Nakapelimoru: The unique tourism village in Karamoja

Nakapelimoru village might be one of the last surviving rural tourism villages in East Africa. It is the ultimate Uganda cultural tourism destination. Situated in Kotido district, north eastern Uganda in Karamoja subregion, Nakapelimoru is home to the Jie people. They are one of the Nilotic speaking Karamojong cluster of several semi nomadic ethnic groups which also include the Karimojong, Taposa, and Dodoth.

The Jie tribe is divided into several unknown clans tracing their descent from a common ancestry. Some of them are also found in the neighbouring Rumit villages in Equatorial South Sudan. Kotido district borders the Turkana region of Kenya. Before the dividing of borders, the Jie have always interacted and united together with Turkana warriors to raid cattle of the Karimojong. Cattle raiding is actually a tradition in the region and has for long involved these tribes often raiding each other for animals. As such, many people think that the people in Karamoja are hostile in nature. However, you will get to know the peaceful side of the Jie on a cultural tour through the Karamoja plains.

Unique culture in Nakapelimoru and landscape 

When you get there, you will realize that the people and landscape are different from the Bantu speaking in central and western Uganda. The Lake Victoria basin and the Albertine rift valley contain rich fertile soils, tropical forests, lakes, and rivers. By contrast, Karamoja is a semiarid area that has one rainy season in a year and drought conditions are increasingly becoming severe due to climate change, making the lives of pastoral communities rather difficult. The Jie and other groups live traditionally in temporary grass thatch shelters practicing seasonal migration looking for water and green pastures. However, they have a base camp at which they live permanently and cultivate some crops such as maize.

While the western region is famous for harbouring big game and primates including mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and golden monkeys and always takes the biggest share of visitors because it offers the best part of Uganda safari experience, it doesn’t have the remoteness that you will see at the Nakapelimoru village. Karamoja is still remote, making for one of the true African wilderness safari destinations.

Places such as Masai land in Kenya and Tanzania, Omo village in southern Ethiopia, and Mundari South Sudan are famous for preserving their traditional ways of life and have always attracted travellers with the mere sound of their name. But, Nakapelimoru village isn’t well known yet it is one of those African rural settlements that still exist today.

How to visit Nakapelimoru

Nakapelimoru village is 13 km east of Kotido town, 106 km (2-hour drive) north of Moroto town, and 133 km south of Kidepo valley national park. The village can be on a trip to hike Mount Moroto or view wildlife in Kidepo valley national park. The protected area is highly rated as the most picturesque park in Africa according to CNN travel. For keen photographers, Kidepo is a must-visit gem in East Africa. The semiarid savanna dotted with rock kopje contains permanent and seasonal swamps, river valleys, hot springs, which attract wildlife especially in the Narus valley. The park is rich in biodiversity with 77 mammal species including lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, Nubian giraffe, hippos, plains zebras, impala, Uganda kob, Jackson’s hartebeest, oribi, and waterbucks. Specifically, some animals like Aardwolf, stripe sided jackals, striped hyenas, ostrich aren’t found in other parks of Uganda. In addition, Kidepo offers excellent wildlife viewing particularly bird watching with over 500 species of birds including Uganda’s highest number of raptors. Your game drives additionally feature village tours for a complete Karamoja safari experience.

How Karamoja remained very isolated community

The discovery of the Buganda kingdom by John Speke and Richard Burton in 1885 led Great Britain to finally establish Uganda as a protectorate. Following the Buganda agreement of 1900, a new wave of development began to turn villages into urban centres including Kampala capital city and Entebbe town, which were hunting formerly grounds for the Kabaka on the northern shores of Lake Victoria. As a result, the traditional homestead setting slowly began to diminish across central Uganda. Due to urbanization and western culture since independence in 1962, there has hardly been any rural village setting left even though people continue to preserve their cultural heritage. On the other hand, the Karamoja region remained untouched to the extent that it is still stigmatized with the hearsay “we shall not wait for the sleeping dogs to wake up” meaning that Karamoja lagged behind while the rest of the country was being developed. To their advantage, the habits, customs, and beliefs of the people in Karamoja didn’t change as much as for the rest of the country.

The Manyattas 

Manyattas refers to a group of huts forming a unit within a common fence (Oxford). In Kenya, the word Manyatta means a kraal. Many tribes still live in Manyattas in Karamoja but Nakapelimoru village is probably the largest traditional settlement of the Jie people. It is a great example of a rural Africa village setting in the modern world. You should visit it while it is still around given that ongoing development in the region is threatening the nomads’ way of life. On a tour, you will meet the Jie as they welcome you into their home and learn their traditional customs, tales, and art forms including body scarifications.

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