Glamour as Kidepo celebrates 50 years
The President of Uganda, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was the chief guest on February 28th at the celebration of 50 years of Kidepo Valley National Park.
The high profile event was also attended by cabinet ministers and members of Parliament including the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry.
The President excited the tourism fraternity when he announced that the roads in the area were due for tarmacking while plans were underway to connect the region to the national hydro electric power grid.
The President also unveiled the new Kidepo brand as the True African Wilderness and unique destination, and inspected a former armoury used by warriors in the past.
At the event, over UGX 287million was given to the communities by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as part of the revenue sharing scheme. There was also lots of entertainment from over 15 cultural groups.
ABOUT KIDEPO NATIONAL PARK
Kidepo National park though not frequently visited by many African travelers is one of he most fascinating parks in Uganda situated along Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya. Kidepo valley was selected a national park in 1962, the park offers remarkable landscape with rugged savannah and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species following queen Elizabeth national park with the highest number of species.
The best way to access Kidepo valley is by using a chartered airplane - flights which take about 2 hrs may be arranged from Kampala - Kajjansi Airport, Kampala Aeroclub, or from Entebbe with Eagle Air. Alternatively can opt for road driving northeast of Kampala safest to use a 4WD which takes over 12hours on road driving through the Karamoja region. For a Uganda Safari, a charter flight should be arranged by your ground tour operator taking you to any destination in the country.
This park receives few tourists due to its remoteness - the lengthy journey - but the few who make the lengthy journey north to the Karamoja region or go for a charter flight will agree that it is the most splendid, for Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. From Apoka in the heart of the park, a savannah landscape expands far beyond the demarcated area, towards horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges.
During the dry season, the only lasting water in the park is found in wetlands and remainder pools in the broad Narus Valley near Apoka. These seasonal oases, joined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing spot.
The areas of interest include;
The Apoka Tourism Centre
Overlooking the game-rich Narus Valley and home to an up market lodge and a simple UWA-run cottages, Apoka is the park’s tourism center. Ranger guides are stationed at Apoka to escort tourists on game drives and walks. For those without their own transport, park trucks can be hired. There is a craft shop with books and reminder; bottled water, sodas and alcoholic beverages can also be bought here. Food is cooked on demand and cooking gas and utensils can be hired by individuals who wish to cook for themselves.
Narus Valley is rolling, grassland plain enclosed by far-away mountains. The valley has stable water, and for much of the year the park’s wildlife congregates here. Thus, the area is well provided with game tracks, with four loop circuits searching the valley around Apoka. Many wildlife such as lions, Jackson’s hartebeest, buffaloes, giraffes, oribis and reedbucks can be seen in the valley. Less regularly seen are cheetahs and leopards. The Narus dam and the water hole near the Tourism Centre are perfect inspection points for game, especially during the dry season. At the southern end of the Katurum loop, Katurum kopje (the site of a derelict lodge) is an eye-catching destination with excellent views north across the valley towards the Morungule mountain range.
Kidepo Valley and Kanangorok Hot Springs
For most of the year, a lack of surface water means that little wildlife is found in Kidepo Valley, though it is still worth the drive to visit the dry Kidepo River to stroll along its 50m wide bed of white sand between banks covered with borassus palms. Kidepo means to pick from underneath and the valley was visited by people coming to collect fallen borassus fruit for fermenting to make palm beer. The Kanangorok Hot Springs lie 11km beyond the Kidepo River on the Sudan border. This is a glorious place to sit and view the mountains beyond the frontier.
Mount Morungole stands at 2,750m and is crossed by the Kidepo and Narus Rivers that nourish the park’s wildlife and this natural habitat as a whole. The Morungole Range marks the southern boundary of the park and rises from the plains a few kilometres northeast of Apoka. This region can be surveyed on foot with a ranger. The mountain slopes are home to the IK people, the smallest ethnic group in Uganda, with their own distinctive culture.
Namamukweny is a Napore word meaning a place with no birds or a lonely place with few people – though regarding the birds, quite the opposite is true! The valley is occupied by a large number of bird species such as the Eastern Paradise Whydah, White-crested Turaco, Common Bulbul, Abyssinian Roller and Green Wood Hoopoe among others. It is located in the north-west of the park and can be accessed by car or on foot.
The Lomej Hills are a brief drive from the headquarters. They are an excellent viewing spot for birds and wildlife, including the mountain reedbuck.
Lying between Kitgum and the Sudan border, Lonyili Mountain is largely enclosed in montane forest and home to primates such as Colobus monkeys. Due to poor conditions in this area the road is presently out of use. There are strategies to repair it - you are strongly requested to contact UWA for updates before getting on your journey to the mountain.
Activities in Kidepo National Park
Apoka Rest Camp is a great spot to begin your Kidepo birding experience. Birding can also be done on the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys. Among the birds seen are the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo. The activity can be arranged both in the morning and evening.
Game drives in Kidepo
A park ranger will help you spot the lions that may be sitting on the valley’s various rocks. Other wildlife includes elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, ostrich, buffalo and much more, in the wild Narus Valley.
Kidepo Valley Scenic Drive
Though wildlife is limited in the arid Kidepo Valley, the hour-long drive to Kanangorok Hot Springs passes some impressive landscapes. North of Apoka, beyond the river crossing, the road passes between rock outcrops and hills before descending into the Kidepo Valley, crossing the Kidepo Sand River and traversing open plains that extend past Kanangorok Hot Springs towards mountains across the Sudanese border. This is the part of the park where ostriches are most usually seen.
Hiking/Nature Walks in Kidepo
Hike to the Lomej Mountains, take relaxed walks through the Narus Valley, meet members of the endangered IK tribe and stroll the splendid Kidepo River Valley between banks of borassus palm forest.
Visitors can also stroll along the impressive Kidepo River Valley between banks of eye-catching borassus palm forest. Namamkweny Valley can be reached in one hour from Apoka. Visitors can also meet members of the IK tribe during prearranged hikes to the Morungole Mountains outside the park.