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FlyTraveler

Questions about a possible trip to Uganda

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Posted (edited)

Hello everyone,
 
I've been away from the forum for quite a while, hopefully will be able to stick around and complete the S. Africa (Madikwe and Entabeni game reserves) trip report I have started plus publishing reports for the next two trips that I have done in the meantime - Namibia + Kgalagadi TP in 2016 and Serengeti
/ Ndutu / Ngorongoro Crater in Feb. 2017.

 

At the moment I am thinking about a possible trip to Uganda in January - February, 2018. It will be somewhat limited time / budget trip, so I will skip the main highlights - the mountain gorilla and chimpanzee tracking in Bwindi and Kibale national parks. Main target would be Kidepo Valley National Park with Karamojong people village visit.

 

There are several local safari agencies that provide road trips to Kidepo Valley NP. It takes 2 days to get there by road and another two days to return, but this will reduce the overall cost of the safari and there will be opportunities to see the countryside up north. Before I write to any local safari outfitters, I would like to see your valuable opinion and get some advise here on Safaritalk (as I have always done before).

 

My rough idea about itinerary:


Day 01 - Early morning departure from Kampala to Kidepo Valley. Possible visit to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for an hour or two of Rhino tracking on foot - do you think that this is a good idea? I have seen quite a few rhinos (both black and white in the wild) and I am not sure how interesting this would be for me. Overnight - either in the town of Gulu or in Kitgum (just to break to long transfer).

 

Day 02 - Morning departure to Kidepo Valley NP, game drive, overnight at Apoka Rest Camp - UWA self-contained bandas. Apoka Lodge is kind of expensive, the only mid-range option (Nga'Moru Wilderness Camp) is outside the gate. The bandas at Apoka Rest Camp are basic, but the location seems to be nice - wildlife is coming into the camp, UWA headquorters are nearby. I would assume that night game drives can be booked there.

 

Any comments on the accommodation choice? I am thinking about 3 or even 4 nights in Kidepo Valley NP, giving the fact, that there is quite a lot to explore around: Narus Valley, Kidepo Valley, Karamojong people village etc. Any comments about number of nights there?

 

Day 03, 04, 05 - Kidepo Valley NP.

 

Day 06 - Leaving Kidepo Valley NP for Gulu, overnight (to break the long transfer to Murchion Falls NP).

 

Day 07 - Leaving Gulu for Murchion Falls NP, game drive, overnight.

 

I would seek advice about accommodation options - looking for moderate to mid-range properties. How many nights would you recommend in Murchison Falls NP? 3-4? Would be nice to do the upstream boat safari to the falls and also the downstream boat ride to the Lake Albert Delta (in the morning) and
explore the various parts of the park.

 

So, if I stay for four nights, that would be days # 08, 09, 10, 11 of the trip.

 

Kind of the most important question is whether to try to squeeze in Queen Elizabeth NP or not. I am aware that this park is quite far away from Murchison Falls and it might take one or two days to get there. I could cut a day in Kidepo Valley NP and a day in Murchison Falls NP and add one more day to the total number of days in order to accommodate QENP in the itinerary.

 

Any suggestions about this? At first glance it looks to me that it would be better to spend more days in the first two parks.

 

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. I have read the comprehensive and very informative trip reports of @Paulo, @pault, @bushbaby and @TonyQ, but still any advice and ideas here would be very useful.

 

Thanks in advance for your input!

 

Cheers!

 

Edited by FlyTraveler
Typos

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@FlyTraveler have you ever thought about basic camping? If you like please take a look to our homepage. We did 30 days basic camping in Uganda with Guide and Cook. Camping in Kidepo and in the delta in Murchison Falls was amazing. Sorry it is written in German but Google translate will help you. Here is the link: https://www.botswanadreams.de/reiseberichte/uganda-2014/

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47 minutes ago, Botswanadreams said:

@FlyTraveler have you ever thought about basic camping? If you like please take a look to our homepage. We did 30 days basic camping in Uganda with Guide and Cook. Camping in Kidepo and in the delta in Murchison Falls was amazing. Sorry it is written in German but Google translate will help you. Here is the link: https://www.botswanadreams.de/reiseberichte/uganda-2014/

 

Thanks for your reply @Botswanadreams!
 

I will certainly look into your link, this sounds very interesting. My travel companion for this trip will not go for basic camping, though. Otherwise that would be a great adventure and a good option for lower budget safari.

Any ideas about the length of stay (number of days) in the parks I have mentioned?

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1 hour ago, Botswanadreams said:

@FlyTraveler have you ever thought about basic camping? If you like please take a look to our homepage. We did 30 days basic camping in Uganda with Guide and Cook. Camping in Kidepo and in the delta in Murchison Falls was amazing. Sorry it is written in German but Google translate will help you. Here is the link: https://www.botswanadreams.de/reiseberichte/uganda-2014/

 

Great trip report and photos @Botswanadreams!

I have seen it before, your report was one of the reasons for me to start looking into a trip to Uganda.

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I am unable to help with accommodation ideas but I think it is wise to stick to the north for such a relatively short trip, and would not try to squeeze in QENP, which would be a very long drive from Murchison Falls NP and mean you were spending nearly as much time on the road as in the parks.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

34 minutes ago, pault said:

I am unable to help with accommodation ideas but I think it is wise to stick to the north for such a relatively short trip, and would not try to squeeze in QENP, which would be a very long drive from Murchison Falls NP and mean you were spending nearly as much time on the road as in the parks.

 

 

 

Thanks very much for your input  @pault! You are giving an answer to my main question!

Love your Uganda TR! 

Edited by FlyTraveler

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@FlyTraveler - I just saw your post. I was in Kidepo in 2015 and although I stayed at Apoka Lodge (which has a wonderful location inside the park), I did stop by & check out out the bandas. I would not stay there if I were you. Not only is it very close to park HQ (and therefore lots of human activity & rubbish & only some habituated animals & lots of scavenging jackals in the immediate vicinity), but I would much rather go camping à la @Botswanadreams - his basic camping with chef looks a lot better than the bandas I saw - by far.

 

I had also checked out the campsites used by @Botswanadreams - they are beautifully positioned with superb views over the park & you will likely not experience anything like those lion brothers at night if you stay in the bandas.

 

@BotswanadreamsPlease do post your report here - even if it's in German. It is lovely and your photos are really wonderful.

 

So whether it's location or food or wildlife, go with the basic camping kit. It will be perfectly comfortable & with a chef/musician along, how can you go wrong? :)

 

If you're at Kidepo, def go on some walks (you will need to arrange this with the park rangers). They have some beautiful walks in this park & very curious & unafraid plains game.

 

I hope you have a lovely time. Like Paul, I agree that QENP will make it too busy & too much time on the road.

 

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Posted (edited)

12 hours ago, Sangeeta said:

@FlyTraveler - I just saw your post. I was in Kidepo in 2015 and although I stayed at Apoka Lodge (which has a wonderful location inside the park), I did stop by & check out out the bandas. I would not stay there if I were you. Not only is it very close to park HQ (and therefore lots of human activity & rubbish & only some habituated animals & lots of scavenging jackals in the immediate vicinity), but I would much rather go camping à la @Botswanadreams - his basic camping with chef looks a lot better than the bandas I saw - by far.

 

I had also checked out the campsites used by @Botswanadreams - they are beautifully positioned with superb views over the park & you will likely not experience anything like those lion brothers at night if you stay in the bandas.

 

@BotswanadreamsPlease do post your report here - even if it's in German. It is lovely and your photos are really wonderful.

 

So whether it's location or food or wildlife, go with the basic camping kit. It will be perfectly comfortable & with a chef/musician along, how can you go wrong? :)

 

If you're at Kidepo, def go on some walks (you will need to arrange this with the park rangers). They have some beautiful walks in this park & very curious & unafraid plains game.

 

I hope you have a lovely time. Like Paul, I agree that QENP will make it too busy & too much time on the road.

 

 

Thanks very much for your input,@Sangeeta!

I don't think that the person I am intending to share this safari with, will go for basic camping, but your post will make me think twice about the Apoka Rest Camp bandas. I thought that their location was good and the problem was only with the basic accommodation and food. In any case there are two camps just outside the gate - Mga'Moru Wilderness Camp and Kidepo Savannah Lodge. I found also another place, located about 8 km. from the gate - the Buffalo Base guesthouse.

If I materialize this trip, I will definitely go for the safari walk(s).

Did you try the night game drives? I received somewhat controversial info regarding those. One safari outfitter wrote to me that KWA do not have any game drive vehicles in Kidepo Valley NP and the night drives are done with the vehicle that we are using for the entire trip, just taking a KWA ranger with us and renting a couple of spotlights (at US$ 20 each!). On the other hand I think that I've seen information about KWA night game drives in the park at US$ 40 p.p. (minimum 3 people). Any info on that?

I hope that @Paolo also writes a few words about Kidepo Valley NP and Murchison Falls NP.

What about accommodation in Murchison Falls NP?

I am tending to use Pakuba Lodge or Bwana Tembo Camp. They are at the edge of the park, but close to wildlife areas and we do not have to use the ferry in order to go on a game drive.

The other mid-range option would be Murchison River Lodge or Murchison Fort.

Cheers!

Edited by FlyTraveler
Forgot something...

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Posted (edited)

@FlyTraveler

 

I am not sure if I can be of help on this.

 

In Kidepo I used a private mobile camp which, whilst not "basic camping" in the sense @Botswanadreams mentions (we had proper beds, detached toilets, a few people as camp staff etc...) would probably not fit your requirements.

 

Nga'moru Wilderness Camp is indeed outside of the park, in the Karenga Community Conservation Area. Depending on rains, the area adjacent to Nga'moru can be pretty good for wildlife - at the time of my visit to Kidepo, there  was a flush of short green grass close to Nga',oru attracting many grazers. I think this was also due to regular burning (unlike in the park). Karenga is (or at least was back in 2013) a hunting area  (hence a reason for the burning) and there was a hunting camp just a few km from the lodge.

 

i never heard of Kidepo Savannah Lodge, but I have not really followed the developments in Kidepo for the past five years, so I guess that several things have changed.  I assume that Buffalo Base must bethe same as Buffalo Rocks, a place aimed at overlanders that I think was under construction in 2013.

 

if memory serves me well, I recall some other self-catering bandas to the north of Apoka. They seemed quite in disarray, so I do not know whether they are operational.

 

Re Murchison Falls. Pakuba Lodge was a very popular lodge in the 1960s, and - assuming the "new"'Pakuba Lodge is on the same site  (not sures, I think the old Pakuba was inside the park; anyway I suppose  it should be close-by) - it is in a good location, not too far from the Albert Nile track from which you can access the Delta. I agree that avoiding the Paraa ferry is an advantage. I never heard of Bwana Tembo.

Edited by Paolo
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Posted (edited)

14 minutes ago, Paolo said:

@FlyTraveler

 

I am not sure if I can be of help on this.

 

In Kidepo I used a private mobile camp which, whilst not "basic camping" in the sense @Botswanadreams mentions (we had proper beds, detached toilets, a few people as camp staff etc...) would probably not fit your requirements.

 

Nga'moru Wilderness Camp is indeed outside of the park, in the Karenga Community Conservation Area. Depending on rains, the area adjacent to Nga'moru can be pretty good for wildlife - at the time of my visit to Kidepo, there  was a flush of short green grass close to Nga',oru attracting many grazers. I think this was also due to regular burning (unlike in the park). Karenga is (or at least was back in 2013) a hunting area  (hence a reason for the burning) and there was a hunting camp just a few km from the lodge.

 

i never heard of Kidepo Savannah Lodge, but I have not really followed the developments in Kidepo for the past five years, so I guess that several things have changed.  I assume that Buffalo Base must bethe same as Buffalo Rocks, a place aimed at overlanders that I think was under construction in 2013.

 

if memory serves me well, I recall some other self-catering bandas to the north of Apoka. They seemed quite in disarray, so I do not know whether they are operational.

 

Re Murchison Falls. Pakuba Lodge was a very popular lodge in the 1960s, and - assuming the "new"'Pakuba Lodge is on the same site  (not sures, I think the old Pakuba was inside the park; anyway I suppose  it should be close-by) - it is in a good location, not too far from the Albert Nile track from which you can access the Delta. I agree that avoiding the Paraa ferry is an advantage. I never heard of Bwana Tembo.

 

Thanks for your input @Paolo!

How are the UWA HQ (respectively Apoka Rest Camp) location-wise in your opinion?

 

Have you done night game drives in Kidepo Valley NP?

 

Cheers!



 

Edited by FlyTraveler

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2 minutes ago, FlyTraveler said:

 

Thanks for your input @Paolo!

How are the UWA HQ (respectively Apoka Rest Camp) location-wise in your opinion?

 

Have you done night game drives in Kidepo Valley?

 

Cheers!



 

 

They are centrally located, of course, but - if I am honest - I found the entire complex not very attractive. I never understood why Apoka Lodge was built so close to the HQ, with all the marvellous possible sites in the Narus Valley....(f.e. our camp was located on the edge of a hill with views on the valley and the passing buffalo herds...).

 

FWIW, at the time of my visit (February 2013) wildlife was more concentrated in the southern part of the Narus Valley (from Apoka to Nga'moru, so to speak), so Apoka's location was not really an advantage from a game viewing perspective. Things might be obviously different at other times.

 

We did not do any night drive. I am trying to recall if we took it into consideration, but memory is failing me. I remember some wonderful nights around the campfire though!

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1 minute ago, Paolo said:

 

They are centrally located, of course, but - if I am honest - I found the entire complex not very attractive. I never understood why Apoka Lodge was built so close to the HQ, with all the marvellous possible sites in the Narus Valley....(f.e. our camp was located on the edge of a hill with views on the valley and the passing buffalo herds...).

 

FWIW, at the time of my visit (February 2013) wildlife was more concentrated in the southern part of the Narus Valley (from Apoka to Nga'moru, so to speak), so Apoka's location was not really an advantage from a game viewing perspective. Things might be obviously different at other times.

 

We did not do any night drive. I am trying to recall if we took it into consideration, but memory is failing me. I remember some wonderful nights around the campfire though!

 

Thanks again, @Paolo!

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1 hour ago, Paolo said:

They are centrally located, of course, but - if I am honest - I found the entire complex not very attractive.

Apoka Rest Camp is a place very connected with the HQ. It was not the place we wouldn't spent our first night after a late arrival in Kidepo at all. Too busy for us but of course it is the only cheap option inside the park without camping. A night drive in Kidepo has something to do with big luck like every night drive will be. UWA has there own open vehicle for the night drive. Your travel time should be much better for a night drive than ours because we had this very high grass what will be burned down later of the year. 

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Posted (edited)

@FlyTraveler, I am not sure what your companion calls basic, but honestly, it is sheer luxury to have a campsite in the middle of the park with fantastic views over the valley. Staying at the Park bandas will be many steps down from the mobile camping option. Btw, if he/she is concerned about toilets, you should know that they have flushing toilets at these campsites (and were in good operating condition when I visited). How basic is your basic option?

I suppose we each have our own soft spots, but for me, camping wins every time because as lovely as lodges can be, they simply cannot replicate that feeling IMO.

Yes, do try and schedule walks with the rangers. It is a very special park for walking.

And since you're keen on culture, perhaps you can do that Ik hike if you are fit? And report back to us. A very tough hike from what we heard, though.

@Botswanadreams your night drives look like they were very productive, long grass or not.

 

In Murchison, I stayed at Baker's Lodge & Paraa and don't know the others you mention personally, but I do know people who have used Pabuka and have been mostly happy, though it is busy.

Edited by Sangeeta
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Just came back from 17 days in Uganda -  Pian Upe, Kidepo, Murchinson Falls, Kibale and Bwindi. I have to agree with Sangeeta. The Bandas is lying next to ranger station and headquarter for the park. It is noisy and there is allways a lot of people around. We camped at a public campsite on a hill, with spectacular views, constantly wildlife in view. Big herds of buffaloes, more than 2000, hartebeest, giraffe,  ect. 

If you have strength, try to organize a trip to the IK tribe, in Kidepo. They live on the top of  Morungole mountain overlooking Kidepo valley. It's like going back to the Stone Age. It is only a few years ago they began to wear clothes. I do mostly camping in dome tents, lying on a mattress  - love it. But some operators can provide bigger tents and bedding. You will be disappointed if you stay at the Bandas. Kidepo is getting less and less remote, roads better, more people, and a new lodge is build, sadly.

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Posted (edited)

@Africalover

 

I am glad I visited Kidepo at the time I did. Even then, you could subtly feel in the air that the place was on the edge of changes bound to happen  in the near future, and already different from a few years earlier.

 

When Michael Lorentz visited it for the first time (in 2003, I think - anyway, well before the building of Apoka Lodge), he and his party were the the first visitors the park had seen in a few years.

 

I know someone who trekked to the Ik some years ago, and indeed the Ik were generally not wearing clothes back then.

 

"Getting less and less remote"....familiar story, eh?

Edited by Paolo
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On 10.8.2017 at 6:11 AM, Sangeeta said:

Please do post your report here - even if it's in German. It is lovely and your photos are really wonderful.

 

@Sangeeta thanks very much for your kind words and your interest on our Uganda report from 2014. I'm sorry but time is in the moment too much limited to post it on SafariTalk. The next trip report here will be about Ethiopia. My relocation from Switzerland home to Germany and a terrible access to to the internet in the moment here in Germany is the reason for that. 

 

@FlyTraveler have a nice planing for your trip to Uganda. This country is very much worth to visit. 

 

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