KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
The Kidepo Valley National Park is one of Uganda’s most spectacular parks. It is 1,442 square kilometres and harbours scenery unsurpassed in any other park in East Africa.. Tucked into the corner of Uganda’s border with Sudan and Kenya, the park offers breathtaking Savannah landscapes, which end in rugged horizon. A huge latitudinal range and correspondingly wide climatic conditions have evolved an extremely diverse flora. As a result the variety of animal species in the park is equally abundant including many which are found no where else in Uganda.
The vegetation can best be described as open tree Savannah which varies much in structure and composition. Mountain forest dominates some of the high places, while areas along the Lorupei River support dense Acacia geradi forest. The flora and fauna of the park are more typical of Kenya than the rest of Uganda. The landscape throughout the park is studded with small hills, rocky outcrops and inselbergs from which one can obtain stunning views in all directions.
Where to stay
At the Park itself, there is the up-market Apoka Lodge. There is also a hostel comprising of 14 bandas each with two beds; these bandas are not self contained.
For visitors who like camping, the park has two ‘Do it yourself’ campsites. You must bring your tent and other camping equipment.
WHAT TO DO:
The park harbours a great diversity of animal species than other parks. Of the 80 species of mammals listed in 1971, 28 were not known to occur in any other Ugandan park. Carnivore species unique to Kidepo and Karamoja region include the bat-eared fox, striped hyena, aardwolf, caracal, cheetah and hunting dog. Less common ungulates include the greater and lesser kudu, Chandlers Mountain reedbuck, klipspringer, dikdik and bright gazelle; beisa oryx and roan antelope have been severely depleted by poachers in the recent years. Among other large ungulates are elephant, burchell’s zebra, bush pig, warthog, rothschild giraffe, cape buffalo, eland, bush buck, bush duskier, defassa water buck, bohor reed buck, jackson’s hartbeest and oribi. Five species of primate are found in the park of which the Kavirondo bush baby is endemic. Carnivores present include lion, leopard, several small cats, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal and side-striped jackal. The easiest to see being the jackals.
There are high chances of viewing tree climbing lions that always sits on sauces trees along Narus valley or on rock just as you enter the Apoka Park Headquarter. Other wildlife include elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bush buck, bush pig, kavirondo bush baby, buffalo and much more that are some times seen right from the veranda of Apoka Lodge.
The park boasts an extensive avifauna. 465 species have been recorded (three new species were added to the list in 1995). Of particular interest, the ostrich and the Kori bustard are principally associated with arid regions.
The park is outstanding for its birds of prey. Of 58 species recorded 14 are believed to be endemic to Kidepo and the Karamoja region. These include Verreaux’s eagle, Egyptian vulture and pygmy falcon. Also of note are four species of hornbills. The redbilled, the yellow-billed and Jackson’s hornbill are peculiar to Kidepo, while the giant Abyssinaia ground hornbill is quite common. There is however no comprehensive survey in Kidepo and keen visitors stand a good chance of adding to the current list.
Hiking and Scenery viewing
Hiking can be carried out on Lamoj Mountains just a few kilometers from the Park Headquarters. Visitors can also go to view the splendid Kidepo River Valley dominated by Borassus palm forest; its wide flat bed is dry for most of the year. From Kidepo Valley, you may also visit the Kanangorok Hot Springs, which are located only 11 km from Kidepo river valley.
The mountain and Savannah landscape of the park is spectacular. The Narus valley is situated in the South West of the park; the rugged Napore-Nyagia mountain range forms its western boundary. Separating it from the Kidepo Valley in the northeast, are the Natira and Lokayot Hills. To the north in the Sudan are the Lotukei mountains and the Morungole range marks the southern boundary of the park.
The local community has a group of cultural entertainers who on request are always available to perform. The performers have a large menu for you, traditional dances such as the Emuya of the Naporre and Nyangia, ethnic groups and Larakaraka and Apiti dances of the Acholi are waiting for you. The money that this group earns is used for uplifting their welfare.
If you are interested in increasing your knowledge on African culture, visits to the Karimojong manyattas (homesteads) and probably kraals to see traditional costume, stools, spears headdress, knives, bows and arrows and jewelry can be arranged. Some of the above mentioned items can be purchased from the park tourist office. It’s advisable that you make arrangements for the nature walk two days in advance. This booking can be done from the park headquarters in Apoka or from Uganda Wildlife Authority Headquarters in Kampala.
Visitors who choose to follow the Soroti-Moroto road will be enthralled by the view of the steep volcano of Alekilek about midway Moroto and Soroti. And for those who take the Lira-Kotido road will enjoy the scenery of the Labwor hills and in particular the massive and bare Alerek (Kidi Rwot) rock about 55 km to Kotido.
SEMLIKI GAME RESERVE
Formerly called the Tooro Game reserve, this large reserve abutting Lake Albert and the northern base of the Rwenzoris is a rich mosaic of grassland, savannah, forest and wetland habitats. The fauna is correspondingly diverse: Uganda Kob is the commonest large mammal, but also forest elephant, chimpanzees, buffalo, leopard and various monkeys and antelope. Of the 400 bird species recorded, the shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quarters in Lake albert. Accommodation is at Semliki Lodge with a swimming pool.
Activities include: Night game drives, gives a wonderful chance to view the elusive leopard and other nocturnal species. Chimp tracking, boat trip on Lake Albert which offers a fantastic opportunity to observe the extraordinary shoebill, visit to the stunning Nkusi Waterfalls.