Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail in Northern Uganda
Hitting the Trail from Juba-South Sudan to Lake Albert in Uganda – 357 miles
The question asked, “Will the Baker Trail ever open in Uganda?”
When Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail was first announced, it was hailed as one of its Best Trails. It was supposed to open in January 2014, but due to the civil war raging in South Sudan with constant flare-ups even after repeated peace agreements were signed, it has been on hold for over eight years.
The Ugandan side of the trail has tremendous potential. Uganda, unlike South Sudan, is conflict-free, and a safe and secure Baker Trail could be established to the delight of hikers and bikers and local communities that would benefit from Tourism.
Unfortunately, besides proclamations made in past years, the only evidence about the trail are a few markers here and there,
You might find one in Fort Patiko near Gulu and another at the top of Murchison Falls, but that is where it ends.
Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail could be one of the best trails in the world, indeed, in Africa. Any past effort is now grown over with vegetation shattering what
Some sections can be recreated, and Hikers can follow the Explorer’s Footsteps and his wife freed at a slave auction in Bulgaria.
The trail winds through Northern Uganda and ends up at the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve, where Baker’s Lake Albert’s viewpoint is found. Sadly, besides the map from the Baker Family foundation below, there is not much more to guide one along.
Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail:
Hopefully, Sometime in the future, you will see the opening of a 357-mile-long trail that winds through South Sudan into Uganda, following the footsteps of Sir Samuel Baker and Lady Florence Baker. It will undoubtedly be one of the most spectacular trails in Africa, taking the same route that Sir Samuel Baker and his wife Lady Florence did in the 1860s and 1870s.
Sir Samuel Baker was the first Westerner to come upon Lake Albert Nyanza (Nyanza means Lake) in Western Uganda. Today this place where he saw Lake Albert is known as Baker’s View. The location of Baker’s view is in what is today the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve. They looked down the Western Rift Escarpment and Lake Albert where the Baker’s stood. They also saw the Blue Mountains of DR Congo. Unfortunately, the spot where they stood is neither market nor promoted, and that is an opportunity lost for Tourism and the local communities.
If the trail ever opens, it will cover 357 miles from Gondokoro, which is near the capital of today’s South Sudan, Juba, and wind through South Sudan into Uganda to Lake Albert.
The trail would not be as adventurous as theirs, but it would be an adventure of the highest order trekkers. Along the Baker Trail, there are Scenic wonders such as you have never laid eyes on, wildlife, exotic birds, and people encounters along the new trail. It would be a solution where everyone benefits, including hikers, bikers, and local communities that would benefit from tourism.
Before you embark on the not yet in place, Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail, it would be best to read “Albert N’Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile” and “Explorations of the Nile Source” by Sir Samuel Baker since they will help you share their historical journey in the 21st Century including places where Sir Samuel Baker was not just an explorer but an avid anti-slavery campaigner.
Lady Florence Baker had been an enslaved person herself until rescued by abolitionist Sir Baker. Sir Samuel Baker captured Fort Patiko from the enslaved Arab and Ivory Traders on a subsequent journey in 1869. The remaining ruins of the Fort can be seen near the town of Gulu.
In 1864 on his first journey, which was his quest to discover the “Source of the Nile” in Uganda, he met John Hannington Speke and James Grant in Gondokoro (Starting point of the Trail in today’s South Sudan) as they were making their way north following the Nile to Egypt after discovering its source at Lake Victoria.
Sir Samuel Baker and Lady Florence were the first westerners to come upon Murchison Falls as they traveled up the Nile from Lake Albert, where a hippo overturned their boat. They became stranded on the crocodile-filled banks of the Nile near the now Murchison Salls.
You will not be paddling up the Nile from Lake Albert but take a boat to the bottom of the falls, a lot safer than what the Bakers experienced. They had to wait until other members of their party rescued them.
Today you can hike up to the top of the falls on a guided walk of about 1.5 kilometers. It takes about 45 minutes to climb up along the most powerful waterfall in the world. Winston Churchill, in 1907 hiked down from the top of the falls to board a boat and continue his journey through the Pearl of Africa toward Khartoum in Sudan and then to Egypt. Ernest Hemingway’s airplane crash-landed here in 1954, and he, his wife, and his pilot were stranded on the Nile, much like the Bakers.
Sir Samuel Baker – was the first European to take this journey. Still, today, in the eyes of many Africans, he is a controversial figure who had many run-ins with Africans, including the King of the Bunyoro Kingdom/ It became an ongoing feud and struggle that caused problems in colonial times for the British. Anti-Baler feelings in that area of Uganda still exist until now. By reading Baker’s writings, you will see the racism and prejudice that came through and was the prevalent attitude of Europeans of that time. A reason why the trail was never completed in Uganda.
Let’s Do it -Time to Hit the Baker Trail:
There are portions of the trail that can be taken today. Avid hikers that want to get away from the typical tourist trails will love the opportunity to hike where few have walked before them.
We can arrange for you to hike portions of the original Baker Trail inside a safer Uganda, including around Fort Patiko, Murchison Falls, the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve, and Lake Albert. Each such hike would be specifically designed just for you and your preferences.
To us, it is a disappointment that the trail. At least the Ugandan portion has never been completed. We, however, offer safe parts of the trail inside of Uganda.
We will update this page should more information be released concerning the adventurous Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker trail.
One of the reasons for not opening the trail has been the insecurity and war in South Sudan. The other reason is that Uganda Wildlife Authority has not been fully implemented in Uganda. The reason we can take you on the portions of the trail that are safe and secure…stay tuned and enjoy Uganda.
Remnants of Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker in Uganda-Fort Patiko
Fort Patiko, or Samuel Baker’s Fort, was a Fort the Arabs used for the Slave Trade to the Swahili Coast in Kenya and beyond. Most are not aware of the Slave Trade that headed East and north to Egypt.
Fort Patiko was the collection center for enslaved people brought from near and far. They came from as far away as now South Sudan. Samuel Baker was a fierce Anti-Slavery fighter and took over the Fort, which hopefully someday will be developed for both Ugandans and Tourists alike to see.
Samuel Baker rebuilt the existing Fort, and it was completed in December of 1872. He departed from the Fort in 1888. After Baker left in 1888, Emin Pasha used the fort while serving as Governor of the Equatorial Province of the British Uganda Protectorate. A plaque on the remaining wall of a grain storage building in the fort’s center reads “Fatiko (not Patiko) 1872 -88, founded by Sir Samuel Baker, occupied by Emin and Gordon”.
This area could be one of the features of the Baker Trail, but it has not been developed as a tourism destination. Though the singer Akon made a video here telling the agonizing story of the inhumane Slave Trade.
The only other Evidence of the Baker Trail – Signposts erected in 2014
In January 2014, Julian Monroe Fisher, an anthropologist, together with David and Christopher Baker, both descendants of Victorian explorer Sir Samuel White Baker, embarked on placing markers in various parts of northern Uganda, including at Murchison Falls Park itself, including Masindi, where the Baker’s had a lot of interaction, much of it hostile with the Bunyoro Kingdom, at Gulu and Fort Patiko.
Beyond those signs covered extensively by the local press and internationally – there is little of the actual trail beyond the map above. At that time, we hoped that the trail would soon be offered as an authentic Hiking Adventure for Ugandans and hikers from around the world.
Uganda Wildlife Authority made all kinds of Pronouncements. You will still find extraordinarily little about the actual Baker Trail in Uganda. Murchison Falls National Park. Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve would benefit from the Trail with increased visitors and more extended stays. Additionally, local communities would help since it would create jobs and income for many.
Hitting the Baker Trail – The Sad Reality at present- Our Take:
The Trail is incomplete, and there is little hope that it ever will. It would have been an authentic Experience to follow in the footsteps of Sir Samuel Baker inside and outside of parks. One realizes that South Sudan and Juba are not safe places for a hiker or anyone else. However, Uganda’s north has been safe and secure for years, but there is nothing besides an article in a local newspaper in 2018.
This is a viable Tourism Offering that should not be ignored-if Rwanda can develop the Congo Nile Trail in just a few years, why can Uganda not do the same and create the Baker Trail within its borders. This page has been updated each year for years, and each year, it is the same thing, nothing. The trail has been touted worldwide- put on par with some of the Best Trails in the world, but someone has dropped the Ball.
National Geographic called the Baker Trail – one of the top 20 Trails in the World – is a shame Uganda has not produced a marketable Trail. The Baker Trail, when completed, if ever, will be fantastic. Presently some portions of the Trail can be hiked. We can create a hiking adventure for you through parts of Northern Uganda, and just let us know.
Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail- if you are interested in taking portions of the Trail in Safe Northern Uganda – let us know.