Karamoja Tour goes off the beaten path

Saturday October 23 2021

Cyclists enjoy some time in the wild in Karamoja during a past tour. PHOTO | COURTESY


This year’s annual Tour of Karamoja cycling event will take riders into Kenya’s West Pokot region, the beautiful pristine part of the East African Rift.

Now in its fourth edition, the tour starts today and runs until October 30. It will be six days of immersive activity, covering two wildlife parks, a distance of 500km — 99 percent of which is gravel road surface — and total ascent reaching 5,000 metres above sea level.

For the first time, the tour crosses into Kenya’s West Pokot County for a 63-km special stage, which goes through the scenic hills from 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 places, in game parks and long stretches of deserted and open land.

“It’s the combination of an authentic local experience, possibility to reach off-the-beaten path areas and a physical challenge. Summing it up: A true immersive experience,” said Theo Vos, co-founder and director of Kara-Tunga Arts and Tours, a local tour company that organises the event.

Adventure lovers who have dared the Tour of Karamoja say the thrill lies in the connection with communities on the trails, being in nature, and experiencing it firsthand through the East African part of the Rift Valley.


For the tourists on the tour, the trail through the game parks, in the midst of wildlife, offers a better experience than game drives. On the bicycle, people feel vulnerable, yet more connected to the wildlife including lions, Vos says.

Ultimate wilderness

Since 2019, the tour of Karamoja has been dubbed Uganda’s ultimate wilderness biking event, whose objective is to give a positive image of northeastern Uganda and promote its pristine tourism.

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

The organisers take cyclists through a rigorous test to establish the fitness level, health condition and riding experience before full registration.

Businessman and tour operator Amos Wekesa of Great Lakes Safaris, who has participated in a past tour, said it is a physical and mental challenge and that the cultural and wildlife experiences are the icing on the cake.

The journey starts on the lower savannah plains in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, runs through the woodlands of Kenya’s West Pokot onto the Eastern Africa Rift escarpment, and finally slopes into the award winning Kidepo Valley National Park.

Tour cyclists pay $995 per person for the full tour, and $395 for a half tour.

Coming soon after the conclusion of the East African Tour across the region, Scott Rowswell, the Canadian marketer and cycling events organiser said, “People are interested in adventure based tourism. By this I mean tourism based on cycling, hiking in interesting and remote terrain. This is a huge group globally and is a business opportunity to be developed,” he said.

The potential for adventure is high as tourists are seeking immersive, once-in-a lifetime experiences. The Covid-19 pandemic only boosted the need of tourists to leave the all-inclusive resorts, mass-tourism and become more informed about their impact when travelling.

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