Discover Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
When most people think of Uganda they think of gorillas, chimps and tree climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls. Kidepo Valley is a little-known National Park on the border of South Sudan and what a hidden gem it is. It is Uganda’s most remote park, far away from city life, and is constantly named as one of the most beautiful parks in Africa. As we flew through the mountains into the valley, I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of this area.
Access to the park is pretty restricted with only 2 scheduled flights a week otherwise, it is a private charter. There are 2 camps in the park, Apoka Safari Lodge and another campsite run by the Uganda Wildlife Authority so you have all 1,500 square kilometres of untouched wilderness completely to yourself.
I was staying at Apoka Safari Lodge which I instantly fell in love with. As we drove into the lodge we were met by our welcoming party, 4 side striped jackals and lots of bushbuck who didn’t even notice that we had arrived. From my suite’s private terrace, it was the same story, buffalo, zebras, warthogs and even more jackals.
The service and food was brilliant (they pitch themselves as the best in Uganda) and I was thrilled to hear that most of the staff were from the local village and had been there for over 10 years. My guide was called Julius and he is certainly one of the best guides I have ever had. What a character he was!
Game is not as abundant as in the Mara or the Serengeti but herds of 300-odd Cape buffalo, tree climbing lions, and healthy numbers of antelopes were present.
During my stay we visited the local Karamojong Village. I learnt from Julius that for years this area was the Badlands of Uganda and the Karamojong tribe murdered each other with their AK47s for cattle. After a government disarmament programme that started in the early 2000’s the guns have disappeared and if I had not been told this before the visit I would have been none the wiser. It was the most authentic village visit I had done in Africa.
During game drives you are haunted by a half-finished building that sits on a rocky escarpment inside the park. When I ask Julius what this is he tells me it is where Idi Amin started to build a private lodge. It doesn’t surprise me that Idi Amin chose to build his lodge in this stunning park and although this was never completed and is only occupied by leopards, the skeleton of the lodge remains as a reminder.
When I returned home I was sharing my experience of Apoka with a client who had been the year before and he described the park as feeling like the Mara before it became popular and crowded. He is right. Few places in Africa remain so untouched and who knows how long Kidepo Valley will stay this way especially now that Uganda is firmly back on the map.
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