From the incredible Buffalo herds across endless plains to prides of lions gathering at water holes, the wildlife of Africa is the absolute most diverse and sought after on this planet earth. Without a doubt, everybody appears to need a slice of the safari experience. As the popularity of wildlife holidays keeps on growing, and the popularity of game-viewing spots become awash with jeeps and camera focal points, it’s quite easy to feel like those picture-perfect grasslands are a thing of the past.
Kidepo National Park Uganda
A Uganda Safari in Kidepo National Park Uganda is a remarkable exception. Stunningly beautiful yet rarely seen in the average tourist itinerary, its rugged mountains and sprawling plains paint Africa in its purest wildest form. Located 700km north of Kampala City, its remote location implies that few endeavor to take up this journey (although those who do always claim it was worth it!). not only is the scenery stunning, the park also boasts of incredible biodiversity, with over 77 species of mammals and over 475 types of birds.
Into the wild
A big thank you to its unique wildlife and natural surroundings, Kidepo is quite different to other Ugandan National Parks. The landscape is dominated by the park’s twin valleys, Kidepo and Narus, and the panoramic grasslands are ringed by mountains and dotted with oases. The resident cheetahs, mountain reedbucks and Patas monkeys cannot be seen anywhere else in the country, making it Uganda’s most biodiverse nature reserve.
Unlike its more popular sister parks-Queen Elizabeth National Parks and Murchison Falls National Park-Kidepo Valley National park has not yet been adapted to cater for high tourist numbers. Named a protected reserve in 1962, it is still wild and raw, home to a mere handful of lodges and tented camps (so you won’t be sharing the plains with hordes of 4X4s). It is perhaps one of the most authentic wildlife strongholds still on offer in Africa, and sure to leave you stunned during any safari trip.
Best experienced over a couple of days, there’s no shortage of expeditions on offer in Kidepo. For starters, a dawn game drive safari is a great way to get acclimatized. Watching the reserve come to life, and seeing the colours of the sunrise behind the park’s mountain peaks, you’re sure to feel a million miles from the frantic pace of modern life. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for photographers to capture gorgeous scenes during ‘magic hours’ when the light is at its softest. From herds of elephants to darting cheetahs, early morning is the best time to see the wildlife at its most active.
In terms of classic game drives, few places boast better viewing opportunities than the Narus Valley. Its rolling grass plains are home to a year-long water source, meaning that much of the park’s wildlife congregates here during the dry season. With the Mrungule range silhouetted against the horizon, it’s arguably one of the most picturesque safari spots in Africa. Lions, wildebeests and buffaloes can be seen in the valley, most commonly in the afternoon when the heat drives them to the water’s edge to cool down.
Also on offer at Kidepo, and slightly rarer among African Parks in general, is a walking safari. Far more immersive than your classic jeep option, Kidepo’s on-foot offerings are something of a unique selling point. Guided by a Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger, visitors can walk alongside grazing zebra, herds of antelope and towering giraffes. The distance kept in a safari jeep doesn’t apply here-the park’s lack of footfall has kept its wildlife bold and curious, allowing you to get up close and personal with nature.
Unmissable among Kidepo’s wildlife experiences is its large populations of ostriches. Living in flocks, they group together in the Kidepo river basin during the dry season. Generally fearful of humans, these magnificent birds are best viewed from afar as they stream across the plains. Slightly further north, close to the border with South Sudan, are the Kanangarok hot springs. The thermal water is believed to have healing powers and, still relatively untouched by tourism, there are no signposts or footpaths guiding visitors to the springs. With a Ugandan Wildlife Authority ranger on hand, the network of dirt tracks becomes a lot easier to navigate. The clear, carbonated waters are the perfect place to sink and unwind, as you take in the incredible surroundings and spot the odd lion in the distant savannah.
Uganda is fast emerging as a wildlife hotspot to rival the likes of Tanzania and Kenya – and Kidepo National Park is, perhaps, its last frontier. Still raw, still remote and still waiting to be explored by those adventurous enough to embrace its endless plains.