Kagulu hill is located in Buyende district, Busoga sub-region in eastern Uganda on the southern shores of Lake Kyoga. The peak of the hill is 1,067 meters above sea level which offers a view of Lake Kyoga depression. it is also bordered by the Victoria Nile to the west, the Mpologoma River to the east, and Lake Victoria to the south.
Relationship between Kagulu hill and Basoga
Besides the natural scenery, Kagulu hill embodies the historical migration of the Basoga from east to west. According to oral legend, the Basoga are a Bantu speaking group that came from Mount Elgon. The ancestors of the Basoga including Mukama Namutukula and his wife Nawudo traveled through the present day areas of the Teso, Lango, Buganda and stayed in the Bunyoro Kitara empire.
When he reached Lango, he climbed up Kaweri hill, which lies in the middle of Lake Kyoga and sighted certain hills such as Kasato and Kagulu hill. Kagulu attracted his attention given that the rocky hill has a relatively smooth surface and huge caves. Mukama secured shelter on the hill and gave birth to many sons including Ibanda and Nyiro whom he gave land around the hill. The population of his descendants from both Bunyoro and Busoga increased and formed 11 clans.
These clans have customs and livelihoods that define their unique way of life which sets them apart from the neighboring communities of Buganda to the south, Bunyoro to the west, Lango to the north, and Teso to the north east. For instance, the traditional ways of worshiping among the Basoga, their indigenous foods, medicine, dress code, among other aspects of culture. Each clan became a chiefdom led by a chief which united together and formed Busoga kingdom in 1939.
Today, Busoga is made up of 11 clans of which the king is elected from the royal five hereditary clans. Busoga kingdom spans across 11 districts east of the source of the Nile which include Bugiri, Bugweri, Buyende, Iganga, Kaliro, Kamuli, Luuka, Mayuge, Namayingo, Namutumba, and Jinja. The kingdom’s royal palace of Kyabazinga is found on Igenge hill 5 km from the Jinja city at the source of the Nile river.
Kagulu hill offers an opportunity to explore the oral history and cultural heritage of the Busoga people. Kigulu cultural museum located in Iganga district 84 km south of Kigulu rock contains various traditional objects and artifacts sheltered under a historical house of the Kigulu chief. There have been efforts to preserve and promote the hill as a cultural heritage site as well as improve accessibility and visitation.
The annual Kagulu hill climbing challenge was commissioned in 2012 to create jobs for site guides. The event is organized every year by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities in partnership with Uganda Tourism Board, Busoga kingdom and Ministry of Busoga Tourism Initiative. For instance, the Kagulu rock climbing challenge in 2023 was organized under the theme “Creating Employment through Digital Tourism.”
The chief guest of honor was His Majesty William Wilberforce Nadiope IV Gabula the king of Busoga kingdom. Young people are encouraged to take advantage of the internet to promote Uganda through social media, travel photography, and content marketing. The next 2024 Kagulu rock climbing challenge is to be announced through the official social media handles. The trip usually includes visiting other attractions in Eastern Uganda such as Kyabazinga Royal Palace, Jinja source of the Nile, Mount Elgon national park, Sipi falls Kapchorwa, Nyero rock paintings, Mpanga and Mabira central forest reserves. Uganda safaris are available for booking through a tour operator.
How to get there
Kagulu hill is 160 km (4-hour drive) north east of Kampala capital city and 104 km (2-hour drive) north of Jinja source of the Nile. Using the Kamuli road from Jinja, the hill is 41 km away from Kamuli town. The roads can be challenging due to the nature of terrain and the use of a 4×4 vehicle is needed to get there.