Kidepo National Park won a CNN Travel award as the third best wilderness park in Africa last year for its prized attractions. But a visit to this park reveals that there is a gap, something that needs to be fixed real quickly.
Whereas CNN’s recognition ideally works in the park’s favour as far as attracting tourists to this natural beauty is concerned, there are no reasonable accommodation facilities.
Apoka Lodge, the biggest in the park, has only 10 rooms. The other alternatives a tourist is left with are the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) bandas, 21 of them, which are in a sorry state.
As you open the door to the bandas, mice and rats in the ceiling will be sent into panic, running from one end to another. The beds are small, some with torn mosquito nets and bedsheets that bear proof of being over-used. The floors are cemented and when it rains, some of the water flows in through the doors and stagnates the confines of the small bandas. The bathrooms are dingy with rusty taps and drainage traps.
One of the other alternative is Katurum Lodge in the park, though it is still under renovation by a local investor, Cornelius Lorika Kodet.
Katurum was built during President Idi Amin’s regime, but was destroyed during the 1978 war, as UWA’s acting warden- law enforcement and security and acting conservation manager, John Baguma observes.
“It was under Uganda Hotels. Hotels of this type were built by Amin. It is going to be redeveloped. A concession was signed last month to renovate and operate Katurum Lodge,” Baguma says, adding that the hotel’s view is enviable. The hotel boasts of a beautiful panorama that allows one view much of the park from a bird’s angle.
Kodet says he initially invested about Shs4 billion and is willing to inject $10m (about Shs25 billion) into refurbishing the lodge to a four-star status, which he projects will enable further development of tourism in Karamoja in northeastern Uganda.
“I also have plans to buy an aircraft to ease transport. I have Aero Beach in Entebbe, which taps into tourist arrivals from where I can take them to Moroto where I own Mount Moroto Hotel, (former Uganda Hotel), and to Kidepo to enjoy this facility,” Kodet adds.
The new facility
According to site engineers Ronald Igga and Tom Ssewankambo, the new Katurum Lodge will have 47 rooms with a health club, sauna, massage, steam bath, service rooms and an underground sound proof nightclub. Annexed to the lodge will be eight serviced apartments and 65 low budget rooms.