Nestled in the wild frontier region of Uganda, Kidepo Valley National Park is apparently the most isolated national park in Uganda but still stands out to be one of the best virgin places every wildlife viewer can ever visit in Uganda. This virgin national park is undoubtedly among the best wilderness areas in Africa, harboring a couple of extinct species of wildlife that can’t be found in any other Ugandan national park. Kidepo is right at the core of a Savannah landscape right next to a few mountainous bodies. The reasons for planning your safari here are endless, something you will definitely see when you set foot on Uganda’s soil. Besides the exceptional wilderness safari experience, this national park is another great spot for a cultural trail especially to those who would like to see the Karamojongs, Acholis plus other great tribes. Some of the other exciting tourism activities in the wilderness of this area include nature walks, birding and hiking. The outstanding lodging / accommodation options of Apoka safari lodge, Kidepo Savannah Lodge, Nga’Moru Wilderness camp coupled along with the cool environment, exceptional views of the Savannah grasslands plus so many more attractions, Kidepo Valley National Park was truly gifted by nature.

Kidepo national park is a true gem with huge abundance in wildlife. It remains a true rendition of tourism in Uganda but remains unknown to many! Kidepo Valley National Park was gazetted into a national park in the year 1962 and currently hosts over 75 species of mammals and 470 species of birds. All these fall in a prime game viewing location. This national park is situated in Kaabong district in Northeastern Uganda. By estimate, it is about 510 Kilometers by road form Kampala – Uganda’s capital and Moroto is apparently the largest town in the sub region. Being named the 3rd Best National Park, this national park is definitely a must visit for any traveler to Uganda.

Apoka Safari Lodge


Facts About This Park
Size: 1,442km2
The park’s altitude ranges between 914m and 2,750m above sea level.
The park contains two rivers – Kidepo and Narus – which disappear in the dry season, leaving just pools for the wildlife.
The local communities around the park include pastoral Karamojong people, similar to the Maasai of Kenya, and the IK, a hunter-gatherer tribe whose survival is threatened.

Located in south western Uganda and covering an area of 331 square kilometers while situated on the edge of the Western Rift Valley, the park occupies the highest part of the Kigezi Highlands. 

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest lies along the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, about 30 kilometers by road northwest of Kabale town and 35 kilometers north of Kisoro town. The park is a home to approximately 480 endangered mountain gorillas, which constitutes approximately half of the world’s population. The park facilitates gorilla tourism which has become the favorite tourism asset for Uganda, birding safaris for birders, cultural safaris and wildlife.

How to get there

It is approximately 9-10 hours’ drive from Entebbe Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, 1 hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Kisoro Airstrip and 3 hours’ drive from Kigali Airport.

Seeing mountain gorillas in the jungle is an incredible experience and a focus for most travelers to Africa. With the high cost of gorilla tours to Rwanda, Uganda is now a priority for thousands of travelers from all over the world to experience this face-to-face encounter with the critically endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats. Uganda gorilla tours take you deep into the tropical rain forests of Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gorilla national park in southwestern Uganda. The pearl of Africa is blessed to be of the three countries which shelter the world’s mountain gorillas together with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo sheltering the surviving population of these critically endangered species together with Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. In the reservation process of any gorilla safari to either Bwindi or Uganda, travelers often ask the advantages of gorilla trekking in Rwanda and the challenges they are likely to face. These are very good questions, which provide travelers with extensive knowledge regarding the pros and cons of gorilla safaris to Uganda.

Sipi Falls Uganda

Sitting in the foothills of Mt Elgon and overlooking a vast plain is arguably the most beautiful chain of waterfalls in all of Uganda. There are three levels, and though the smaller two are beautiful, it is the 95m main drop that attracts visitors to this area, and most of the lodging looks out over it. It is well worth spending a night or two in this spectacular yet peaceful place whether it is a part of your Uganda tour or in connection with a climb of the nearby volcano.

Sipi Falls is a series of three waterfalls in Eastern Uganda in the district of Kapchorwa, northeast of Sironko and Mbale. The waterfalls lie on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park near the Kenyan border.

The Sipi Falls area is the starting point for many hikes up Mt. Elgon. The most popular route starts in Budadiri and follows the Sasa trail to the summit and then descends down the Sipi trail back into the Sipi Falls. Hikes around the falls offer stunning views of the Karamoja plains, Lake Kyoga, and the slopes of Mt. Elgon.

With a cooler climate than most of the country Sipi Falls is a nice place to unwind, relax and literally chill out away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities. Being on the foothills of Mt. Elgon, Sipi offers a number of alternative activities to the mainstream river activities in and around Jinja. Rob’s Rolling Rock, a local outfit trained by Italian climbers offers abseiling along the side of the main 100m Sipi waterfall as well as climbing on 14 bolted sport routes with a range of difficulty. Other activities include hiking around the local area and visiting the local waterfalls.

The Sipi River is named after the ‘Sep’, a plant indigenous to the banks of the River. Resembling a type of wild banana, Sep is a medicinal plant, the translucent green frond with a bolt of crimson rib is used for treating measles and fever.

When to go

As earlier said the weather in the sipi area is cool all year round, so you can travel and visit this place at any time in the year, though during rainy seasons you may get challenges hiking hence advised to move with walking sticks, this is an added experience.

 How to get there

A journey on road from Kampala city to Sipi takes you approximately 5 hours about 277km. here you drive to Eastern Uganda on Jinja road passing via the outskirts of Jinja town, then go through Mbale town as you head to Kapchorwa the home to the beautiful sipi falls. Along the way you will be able to see the beautiful green vegetation and rocks along the slopes of Mountain Elgon. Driving to this area also adds to your unforgettable experience before you even reach.

 Things to do (Activities)

  • Hiking

Since all the waterfalls are located in different areas of Mt. Elgon, it is impossible to see them at the same time but they can be seen in one day. The paths to these falls are approximately 7km to 8km as you walk and it takes around 3 hours to visit all the falls, but it is dependent on individual fitness and pace. As you hike you will need walking sticks to give you support since you go through some steep spots and in case it rains the paths get slippery and muddy.

There are different starting points for the hike depending on which waterfall to visit first. Though if you have lesser time you are advised to start with the main waterfall and continue with others later. But in cases where you have enough time it’s better to first hike to the first and second water fall, take a break may be have lunch or relax as you continue to the last water fall.

Cars cannot reach all these spots because the terrain is steep, this is why you go for a hike, it is an amazing experience, and you will be having local guides who are informed about the historical and geographical back ground of the area.

  • Abseiling & Rock climbing

You need to do abseiling in Uganda; sipi is the place to go. This activity is done at the main water fall and is most enjoyed by adventurous travelers. Equipments also known as rappels to be used are availed and also there are skilled guides to guide you through this exciting adventure.

  •  Coffee plantation visit

The coffee plantations are on the lower slopes of Mt. Elgon; while at sipi add on your experience by visiting these plantations. The coffee is majorly Arabica coffee and grows within altitudes 1600m and 1900m, it is the cash crop to the Bagishu and Sabiny in this area, during this visit you will learn also how coffee is harvested, processed, roasted and other things, you will also be able to see how people live in these communities.

  • Cultural encounters

Being in Kapchorwa there is a lot to see like the Sabiny who basically stay around sipi. There way of life, dress code, traditional dances that can be organized by the community. Also this place is known for female and male circumcision, though that of females has reduced over the years since it was found to be unhealthy and risky to women, but that of men is an amazing activity to witness especially if you visit thus area during the time circumcisions are done.

  • Bird watching

You are a birder, you can miss out on visiting sipi while on a safari in Uganda, in fact mountain elgon national park has around 275 bird species so you will see most of them while in this area, you can also see some birds while seated in the gardens of Sipi River lodge if that is the accommodation you have opted for.

  • Mountain Biking

You can opt to travel with your bike if you are to take part in this activity; it is so adventurous and thrilling to ride your bike on the Rocky Mountains, something to remember always.

  • Visit the Sipi River

Apart from visiting the 3 waterfalls you could also take a time and visit the Sipi River, it has nice vegetation including the ‘sep plant’ which is where the name sipi was derived. This plant is said to be a medicine to measles and fevers. Enjoy a walk along this river with its beautiful scenery.

 The trails of Sipi water falls

Since these falls are derived from the Sipi River, they fall from different altitudes and are found in different locations, which is why you need to hike looking for the waterfall trails.

As the Sipi River flows from the top, you find the first water fall with a great and roaring splash, as you hike to this fall it is a bit terrifying but it is safe and really an amazing place. This fall is the second highest falling from an altitude of 85metres over a cliff forming a pool below, the paths to this fall are a bit slippery so you need to be conscious of where you step.

After it doesn’t stop there, the river continues to flow through local communities, gardens and over rocks until to meets another cliff of about 65metres high, hence forming the second water fall referred to as a ‘twin fall’ but it is smaller than the other two waterfalls. It has a manmade cave which gives you accessibility to view the falls from behind, also after the long hike you can choose to go under the natural shower formed by this fall for a relief but during the rainy season you are not advised to do so since the amount of water increases and the shower becomes too dangerous. While at these falls take as many photos you want, enjoy the cold atmosphere a time never to forget!

The river still flows through bushes and trees, and meets another cliff about 100metres high; this is the biggest of all the three waterfalls also called the main waterfall, which has made many people think it is the “the Sipi Falls” not considering the other two falls. Just like the other falls this water fall also forms a pool below with beautiful rainbows that is sometimes referred to as “a natural swimming pool”.

Being here actually gives an incredible experience of a life time!

Where to stay (Accommodation)

There are a number of accommodation facilities in sipi region, and there are no worries of where to stay as long as you visit this area. The facilities are Luxurious/Up market, mid range/moderate and those for budget travelers are also available, they include;

  •  Sipi River lodge

This is an up market lodge found in Sipi falls region, it has a nice view since it is near the water falls, it is safe and secure with comfortable and en suite rooms such as those that have elegant designs, those offering better views of the water falls. There are various cottages and Bandas with various names like the Chepkui cottage, Kapsurur cottage, and the Piswa and Sasa Bandas among others.

There are various facilities provided by this lodge like the stylish bar, nice veranda, a reading longue, a dining room.

  • Sipi Falls resort

 This is a moderate/midrange resort located in the sipi region. This lodge has 5 comfortable thatched cottages which are equipped with private facilities. It has a very good restaurant that provides local and international cuisine and also a nice bar area where to enjoy your drink from.

Sipi falls resort is just a place to stay on your tour to sipi falls, the rooms are classified as double, single, twin, triple, family occupancy. These rooms also provide a nice view of the green vegetation and the romantic and beautiful waterfalls.

  • Lacam Lodge

This is also a midrange lodge; it is an impressive lodge to stay in, it is on a certain cliff which offers you a great view of the Sipi waterfalls. It has wooden Bandas that are made of timber and grass thatched; there are toilets and bathrooms en suite but it has like 3 non-self contained Bandas so these rooms are cheaper than the self contained rooms.

The lodge also has space for camping where clients can pitch their tents.

  • Noah’s Ark Hotels

Located on the slopes of mountain Elgon, and favors all kinds of guests such as the luxury, midrange and Budget travelers. So you can book in basing on your room preference rooms.

But in this instance someone visiting sipi falls would be advised to book accommodation in ‘Noah’s Ark Sipi Falls Resort’ especially if he/she is a budget traveler. This accommodation also has tents.

  • Crowns Nest Rest Camp

It is a campsite for budget travelers and it overlooks the 3 amazing Sipi waterfalls and other great sceneries like Mount Elgon peaks. The local staff of this place is good and friendly.

While in this campsite you can easily go for some activities such as village walks, coffee plantation tours, hiking to the sipi falls, trekking Mount Elgon and rock climbing.

Confusing to early explorers, who described it as a cross between a camel and a leopard, the giraffe is certainly an awkward-looking creature. Its swaying gait comes as a result of it moving both right legs simultaneously, followed by both left legs; and its favourite food is the hideously spiky acacia, which it strips of leaves using its long, dark purple tongue. Though they are the world’s tallest land mammal – even a newborn giraffe stands at six feet (2m) tall! – their neck contains just seven vertebrae – exactly the same as a human.

Little wonder, then, that this curious gentle giant fascinated Africa’s prehistoric inhabitants, who depicted it in cave paintings across the continent. Unfortunately, the giraffe’s unique characteristics also led to them being heavily hunted.

Their tails alone were made into bracelets, fly-swatters, threads for sewing and threading beads, and the species found in Uganda – Rothschild giraffe – is now one of the most endangered giraffe species, with fewer than 700 individuals remaining in the wild.

The Rothschild’s Giraffe is an endangered subspecies endemic to Uganda and the tallest land mammal. It is a subspecies of the northern Giraffe which was recently suggested to be an ecotype of the Nubian Giraffe.

Males weigh 1000-1200 kilograms while female weigh 800-850 kilograms. Female Giraffes have a gestation period of approximately 15 months, and they give birth to a single calf, the mother becomes a refugee of its calf for approximately one or two months and their after returns to the family to introduce a new individual, female Giraffes are good at taking care of their young calf – a process which takes 2 years until when the calf is able to graze on its own with other individuals.

The Giraffe has the longest legs of any animal – the ungulates are typically long legged mammals. This elongation arises primarily through the lengthening of the lower part of the fore hind legs.

When you see a Giraffe in its natural habitat – dry savanna grassland with both loose stands of trees and thickets of thorny bushes. The Giraffe has the largest eyes among land mammals – the Giraffe has the large field of view. It can see fellow Giraffes, and also predators such as lions and leopard from far away.

The Giraffe walks by swinging its legs forward, first both legs on one side of the body and then both legs on the opposite side, Giraffe walk by simultaneously moving the left front and right rear legs and then the right front and left rear legs.

Best Places to see Rothschild Giraffes

  • Murchison Falls National Park
  • Lake Mburo National Park
  • Kidepo Valley National Park
  • And soon Queen Elizabeth National Park

Uganda is a must visit country and indeed the pearl of Africa. With most destinations having been flooded by tourists over the last few decades, Uganda remains one of the few un discovered yet beautiful tour and travel destinations in Africa. 

Hospitable People
Uganda is popularly known for having very nice and happy people. Ugandans are so hosipitable that they are always welcoming, and willing to help. Come in a country that will welcome you and enjoy the cultural diversities of Ugandans. From the west to the east, from the south to the north and to the central, you will find Ugandans the best and lovely people to visit. This therefore makes your holiday in Uganda so peaceful and relaxing.

Conducive climate
Uganda lies astride the equator but its climate is not truly equatorial due to several factors such as water bodies, relief, and vegetation among others. This therefore means that Uganda can be visited all year round. Because of our climate, we are able to grow enough fresh food and fruits that you will enjoy while on your visit to Uganda.

Source of the Nile
If you thought having the largest fresh water lake in Africa and the longest river on the planet is enough, then having the source of the Nile is even more prettier. If you don’t belief this, visit Uganda and make sure you take a boat/canoe to the source of the nile and that’s when you will believe that indeed the source of the Nile is in Uganda and Jinja. There have been many claims that the source of the Nile is in Rwanda but the truth remains that it is in Uganda. So visit Uganda and visit the source of the Nile.

Beautiful National Parks
Uganda has 10 National Parks but each National Park is quite unique and different from the others. Queen Elizabeth National Park is a must visit while in Uganda as a boat cruise on Kazinga channel which connects two rift valley lakes of George and Edward is the highlight. This channel has the highest concentration of hippos in the whole world but this is not all. You get to view so many species of animals in a period of two hours. If you are a bird lover, get prepared to record over 600 species of birds some of which are migratory ones. You can take a game drive in ishasha in search for the tree climbing lions or visit the crater lakes region. Murchison Falls National Park in the northern part of Uganda has spectacular game drives coupled with a boat cruise to the bottom of the falls.

Chimpanzee tracking
Uganda has been promoted and marketed as a primate country and indeed, chimp tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, Kaniyo Pabidi, Chambura Gorge and Karinju is one activity you should consider on your Uganda safari. All the above need a permit which can be obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority. You can participate in chimpanzee habituation experience and get to learn more about our closest cousins.

Mountain Gorillas
Uganda is among the only three countries on planet earth will the only remaining population of mountain gorillas. In the actual sense, Uganda boosts of half the number of mountain gorillas remaining in the whole world. Whether you have three days or 20 days, you can do gorilla tracking which is ranked as one of the most sought after activity in Africa.

Rwenzori Mountains
Many people have hiked Kilimanjaro and Kenya but Rwenzori that is the highest mountain ranges in Africa remain un tapped. With its snow capes, Rwenzori is the third highest mountain in Africa with an altitude of 5100 meters above sea level. Climbing Rwenzori is not only adventurous but even more challenging than the other two mountains. If you are looking for the next mountain to climb, then Uganda should be your next destination. Uganda has other volcanoes such as Elgon, Muhavura and Mgahinga all there for hikers and trekkers.

Relatively Political Stability over the last 30 years
Uganda has been politically stable over the last 30 years meaning that your stay will not be threatened by violence and wars. The government has taken a leading role in not only ensuring safty and security internally but has played a big role in the region by fighting terrorist groups in Somalia, joining arms to bring peace in Democratic Republic of Congo and in fact, war is history in Uganda and people are very conscious of anything that would jeopardize their development.

 

Over View

Uganda is arguably the most attractive country in Africa to bird watchers, not just because of the unusual number of species recorded within its borders, but also because it offers easy access to several bird-rich habitats that are difficult to reach else where. Uganda’s remarkable avian diversity which is 1,008 species recorded in an area similar to that of Great Britain can be attributed to its location at a transitional point between the East African savanna, the West African rainforest and the semi-desert of the north.

The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats: arid semi-dessert, rich savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, vast wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone. Uganda covers an altitude from 650 to 5000m.

Analytically, Uganda’s intermediary position is the fact that only one bird is endemic to the country, the rather ordinary Fox’s weaver. However, if you take only East Africa into consideration, then approximately 150 bird species (more than 10% of the regional checklists) are found only in Uganda. This list includes seven of the 20 horn-bill species recorded in the region, 5 out of 14 honey guides, 7 out of 20 hornbill species recorded in the region, 5 out of 20 bush family as well as 13 members of the thrush family, 11 warblers, 10 flycatchers, 8 sun birds, 8 weavers, 8 finches, 4 tinker birds, 4 pigeons, 3 kingfishers, 3 sparrow hawks, 3 cuckoos and 3 nightjars.

Most of these Uganda’s specials are West African and Congolese forest birds that should be very difficult to see elsewhere for the simple reason that the other countries in which they occur are poorly developed for Tourism. The rain forests of Western Uganda must be seen as the country’s most important bird habitat, and that is the greatest interest to birdwatchers( bird watching), particularly if they are already familiar with typical East African birds. The most alluring forests in Uganda with localized species is Semliki, Budongo Forest, Kibale Forest and Bwindi Forest. However, Kibale is the Uganda’s spot for forest birds and the nearby Magombe swamp. Even the relatively tame botanical gardens in Entebbe will throw up several interesting species.

Therefore you want to see or watch a wide range of birds in Uganda for tour enthusiasts, try to visit Entebbe (water and forest birds), Lake Mburo (water and acacia associated birds), Queen Elizabeth (Over 600 species are recorded), Murchison Falls (a best place in East Africa to see the Papyrus-associated shoe-bill) and Kidepo (over 50 raptors recorded ).

Below is a Brief List of some Bird Speices

·         Ostrich, It the World’s largest bird and its restricted to Kidepo Valley National Park.

·         Pelicans, these are water birds and commonly found in Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

·         African darter, it’s a snake bird with an elongated rufus neck extended in a serpentine fashion.

·         Goliath heron, this commonly seen during boat trips in Murchison Falls NP.

·         Hamerkop, This is a medium sized water bird seen on the Mweya Peninsula in QENP

·     Saddle billed stork, This is the largest and most hand some of several storks usually seen in pairs on game drives in Murchison falls.

·   Marabou stork, this is a Macabre carrion-eating stork common in rural and urban Environments especially in down town Kampala.

·  Shoebill, Unmistakable large grey swamp-dweller and is the main motivating factor behind many ornithological tours to Uganda. They are mainly seen in Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Mabamba Swamp and in Murchison falls.

·     Flamingos, astonishing and sociable pink-white algae eaters commonly seen in large concentrations in Katwe and Flamingo crater lakes in QENP.

·       African Fish Eagle, Unique grey snake-eating raptor.

·      Helmeted guinea fowl

·       Africa Jacana; common in most wetlands in Uganda

·       Grey crowned crane; Uganda’s national bird common in swamps and grasslands

·       African grey parrot; they are mostly seen in any forested habitat.

·       Great blue turaco; found I forested areas including Entebbe Botanical gardens

·       Ross’s turacco

·       Eastern grey plantain-eater

·       African emerald cuckoo

·       Coucals

·       Verreaux’s eagle-owl; largest owl species in Uganda and mostly seen during night drives.

·        Pennant/standard winged nightjars; mostly seen on the road to the top of Murchison falls after dusk.

·        Pied Kingfisher;

·        Giant Kingfisher.

·        Malachite Kingfisher;

·        Red-throated bee-eater; breeds in tall sandbanks on Lake Albert and the Nile below Murchison falls.

·        Lilac-breasted roller

·        Hoopoe

·        Black and white casqued hornbill

·        For-tailed drongo

·        Piacpiac; commonly found in Jinja and Murchison falls

·        African Finfoot

·        Jackson’s francolin

·        Denhams bustard

·        African skimmer

·        Blue throated roller

·        Black bee eater

·        Forest/white headed wood hoope

·        African pied hornbill

·        Chocolate-backed kingfisher

·        Papyrus gonolek

  •  Red-headed-bluebill
    Etc

 

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