Kidepo Valley shines in the savannah
Kidepo is in the Karamoja region in northeastern Uganda in Kaabong district. It lies between Uganda’s borders with South Sudan and Kenya, some 700 kilometres from Kampala.
It has two seasonal rivers — Kidepo and Narus. During the dry season, water is found only in wetlands and remnant pools in the broad Narus Valley near Apoka, in the heart of the park. These seasonal oases, combined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing location, the Uganda Wildlife Authority says.
On our game drive, we see buffalo, Jackson’s hartebeest, African elephants, warthogs, giraffes, waterbucks, zebras and elands grazing.
We arrive at the Kakine Observation Point that offers a 360-degree view of the area within the Narus Valley at about 4.30pm.
Viewing the park through the Kakine telescope, I see the imposing Lomej Hills in the east and the beautiful vantage point of Narus Valley where numerous wildebeest are grazing.
One of our guides who is also a game park ranger, Corporal Samuel Loware, tells us: “All the animals come out to graze at this time as the sun sets. Such points were strategically set up for observation reasons because they are vantage points.”
Herds of buffalo can be seen grazing; within the large herds are smaller units of families or clans. A herd may have 2,000 to 3,000 animals.
Old male buffaloes, referred to as “losers,” are feeding alone far away from the herds.
“The strongest male in a herd fights other males to dominate mating. The male losers are thrown out of the herd, but the females die in the herd,” Samuel Okello, another ranger, says.
We also see a number of elephants muddying themselves in pools of water. Okello informed us that elephants feed for 16 to 17 hours a day, and spend the rest of the day sleeping, and wallowing in the mud and dust. “Mud protects the elephants from tsetse fly bites and ticks, and helps lower their body temperature,” he said.
At the Ogirangale swamp, Nile crocodiles were basking in the evening sun.
Some 28 of the 86 species of mammals in Kidepo are not found in any other of Uganda’s national parks. Animals unique to Kidepo include the striped hyena, aardwolf, caracal, cheetah, greater and lesser kudu, klipspringer, dik-dik, Bright’s gazelle and chandler’s mountain reedbuck. The beisa oryx and the roan antelope are believed to have been wiped out from the region. The last rhino in the park was killed in 1983.
African wild dogs have been seen coming into the park from Sudan, but are not resident.
The park has 58 species of birds of prey including the lammergeier, Verreaux’s eagle, the pygmy falcon, and the Egyptian vulture. Some of Africa’s rarest birds are found in Kidepo, including the Karamoja apalis and black-breasted barbet.Kidepo is approximately 12 hours from Kampala by road.
A chartered flight will take about two hours from Entebbe International Airport.
This story first appeared in The East African Magazine (Feb 4, 2017) by By Bamuturaki Musinguzi