Worldwide Photographic Journeys

Africa

SOUTH SUDAN: TRIBAL WONDERS OF THE WHITE NILE

Wednesday 15th February – Thursday 2nd March 2023

Leaders: Inger Vandyke and and local cultural guides

16 Days Group Size Limit 5

South Sudan.  It is Africa’s newest country. Despite having gained its independence just over twenty years ago, South Sudan is home to some of the most ancient and diverse cultures in all of East Africa.

Flying over South Sudan on a clear day it is fascinating to watch a series of rugged mountain ranges unfold beneath the plane and if you look carefully you may catch a glimpse of isolated villages dotted in this incredible landscape.  These villages are home to some of the most untouched and beautiful people who live in finely sculpted traditional homes that are some of the finest examples of African vernacular architecture in the region.

Travelling in this remote part of Africa is a real adventure.  The youthful nature of the country and lack of infrastructure lends South Sudan a frontier-like feel, yet for photographers wishing to journey off the beaten path, travelling in this young nation is a richly rewarding experience of highly decorated people still living much the same way they have for centuries.

Our expedition in South Sudan journeys to remote villages to meet five different, yet startlingly beautiful, groups of African people including the Lopit, Toposa, Jiye, Laarim and Mundari.

LOPIT

Deep in a remote part of Eastern Equatoria, the spectacular Lopit people reside in a region near the border of Uganda with South Sudan.  Spanning just six sub-communities, these lesser known people of South Sudan celebrate important events of life through dance and ceremonies that are performed for initiations, funerals, weddings, the elderly or a successful hunt.  One of the most spectacular celebrations performed by the Lopit is a funeral, where young Lopit warriors will don huge headdresses fashioned out of cowrie shells, ostrich feathers and native grasses before they dance in circles out of respect for a recently deceased person.  We hope to see this spectacular and highly unique form of dress while we camp in local Lopit villages on our tour.

TOPOSA

The handsome and beautifully decorated Toposa people of South Sudan belong to the Karomojong cluster of African people which includes the Turkana people of Kenya, the Nyangatom people of Ethiopia, the Karomojong people of Uganda and the Dongiro and Jiye people of remote southeastern South Sudan.  Living close to the Ilemi Triangle, a disputed geographical corner between South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia, the Toposa are proud, statuesque and friendly.  Visiting their villages is like stepping into another world.  Built by Toposa women, their curious stilted granaries called Ekores are positioned in communal stands between pretty, sculpted roundhouses.  As we explore Toposa villages on foot it is possible to see women preparing Ekores for the rain using a mix of mud and dung or we may encounter them stitching beads by hand to their beautiful Nyadols, or goatskin skirts.

During our stay with the Toposa we will experience an afternoon of traditional dance that will include the Meriye, or dance of women.  This highly athletic dance features beautifully adorned women dancing in circles while performing the high leaps into the air that are so characteristic of other dances in Turkana cultures.  If we are lucky the Toposa women may also be joined by men performing a warrior dance of Nyakwamoa where they will leap into the air waving spears and shields as a show of strength and superiority over their neighbouring tribes.

JIYE

As we travel into more remote regions of Eastern Equatoria, we will visit several communities of the beautiful Jiye, who are a sister culture of the Toposa.  Sharing the same stunning facial and body keloidal scars of Toposa people, the Jie also practice specific lip piercing and the women adorn themselves with beaded, semi-circular crowns, multi-stranded bead necklaces, brass bands and nose rings.

Visually their villages resemble those of the Toposa with their pretty stilted granaries (Ekores) and roundhouses, yet the Jie remain geographically isolated in a region of rolling hills and golden grasslands.  They rarely visit towns like Kapoeta due to the distance they need to travel to purchase necessities so we will spend two nights living alongside family communities of these beautiful people in their villages at the base of the remote Boma Plateau in the Kathangor Hills.

LAARIM

Deep in the spectacular Kimotong Mountains of Eastern Equatoria live the Laarim, a smaller ethnic group of people who practice the most intricate scarification we will see on our tour.  The Laarim live in beautiful villages at the foothills of the rugged Kimotong, a mountain range that is home to troupes of Olive Baboons, Rock Hyraxes and many species of birds.  The steep granite peaks of the Kimotong pierce the sky above Laarim villages almost watching over them like stony sentinels and as we walk the undulating paths from village to village we will see many desert rose succulents while being  shaded by large Acacias and stands of Doum Palms.

Perhaps as a direct response to their stunning landscape, the Laarim people have a highly valued aesthetic that is reflected in everything they do.  From the decorations on their homes that include animals bones and shells, to the kitchen utensils like wooden spoons and gourds which are decorated with beads, beauty underpins the entire world of Laarim people.

The crowning glory of this elaborate tradition is the stunning decoration of Laarim women.  Starting with their many-patterned intricate keloid scarification which covers their faces and sometimes their entire bodies, Laarim women accompany this with beautiful piercings and beaded jewellery alongside pretty multi-layered floral skirts, colourful socks and striped, sari-like dresses.  This stunning  dress style is only ever abandoned when they become a widow, in which case they dress down with a simple adornment of a white dress and headdresses and armbands fashioned out of dried palm fronds.

In this fairy tale land of attractive people and sculpted villages we may meet elderly Laarim women smoking tobacco from long pipes they call ‘Ijoo’.  Between watching young Laarim boys shepherding their goats and sheep we will see small children seeking Doum palm seeds which they eat like a rusk for breakfast.

Water is hard to come by during the dry season in South Sudan yet we may still find groups of Laarim scaling the foothills of the Kimotong to reach pools of water that are remnant from the last rain.  Here they will allow their animals to drink or they may use other pools for bathing and fetching water.

A highlight of our time with the Laarim will be to watch a dance of Kuduma, or the Jackal Dance and another called Nakeku where Laarim girls dance to attract young men.  Taking place at sunset or sunrise, these dances are usually led by a head girl who makes the first moves, prompting the entire group to follow.  It is really a magical experience watching the dynamic in these dances as each girl follows the leader making sure she doesn’t step out of line for fear she might be scolded!

MUNDARI

Finally we will journey out onto the vast flood plain of the White Nile where we will be camped alongside the semi-nomadic Mundari people for four nights.

Statuesque and incredibly strong, the Mundari people are one of the most special remaining tribal groups left in all of Africa.

Characterised by unique facial scarring that features three parallel lines pointing downward in a ‘V’ shape across their foreheads, the Mundari really are the traditional warriors of the White Nile.

The Mundari’s world is centred around looking after their magnificent Ankole Watusi cows which are handled by people from the time they are born until the time they die.  So special is this relationship that a Mundari man will often sleep beside his favourite cow and if you gently ask someone to take their photo, they will hold their arms in the air in the same position of the horns of their beloved cow. The Mundari nomadically herd their cattle to places that are close to grazing and water sources, setting up cattle camps which are a frenzy of activity from dawn to dusk each day. A typical Mundari day starts with dusting their cows with ash from fires that burned overnight to keep both cows and animals free of mosquito bites.  The ash from fires helps to protect Ankole cows from the harsh heat of the African sun.  Young Mundari children will run around collecting milk from their favourite cow or freshly laid dung which they transport in buckets to special piles that are dried during the day for fire fuel.  Some children will drink milk directly from the udders of cows while others will take a shower in the urine of a cow which acts as a sterilising agent and also as bleach for their hair! During the day, young men and women will take their cows out to feed and water for the day.  As the sun gets lower they return and the children are tasked again with tethering their cows overnight.  Women will then gather the dried dung to make fires for cooking, warmth and to repel biting insects.  This is the Mundari cycle of life and it is at its most spectacular during the dry season where fire smoke and clouds of dust stirred up in the cattle camps create an almost ghost-like atmosphere, allowing for unrivalled photographic opportunities each day.

We have designed our expedition to spend more time with the Mundari than any other company.  This allows us to expand our photographic opportunities with these remarkable people and also take the time to simply meet and enjoy them.  You will find that many Mundari speak quite good English which stems from the time before South Sudan became independent and their lands formed part of Sudan, a former British colony.  These hardy and resilient people are fascinating to learn about through our conversations around our camp.  We will establish our expedition base right next to a cattle camp allowing enough free time to wander through the cows, meeting people and taking photos without rushing.

Our expedition has been timed to ensure we are in South Sudan at the peak of the heat and dust season in Mundari camps and our longer time with these people will allow us to hopefully see a traditional wrestling match or the dance of Yanguera, which is performed by young Mundari men to attract a wife.

Leaving the Mundari we will return to Juba for hot showers, some photo editing and reviewing and a final sunset dinner on the side of the river before our tour ends on the following day.

Why travel to South Sudan with Wild Images

Right now a number of photographers and photography touring companies offer tours through South Sudan and they mostly bring in teams of people from neighbouring Uganda to run their trips for them.

Our expedition tour leader Inger Vandyke spent around 18 months volunteering her time to assist refugees from South Sudan settle into life in her native Australia.  From that work she developed a very strong affection for South Sudanese people and she has assembled an expert team of South Sudanese guides and translators who are based and registered in South Sudan. This highly skilled expedition team knows the people or our tour intimately from many visits to the most far-flung villages of the country.

They join Inger, who has over three decades of experience leading expeditions in some of the most remote regions of the African continent and who pioneered our inaugural expedition to South Sudan in 2021.

Our tour is longer than most on offer because we believe that the best images come from the photography of people in a two-way situation.  We encourage our guests to chat to local people, laugh with them, engage with them and simply enjoy the experience of being immersed in their world.  Our South Sudan tour spends the longest time camped out with the magical Mundari people, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the world of their fascinating cattle camps.

Accommodation & Road Transport

The hotel we use Juba is a good standard with hot showers, air conditioning, wifi and ensuite facilities. During the expedition, we will stay in simple camps. There will be 2-man tents that are tall enough to stand in (but each person can have their own tent: couples may prefer to use one tent for luggage) and a dining table with chairs. All meals will be provided and cooked by our support staff. Washing facilities are a bowl of cool water, taken in your tent and toilet facilities are a lone walk into the wilds or in shared facilities! Your camp will be set up and taken down for you by our camp staff in each place.

The transport for the South Sudan expedition will be by 4×4 vehicles. Roads in South Sudan are only reasonable in the cities, the few tarred highways are usually dotted with potholes. For much of our journey we will be on dirt roads and tracks so our transport is in 4WD expedition vehicles.

Walking

The walking on this tour is mostly easy.

Climate

The weather in South Sudan will be hot. There is likely to be a mixture of sunny and overcast conditions. Rain is unlikely.

Photographic Equipment

For most photography of the people in South Sudan, a travel lens of around 24-105mm on a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless body will be essential. A wide-angle lens of around 16mm or smaller will be perfect for working with people inside smaller huts.

If you prefer to photograph people from a distance, then please consider bringing a larger zoom or telephoto lens. It is our experience that sometimes people can feel a bit intimidated by large cameras and lenses so you may wish to bring a smaller sized zoom lens like a 100-400mm which doesn’t appear as intimidating as a large fixed focal length telephoto lens. Such a lens can also be useful for the ceremonies we will attend as you will often be standing in a crowd and a longer lens will allow you to shoot past other onlookers.

If you bring a good quality bridge camera instead of a DSLR or mirrorless it will be best if it has an optical zoom of 18-20x or more, combined with a reasonable wide-angle at the other end of the zoom range.

If you have a phone or tablet that can be used for photography, you may find these quite useful around people. Similarly, if you have a Polaroid camera like the Leica Sofort or an Instax Mini, these are wonderful to have on hand when you spend time with tribal people. If you decide to bring one of these, please bring lots of film with you as the photographs you produce will be quite popular!

Please note the use of drones in South Sudan is strictly forbidden.

If you would like to talk over suitable equipment, please contact our office. We will be happy to advise.

Photographic Highlights

  • A true adventure in the frontier-like countryside of Africa’s newest country
  • Our tour spends more time with South Sudan’s incredible Mundari people than any other
  • Explore the beautiful body scarification and decoration of the Laarim, Toposa and Jiye people
  • Travel to the remote Boma Plateau in the Kathangor Hills to meet isolated communities of beautiful Jiye people
  • Traverse three rugged granite mountain ranges, the Liria, Ileu and Kimotong which are home to spectacular tribal villages and wildlife including nesting Ruppells Vultures, rock hyraxes, olive baboons and bushbuck
  • Travel with a highly experienced South Sudanese team who know the villages we will visit intimately
  • Experience lively and fascinating tribal dances including the Nakeku of the Laarim people, the Meriye in the Toposa people and the Yanguera of the Mundari
  • Based right beside a bustling nomadic cattle camp, we will learn about the daily cycle of life in Africa’s most celebrated cattle nomads, the Mundari
  • Visit the lesser known Lopit people to learn about their spectacular ceremonies and intricate tribal decorations
  • Our leader at Wild Images has over three decades of experience in travel and leading expeditions in remote Africa

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: Arrive in Juba in time for dinner by the side of the White Nile and an overnight stay
  • Day 2: After finalising our travel permits for the expedition we will drive from Juba to the Lopit area where we will camp overnight in Lopit villages
  • Day 3: After a sunrise photography shoot with the beautiful Lopit we will drive further east to meet our first villages of Toposa people
  • Day 4: A full day of photography with the Toposa
  • Day 5: After a final sunrise shoot with the Toposa people we will drive further into Eastern Equatoria to set up camp with a family of Jiye people
  • Day 6: A full day of photography with Jiye people
  • Day 7: After some final photography with the Jiye people we will pack up camp and drive back to Kapoeta for an overnight stay to charge batteries, enjoy a shower and do some street photography in the local market at Kapoeta
  • Day 8: Leaving Kapoeta we will journey back towards Juba and when we reach the Kimotong Mountains we will travel out to stay with communities of Laarim people
  • Day 9: A full day of photography with Laarim people
  • Day 10: Final photos with the Laarim before we pack up our vehicles to make the journey back to Juba through the rugged mountain ranges of Ileu and Liria. Our night in Juba will be at a hotel with dinner on the side of the river
  • Days 11 - 14: Today we will take our expedition out to spend four nights in a cattle camp with the Mundari people. We will arrive in time for an afternoon photography shoot with these very special people
  • Day 15: After a final morning of photography we will return to Juba for our final dinner of the tour and an overnight stay
  • Day 16: The tour ends after breakfast in Juba

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

SOUTH SUDAN: TRIBAL WONDERS OF THE WHITE NILE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR:

PRICE INFORMATION

South Sudan Photography Tour Prices: Tour prices in South Sudan are high given the local conditions, but there are reasons for this. In the first place, transport for tourism purposes is very expensive. South Sudan is a country with only a thin ‘meniscus’ of development that sits on an otherwise very undeveloped part of the world. Furthermore, and even more importantly, the country is quite rigidly controlled by costly road permits to travel and police at the checkpoints often require ‘extra fees’ which are unavoidable if we want to complete our tour! This combination makes for high prices.

Wild Images Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and national reserve entrance fees.  All photography, guide, village and driver donations and tips are included in the tour price.  Since all camera equipment needs to be registered and paid for in South Sudan, we include registration for two camera bodies for each guest.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)


2023: £7200, $8950, €8410, AUD12790. Juba/Juba

Single Supplement: 2023: £310, $390, €360, AUD550.

If you are travelling alone, the single supplement will not apply if you are willing to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available. The small single supplement applies to the overnight stays in hotels in Juba. The tented accommodation on the main tour is the same cost for a single or twin share.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

SOUTH SUDAN: TRIBAL WONDERS OF THE WHITE NILE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 1

Our South Sudan photography tour starts in the early evening in our Juba hotel where we will enjoy dinner on the side of the pulsing White Nile, one of the most iconic rivers in Africa.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 2

After breakfast and finalising our permits to travel we will load our expedition vehicles and start the journey to Eastern Equatoria where we will meet and camp alongside our first community of Lopit people. Our journey today will traverse a landscape that is characterised by rugged mountain ranges and adorned with beautiful tribal huts and villages.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 3

Today we will join the Lopit people at sunrise for more photography before we return to our camp for breakfast and packing the camp up.  From here we will drive out towards the border of South Sudan and Ethiopia to meet our first communities of Toposa people.  During the golden light we will visit our first Toposa villages with their beautiful stilted granaries (Ekores) and homes.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 3

We will spend our morning and afternoon exploring numerous Toposa villages for photography.  It is today that we will witness traditional dances including the feminine Meriya and hopefully Nyakwamoa, or the tribal dance of Toposa warriors.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 5

After witnessing some final local Toposa traditions we will once again pack up our expedition to drive north to the spectacular Kathangor Hills of remote South Sudan.  We will set up camp close to a community of Jiye people at the foothills of the stunning Boma Plateau and enjoy some late afternoon photography with these spectacular people.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 6

Today we will spend a full day living alongside and visiting communities of Jiye people where we will learn about their traditions and dances through visits to local villages.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 7

Packing up our expedition camp after a final sunrise photography session with the Jiye, we will drive back to Kapoeta and establish our camp in a shady spot right next to the Singata River.  This is a great chance to charge batteries, have showers and, if time allows, take a small trip into town to visit the local market for some street photography.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 8

The next day we will travel out to the curiously named Camp 15 where we will provision our expedition vehicles before we drive into the Kimotong mountains to visit communities of Laarim people.  While we stop at Camp 15 we will most likely see our first Laarim women and girls with their striking decoration and scarification.  Once we are in the mountains we will spend the rest of the afternoon visiting Laarim villages for photography.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 9

Today we will spend our morning and afternoon photography excursions exploring the foothills of the Kimotong and visiting a few incredibly beautiful villages of Laarim people.  It is today we will see some of the beautiful dances performed by Laarim girls like Nakeku and Kuduma.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 10

After a final sunrise photography session in some more remote Laarim villages we will drive back to Juba where we will have a chance to cool off next to the river, enjoy hot showers and recharge our camera batteries for an evening.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Days 11 – 14

Today we will embark on the final leg of our expedition to travel out to a remote cattle camp of the stunning Mundari people.  We will establish our expedition base right alongside our camp where we will spend four magical nights learning about Mundari ways, attending a traditional dance and witnessing a wrestling match.  As we enjoy numerous photography sessions with these amazing people, we will immerse ourselves in the Mundari world of worshipping their beautiful Ankole Watusi cows, watching children drink directly from their cows, young Mundari men sleep alongside them and we will enjoy the daily rituals of fire building, cattle caring and life amongst some of the most visually stunning people in all of Africa.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 15

After a final sunrise photography session with the Mundari we will pack up our expedition, say our final farewells and drive back to Juba where we will once again enjoy a wonderful, final dinner on the banks of the White Nile.

South Sudan Photography Tour: Day 16

Our tour ends today after breakfast and if time allows we may take a short visit into Juba to wander the alleyways of the city’s bustling street market before we are taken to the airport for our flight home.

South Sudan Photography Tour Report 2021

by Inger Vandyke

It’s quite something to arrive in Juba, the capital of the world’s newest country. After navigating the chaos of the airport, you are richly rewarded with dinner on the banks of the incredible White Nile. This is how our expedition began and, as we sat watching Palm Swifts gather in the fronds of the Doum […]

View Report