gorges of Rwanda and Uganda. Finally, the hike up to peak 3 is steep with several ladders and much scrambling - you are sure to get your hands dirty en route. On top of peak 3 (3669 meter) you will be in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo at the same time!
The Sabinyo hike takes you through all different vegetation belts, and you have good chances of seeing golden monkeys, duikers, Rwenzori turaco and sunbirds (Cost: US$65,- pp, including park fees).
 

Difficulty: tough, very steep!
Hiking time: 8 - 10 hours
Distance: 14 km
Elevation gain: 1300 m

This makes for an easy sidetrip on any tour passing through Bwindi, Kabale, or Kisoro.

 
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