Karamoja Tour goes off the beaten path

BY JULIUS BARIGABA

This year’s Tour of Karamoja cycling event takes riders to the West Pokot region in Kenya, the beautiful, untouched part of the East African Rift.

The tour begins today in its fourth edition and lasts until October 30th. It will be six days of intense activity covering two wildlife parks, a distance of 500 km – 99 percent of which is gravel – and a total rise of 5,000 meters above sea level.

The tour will take place for the first time in Kenya’s West Pokot County for a 63 km special stage that runs through the scenic hills of Amudat in Uganda to the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya.

The tour explores the potential of adventure tourism, with cycling or hiking in remote locations, in wildlife parks and long stretches of deserted and open land.

“It’s the combination of an authentic local experience, the ability to reach remote areas, and a physical challenge. In summary, it was a real immersive experience, ”said Theo Vos, co-founder and director of Kara-Tunga Arts and Tours, a local tour operator who organized the event.

Adventure seekers who ventured the Tour of Karamoja say the thrill of connecting with the communities on the trails lies in being in nature and experiencing it firsthand through the East African portion of the Rift Valley.

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For the tourists on the tour, the path through the wildlife parks amidst the wildlife is a better experience than game drives. On bikes, people feel vulnerable but even more connected to wildlife, including lions, Vos says.

Ultimate wilderness

Since 2019, the tour through Karamoja has been called Uganda’s ultimate wilderness bike event, the aim of which is to convey a positive image of northeast Uganda and promote its pristine tourism.

Kara-Tunga Adventures warns attendees before signing up: It is a challenge for the mind, body and equipment.

The organizers put cyclists through a rigorous test to determine their fitness level, state of health and driving experience before full registration.

Great Lakes Safaris businessman and tour operator Amos Wekesa, who took a previous tour, said it was a physical and mental challenge and the cultural and wildlife experiences were the icing on the cake.

The journey begins in the lower savanna plains in the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, leads through the forests of Kenya’s West Pokot to the East Africa Rift escarpment and finally leads to the award-winning Kidepo Valley National Park.

Touring cyclists pay US $ 995 per person for the entire tour and US $ 395 for a half tour.

Shortly after completing the East African Tour of the region, Scott Rowswell, Canadian marketer and organizer of cycling events, said, “People are interested in adventure tourism. By that I mean tourism based on cycling, hiking in interesting and remote terrain. This is a huge group worldwide and a business opportunity to develop, ”he said.

The adventure potential is high as tourists seek immersive, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The Covid-19 pandemic has only increased the need for tourists to leave the all-inclusive resorts and mass tourism and learn more about their impact on travel.

The idea is to travel less but stay longer for unique experiences.

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