One of former president Idi Amin’s favourite pastimes was hunting. That is why Kidepo Valley National Park was a perfect place to build for himself a getaway. According to CNN, Kidepo is the world’s fifth best tourism destination because of its spectacular landscape and pristine valleys, hosting the largest herd of buffaloes in Africa. Now tourists can enjoy this beauty in the comfort of the recently refurbished Katurum Lodge, writes Kelvin Atuhaire.
Built in 1971 by Danish master architect Hans Munk Hansen, the Kidepo Safari Lodge, now known as the Katurum Lodge Kidepo was put up by the former president Idi Amin, as a meeting point for his international friends. It was also a hunting spot since he loved hunting as a sport. This lodge was built alongside other lodges such as Pakuba Safari Lodge in Murchision Falls National Park and Semuliki to help boost the number of lodges in the national parks.
Katurum lodge was later burnt down and abandoned in 1979 when Amin was overthrown. For 35 years, it fell into disuse in the turmoil which followed his overthrow and the once luxurious accommodation was taken over by wild animals and down on their luck soldiers, until local entrepreneur Cornelius Lorika Kodet decided to take up the challenge of requesting President Museveni to bring the lodge back to life. “The government was planning to raze the whole place but then I requested the President to give me some time to develop this place again, which I have done. I have built this place on the trust of President Museveni,” narrates Kodet
Katurum lodge that used to be a haven for wild animals, is now a perfect place for one who loves adventure, located high on Katurum rocks in the valleys of Kidepo Valley National Park. The park offers an abundance for a more rustic experience into the paradise section of the park.
The lodge derives the name Katurum from the hilltop it was built on. It is famed to resemble a Swiss chalet, where one wakes up early in the morning to the sunrise with windows opening to the natural air and a unspoiled nature. Katurum Lodge, which is under a 15-year concession since 2014 to Kodet, will be launched early this year to offer a variety of services. It has an accommodation capacity of 100 rooms, including a presidential suites, spa and health club, bar and restaurant. According to Kodet, any one that visits their lodge gets a full package for both the game drive as well as accommodation.
Kodet who, is a local investor and already owns Aero Beach Entebbe, Mt Moroto Hotel, says that his love for Karamoja’s development inspired him to restore the famous lodge since it was one of Karamoja’s pride alongside the Kidepo Valley National Park.
“For many years Karamoja has been treated as a human zoo, a no-go area, where tourists are discouraged from visiting. I wanted to change that narrative and I believe Katurum is going to be a home for many, and people will visit Karamoja because of it,” Kodet predicts.
Kidepo Valley National Park has been having a challenge of accommodation, since there are not more than six lodges and hotels within and outside the park. With Katurum coming on board with 100 rooms for guests, it is another boost to the park.
The lodge can be reached by both road and air transport. When using the road, there are four possible routes.
Routes via Kampala – Mbale- Soroti- Moroto- Kidepo is 792 kms,
Kampala – Mbale- Sironko- Kotido- Kaabong- Kidepo is 740 kms
Kampala- Karuma- Gulu- Kitgum- Kaabong – Kidepo 671 kms
Charter flights to Kidepo can be arranged from Aero Beach where Kodet’s offices are located. Kodet has a plane to help in the transportation of tourists. The flights take two hours from Entebbe to the lodge.