The Imatong Mountains are located in the worlds newest country, South Sudan. Mount Kinyeti is the highest mountain of the range at 3,187 metres (10,456 ft), and the highest in the whole of South and North Sudan. The range has an equatorial climate and had dense montane forests supporting diverse wildlife. In recent years the rich ecology has been severely degraded by forest clearance and subsistence farming, leading to extensive erosion of the steep slopes.
There has been little exploration of the Imatong Mountains for over 40 years, due to long running conflict in the region. Apart from a 1984 report, there have been hardly any western visitors to the region, until a Secret Compass
.expedition in February 2012.
Little is known of the area before the arrival of Europeans. The explorer Samuel Baker was the first European to visit the region, travelling in the northwest and west of the area in 1863. He visited Tarrangolle (Tirangole) and observed unnamed mountains to the south. Later he passed through these mountains, the western Acholi range of the Imatongs. Emin Pasha made a trip in 1881 in which he traveled along the eastern foothills of the mountains and then southwest to the Nile. J.R.L. Macdonald passed through the region in 1898 on a patrol towards Lado, and later the Ugandan colonial government established a post at Ikotos, just east of the mountains. However, the official map of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan published in 1922 only showed the outlines of the mountains.
The first map to show the mountains and give them the name of the Imatong Mountains was published in the Geographical Journal in May 1929, prepared from a compilation of the Sudan Government Survey Department. Apart from a visit by R. Good to Gebel Marra which had obtained a few specimens, no European botanist had investigated the mountains. In 1929 the botanist Thomas Ford Chipp, then deputy director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, reached the peak of Kinyeti. The same year he published a report on the flora with several photographs. The first detailed map appeared in 1931. Later the British established an observation post on the north side, above the village of Gilo (1800 meters) at an altitude of about 2200 meters. The biologist Neal A. Weber examined the ants in the area in 1942/1943.
The Imatongs are best accessed via Katire, an old British forestry station. Katire is accessed by a recently graded dirt road from Torit, the capital of Eastern Equatoria state. The journey will take 1.5-2 hours in a 4x4. You can catch local minibuses infrequently from opposite the main market in Torit. Torit is accessed from Juba, the capital, via a recently graded dirt road. The journey takes 3-4 hours and you can catch minibuses to Torit from the main river bridge in Juba.
Juba is accessed overland from Uganda, or by air from Nairobi, Kampala and Addis Ababa.
The only realistic time to travel is in the dry season; Nov - Mar each year, otherwise roads can become impassable.
South Sudan Visas are available at the airport on arrival for $100.
Permits for the Imatong mountains are available from the Ministry of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism in Torit, near to the main market.
For expeditions to the region see www.secretcompass.com
For a video of the Imatong Mountains made during Independence see www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oox-zO3fk5o
Camping and trekking
There is an excellent camp site in Katire on the site of an old colonial house. It has a clean long drop and a stream for water close by.
On the trail to Mount Kinyeti there are streams every 2-3 hours, with excellent clean water. There are good campsites that can be cleared with machetes within 5 min walk of each stream.
You will need local guides for the trail to Kinyeti, who can be hired at Katire, where a number of people speak good English. The forest is very dense once past the old plantation forest and local paths will have to be followed.
It will take fit trekkers 3 days to summit Kinyeti and return to Katire, the majority of people will need 4 days.For an excellent blog article of the route click here