There is only a few tour and travel companies that I rate highly in Uganda. And Oyster Safaris and Tours easily stands out, like the proverbial sore thumb, amongst those few. I say very easily, because I get emotional when recommending them. And here is why. I booked a trip with them because I needed to escape from a few work-related losses. I wanted something unique. I didn’t care about costs. I just wanted to go somewhere new. But I didn’t know what, or where, or couldn’t exactly describe my feelings or needs. This stage, for many tour companies I’ve dealt with in Uganda, is the breaking point. The person on the other end of the call, possibly the customer care usually gets frustrated by the barrage of questions and indecisiveness so they politely drop you for quick decisive clients.
But not with Oyster Tours and Safaris. The lady realized my pain after, like, the 10th seemingly indecisive question from me. So she flipped the script, and instead asked me 5 questions about how I felt, my mood, among other questions. Of course I poured out my heart about my needs. A lovely conversation had sprung, almost like we were in a therapy session. And then she recommended a place I’d never heard of. A place that didn’t even have as many pictures on the internet. A remote waterfall somewhere in the navel of Northern Uganda; The Aruu Falls. She recommended a series of activities that were especially curated to appeal to my situation; the epic epiphany of a bespoke fantasy adventure.
Every day, for the last 3 days before the trip, I received a reminder. A text message reminding me of what I needed for the trip, the pick-up time, and emphasis on time-keeping as well as the itinerary. They advised that if I wanted to change any order of the itinerary, a communication should come 2 days before the trip; and were quick to explain what that implied. I loved that there was a seamless flow of information. My trip seemed to have started a month before it actually happened, so I felt very confident, but most of all, hyped about the trip in general.
I was picked in a luxury Land Cruiser, and handed a mini brochure about the activities enroute (which were not on the itinerary, but for just in case I decided to stop somewhere.) The first day was about traveling. We made a few stop overs for food, but I was advised to rest. We checked in at the hotel later that evening; and that’s when I got the first real meal. I was told we were in the wilderness, which meant limited access to internet, and unlimited access to the therapy of nature. We were at Aruu Falls, the hotel and camping site. But even more importantly, it felt like we were going primal. The food was another experience of it’s own. The hotel was everything I wanted. A touch of rustic finished with a luxurious antiques. Everything looked like the pictures I’d received, but better.
The next day was punctuated by such adrenaline jerking adventure. We set off after breakfast. Around 10:00am, and headed into a nearby village to interact with the Acholi culture. We were entertained a bit by a group of young children dancing the famous Acholi ‘Lakararaka dance’, on top of knowledge insights from the tour guide. There were a series of other things we needed to do but my body wasn’t rested well. So I requested to go back to the hotel. The driver and tour guide obliged with a smile, like it wasn’t an inconvenience to the rest of the people we’d cancelled on. They told me its okay, and talked me out of the guilt I felt.
The community gave us 3 roosters, some cassava and Mulondo (mondia whitei) roots. Also this was for free. Yeah, the communities there are generous like that. So as part of the experience, we set up a fire and cooked the chicken for lunch. It was like being in a luxurious version of my village, but more tranquil. Later that afternoon, we did a nature walk. Short, but hectic, because it was a series of small, rocky, but slippery (and soggy in some parts) feeders, that led to the mighty Aruu Falls. We stopped to seat on a rock on the safe, upper end of the falls and take pictures. We then proceeded further down the falls, through knee-deep water, and reached a nature swimming pond. All this while, the Oyster Tour and Safari guide was in a safe distance, sharing knowledge about the ancestral heritage of the falls, as well as cautioning me on how to tread the trickery of the slimy, slippery paths. When we reached the pond, it was serene. Exactly what I needed to get centered. It was just me, and a few people who were there to guard me. I’d requested for an experience with an element of solitude divinity; so they picked a time when the falls weren’t that busy. I must have spent 4 hours in that pool, just thinking about my life, my mistakes, losses. When I left it, I was sure what I wanted to do next with my life. It took a carefully curated escape trip, and the hardship of hiking through the thick green mini-forest of Aruu Falls for me to get what my body, mind and spirit needed. I loved that the chaps at Oyster Tours and Safaris listened and pin-pointed to the very exact experience I needed.
The next days flew by. We visited Kidepo Valley National Park, did a wild game drive very early in the morning. Saw a lion and herds of a few other wild animals. We also experienced Gulu’s night life, and on our way back, ate what many rumored was Game Meat around Kafu; and the ever so soft and delicious cassava there. Oyster Tours and Safaris gave me the best experience of my life yet with their professionalism, timely responses, and pragmatic approach to everything I needed for my trip to be the dreamy success that it was. I’d give them a 12/10 any day.