It’s been a week since our final safari but better late than never to get my thoughts on probably one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever been. I’m not going to lie- after our Queen Elizabeth Park and Bwindi trek, I was pretty beat. There was a lot of long travel days and all the excitement of seeing the animals and the early mornings… I was one tired cousin of a gorilla. We had a day between trips back in Kampala and we sure needed it.
On Wednesday we took off for the fun filled ride to the airport, always an adventure! On this trip, our hosts and their little guy were coming along so we were now a travel group of six. The ride wasn’t too bad once we got outside of the city but there is only one road to the airport and a 30 mile trip could easily turn into several hours on the road.
The airport itself is rather small for an international airport with only 3 gates (3 GATES!!). We were taking a “small plane” for the 1.5 hour flight to Kidepo Valley National Park in the northeast corner of Uganda. This would be a 12 hour car ride and there is still a bit of unrest in the region surrounding Kidepo so the “small plane” ride was the best choice. The security is interesting, to say the least. I will just say I wore my fitbit through the metal detectors (2 of them) and it never beeped. That is all I’ll say about that.
We hung out at the airport for a few hours and were finally told our plane was boarding. We got on a bus to take us to our plane on the runway. I am fine with flying but I don’t like the thought of little planes that crash. When we got to our plane… it was tiny and I was not ok with this. We loaded in- a total of 9 of us, with the pilot and copilot. I was not happy. The pilot told us what was going on, how long the flight was, and we were off. I was not happy.
The flight itself was ok. A few bounces here and there. I was not happy. I had a death grip on the seat in front of me and tried to ignore every shake, rattle, or bounce. I was not happy. It was interesting to see Uganda from above. We flew over the crowded city of Kampala and you could see all the little towns with the winding roads below. After about an hour, we came up on the mountains that surround this area of Uganda and there was some bouncing of the plane. I was not happy. Once we started descending, we realized that the runway was dirt and there were antelopes hanging out near the end. The “airport” building looked like a barn and we had to “check in” by signing the ledger that was on the table.
We got in the open air safari truck with Julius, our driver, and off we were to the Apoka Safari Lodge. Google it- its stunning and super remote. The landscape was breathtaking. There was tall grass blowing in the warm breeze, surrounding by mountains and trees scattered throughout. The sky was blue and the clouds were big and fluffy. It was exactly what you imagine Africa to look like.
The lodge was stunning. It consisted of the main hut, where the bar was located and where we would eat all our meals. There was a smaller hut that would be the lobby, where we’d meet for all the game drives. They had a bird watching tower, that was probably 3 stories tall and the scariest open stairs I’d ever seen. I tried to make it to the top but only made it about 25 feet up because those stairs made me so nervous, I just couldn’t go all the way up. But the view at 25 feet up was stunning. They also had a swimming pool carved out of the rock. AND the best part- they had a watering hole about 30 feet from the dining room, where you could sit and watch the animals all day long if you so wished.
Our rooms were “huts” located in a semi-circle around the property. They had canvas walls with screens as windows. There was a rather large deck with an outdoor couch, where you could watch the animals as they grazed on the grass or slept under the trees. The shower was made of stone and there was a private patio with an outdoor bathtub, open to the animals out in the landscape, with South Sudan and the mountains beyond. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought I would get to stay at a place like this and we had three days to soak it all in. We also had a butler, named Moses, who was waiter, bar tender, and would do anything we would like. He was so sweet and soft spoken, with the biggest smile. He treated us like queens and although its kind of a weird feeling of having someone waiting on you, it was nice to have nothing to think about because Moses would be there to think for us.
We did an afternoon game drive when we got there and didn’t really see any animals. The landscape was stunning and worth the couple hours we were out driving around. We did see two lady lions laying in the grass with their feet in the air but they were pretty much hidden so we didn’t hang out with them for very long. The highlight of this adventure was the wine we had a sunset. Julius brought drinks along and we toasted our first night in Kidepo. As the sun was setting to the west, a full moon was rising in the east. It was beautiful!
The food at the lodge was delicious. All of it was made fresh by the chef. We had three meals a day, typically three courses- a starter (usually cold soup which oddly enough was so good), our main course, and dessert. A girl could enjoy the spoiled life (but would need to workout out more than just walking to and from the dining room hut).
On Thursday morning we got up bright and early for the game drive and we took off for a section of the park that the lions were known to hang out in. And boy did we find the lions! There were 2 male lions and one female, hanging out in the sun, right along the road. We spent a solid 40 mins or so with them, taking pictures and admiring their beauty. After we finally left, we headed for a watering hole that was surrounded by hundreds of water buffalo. They were everywhere, you could see them all walking towards us- it was crazy! Julius brought us coffee so we got to enjoy coffee and biscuits (cookies) at the watering hole, with all of the water buffalo. Another “is this really my life” moment. We drove around some more and saw zebras, antelope and a few other animals, including a tortoise.
Once we got back to the lodge we had breakfast and spent the rest of the day hanging out at the pool, drinking wine, a lot of wine. We skipped the afternoon game drive so we could all spend time together and eat together, since the little guy needed to be in bed when dinner was typically served at 8pm. We also got Moses to bring us some wine after dinner in our hut and enjoyed our final safari night hanging out. It was a practically perfect day in every way possible!
We got up the next day and took a late morning game drive so the little guy could come along. He slept for part of it and we didn’t see any of the big animals (lions, elephants, or giraffes) but we did see a python, which was big and gross. I hate snakes.
We got back to the lodge and found out that we were having breakfast under the big sausage tree near the watering hole. It was a buffet and it was a perfect ending to our three days in Kidepo. I mean the whole trip was perfect but Kidepo was so tranquil and peaceful; breathtaking and relaxing- a wonderful ending to a trip of a lifetime.
We hopped on our little plane back to the city. The flight was far less bouncy and the Friday night 30 mile drive from the airport to Kampala was almost 2 hours long. Let’s just say we were all so thankful to get out of the taxi. This was our last night in Africa.