the ik tribe

Uganda has a great cultural significance, one of which is the remote tribe on the North-eastern side of Uganda within Kidepo Valley National Park. Visiting the Ik people on mount morungole is an exceptional and not just an ordinary and everyday experience. The people of this small tribe live high on mount Morungole in Kidepo Valley National Park at the border with Kenya. The peak of this Mountain is about 2749 meters, and the trail is about 8kms long /16km for a round trip and climbing to the peak and the villages is very challenging to those that are not physically fit.

This is a tribe that is almost getting extinct and most people in Uganda have never heard of them. They became known when an American-British Anthropologist called Colin Turnbull published his book the “Mountain People” in 1972. This opened doors for tourists who wanted to discover about this small yet exceptional African tribe.

Interestingly, the entire tribe is comprised of between 10,000 and 11,00 people and it is believed that they were not natives of the area, but moved from Ethiopia, settled in Kenya for awhile then proceeded to Kidepo Valley National Park that they now call home.

These interesting people used to be hunter-gatherers, but due to cattle raids from the Maasai, Pokot and Turkana of Kenya, Tuposa of South Sudan, and the Karamajong of Uganda, this ruined their livelihood and they abandoned cattle keeping hence opted for subsistence farming, goat rearing and bee keeping. This is also interesting because they use bee hives for paying dowry. As if the effect of cattle raining wasn’t enough torture for them, in the early 1960’s the government also interfered with their hunting-gathering lifestyle when the area they used to hunt and gather from was turned into a game reserve. Their desire was to live in peace, so they decided to migrate to Mount Morungole where they live in isolation up to today. Tourists who desire to see and interact with them can visit them from this Mountain.

Because they were the first migrants into North-eastern Uganda, they always remind everyone who visits them that the tribe (Ik) means “head of migration” or the first people to migrate here. Visit them and you will go back totally moved and touched when you discover some of their traditions. Some of the amazing traditions include paying bride price/dowry using 5-10 beehives, goats, chicken and money instead of cattle as done by other tribes. They no longer rear cattle because they still fear being raided by the other pastoralist tribes surrounding them. The Ik children live with one another at a young age or with their grandparents. Polygamy is a normal and an everyday practice among the Ik people on this mountain. The shocking but true fact is that formal educating among these people is a new thing and within the entire tribe, there is only one lady who is currently at Kampala International University (KIU) and is soon being the first University graduate from the tribe.

Much as climbing to the peak of the mountain is strenuous, the striking scenery of the mountain will leave you breathless and the valleys below and the Eastern Rift Valley in Kenya have the most breathtaking views. When you finally reach the scattered villages that comprise a community, you will experience hospitality to its fullest. One village is separated from the other by an outer fence made from thorny bushes and shrub cuttings entangled to make a protective fence. They greet you with a lot of warmth and excitement and traditional dances keep flowing like water. You will also get a chance to taste their traditional meals.

In conclusion, besides wildlife safaris in Uganda that have put the country on the World Map, interesting cultures like the Ik culture is still unexplored. A visit to these hospital and friendly people will leave you breathless and change you definition of adventure.


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