Since the Easter weekend trip to Kidepo Valley National Park in Karamoja, my friends that I meet on the daily hustle normally ask how it went, because apparently, they saw a certain “fire portrait” of me on the timeline with location saying Kitgum or something. Yes. Going on a #KoikoiUg trip means finally having portraits of you that you have never experienced before, and probably won’t, for the rest of your life. You will suddenly adopt “Kodak” as your middle name. People will tell you that you have a Khoisan skin complexion and that you should get on the next “Generations” 2018 drama series. They will also suggest to you that you should get on a modeling career. For them, life decisions are just like that. Easy peasy. That’s what #KoikoiUg does to you, and you internally nod your head…but I digress.
It was my first visit to the Kidepo Valley National Park, under #KoikoiUg, and I have since recommended that everybody goes to visit, even just for a quick weekend getaway.
Here’s what you definitely need to know about Kidepo when you get round to planning that trip;
The national park is located in the Karamoja Sub-region of North-Eastern Uganda in Kaabong district, approximately 11 hours away from Kampala. What I mean is, you have to prepare yourself for an 11-hour drive, and that includes the “bathroom” breaks, the lunch, the stretching, and a smooth and responsible drive for the rest of over 500 kilometers. The park is mostly rugged savannah with a few trees littering the flat landscape and lots of shrubs.
I just feel the need to warn you of the bitter-sweet feeling of arrival at the park; you will keep seeing signposts, but relax and sit tight because you still have a 30-minute ride. At some point, you will even drive through the actual National Park gate, but again, wait some more. By that time, it will be (at the earliest) 6:30/7:30pm if you left Kampala early enough, and I would advise that you start looking out through your window because that my dear, would be your first game drive via the Park’s marram road before you can reach the Uganda Wildlife Authority Campsite about 15 minutes later.
On your way in, you might go past one or two guest houses; but for the ultimate experience, you can book accommodation from the main accommodation area inside the park. The Uganda Wildlife Authority Campsite, being that Kidepo Valley National Park is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Everyone there is English speaking, so you should be comfortable communicating.
Accommodation is mainly in small cozy huts called Bandas; most of which are self-contained, so if you book early, you might have no problem travelling with your whole family. Cost varies, such that if you are on a budget, there are rooms that are not self-contained. If you are the extra adventurous type, you can carry along your camping tent. There’s plenty of ground for those!
This particular campsite gives you the ultimate experience because it is literally surrounded by the park and the animals. Warthogs cross your paths, and if you go a little further away from the Bandas, you might see a couple of Kobs, or Buffaloes in the near distance. Every night, there’s a huge campfire that burns all night that can accommodate campers with warmth and storytelling moments.
There are two activities you can do at Kidepo; the game drive, and everything else in between. I say in between because the best time to view game, according to the park guide, is either early in the morning, or later in the evening from 4 pm. You can book a game drive vehicle if you are a small group. This is the ideal option since it’s an open vehicle and allows for the better viewing experience. If you are a large group, or if you came with your own car, make sure everyone on board can access the windows. (If you want to catch sight of some lions, look out for vultures, and the Lions could be a few feet away!)
During the day, you can make a mid-morning visit to the Karamojong local community and experience a day in their life. One of the community leaders will take you through the rich K’Jong cultural norms and practices through narration. Only a couple of people there can speak English; otherwise the locals speak aKarimojong. Later, you can participate in different organized K’Jong dance performances by the youth. Everybody loves some dancing!
Remember to carry some money such that you can take back some beaded or copper iron jewelry/souvenir with you.
The other activity you could do during the day is to make a visit to the Ik people who live on the mountains. The Ik are an ethnic group of people who were displaced to the mountains in order to create Kidepo Valley National Park. They were no longer able to hunt the wild animals, so they suffered famine in the mountains and their population kept dwindling. The hike to the Ik tribe in the mountains is about 4 hours, so warm up!
You will mostly dine with food from the kitchen at the national park. There is a small eating area around the kitchen, otherwise, food can also be eaten at the campfire that is burning all night. You will basically find local meals, apart from matooke and groundnut stew. A few fries on the side as well, depending on the menu. The food is actually great. In the morning, you can have yourself a Rolex or, a chapatti with an omelet. You can travel along with your additional choice of snacks for breakfast. There’s a bar too, for those that like their drink. Teetotalers are catered for as well!
About the author:
The first thing Karen likes to say is that she loves God. She is glad to write her heart and mind because she doesn’t speak much. She loves to hug the whole world, eat rice and beans, and is a firm believer in Teetotalism.