Kidepo National Park is one of the reasons Northern Uganda is slowly but surely becoming a top tourist destination. It is endowed with exceptional natural beauty and distinctive features.
l and a group from Back to the Source Tours courtesy of the Uganda Tourism Board recently visited Kidepo Valley National Park.
We set off from Murchison Falls National Park at 8:30AM and arrived at the Park at 10;40 pm.
About Kidepo Valley National Park
At nearly 1,442 sq. km Kidepo Valley National Park is Uganda’s most remote National park and possibly the most beautiful park in East Africa.
Situated in the rugged, semi-arid valleys of Karamoja province on the extreme northern border with Sudan, Kidepo was gazetted as a national park in 1962.
The park’s altitude ranges between 914m and 2,750m above sea level.
Kidepo National Park has two valleys Kidepo and Narus, which happened to be our home for two nights at the famous Apoka Safari Lodge.
Narus meaning “muddy area”, is a rolling grassland, plain, enclosed by distant mountains that sandwich it from corner to corner.
Game Drive, Wild Animals Kingdom
During our evening game drive, the animals we spotted most were the Buffalos, Jackson’s Hartebeests, Reedbucks and lions.
The park is also home to more than 80 mammal species like giraffes, oribis, zebras, hyenas, cheetahs, elephants and leopards.
Over 475 bird species also call Kidepo home. These include the Yellow-billed shrike, Silver bird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Little Weaver and many more.
Cultural visit to the Karamojong people
We had a 30-minute drive from Apoka Safari Lodge to Lorukul Village in Karenga District. On arrival, we were welcomed by Raphael Okot who was our guide for the day.
Okot gave us a brief background of the village and how it’s formed.
What l quickly noticed, was that the Karamojong and the Masai people have a lot in common, like the fact that they are all pastoralists who move around with their cattle in search of greener pastures.
I also observed that unlike most of us Ugandans, the Karamojong have up to now shun western-style clothiers and instead wear the traditional dress of a shawl in red, black, green and orange.
The Karamojong women wear a Lesu skirt and traditional jewelry; they generally do not dress up much.
“You are welcome to our village. Please feel at home and ask all the questions you want,” Okot said.
He told us that Karamojongs are a proud but fierce group of semi-nomadic pastoralists with a rich cultural heritage which is undeniably true and visible enough to all of us that visited.
“The Role of the Karamojong men is to find pasture and water. As for the women, they stay back in the Manyattas (huts) and take care of the homestead and attend to the gardens”.
The women have a granary that is only touched by them as it’s a taboo for a man to even come close to it, let alone open it.
“The Karamojong live communally. They do things together as one family and live in complete harmony with nature”.
Everything about them was so refreshing and pure, very rare to find other parts of Uganda.
The locals kept teaching us how to greet in their language and many more things about them.
The Karamojong are naturally tall but it’s funny how they build Manyattas with small doors. In fact, l forgot as l was going out of one of the Manyattas and l hit my head on the wall.
They don’t have a lot in their homes as they on skins of cows laid on the floor. I spotted a few utensils that they use to cook and eat as well.
Marriage among the Karamojong
A young Karamojong man has to spot out a woman he is interested in then he wrestles with her. If he wins, the wrestling match against the woman, then he’s ready to marry her.
“This is done to ensure that the boy is now a man and is permitted to marry the woman all in the efforts of making sure the man will be strong enough to care and protect his wife”.
The Karamojong dance is one that should not be missed. This energy-consuming dance was the icing on the cake for me.
For the dance, the men and women sing harmonious songs as they repeatedly jump like the earth beneath one’s feet is ablaze with fire.
The locals have mastered the art and every time they see a tourist they do not hesitate to show off their dancing skills. Whoever feels like they can beat them at it is always invited and they end up bowing down for them.