Fly or drive to Kidepo?
So, you decided to visit the park. Now the next dilemma surfaces: do you fly or do you use the roads? Flying is an adventure on its own and will definitely save you time, but it’s expensive and it could also mean that you miss out on an once in a lifetime cultural experience.
There are two commonly used routes going to the park. One uses the Kitgum road, the other goes through Karamoja and enters the park through Kaabong.
The Kitgum Road
In dry season, one can travel from Kampala to Kidepo in under 11 hours. In wet season, it will take a little bit longer, depending on the road conditions. Generally, Kitgum to the park takes 2,5 to 3 hours. The road conditions from Kitgum onwards has been excellent since the repairs finished in oktober 2014. Even in wet season (april-september), this route usually isn’t a problem. Before leaving, check this site for recent updates, or call the Buffalo Base for up to date information.
Why use the Kitgum road?
Coming from Murchison, it is logical to take the Kitgum road. It is by far the quickest way to reach Kidepo. The road is itself is beautiful. Especially the scenery after Orom is breathtaking. There are quite a few birds that can be seen on this road. This includes the depicted Long Crested Eagle, but also the very rare Hemprich’s Hornbill.
The Kaabong Road
There is two options when coming from Kaabong. One road goes past Kapedo to the Mataba gate. This is the road that is shown on most maps. In dry season this road is quite good. It is about 70 kilometers to Kaabong using this route and it will take you a little under 1,5 hours. In wet season (april-september), the roads around Kapedo are known to be a bit problematic. Call the Buffalo Base to find out about the road conditions. There is a second route, that is not on most maps that goes directly from Kaabong to Karenga. This road is usually a little bit better in wet season. It is also shorter as it is only about 50 kilometer.
Getting to Kaabong means going over Kotido. This is where the Jie live. They are worth a visit as their culture is extremely colorful. Contact Karamoja Arts for a guided tour. Kotido can be reached over the Soroti road, or over the Mbale – Nakapiripirit – Moroto road in dry season this usually is no problem, in wet season, check the site or call the Buffalo Base for up to date information for road conditions. Especially the part between Mbale and Nakapiripirit needs checking before yoiu leave.
Why go through Karamoja?
People come to Kidepo for the beautiful wildlife, and the unspoiled nature of the scenery. The reason the park feels so natural and untouched is because it is so remote. The same is true for the people living around the park. Their culture is virtually intact. The remoteness of the place they call home has shielded them of western influences. By driving to Kidepo, you will pass through villages, seeing them get more and more authentic and traditional. The villages around Kotido and Kaabong are worth the drive all by themselves. Even the fashion change between places. The hats that people wear in Nakapiripirit are for example much higher than the ones worn by the people that live near Kotido (see pictures).
It is of course possible to arrange a cultural tour through UWA or The Buffalo Base as you are there, but it is not the same as seeing the cultural changes happen as you drive.
For up-to-date road conditions, check this site before you leave or call the Buffalo Base at +256(0)776-146548.