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25 little-known Ugandan tourist destinations to visit in 2018

Feb 28 • 2210 views • 10 Comments on 25 little-known Ugandan tourist destinations to visit in 2018 Uganda

25 little-known Ugandan tourist destinations to visit in 2018

After a few days visiting community tourism projects in Ishasha, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Julia and I drive north through the crater lakes of Fort Portal and to the edge of Kibale Forest. We swap notes about places we want to visit. We’re usually rushing to one destination, or rushing back to Kampala, but in an ideal world, we’d travel at a more leisurely pace.

Imagine time is on our side, where should we stop? Here are a few places we drove through – and a few of our favourites from across Uganda. Feel free to add more to our list!

No. 1 – Take a dugout canoe across Lake Mutanda, South Western Uganda

View from Chameleon Hill, Lake Mutanda

Ron Rutland cycled through Uganda from Cape Town to London. He said “the view from Chameleon Hill is the best view I’ve seen in 160 days on the road from Cape Town.” Click on the image to read my interview with Ron Rutland

Camera required! Admire the eight volcanic Virunga peaks reflected in the lake’s surface as you are paddled across the lake. Combine this with a trip to Kisoro, a hike with the Gorilla Highlands project and a stay at Chameleon Hill.

colourful Chameleon Hill, near Kisoro, Uganda

Put the kettle on Doris – I’m coming back to visit you at Chameleon Hill again soon 🙂

No. 2 – Fancy a cuppa cha? Stop at Igara tea factory

Igara tea factory signpost

There are few tourist facilities between Queen Elizabeth National Park and Mbarara but you’re welcome to stop for a tea (and toilet!) break at the Igara tea factory cafe. Black tea is just 2,000 UGX

Igara tea factory shop

Stop at the Igara tea factory to buy the freshest tea. Drink it at home like I do or give it as presents. This half kilo packet of tealeaves costs just 6k UGX (less than 2 US dollars)

Tea plantations near Igara tea factory

Greener than green – verdant tea plantations near Igara tea factory

Strictly speaking, tea is an invasive species and the plantations were created at the expense of ancient woodlands, yet the bright green young tips of tea leaves remain alluring to this Brit (a committed tea-drinker!)

No. 3 – Zip through Mabira Forest!

Mabira Forest Canopy Super Skyway is over 200 metres of canopy zip-lines through the tops of 40 metre high trees and across the River Musamya.

ecotours zipline Mabira Forest

Take the zipline through the canopy of Mabira Forest! PHOTO Ecotours

Mabira Forest Canopy Super Skyway zip line

Accessing the Mabira Forest Canopy Super Skyway ‘zip line’ starts with the vertical climb of a tree. Here my friend Jesus has a go…

Go for the day or stay at Griffin Falls Eco Campsite, Mabira. Here you can see Red Tailed Monkeys and shy Grey Cheeked Mangabeys (if you’re lucky). You can also walk or hire mountain bikes to go on the trails through the Forest. Tell Hussein the muzungu sent you 🙂

Red-tailed monkey mural Griffin Falls

Red-tailed monkey or ‘enkima’ mural at Griffin Falls. ‘Bampita Nagawa’ and enkima is my totem. Click on the image to read about my encounter with the Red-tailed monkeys of Bwindi

No. 4 – Climb Biharwe Hill to see the solar eclipse memorial, Mbarara

solar eclipse monument Biharwe Hill Mbarara

Near Mbarara, climb Biharwe Hill to see the unusual monument to the solar eclipse of the 15th century. PHOTO Igongo Cultural Centre

Viewing Uganda’s solar eclipse in Pokwero / Pakwach took my breath away. It was spell-binding.

Imagine if you had experienced an eclipse without expecting it? The story of Uganda’s 15th century eclipse at Biharwe changed the boundaries of traditional kingdoms.

Stretch your legs on the long drive west: take twenty minutes to climb Biharwe Hill and admire the monument (sited directly opposite Igongo).

No. 5 – Learn about the cultural significance of Ankole cows at the Igongo Cultural Centre, outside Mbarara

Diary of a Muzungu Igongo Cultural Centre

Igongo Cultural Centre selfie. I’ve heard great reports about this excellent museum and hotel

TIP: if you’re stopping for lunch, eat the buffet. If you order from the menu, you may have a very LONG wait … we did.

No. 6 – “Saving gorillas, one sip at a time” at the Gorilla Conservation Cafe in Entebbe

If you’re a coffee drinker like me, you’ll LOVE Gorilla Conservation Coffee and their brilliant new cafe in Entebbe! Do visit the cafe if you’re driving to the airport.

Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, founder Gorilla Conservation Coffee

Pictured is the irrepressible Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, founder of Gorilla Conservation Coffee. Dr Gladys set up Gorilla Conservation Coffee as a social enterprise that buys the coffee of farmers – who live adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – at a premium price. Helping farmers protects the forests and thus the mountain gorillas

Pictured on my T-shirt is Kanyonyi, the silverback gorilla from the Mubare family who died recently. The coffee blend is named after him. Keep his memory alive by visiting the cafe or buying coffee at numerous outlets across Uganda. Profits from the sale of Gorilla Conservation Coffee support the ground-breaking work of Conservation Through Public Health.

You’ll find the cafe between Victoria Mall and the new Imperial Mall (on the right hand side of Portal Road as you drive towards the airport) on the first floor of the same building as Arthur’s. Here you can order a fresh coffee or buy coffee beans to drink at home (a great gift too!)

No. 7 – Explore the Amabere Caves outside Fort Portal

The crater lakes of Fort Portal are gorgeous.

Ndali crater lake 20,000 shilling note

Ndali crater lake features on the 20,000 Uganda shilling note. Our guide Charles from Ndali Lodge tells us the big tree behind him is known as ‘the money tree’

In this same region are Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru Caves. I’ve heard mixed reports about them so the muzungu wants to make her own mind up… (caves always sound exciting to me though).

Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru means “the breasts of Nyina Mwiru.” The ‘breasts’ are in fact stalactites made of calcium carbonate. The white-coloured water that drips off thus called “breast milk” by the local Toro people.

Neptune statue leaking breast milk

Trust the Italians to have lactating fountains! This is a statue of Neptune, created in the mid sixteenth century

Local folklore has a rather gory interpretation of the cave’s name. Enough said on that point (or two points, should I say)  …

No. 8 – Look out for the Narina Trogon at Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Queen Elizabeth National Park

Narina Trogon Uganda postage stamp

The Narina Trogon features on a Ugandan postage stamp

Thanks to Bosco and Keseloni for making sure I saw my first Narina Trogon on my last stay at the splendid Ishasha Wilderness Camp. What a fabulous bird!

(Do you love birds like I do? Read some of my birding stories here).

No. 9 – Take a guided walk from one side of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to the other

Day hike. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Gorilla Highlands

Day hike through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest with Gorilla Highlands

You don’t need to track the Mountain Gorillas to love Bwindi’s forest and birdlife. The first time I saw Bwindi’s rainforest, I thought I was going to cry; the place is pure magic. Did you know… Bwindi was voted no. 1 in Travel African magazine’s list of top 10 birdwatching sites?

The plan: overnight at Buhoma Lodge – or the recently refurbished Bwindi Lodge for a real treat – then take the day-long hike across Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to Nkuringo to the south.

In 2013, Robert Brierley hosted us at Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge from where we walked the 17 km Ivy River trail. The lodge is set high on Nteko Ridge between the Virunga volcanoes and the breath-takingly beautiful Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

No. 10 – Cross the Equator by boat and hang out with the chimps on Ngamba Island

Ndayakira chimpanzee Ngamba Island. Photo

Ndayakira, one of the 49 chimpanzee residents of Ngamba Island. PHOTO

The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary tour is entertaining and educational for the whole family. Relaxing, bird watching, crossing the Equator by boat and looking out for the 50,000 fruit bats that fly overhead every evening are other unforgettable Ngamba experiences. All trips must be booked in advance. A stay at Ngamba’s luxury tented camp is highly recommended too.

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary bandas camping

Ngamba Island is a fantastic out of town retreat. You can’t beat watching the night stars from the island – they seem to shine brighter here than anywhere else! Sitting by the campfire is a MUST too!

Unlike the day tour – in which you are separated from the chimpanzees by a high platform and an electric fence – you can have a far more intimate experience with the chimpanzees, if you sign up for the one week volunteering programme.  This takes the Ngamba experience to a whole new level.

Whether it’s cleaning the cages where the chimps come to sleep at night, preparing food, collecting behavioural data, assisting in medical procedures, typing up ‘chimp diaries’, selling merchandise in the Ngamba Island shop or helping maintain the island’s facilities, volunteers on week (or longer programmes) are active members of Ngamba’s dedicated family. You have to meet the Ngamba Island team to appreciate how dedicated they are to each individual chimp…!

Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary Uganda kids

Aunty Charlotte had the BEST time ever on my recent trip to Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary with my nephews Amos and Dillon! A boat ride, camping, chimp feeding time, birdwatching and a campfire – a superb experience for the whole family

No.11 – Wake up among the animals in Entebbe!

Fancy a night in the wild but without the travel to the National Parks? Stay in the bandas at UWEC, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (once known as Entebbe Zoo). You will think you are in the bush – and may wake up to the sounds of chimpanzees, monkeys – or even a lion!

How do you feed an elephant. UWEC Entebbe

Baby elephant Hamukungu Charles was rescued after his mother was killed by poachers in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Click on the image to read my blog ‘An Elephant Encounter’ from 2012

You can take part in some very cool, interactive experiences at UWEC, such as feeding the animals and walking with Hamukungu Charles, the young elephant (a lot bigger than he was in this photo of six years ago!) UWEC’s Behind-the-Scenes experiences need to be booked in advance. UWEC is open daily 8.30 am – 6.30 pm. Call +256 (0)414 320520 for more information.

No. 12 – Go horse riding along the banks of the River Nile

horseriding River Nile Jinja

Imagine horse riding along the River Nile in Jinja! PHOTO Nile Horseback Safaris

Horseback safaris along the northern bank of the River Nile outside Jinja can be for a few hours or even a few days – it’s up to you. Nile Horseback Safaris’ professionally-run riding stables also offer riding classes. Horse riding – and a few refresher lessons! – are high on the muzungu’s travel bucket list this year!

No. 13 – Learn the history of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, while sitting on a lionskin on the floor of the Throne Room

Throne Room Bunyoro Kingdom Palace Uganda

Throne Room at the Bunyoro Kingdom Palace Uganda. I took part in the Empango Celebrations inauguration run in Hoima

The Throne Room is located in the Omukama – Traditional King’s – (very modern) Palace in Hoima. Here we were told about the “empire of traders, hunters and metalworkers, built and lost on ivory.” The cultural history was illuminating. The experience taught me that I have barely scratched the surface of the country’s history and culture. There’s so much more to touring Uganda than wildlife and adventure. I was honoured to be given the pet name Akiki at our audience with the Omukama, the traditional king of Bunyoro kingdom.

No. 14 – Track the golden monkeys (and mountain gorillas) of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Three Golden Monkeys Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda

Tracking the golden monkeys was an unexpectedly brilliant wildlife experience

All credit to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) guides who have plenty of interesting facts about these gorgeous creatures and their stunning bamboo habitat. Just like Uganda’s chimps and mountain gorillas, UWA rangers are constantly monitoring the golden monkeys, so you are (almost) guaranteed to see them.

I stayed at Mount Gahinga Lodge: a hidden gem in a divine part of the country, a few kilometres from the Rwandese border and just five minutes’ walk from the park. Did you know you can also track the gorillas in Mgahinga? Read my multi-page Ultimate Guide to Mountain Gorilla Trekking for everything gorilla!

No. 15 – En route from Kampala to Fort Portal, stop at the Nakayima Tree in Mubende

Woman at Nakayima Tree, Mubende. PHOTO

The Nakayima Tree is 15 minutes’ drive from the main road in Mubende. There is a small fee to visit the site. PHOTO

I am fascinated by traditional beliefs and customs. The Nakayima – or ‘witch’ – Tree at Mubende is estimated to be 650 years old and is named after a princess who is believed to have cured smallpox. The tree has 18 “rooms” – these being spacious gaps between the tree’s buttress roots. Read about travel writer Edgar Batte’s visit to the Nakayima Tree.

No. 16 – Follow in the footsteps of the Uganda Martyrs

Uganda Martyrs Walk

Follow in the footsteps of the Uganda Martyrs on the Uganda Martyrs Walk and learn their history

Diary of a Muzungu. Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine

Diary of a Muzungu visits the Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine as part of a documentary for Uganda Tourism Board

Every year one million pilgrims congregate in Namugongo, east of Kampala to commemorate the several dozen Uganda Martyrs who were executed between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887. Pilgrims travel from across Uganda and East Africa for this event.

The Martyrs Walk across Kampala – launched in 2014 – retraces the last few hours and days of the Martyrs’ fateful journey as they were forced to walk towards their death. Embarking on the Martyrs’ Walk will give you a greater understanding of their contribution to history. The story of St Balikuddembe (namesake of Owino market) will stay in my mind forever. I revisited the Uganda Martyrs’ history when Pope Francis visited Uganda.

No. 17 – Buy some smoked fish in West Nile

women sell Angara fish, Pakwach. PHOTO Faiswal KASIRYE

Trying new foods is an intrinsic part of travel. Here women sell Angara fish, a Pakwach delicacy. PHOTO Faiswal KASIRYE

In Pakwach I drove past piles of bright yellow smoked Angara fish – without buying any – en route to the best viewing point of Uganda’s solar eclipse, a day I can never forget.

I loved West Nile. Read “10 little-known things to do in Arua, West Nile” to see a few of the new foodstuffs I found there.

This year, the Muzungu has been invited to climb Mount Wati (“what to the what?”)

No. 18 – Visit the Smallest Church in the World (apparently!)

church Goli in Nebbi Uganda

This church in Goli, Nebbi, may well be Uganda’s smallest church

According to some, Goli in West Nile is the location for the world’s smallest church – although my attempts to verify this have been hit and miss. I need to visit in person. It’s surely Uganda’s smallest church since it’s certainly standing room only. (What a great venue to book if you want to reduce the cost of your wedding!)

Read Solomon Oleny’s story about his visit to the church.

No.19 – Eat, dance, hunt – and ‘go to the bush’ with Entanda 

Entanda Traditional Hunting Cultural Experience Mityana

What a welcome! The Entanda Traditional Hunting and Cultural Experience near Mityana

The award-winning Entanda Traditional Hunting and Cultural Experience is a community experience like no other. We jumped off the bus in the countryside near Mityana to be greeted by loud ululating, drumming and singing. We danced as one before being invited to eat the freshest fruits straight from the gardens. Oh my, we ATE! Next, the men in our group were invited to take in part traditional hunting as we ladies were taught how to prepare a luwombo lunch and invited ‘to the bush’ (and what happens in the Bush stays in the Bush!) Oh the stories! This is authentic community tourism at its best.

Charlotte carrying jackfruit. Entanda

After eating my body weight in sugar cane, pineapple, watermelon and more, I was given a supremely heavy jackfruit to take home!

To visit the Entanda Traditional Hunting and Cultural Experience (AKA “Kojja and Senga’s retreat”) call +256(0) 772 340576 or visit the Entanda Facebook  page. Entanda is near Mityana, 60 km along the Kampala to Fort Portal Road.  Go visit!

No. 20 – Eat fresh fish at Kabaka’s Landing Site (KLS), Mulungu, Munyonyo, Kampala

Where to eat fish on Lake Victoria. Ggaba, Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda

Where to eat fish on Lake Victoria. Ggaba, Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda

Down at the shorefront restaurants of KLS, there are no frills, just fried whole Tilapia, Nile Perch and reasonably priced drinks beers, sodas and Uganda Waragi gin. KLS is a relaxing spot for watching the sun go down over Lake Victoria. You can also buy fresh fish – gutted and descaled – to cook at home.

Where to eat fish on Lake Victoria. Ggaba, KSL Kabaka's Landing Site, Nile Perch

A slab of fresh Nile Perch on sale at Ggaba, KLS or Kabaka’s Landing Site, Mulungu – just past Munyonyo

It was from here, in the 1870s, that Kabaka Mutesa embarked on hippo hunting expeditions to Lake Bulingugwe and beyond. The hippos are gone, and so is the Kabaka’s fleet of canoes, but Mulungu is still known as the Royal Port.

Read my blog “Eating fish” – where to eat fish on Lake Victoria for the full lowdown on Kabaka’s Landing Site and other places you can eat fish by the lake.

No. 21 – Chimp trackers’ delight: the Bee Hive Bar and Bistro in Bigodi, Kibale

Bee Hive restaurant Bigodi

Look who I bumped into at the Bee Hive – tour operator Timothy Kintu and journalist Arthur Katabalwa

Located along the new Fort Portal to Kamwenge Road, the Bee Hive Bar & Bistro opened mid-2017. The reasonably priced menu at this great little restaurant and bar has local favourites like goat stew and rolex. Beers are just 3,500 Uganda shillings (one US dollar). This is a great stopover after tracking the chimpanzees in Kibale Forest and is located directly opposite the KAFRED project at Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary. The Bee Hive also has a pool table and satellite TV (although the muzungu is happiest on the top deck gazing across Bigodi Swamp looking for primates and birds!) Click on the link above to read more about this must-visit stopover. The Bee Hive is also on Facebook. (P.S. You’ll find clean toilets here!)

No. 22 – Offer money and coffee beans at the (refurbished) Mparo Tombs of Kabelega near Hoima

Kabalega, Mparo Tombs, Hoima with the heiress

Kabelega’s Tomb. “The man with the key is gone” but luckily we had a chance to see the grounds with ‘the heiress’ – one of Kabalega’s descendants

Kabalega is said to be ‘the last great king of one of the greatest kingdoms in the Great Lakes region.’ His kingdom stretched well beyond the modern day borders of Uganda. The Mparo Tombs monument outside Hoima marks the spot where in 1877 Kabalega granted an audience to Emin Pasha. Read my blog On my knees again: an audience with the King of Bunyoro.

TIP: visit the Mparo Tombs in May and you can stuff your pockets full of the sweet mangoes falling from the huge trees!

No. 23 – Walk in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains

Boardwalk. Ruboni Camp Rwenzoris

Wooden boardwalk to Ruboni Camp in the foothills of the Rwenzoris

Last year I fell in love with the Rwenzoris. Read my #RwenzoriDiary series.

You don’t have to be mega fit and commit to climbing Margherita, Uganda’s highest peak – there are many peaks to choose from and many shorter routes in the foothills. It is here on the lower slopes that you find the most interesting vegetation, birds and animals. Did you know the three-horned chameleon can easily be seen in the Rwenzoris? This mountain range covers over 120 km² and has an amazing 50 lakes and several waterfalls. Keep reading for more stories from the Rwenzoris.

No. 24 – Watch birds, butterflies and chimps at Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge

Sunbird Hill, sunset view of Kibale Forest

Sunbird Hill, sunset view of Kibale Forest

Sunbird Hill is a favourite destination of mine, named in honour of 18 of Uganda’s 38 sunbird species recorded here (so far). If you love nature and are looking for an authentic experience, in a relaxed homestay environment, this is it. Early mornings are filled with splendid forest birdsong. At night you often hear the PANT HOOTS of chimps from Kibale Forest. It’s magical!

If that’s not heaven enough for an amateur birder and conservationist like me, Sunbird Hill Research and Monitoring Site has an extensive reference library and a resident expert primatologist, Julia Lloyd. Read all about Turaco Treehouse, Butterfly Cottage, the Birders’ Lounge and Sunbird Hill Bird Club on my blog Love birds, butterflies and chimps? Then don’t miss Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge.

Welcome to Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge, Amos Wekesa family

Welcome to Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge, Amos Wekesa and family

No. 25 – Discover Karamoja and Kidepo Valley

Discover Karamoja, Uganda's best kept secret

Discover Karamoja, Uganda’s best kept secret

Karamoja (in northeast Uganda) is now firmly on Uganda’s tourist map thanks in part to the great work done by the team at Discover Karamoja. (Crucially for tourists, the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has finally cleared Karamoja as safe to travel to).

Theo Vos writes “Karamoja suffers from a negative image due to decades of isolation and insecurity. However, after peace has returned (2011), the perception of the region by fellow Ugandans and the international community hasn’t changed. The Discover Karamoja project aims to address this through positive imagery and gorgeous photography.”

Karamoja culture is like nowhere else in the #PearlofAfrica. Look at the colour! The landscapes! I’ll be visiting Karamoja very soon.

Discover Karamoja - book by Kara Tunga Tours

Discover Karamoja – book of photography by Kara Tunga Tours. Discover Karamoja is a crowd sourced photo book aimed at positively impacting the image of Karamoja and raise funds to preserve one of  East Africa’s last living indigenous cultures

The region is also home to Kidepo Valley National Park, named one of Africa’s top 10 parks for its ‘spectacular landscapes and large herds of buffalo.’

Want to see cheetah, ostrich, Secretary birds and the Karamoja Apalis? The only place in Uganda you’ll find them is here in the north east.

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of our travel ideas.

Now can I ask you a small favour… ? Please vote me – Charlotte Nagawa Diary of a Muzungu – Best Tourism Blog in Ekkula Tourism Awards 2018. Click here to vote. Voting is on between now and 28th of March (and you can vote every 7 hours apparently!) It takes just a second to click on the link. THANK YOU.

Keep reading Diary of a Muzungu for more Uganda travel suggestions! Where shall we travel to next?


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10 Responses to 25 little-known Ugandan tourist destinations to visit in 2018

  1. WOW WOW WOW Lots to choose from here. Thanks Charlotte for sharing selflessly. I’ll read this again a couple more times.

    • the muzungu says:

      Thanks Jonathan! This blog has been a labour of love… many weeks/ months (years?) collating this selection. I could have added even more… but sometimes you just need to click PUBLISH! Lol.
      The big-name destinations and well-known activities get all the glory but there are some great little places that we simply drive through without knowing they are there. No. 19 – the Entanda experience – is one of them! Hope you get to go there soon – it really is sensational.

  2. WOW WOW WOW!!!
    Such a lovely travel article. Loved it.

  3. David Gibson says:

    Wow – what a goldmine – I am likely moving here for the next year or two – this is an absolute goldmine of information – many thanks for putting this together – what a gift

  4. T-J says:

    Fascinated to see horse riding. When I lived in Uganda in the 1960s there were no horses – they couldn’t survive ( may have been due to the tsetse flies???) there were a couple of horses on an experimental farm, somewhere nearKampala?
    We went to the Kenyan Highlands on a holiday and were excited to see horses.

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi T-J
      Interesting to read from you. There are still very few horses in Uganda. We do still have tsetse flies in many parts but sleeping sickness has been eradicated from the country.
      I haven’t been horseriding in Uganda yet but it’s high on my bucket list. As well as the riding in Jinja, you can also go on horseback safaris at Lake Mburo National Park. There are a few other stables in and around Kampala and Entebbe as well. Speke Resort Munyonyo has horses too.
      I would really love to go riding in the Kenyan Highlands! Did you ride?

  5. Christine Kintu Mulimira says:

    Just rook a glimpse tour of Uganda by reading your blog. Itsclear you put in plenty of hiurs but I can assure you, it was worth it. I’ve been to many of these places and you brought back the memories. The lovely pictures add spice to your story telling. Thanks again and I’m going to interest others to read AND visit.

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