Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Into the Wild at Kidepo Valley National Park

Standing in the vast openness, I stare up at the night sky and am in awe of what I see, more stars than I ever knew existed. The Milky Way is a smear in the sky. Looking up at this is the end to a perfect day in the African bush. There is a part of me that wants to keep this special place a secret but it wouldn’t be fair not to share what a wonderful place the Kidepo Valley National Park and my unforgettable stay at N’ga Moru Wilderness Camp.

I have wanted to visit Kidepo Valley NP for many years and finally had my chance. My husband and I packed up the beloved Land Rover and together with family from overseas we set off full of anticipation to find out what this park was all about. Tucked in North Eastern Uganda and bordering the Sudan and Kenya we knew that getting there was going to be part of the fun. An early start from Kampala had us out onto the open road heading north and before we knew it we were crossing over the Nile and the stunning Karuma Falls. We arrive in Gulu and take a break to have some lunch, a cold drink and stretch our legs before driving to Kitgum for an overnight stop at Fugly’s.  Fugly’s is a great spot to overnight to break up the journey. The drinks are cold, the food is good and there is a pool.  The next morning we woke up to the birds singing and the sun shining.  After a cup of coffee and some breakfast, we filled up with fuel and hit the road headed towards the Kidepo Valley.

The 2 ½ hour drive from Kitgum to the N’ga Moru Wilderness Camp was my favorite part of the drive. The graded murram road passes by numerous small villages with clusters of mud and thatch huts. Children lined the roadside waving, dancing and shouting out greetings. The road winds through the Keler and Loniyili mountain ranges and offers some amazing views. It’s not the kind of drive that you want to rush because there are so many places to stop and admire the scenery. 

Some people we met walking on the road in the pass
Mom has sheltered the baby on her back from the sun with a large gourd, a common practice in the north
As we dropped down into the Kidepo Valley, the way to the camp is clearly marked with signs. We arrive just before lunch and sit down with our hosts, the proprietors of N’ga Moru and Fugly’s, Patrick and Lyn.  They are always welcoming and a joy to sit and chat with and are full of information about the park and surrounding area.  It doesn't take long to realize that they love the African bush and they revel in the joy of sharing it with their guests.  Over some nice food and great company we periodically gaze out across the valley to admire the Morungule Mountains in the distance.

The camp sits on 98 acres on the border of the park. N’ga Moru means “The Place of Rocks” and just a few minutes into our late afternoon drive, I soon understand that the name is appropriate. We explore the area around the wilderness camp and there is plenty of game on the property and the views over the valley are outstanding. Kidpeo is so remote, unspoilt and pristine, you truly feel like you are in one of the last great wildernesses. 

On Safari
Our accommodation is a large luxury canvas tent tucked under a thatched roof with a large toilet and shower ensuite. The beauty of the tents is that there is no need for mosquito nets; essentially you are sleeping in a giant net. Keeping the flaps of the tent open allows for lots of fresh air and the sounds of park night-life. Next to the tent under the thatch roof is a veranda with a couple of safari chairs that face the valley, a perfect spot to sit and take it all in. 

Our tent under thatch roof with stunning views over the valley

At the end of every day you’ll find a fire ablaze in the large fire pit encircled by chairs.  What a perfect place to sit down enjoy the sunset over the mountains. With a cold drink in hand there isn’t anything more I could ask for, a stunning location, great company and a beautiful African sunset. 

After dinner Patrick takes us out on a night drive. After about 10 minutes of driving through the darkness waving our floodlights back and forth, we heard a large noise in the bushes, an elephant not far off the road. What a fantastic sighting, but the best was yet to come! I was sharing the back seat of the open air vehicle with a friend and we could hear a loud puffing noise coming from behind us. We shone our lights around to where the noise is coming from and see an extremely large puff adder; it was easily six feet long.  It was the largest puff adder that any of us had ever seen. We sat in silence as it moved off the road and disappeared into the bush with all its grace and beauty, marveling at the pattern of its skin. I am not a big fan of snakes, but do think they are beautiful to admire from a distance.  To witness this was a truly amazing sight!!

In the morning, we were woken by the light just in time to see a giant orange ball emerge from behind the mountains and flood the valley with daylight. Another day begins; the only question is what it will hold. After some breakfast, we’re off for a game drive in the park.  It is a 10 minute drive to the Katarum Gate where we enter KVNP. Immediately we see a rock hyrax scurrying along the cliffs nearby. The drives are beautiful and there’s lots to see including a herd of buffalo which is rumored to be the largest standing herd in East Africa. The buffalo are on the move and it’s incredible to watch. There are also elephants, lion, zebra, giraffe, warthogs, crocodiles, oribi, waterbuck, bushbuck, reedbuck and numerous species of birds for us to enjoy. There is so much more I can tell you about this place and the three days that we spent there, but the best is to go and discover it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed. N’ga Moru is a real bush experience in one of the most beautiful and remote parks in East Africa, Kidepo Valley National Park. 

N’ga Moru Wilderness Camp
Mobile: +256 754 500555

Elephant in Kidepo Valley National Park

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