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 in 2019 “Will the Baker Trail ever open in Uganda?”
Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail have been hailed as one of the world’s Best Trails. It was supposed to open in January 2014 due to the civil war raging in South Sudan with constant flare-ups even after some recent agreements were signed in late 2018.
The Ugandan side of the trail has a few markers here and there, such as in Fort Patiko near Gulu and at the top of Murchison Falls, which could be one of the best trails in the world, certainly in Africa is grown over with vegetation. Besides a few markers – there is no way a Tourist could find it without assistance.
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, Soon, you will see the opening of a 357-mile-long trail that winds through Sudan into Uganda, following the footsteps of Sir Samuel Baker and Lady Florence Baker and following their footsteps you can on your Mountain Bike or foot. This will certainly be one of the most challenging 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 (N is known as Baker’s View. The location of Baker’s view is in what is today in the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve – across the Lake are the Blue Mountains of the Congo and on the Ugandan side is the Western Rift escarpment – coming down that escarpment gives you some of the most incredible views in Uganda.
In and when opened, this trail will cover the distance of 357 miles from Gondokoro, which is near the capital of today’s South Sudan – Juba and wind through South Sudan into Uganda. Your journey will most likely be not as adventurous as theirs, but it will be an Experiential Adventure of the highest order on foot or bike. Scenic wonders such as you have never laid eyes on wildlife, birds, and meeting the people along the new trail, and the people along the journey will benefit from the trail since tourism in those parts of Africa does not exist.
Please note- The South Sudan portion of the Trail, in the world’s youngest nation, is in a part of Africa that has been embroiled in a bitter Feud rooted in Tribalism, and at the beginning of 2019, South Sudan is a no-go Zone for Tourist – Uganda, on the other hand, is conflict-free. The Ugandan portion of the Trail should have been completed in 2014. However, now in 2019, we, along with others, are still waiting.
Before you embark on Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail, it would be best to read The Albert N’Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile, And Explorations of the Nile Source by Sir Samuel Baker since it will help you share there historical journey in the 21st Century including places where Sir Samuel Baker who was not just an explorer but an avid anti-slavery campaigner (his wife lady Florence-had been a slave herself until rescued by abolitionist Sir Baker on a subsequent journey he took over Fort Patiko from the Arab Slave and Ivory Traders – ruins of the Fort can be seen near Gulu in 1869).
In 1864 his first journey, which was his personal quest to discover the “Source of the Nile” in Uganda, he met John Hannington Speke and James Grant in Gondokoro (Starting point of 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. In Sir Baker’s quest to discover initially “the source of the Nile” upon meeting John Hannington Speke and James Grant in Egypt, he realized that the source of the Nile had been discovered – they met in Gondokoro in today’s South Sudan – the starting point of the trail that you will be taking to Uganda- eventually winding up at Lake Albert at Baker’s Point where he first saw the large elongated lake that here separates Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While at Lake Albert, he, along with Lady Florence, came upon Murchison Falls – in it describes the sandbanks filled with crocodiles – in his diary, he counted 27 of them, today one can still great numbers of crocodiles on the same sandbank.
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 Baker’s had. A hippo overturned Their boat, and they had to wait until they were rescued by their party on the Nile’s crocodile-filled banks.
Today the hike up along the falls is guided, about 1.5 kilometers in length, and 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.
This new trail will be a fantastic opportunity to discover Africa off the beaten path, meet the people along the way, enjoy visits in remote villages and see the scenic wonders, wildlife, birds along the way.
Sir Samuel Baker – was the first European to take this journey, and 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, something that became an ongoing feud and struggle – feelings in that area of Uganda are still very much anti-Baker. Reading Baker’s own writings, you will certainly see the racism and prejudice come through that was the prevalent attitude of Europeans of that time, all of which will not take away from the present encounters of Africa’s real heart – its people in the 21st Century.
Let’s Do it -Time to Hit the Baker Trail:
Some Hikers and Bikers want to embark on their own personal journey of discovery along with the Sir Samuel Baker and Lady Florence Baker Trail. They will certainly have a unique experience from the one the Baker’s had – they will face a scenic, challenging hike, and they are certainly getting away from it all – 360 miles of the real Africa not covered in brochures.
I’m sure news of this trail will be most welcome among trekkers and mountain bikers alike. It sounds like it will be a beautiful and challenging hike that should prove popular with those who are truly looking to get away from it all.
Along the trail, all points of interest will be clearly marked and noted. There will be those of Baker’s journey but many other points of interest to hikers and mountain bikers. The trail is not for the faint of heart, but for the adventurous who have the time and one could add energy.
We will update this post as more information is released concerning the new 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, and the other reason is that Uganda Wildlife Authority has not fully implemented in Uganda – we can take you on the portions of the trail that are safe and secure…stay tuned and enjoy Africa…
Remnants of Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker in Uganda-Fort Patiko
Fort Patiko or Samuel Baker’s Fort was a Fort that 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 and not West. Fort Patiko was the collection center for slaves brought from near and far, 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 Visitors 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 and Charles Gordon 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, in 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 had hope 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, at least for Murchison Falls National Park. Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve both would benefit from the Trail with an increase of Visitors and longer stays.
Hitting the Baker Trail – The Sad Reality at present- Our Take:
The Trail was incomplete in 2019, and the way things look, one by now, must wonder if it ever will- there are portions of it that you can safely hike in Uganda. However, it has never been developed beyond the alone sign in Murchison Falls Park at the actual falls near where Samuel and Florence Baker’s small boat was overturned.
This is what we call an authentic Experience – Following 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 for that matter. However, Uganda’s north has been safe and secure for years, but there is nothing besides a few articles in a local newspaper (rare in late 2018).
This is a viable Tourism Offering that should not be ignore-if Rwanda can develop the Congo Nile Trail in just a few years, why cannot Uganda do the same and develop 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 portions of Northern Uganda. 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.