I had heard of Kidepo valley national park for quite a while and I longed to visit it. Tucked away in the furthest north eastern corner of Uganda, it is ‘out of touch’ with the rest of the country and only few determined adventurous folks make it there. For a long time, it was not only the distance from the Capital – Kampala and poor road that made Kidepo inaccessible but also the war which cut it off from the rest of the world. This led to very few visitor numbers and subsequently animal populations reduced due to poaching. On a good note though, it made the park a true African wilderness like its tagline because of few visitors.
Thankfully the war is long gone and the visitor numbers have increased, it is quickly becoming a favorite place for many who brave the long car drives like we did. One should know there are options of a flight from Entebbe or Kajjansi. I was on a tour organised by nature Uganda and I must say I enjoyed my time in this wilderness. We set off from Uganda Museum in Kampala at about 7.15 am and arrived about 8 pm with a stopover in Gulu town for lunch. I wanted to arrive during day light so that I enjoy the sights leading to the park but alas, I missed.
Unlike the other Savannah national parks in Uganda, i.e. Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo, Kidepo valley is the only park with no water body to have a boat safari. This leaves one with ample time to engage in game drives and nature walks in the park. Our very first game drive was in the Narus valley which has some water throughout the year unlike Kidepo river which is seasonal. Off we went with our fantastic ranger guide who knows Kidepo like his own home. He shared about the different animals and birds found this area and the people groups that called this their home – the Karimajong, Tepeth and the Ik people who moved to create way for the park.
My highlight on this game drive was the the scenery of the valley against the mountains, such a wow moment throughout the drive. The animal populations are generally low but recovering and we had great sightings of Elephants, big herds of Buffaloes, Zebras, Topi, Water-bucks, Jackson’s heart beast, Uganda Kobs, Giraffes and warthogs. After a while everyone was anxious for a lion, cheetah and leopard, you could easily smell the anxiety of the people as the game drive continued. Eventually a leopard was spotted in a tree to everyone’s excitement but we missed the photos because it soon descended and disappeared in the tall grass.
We started the game drive early without breakfast, we were eventually exhausted and ready to return to the lodge for breakfast. Many were disappointed because they had not sighted the King of the Jungle but thankfully we had Day 2 to search again depending on the program. For me Kidepo is more for the culture, birds and scenery and not for the animals animal sightings.