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12 DAYS: THE HEART OF AFRICA – A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

12-days:-the-heart-of-africa-–-a-unique-experience-photo   Geographically, experientially and emotionally, this tour is about exploring the Heart of Africa, a unique experience which you will never forget. If you want to begin to really understand what is so special about Africa, then this tour of eastern and northern Uganda is the holiday for you as you will be able to meet Ugandans in their natural home environments and experience something of the amazing variety of Africa's culture and people, beauty and wildlife. We are proud to offer a unique experience that is so different from the usual tourist routes around central and western Uganda planned by all the tour operators. Most of your tour will be along tarmacked (paved) main roads, including part of the Great North Road which goes from Cape Town to Cairo; but at other times, you will be driving along murram roads and even along tracks through the bush to reach traditional homesteads or look for animals. It will include plains and mountains, lakes and rivers, huge rocky outcrops and swamps, savannah and forests, wild animals and birds - and opportunities to meet people and discover something about their way of life.  

Day 1:  Arrive in Entebbe

Arrive at Entebbe International Ariport, landing by the shores of Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world. You will be met by a Homestead Tours and Safaris driver/guide. Depending on your arrival time, relax in your hotel gardens or visit the Entebbe Botanical Gardens or Wildlife Education Centre.  

Day 2:  Entebbe to Jinja and the River Nile                                    

Your adventures start today! Drive through Kampala (the capital of Uganda) and out on the road east, passing through sugar and tea plantations and Mabira Forest. Stop at the Visitors Centre if you are interested in birds, or buy roast meat on sticks and ‘gonja’ (roast green bananas) for lunch. Visit the Source of the Nile on the outskirts of Jinja. Don’t expect a little spring - the Nile, the longest river in the world, is already a huge river as it overflows out of Lake Victoria to start its journey north to the Mediterranean! See the monument to Gandhi where some of his ashes were scattered in the Nile. Arrive at your hotel near the Nile.  

Day 3:  By the River Nile                                                       

If the lovely gardens, birds and wonderful views are not enough for you, a range of optional activities are available if you want some adventure – you can choose from white water rafting (grade 5), quad biking, horse riding, jet boating, kayaking, fishing, bungee jumping – or a relaxing sunset boat trip. Most will need booking in advance, so let us know if you want us to book them for you. Second night in the same hotel.  

Day 4:  From the Nile to Mount Elgon                                              

What a variety of beautiful countryside you will pass through as you drive east from the Nile, through more sugar plantations, banana gardens, rolling hills, through Iganga and across swamps and rice fields. As you approach Mbale, you will start to see views of Mt Elgon (Africa’s 8th highest mountain) and its foothills, your destination for today. Drive up the steep hills on a twisting road with spectacular views of the plains, waterfalls, cultivation - and the summit of Elgon if it is clear. Arrive at Sipi with its wonderful views of waterfalls and the distant plains.  

Day 5:  In the foothills of Mt Elgon around Sipi                                

Today, you can go on a guided walk to one or more of the three waterfalls (depending on how energetic you feel). Some of the routes are steep and it can get hot in the middle of the day, but you will be rewarded by amazing views and splashing in the river or standing in the spray behind one of the waterfalls. After lunch and a rest, you will be taken to a local home to be shown how they grow, harvest and process Arabica coffee, considered the best kind of coffee. After helping them roast and grind the coffee by hand, you will be able to drink your own coffee and buy some to take home. If you prefer to opt out of these included activities, you can pay extra to abseil 100m down the sheer cliff beside the lowest of the waterfalls (see the picture above).  

Day 6:  Sipi to Soroti – from the mountains to the plains            

Come down from the foothills of Elgon and onto the plains of Teso which you saw yesterday. Drive part of the Great North Road which goes all the way from Cape Town to Cairo. Although Teso is not spectacular, it has a beauty of its own, with lakes and grassy swamps, plains with amazing rocky outcrops where huge boulders appear to balance precariously, and grass-thatched homesteads surrounded by cultivation. It is renowned for the ancient rock paintings at Nyero and Kapir which are found on some of the rocky outcrops. The Iteso are amongst the friendliest people in Uganda and are keen to share their way of life and culture with visitors. Your first experience of their hospitality will be joining a family for lunch where you will be given traditional African food. After lunch, listen to one of the elders of the community tell some of their traditional stories, followed by a walk up Kapir Hill (or Nyero Rocks), an easy 10 minute scramble up rocks to the top where you will see some ancient paintings on a huge overhanging boulder. The origins are unknown but are now believed to be between 2000 and 3000 years old. For more information, click on ANCIENT ROCK PAINTINGS IN TESO, UGANDA. Enjoy views all round 3600 and up to 50 miles over the lakes, swamps, plains, cultivation and homesteads with isolated mountains in the far distance. You may be able to watch the sun set over Awoja swamp. You can opt for a Homestay if you would like a fuller experience of village life in the Heart of Africa - please click on the link HOMESTAY: WHAT IS IT? for more information about this option. If you have opted for a Homestay, you will return to the family where you had lunch. Otherwise, we will leave Kapiri and continue the short distance to Soroti, the last town on our itinerary, where you can visit the large market before settling into your hotel.

 

Day 7:  Experiencing life and culture in Teso                                   

You will have an exciting choice of various cultural and community activities such as:
  • Watch a team of three men and their oxen ploughing, the only place in Uganda where people use ploughs (during the wet season only). Although they start ploughing at about 5.00am, to avoid the heat of the day, you will join them after an early breakfast. You could even take a turn at handling the plough.
  • During the dry season, you can join a family harvesting and processing their crops. You could opt to make groundnut paste (peanut butter) which you will be able to taste and even buy some to take home. Nothing is added – just pure peanuts.
  • A fascinating visit to a colourful, vibrant local village market (depending on the day of the week) or one of the town markets where you will see a great variety of things for sale from food and vegetables to clothes and animals. You can buy a snack to eat for lunch.
  • Go out on one of the lakes or have a guided tour around cultivated fields.
For a full list of all the activities and experiences you can choose from, as well as notes on the Iteso culture and what to expect, please click on the link CULTURAL ACTIVITIES IN TESO, NORTH EASTERN UGANDA. Back in your hotel in Soroti, your cultural experience of Teso will end by watching a dance group perform the dramatic Ajosi stick dance and a music group play traditional instruments (adungu and akogo), something you will never forget. They rarely perform now, so you will be able to witness and encourage a tradition which is in danger of dying out.  

Day 8:  Soroti to Murchison Falls National Park                 

It takes four hours along a very good road to reach the edge of the National Park and then a further two hours of driving through the largest game Park in Uganda to reach the Nile where there are several hotels and lodges. How many animals will you spot as you drive through the Park? Will it be graceful giraffe or comical warthogs running away with their tails sticking straight up; delicate oribi lying by the roadside or hartebeest standing majestically on a mound?  Whatever you may see later during your stay, such as lions and elephants, hippos and crocodiles, there is nothing to compare with the excitement of your first sightings of wild African animals. Settle into your room before you set off for an evening game drive.  

Day 9:  In Murchison Falls National Park                              

Start the day with an early morning game drive, the best time for spotting lions. You may be lucky to see the old three-legged male lion, as well as hyenas and jackals. You are sure to see elephants, giraffe, Uganda kob, hartebeest, oribi, buffalo, waterbuck and more. You can get out of the vehicle and walk safely along the shores of Lake Albert close to hippos which have already returned to the water for the day and watch water birds walking over the hippos’ backs. As you drive through the thorn trees, you will see many beautiful birds such as Crowned Cranes, various Bee-eaters, Kingfishers etc. After lunch, relax on the three hour boat trip up the Nile to view the spectacular Murchison Falls where the mighty river is forced through a 7m wide gap before plunging 40m into a raging pool below. The currents are so strong that the boat cannot get closer than a small rocky island about 200m away which you can climb onto. You will see huge crocodiles as well as hippos and elephants and many birds.  

Day 10:  Murchison Falls National Park to Budongo Forest

Cross the Nile on the ferry. Drive through forest to the top of Murchison Falls where you can walk a short distance to the rocks beside the river. You will get quite wet from the spray as you watch the awesome sight of the Nile roaring through the gap below you. If you want a longer walk, you can go down a steep path until you reach the rocks just below the Falls. Continue driving through the forest for another hour until you reach Kanyiyo Pabidi in Budongo Forest. You will be thrilled by all the butterflies and birds. The lovely wooden en-suite cabins where you will stay the night are hidden along tracks deep in the forest. There is a good restaurant and bar. If you feel like another walk, you can ask for a guide to take you (extra cost) or just stroll along the murram road by yourself.  

Day 11:  Budongo Forest to Entebbe

Your last day starts with an early morning guided walk deep into the forest to look for chimpanzees. Several groups have been habituated. There is no guarantee you will see them, but the chances of finding them are much better between May and August. But even if you don’t find them, there will be other monkeys and birds, butterflies and insects to see. Leave the forest and drive back through Masindi, Lwero and Kampala to Entebbe where you will stay your last night where you started.  

Day 12:  Fly home                                                                                    

You are sure to feel sad as you leave the Heart of Africa and fly home; but you will take with you a rich variety of life-changing memories which will be better than any souvenirs you may have bought. The problem will be to pick out a highlight and find enough people to share all your memories with!  

ALTERNATIVES AND EXTENSIONS

There are many exciting possibilities, depending on your time, budget and interests. You could include:
  • Mabira Forest Reserve
  • Pian Upe Reserve
  • Kidepo Valley National Park
  • Wetlands in Teso (RAMSAR sites) for bird watching (including the Shoebill and endemic Fox's Weaver))
  • Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
  • Reserves by Lake Albert
  • Semuliki and Kibale Forest National Parks
The options are endless! This is a sample itinerary. We can adjust the route, activities and type of accommodation according to your requirements and budget. Where there is a choice of accommodation available, you can decide whether you want to stay in luxury, mid-range or budget lodges, hotels, superior camping, guest houses or homestay.  Click on: HOW TO PLAN YOUR HOLIDAY.  
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