If arranged as per the preferences I have, Kidepo Valley National Park would stand first in my list of Ugandan destinations that I really wish to tour. Located at the famous Kaarmoja region in northeast Uganda, the park has a vast area of 1442 KM2. The park that is dominated by boundless savannah is nourished by River Kidepo and River Narus. Mount Morungole, once considered as a sacred place by Ik tribesmen of Uganda, is also an attraction within the park. Placed on the northeastern corner of the country, Kidepo Valley National Park is bordering with Sudan and Kenya. Though accessibility could raise a problem for travelers, the spectacular landscape and distinct wildlife would make the park one among the must visit destinations of the country.
The park that has a semi-arid climate with just one rainy season and two seasonal rivers supports 77 species of mammals and almost 500 species of birds. Many of the mammals living in the region are unique to Kidepo Valley National Park, in Uganda. Carnivorous restricted to Kidepo Valley are bat-eared fox, striped hyena, aardwolf, caracal, and cheetah. Among them the most spoken is striped hyena from the family hyaenidae. The animal that is also found in western India, are usually scavengers but also feed on small animals, insects, and fruits. Unlike brown hyenas and spotted hyenas, the striped hyenas are more solitary having smaller home ranges. Other carnivores present in the park are lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals, and side-striped jackals. Among many ungulates living in the park giraffes, elephants, and buffaloes are only a few to mention. The park also hosts five primates including the endemic Kavirondo bush baby.
No doubt that the lions and cheetahs get top priority in my agenda, but among all animals that the park hosts bat-eared fox is a sure attention grabber. A close relative of our domestic dogs, bat-eared fox or Otocyon megalotis is a canid, named after its long ears which are large in proportion to its head. This native insectivorous of African savannah has over 800,000 years of experience on our planet. With relatively short legs and yellowish brown fur, the animal has small teeth than of other canid species. Though this small canid’s prime is comprised of insects, they also eat rodents, birds, eggs, and fruits. Any possibility to watch these nocturnal mammals is either by going for a nighttime guided walk or by choosing a spotlight night drive.
While mentioning about birds, Kidepo is notable for its birds of prey including Verreaux’s eagle, Egyptian vulture and pygmy falcon, are believed to be endemic to the Kidepo and Karamoja region. A few among the vast territory of birdlife are unique to the park at least in Uganda, which includes ostrich, kori bustard, secretary bird, carmine, little green-throated bee eaters, little red-throated bee eaters, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Abyssinian roller and Abyssinian scimitar bill, yellow-billed and Jackson’s hornbills and apalis karamoja. Among many bird species of Kidepo Valley National Park, Apalis Karamoja is notable by its name. The bird that was first discovered in 1919 from the Karamoja region is a globally threatened warbler. This species of birds restricted to be acacia thorn bushes have grayish upperparts, whitish underparts, and a black bill. Although Uganda Wildlife Authority demands the presence of kori bustard unique to the park, I do remember catching a glimpse of this bird in Murchison Falls National Park. Kori Bustard or Ardeotis kori, is a large bird native to Africa that confused me by appearance to silver pied female peacock. It shares the title of heaviest bird capable of flight with similarly large great bustard. It must be the body weight that forces the bird to be on ground mostly, in spite of their flying ability. It has dull brown upperparts and grey underparts with yellow legs and a black crest on its head. The bird that lives on seeds, insects, and lizards has polygynous breeding habits. Female birds are solely responsible for incubating eggs and caring for the chicks.
If wildlife is the major attraction to the park, other supporting factors motivating a tourist to visit Kidepo Valley are Karamojong people, the valley itself, and Morungule Mountain. Karamojongs are pastoral population of Uganda who settled in the plateaus of northeast. Linguistically they belong to the central group of Nilote Language Family. Karsmajongs, whose major livelihood occupation being livestock herding, cattle are the key element of their culture. When milk, meat and even blood provide sustenance, urine, cow dung, skin, fat, bones, horns, and hooves are also used for various purposes. Like much talked tribe of Kenya, the Maasai, Karamojongs are unique in their lifestyle and social organization. Their distinct way of dressing, settlement, and behavior instigated many anthropologists to learn and write about them. The national park, the valley, rivers, hot springs, the mountain, and the population, all together Kidepo Valley National Park is a must visit destination in Uganda.