In previous times most of travelers planning for their wildlife safaris in Uganda, thought of Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks and leaving out the Kidepo Valley National Park. Today Kidepo Valley National Park is perhaps Uganda’s best secret offering rare and common tourist wildlife and bird species, landscapes and cultural aspects. The park has over the last few years generated a lot of interest, especially to African safari enthusiasts and other keen travelers interested in discovering the wide open spaces that the park offers.
When coupled with the teeming wildlife whose diversity continues to increase, the park is a must- visit destination in Uganda. According to Atlanta- based Cable News Network (CNN), one of the leading global cable News stations, Kidepo Valley National Park ranks at the very top of some of the best safari destinations in Africa. The news organization ranks Kidepo two places behind Botswana’s Okavango National park and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Kidepo Valley National Park is the most isolated national park in Uganda. Nevertheless, it is worth the long journey through the wild frontier region of Karamoja to witness such splendid beauty. Kidepo Valley lies in the rugged savannah between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya. The park houses over 77 species of mammals and more than 475 species of birds. If you are up for some game viewing, then this park is ideal. Game viewing is made possible with vehicles that travel on dirt roads in the park during any weather condition.
The undiscovered location of Kidepo Valley Park
A few years ago, Kidepo largely remained an undiscovered location and very few travelers ventured to the top- right corner of Uganda to experience this vast wilderness of plain beauty. But thanks to such media mentions and the Kidepo Valley Park is now drawing nature and safari enthusiasts by the numbers. Framed in by rugged mountains, jagged hills and rolling valleys, Kidepo is a virtual Eden.
And when you throw in the abundant wildlife that includes everything from big herds of elephants and buffaloes to the big cats that include lions and cheetahs, you have one of the most unique safari destinations on the African continent.
What to see and do in Kidepo Valley Park
Due to its remote location on the top right corner of Uganda bordering south Sudan to the north and Kenya to the east, the game drives in Kidepo are unlike any other in East Africa. This is largely because of the less vehicular traffic in the park which means that visitors coming here will not have to navigate the rugged terrain of the park while encountering numerous other safari jeep and vans. This greatly enhances the game safari experience in Kidepo Valley.
Since the park remains as remote as it could ever be, it attracts a wide range of birds, especially birds of prey. The Pygmy Vulture and the Verreaux’s Eagle are amongst the most popular birds of prey that rule the skies over Kidepo. Aside from these, the park hosts numerous resident and migratory birds.
The vast lands of the Kidepo Valley have remained virtually untouched for decades. This means that surrounding environment is as natural as it could ever be. The surroundings are filled of nothing but tranquil silence that is only interrupted by the chirping of birds, the whistling sound of the wind or the roar of a lion at a distance. Most companies operating safaris to Kidepo organize such nature walks within the park with experienced and knowledgeable guides.
The Karamajong people are some of the immediate neighbors of the Kidepo Valley National Park. The Karamajong are traditional nomadic people, like the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania, they are cattle herders and have also held strongly to their traditional way of life, dressing and customs. Visiting their tribal villages that dot around the park is a welcome culture experience.
The IK (The Lost Tribe)
The Ik people (sometimes called Teuso, are an ethnic group numbering about 10,000 people living in the mountains of northeastern Uganda near the border with Kenya, next to the more populous Karamajong and Turkana peoples. The Ik were displaced from their land to create the Kidepo Valley National Park and consequently suffered extreme famine. Also, their weakness relative to other tribes meant they were regularly raided. The Ik are subsistence farmers who grind their own grain. The Ik language is a member of the highly divergent Kuliak subgroup of Nilo-Saharan languages.
Around the end of the 18th century, an acute drought struck Ethiopia highlands prompting many of her communities to migrate to other parts of Africa. One such group is the IK, a fraternity of herders that moved into present day Kidepo Valley National Park. There, they met a land that had it all from myriads of wildlife species to fertile soils that would yield results overnight, to abundant vegetation for grazing their cattle.
For a tribe that moved from an over populated place whose resource were on the verge of depletion, this felt like the Garden of Eden. Overwhelmed by this stability and plentiful of resources the IK experienced a population outburst that saw her growth from a vulnerable tribe on the verge of extinction to a gallant kingdom. On a low note thought, the more successful they become, the more conflicts they registered. In times of scarcity, the rival tribes inclusive of the Dodoth, Karamajong and the Pokot turned to looting their possessions. Worse still, the raids not only claimed their wealth but hundreds of lives as well, especial that of women and children.