Uganda Travel Series Part 2
Kidepo National Park
A Place of Solitude and Beauty
Most people fly to Kidepo National Park, but there are a few brave souls who take the time, and bear with the over abundance of potholes, and ruts that plague the long drive and long distance to get there.
I am very happy that our tour of Uganda was a driving tour, because I believe that you can’t see the “real Uganda” if you only fly from national park to national park. The “real Uganda” has a very young population, over 75% under the age of 30. It is mind blowing to see the hundreds of thousands of young school age children, who are the future of Uganda. It was a bit overwhelming for us to witness women, children, and a few men walking mile after mile, to and from school, or carrying water from wells to their homes. It makes you open your mind to many questions, some without answers as to the future of Africa.
You will find that the country side along the dusty red dirt roads is made up of small tribal villages that are constructed by women out of bricks formed by local men. The circular clay brick huts are the traditional living conditions, and you will wonder where they put all the children you will see mile after mile.
Day 3 -6 Kidepo National Park
Kitgum to Kidepo National Park
Driving from Kitgum to Kidepo was our first “real african experience” outside of a national park. The road to Kidepo was a bumpy, dusty, bone rattling ride, and eye opening experience. However, we never once second guessed our decision to drive to Kidepo park, which was chosen as one of the top ten choices of national parks across Africa.
What makes Kidepo so special is its solitude and beauty, the fact that it is surrounded by mountains, some which are on the border triangle of Uganda, South Sudan, and Kenya. The distance and time to get there can be off putting to some travelers, but the solitude was one of the reasons we wanted to see it. You can fly directly into Kidepo from Kampala, but you will miss seeing the country side: the massive waves of Ugandan children, and daily struggle of the average Ugandan man and woman trying to live day to day. It was our first foray into African life, and it was eye opening for us. Most people just come to see the wildlife, but if you have the time, it is amazing to see how the rural Ugandan people live, and it brought a greater appreciation to how amazing our lives are in the United States. There is no comparison of the hardships that these people live every day! My most difficult day as a mother, will never compare to the life of an African mother.
Below are pictures of the people and the children we encountered on our way to the park. We stopped at a very rural church school to donate some supplies and money. The kids were shy, and yet eager to show us what they were learning in the school. However, it was only as they gave us the school tour that we realized that they are learning without supplies, desks, or books. The children some whom looked very malnourished, are covered from their heads to their mostly shoeless feet in the red dust from the dirt floors of the classroom, and the country side. You cannot however, not get caught up in their infectious smiles, and childish laughter.
After a half a day of driving, and stopping we arrive in Kidepo National Park which is truly one of the most unspoilt and wild places that I have ever had the chance to visit. I hate to recommend it as mass tourism will surely ruin what make this place special.
Day 3-6th in Kidepo National Park & Apoka Lodge
Spectacular and striking scenery awaits all who dare to venture off the beaten path, and If I ever return to Uganda it will be to go back to Kidepo National Park. It is definitely worth the time, and effort to visit. It is a captivating and lovely piece of Africa where we made some wonderful memories.
Surrounded on 3 sides by mountain ranges, the beautiful savannah landscape is both remote, and unspoiled. It is a place where wild things can be wild. You will not find the abundance of animals here that you will find in other parks thanks to Idi Amin, and illegal poaching. Many species of animals were poached almost to extinction when Idi Amin was in power and building his unfinished crumbling hotel that sits high up on the rocky cliffs overlooking the Narum Valley.
Kidepo is home to 86 mammal species, and 28 of the species can be found no where else in Uganda. There are carnivore species that are found only in Kidepo park which include; the cheetah (which we saw 2) bat-eared fox, hunting dog, and stripped hyena. We saw non of the others. We did see small herds of elephants, bride gazelle, dikdik, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, waterbucks, bushbucks, jackal, duiker, oribi, kob, lots of bird species, and the most important lions….lions everyday of our 3 day stay. I wanted to see a leopard, but it seems that was not to be our luck on this trip.
If you are a bird watcher this is a lovely place to find 475 bird species, which is second only to Queen Elizabeth National Park. One hundred of these bird species live only in Kidepo. You will find at Kidepo these species and more: the sand grouse, standard-winged night jars, brown-backed wood pecker, rose-ringed parakeet, singing bush lark,brown-backed wood pecker, red-winged lark, and the famous jackson’s hornbills.
The lions for us were the high light of visiting this park, as this was the place where we really got up close and personal with them. It was one of the most amazing and frightening experiences of our entire trip across Uganda. All it would not have been possible without our wonderful guide from Apoka Lodge.
Amazing & Comfortable Apoka Lodge
I don’t want to go into to much detail on this post, but you can read more on Apoka lodge here. I will say that it was one of the best lodge experiences on our trip. Not just the remote nature of the lodge, but the amazing staff and level of service they provide. Our private guide from the lodge was sweet, very proficient at his job, and twice a day took us on amazing photographic game drives to discover why Kidepo N. P is such a special place. I hate to recommend that people go out of their way to get here, because what makes it truly special is the remote nature of it. Once the masses find it, then it will be just another land rover laden tourist park, where the poor lions are surrounded by too many cars, and too many loud tourist destroying the peace and solitude. Being one of the only jeep in the park….priceless!
If you have time do take a half day I re commend that you go and visit the Karimajong tribe. It is a fascinating look into a remote tribe that is just coming or trying to come in to the modern world. They are a small tribe on the brink of extinction themselves, not unlike many of the animals that are poached throughout Uganda, and the rest of Africa. Visit the village, see the beautiful children, look into the brick huts to see how they live, watch them dance, and savor their history. It was a remarkable tour for us, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. We enjoyed interacting with all the kids, seeing the young people dance, and learning the history of the tribe from their spokesman who explained his plans to build a clinic for the tribe with the money we paid for the tour. I highly recommend a trip to see the Karimajong tribe.
Next Post……Murchison Falls National Park
Next we head off to Murchison Falls National Park for day 6 of our journey
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