Travel in Africa is never easy. It’s bumpy (literally) and long, and often very uncomfortable, but there are some destinations that are worth the long trip. Kidepo National Park in Northern Uganda is one of those destinations.
The park is located on the border of South Sudan and Kenya, approximately 520 kilometers by road from Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
We weren’t certain that a trip to Kidepo would be worth it. After seeing so many other national parks in Uganda and doing so many safari drives, we were worried that Kidepo would be one and the same. But our experience in Kidepo was really unique and it was all thanks to the warm hospitality of Apoka Safari Lodge, located in the heart of the National Park.
Inside Apoka Safari Lodge
Built on a rocky kopje in the heart of Kidepo National Park, Apoka Safari Lodge is definitely the most eco-lux lodge we had stayed at in Uganda. With only 10 cottages, the lodge is small and intimate but offers incredible animal encounters right at your doorstep.
Each one of the cottages at Apoka come with a private veranda and offer sweeping views of the Narus Valley and the vast savannah. The lodge blends perfectly with the environment. There are no fences on the property and the animals roam wild all around the lodge.
Zebras, warthogs, waterbucks, buffalo and even elephants are always roaming around the property. The animals particularly enjoy the watering hole built by the lodge.
The restaurant on site offers great views of the watering hole almost guaranteeing a bit of a show during meal time.
Next to the restaurant is a beautiful pool carved out of a big rock. It’s a perfect place to catch the mid-day rays, to enjoy a lazy breakfast after a morning drive, or to watch wildlife in their natural environment.
Each cottage at Apoka Safari Lodge is built using locally sourced wood and natural canvas. The decor is handmade by local craftsmen. Each room has a large bed and spacious sitting area with a desk. There is also a private veranda which is ideal for wildlife viewing.
The bathroom is spacious with two sinks and a walk-in shower and of course, the highlight for many is a beautiful outdoor stone bathtub that looks out onto the savannah. We loved that toiletries were offered in refillable pumps and soap was handmade by a local cooperative.
Hand-woven woolen carpets, extra large plush towels, comfy duvets and oversized dressing gowns make these cottages, located in nature, feel like the ultimate luxury.
A stay at Apoka Lodge is a full board affair with breakfast, lunch, and dinner served at the restaurant overlooking the savannah. Their chef is one of the best in the country and all food is locally sourced. Vegetarian options are widely available and other dietary needs – easily accommodated.
We usually started our days with a serving of tea and cookies on our private veranda and got to enjoy a beautiful breakfast following our morning game drive. It was so nice to be able to indulge in a slow feast after an exciting morning out in the savannah.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout our stay were delicious and the staff always went above and beyond to surprise us with unique spots for our meals. We dined by the pool, on the rocks overlooking the savannah, and even up in the watchtower that offered panoramic views of the valley.
One of the nights, the staff made us feel extra special by setting up a romantic candlelit dinner by the pool.
Kidepo is home to an amazing array of animals, some 80 species of mammals (28 of which are not found in any other Ugandan National Park), 460 species of birds, 58 types of raptors, and of course a heavy population of the Big Four (there are no rhinos in Kidepo).
Kidepo is all about safaris and we couldn’t get enough of our game drives with our amazing guide, Julius.
One of the best things about staying at Apoka Safari Lodge is that every day you get to go out and search for wildlife with a resident guide, whose knowledge about the park and their inhabitants is truly unsurpassed.
Every day we were treated to a morning drive and a mid-afternoon drive (included in the nightly rate), and every day was a different adventure and a different set of animals. We tracked lions, admired giraffes, hung out with zebras, waterbucks, and even saw a couple of snakes!
While game drives are the most popular way to explore the park, Apoka also offers an option of a walking safari and birding. Those staying for longer can also have the option of visiting a local Lokorul village located on the outskirts of the Kidepo Valley National Park. The visit is a community initiative set up by Apoka that has helped the village earn some tourism dollars to build a clinic and a school.
Conservation and Sustainability
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes at Apoka Safari Lodge to ensure responsible tourism practices. The lodge and its parent company, Wild Places Uganda, are heavily involved in the conservation of Uganda’s wildlife and protected areas all across the country.
The company’s deep-rooted commitment to the preservation of Uganda’s wild places has recently earned them a prize at the Uganda Investor of the Year Awards for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Conservation’.
But awards and accolades aside, the management of Apoka Safari Lodge and most importantly, the owners, are deeply committed to doing things right in the name of sustainability. And for us, that alone was a good enough reason to visit this remote part of Uganda.
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Want to get a better feel for what it’s like to stay at the Apoka Lodge and experience Kidepo National Park? Check out our video below!