KIDEPO NATIONAL PARK
Kidepo National park is one of the most spectacularly located parks in Uganda and was recently voted one of the best national parks in Africa. Kidepo Valley National Park covers an area of 1,442 square kilometers which consists of unique vegetation, wildlife and scenery rivaling in any other reserves of safari parks in East Africa.
The Kidepo national park is tucked away in the corner of the border with Southern Sudan and the northern parts of Kenya. The park features some of the best game viewing with Savannah grasslands, rocky outcrops, and Mountain systems towards the northern extremes of the park that attract unique wildlife not seen in any of Uganda’s national parks.
The vegetation of Kidepo Valley National park is based on Savannah grasslands dotted with scattered trees from which the wildlife take shelter in the afternoon heat and soaring temperatures. The mountain systems in the area also give rise to the seasonal rivers that nourish the vegetation of the Acacia Geradi along the river Lorupei and the surrounding areas. The several rocky outcrops on the plains of the Kidepo National park provide sanctuary to the Lions and the Hyraxes also acting as lookout posts for the herbivores.
Accommodations options of Kidepo feature budget accommodations where simple rooms and meals are provided at the Apoka Rest Camp based on cottage accommodations made out of local materials. They come with twin beds with linen and simple bug netting to keep out the insects.
Mid range accommodations at Kidepo are based at the Ngamoru Wilderness camp where the accommodations are comprised of safari cottages built out of straw and local materials and Safari tents all built under a protective roofing of straw to offer some cooling in the high temperatures. The owner operated accommodation also provides fresh meals that are grown in their organic gardens.
The top accommodations are at the Apoka Wildplaces where facilities are en suite as well as a private swimming pool on the property.
Access to Kidepo Valley national park is based on the following routes:
Kampala through Gulu and Kitgum 571 Kilometres.
Kampala through Lira and Kotido, 705 kilometres.
Kampala through Mbale, Soroti and Moroto 792 kilometres.
Scheduled departures are available from Entebbe International Airport to Kidepo as well as private charters using the Aerolink flight company.
The huge numbers of wildlife in the Kidepo Valley National park consists of over 80 animals not know to be found in any other wildlife reserves or national parks in Uganda. Rare bird species too are a common occurrence for the bird watching enthusiasts. Stripped Hyenas which belong to the dog family are always abundant in hunting packs in the early mornings and in the late evenings. You are also likely to find the elegant Beisa Oryx which is adapted to the semi desert climatic conditions grazing along the seasonal river beds, Lions are usually observed closer to the main tourist areas and may be observed on the hunts on the Savannah plains or scouting for their prey off the rocky inselbergs or granite rocks. The other large antelopes on the plains of Kidepo Valley National park are the lesser and greater Kudus with their huge, imposing spiral horns that are usually seen on the evening safari drives in the park fighting for territorial dominance. Look out for the bat eared foxes emerging from their holes ready to hunt wild Hare and mice. The endangered roan antelope with their backward facing horns may be seen in the acacia thickets grazing on the edges of the riverine vegetation. Cheetahs have also been observed running down their prey and are very active in the early afternoons and feeding in the thickets. Leopard and Lion in the cat family are mostly seen in the trees or on the various rocks that dot the national park. Also look out for the Ostriches that are usually in pairs or in flocks digging out food from the ground and the species of primates. Lions in Kidepo’s Narus valley have been observed climbing trees just like the ones of the Ishasha plains in southern Uganda.
Birdlife of the Kidepo National park is prolific with species adapted to semi arid conditions. Rare species like the Kori bustard, Secretary bird, large birds that feeds on snakes can be seen on the bird drives in the park. Other special birds of Kidepo feature; Karamoja Apalis, Fox’s Cisticola, White-bellied Go-Away bird and Emin’s Shrike.
Cultural tours in Kidepo:
Cultural safaris are provided by the local tribesmen of the Naporre and other local inhabitants of the area. Activities feature traditional dances very similar to their Masai counterparts in Kenya where visitors are allowed to take part in the dances. You will also be allowed to visit the cattle Kraals and observe the milking of cattle, drawing of blood from the cows as well as getting to learn the way of life of this nomadic tribe. It is also possible to buy souvenirs of the traditional attire, bracelets, stools and other regalia.
The Ik tribesmen who only number over 10,000 individuals live up in the mountains at about 2749 metres above sea level on Mount Murongole and can be visited as an add on on a trip to the Kidepo National park. This tribe of people that migrated into the region from the nearby Kenya are believed to have originated from Ethiopia and speaking the Teuso Language. It is believed that some of the words in this dialect are similar with Spanish.
This marginalized Ik tribe who were predominantly hunters and gatherers have now taken on farming and live in the communities in the round huts or manyattas that are mostly empty, save for the keeping of attractive ornaments that this tribe sells to the visiting tourists.
A day trip trip to the Ik tribe is an arduous one which may take as less as 2 hours or more than 4 hours depending on the routes used and energy levels of the hiker. Usually, a guide that speaks the Ik language is available for the 6 to 11kilometre walk into the granite mountains and shrub land. There would be some stops along the way to enjoys vistas of the Kidepo Valley, the southern Sudan regions and the several gardens of maize.
On arrival at the community, you are welcomed by traditional dances where it is possible to take part. They will show you around their homesteads and should you wish, you will be able to buy souvenirs of attractive head gear, bangles, beads, leg bracelets and other crafts.
The return descent gets everyone back to the waiting vehicles to return to the Kidepo National park accommodation base late in the evening.