Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is an unspoiled wilderness of lush green valleys, dramatic mountain ranges, stunning scenery, wildlife, spectacular night skies and amazing sunrises. The park is rich with natural resources, thriving wildlife and a growing tourist appeal. The park remains a true rendition of tourism in Uganda though still virgin and unknown, it is still undoubtedly among the best wilderness areas in Africa, harboring a couple of extinct species of wildlife not found elsewhere.
Also known as Uganda’s hidden gem, Kidepo is right at the core of a Savannah landscape next to a few mountainous bodies and further south, the flat Kidepo Valley is dramatically shaped by the river that runs through it during heavy rains, the river flash floods and flows through the park into South Sudan. A few hours later it will have disappeared, leaving a river of sand as wide as 165 feet.Small collections of pools bubble away with the heat of an ancient volcano leading to the Kanangorok Hot Springs that are just a short walk away from the international border between Uganda and South Sudan.
Along the Uganda-South Sudan border, Kidepo Valley National Park is among Uganda’s most magnificent parks covering 1,442 sq kilometers, this park offers spectacular Savannah landscapes that end in rocky horizon.
Kidepo Valley National Park has opened up as Africa’s new frontier in safari tourism and is fast becoming a preferred destination for many tourists planning to go on an African safari especially Uganda wildlife safaris and cultural tours. The park is home to some of Africa’s big five and other rare wildlife and birds.
This park hosts a great variety of animal species in comparison to any other Ugandan parks, of the Eighty species recorded in 1971, Twenty-eight weren’t known to exist in any other park within Uganda. Carnivore species distinctive to Kidepo are: the Hunting dog, Bat-eared Fox, Cheetah, Striped Hyena, Caracal and the aardWolf. The more uncommon ungulates are: the greater & Lesser Kudu, roan antelope, Chandler’s mountain Reedbuck, beisa oryx, Klipspringer and Bright’s Gazelle, have been greatly decreased by poachers within the past few years.
Among the other big ungulates are elephants, oribi, Burchell's zebras, Jackson’s hartebeests, bush pigs, bohor reedbuck, warthogs, Rothschild giraffes, defassa waterbucks, cape buffaloes, elands, bush duskier and bushbucks. Five primate species are found within the park of which the most endemic in the Kavirondo bush baby. Carnivores existing include Uganda safari lions, side-striped jackals, leopards, black-backed jackals, various small cats as well as spotted hyenas. The simplest to see is the jackals, Oribis is abundant in the Narus Valley, whilst the dry thorn thickets in the north are home to Guenther’s Dik-Dik, Senegal Galago and Side-striped Jackal may be found in the rest camp at night and White-tailed Mongoose is common but more likely to be found on a night drive. The park also has a very rich and diverse reptile fauna.
Renowned for its spectacular array of over 475 bird species, the beautiful Kidepo Valley National Park attracts keen bird enthusiasts from all over the world. Endemic species such as the Abyssinian roller, purple heron, Abyssinian ground hornbill and Clapperton’s francolin never disappoint in their presence and not forgetting the fantastic raptor viewing opportunities.
Kidepo Valley National Park ranks second in position to Queen Elizabeth National Park as one of the best birding destinations. The dry eastern ” specials” are some endemics as well as East Africa’s most uncommon and most sought after species like the Black-breasted Barbet and Karamoja Apallis alongside the Ostrich and the Kori Bustard are as well found there.
Other bird species in the park include; African Swallow-tailed Kite,Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk,Pygmy Falcon,ox Kestrel,Stone Partridge,Clapperton’s and Heuglin’s Francolins,Yellow-necked Spurfowl,Kori, White-bellied and Hartlaub’s Bustards,Violet-tipped Courser,Black-headed Plover,Four-banded Sandgrouse,Bruce’s Green Pigeon,Rose-ringed Parakeet,White-crested Turaco,White-bellied Go-away bird,White-faced Scops Owl,Long-tailed and Standard-winged Nightjars,Little Green Bee-eater,Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned Rollers,Abyssinian Ground,Eastern Yellow and Jackson’s Hornbills,.Red-fronted and Black-breasted Barbets,Brown-backed Woodpecker,Singing Bush Lark,Red-winged Lark,Ethiopian Swallow,Pied, Isabelline and Heuglin’s Wheaters,African Grey Flycatcher,Foxy and Red pate Cisticolas,Karamoja Apalis,White-bellied Tit, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit,Northern White-crowned and Yellow-billed Shrikes,Slate-coloured Boubou,Fan-tailed Raven
Superb Starling, Red-billed Oxpecker, Eastern Violet-backed,Pygmy and Beautiful Sunbirds,Rufous and Chestnut Sparrow,Yellow-spotted Petronia,White-headed and White-billed Buffalo Weavers,‘White-browed, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weavers,Grey-capped Social and Speckle-fronted Weavers,Green-winged Orange-winged,Red-winged Pytilia,Black-bellied, Blackfaced Waxbill,Steel-blue, Straw Tailed Whydahs,Brown-rumped Bunting. Although we are not quiet certain if the traveler can tick off all these bird species on their bucket list, the keen birder will be able to catch a glimpse of most of the bird species.
Kidepo Valley National Park is steadily and readily gaining attention from travelers and rest assured that there is a lot of sights to enjoy on your visit including;
Narus Valley: Narus Valley is a rising and falling grassland plain surrounded by faraway mountains and it provides permanent water for the wildlife thus they gathers here. Animals lions, reedbucks, Jackson’s hartebeests, oribis, buffaloes,giraffes, cheetahs and leopards are visible within the valley. This area is properly supplied with game tracks rendering it an ideal observation places for game throughout the dry season. At the far southern tip of the Katurum loop, there is the Katurum kopje (a site of an abandoned lodge) with outstanding views of the Morungule mountain range.
Kidepo Valley and Kanangorok Hot Springs: On your visit to Kidepo, you will enjoy a visit to the Kanangorok Hot Springs located near the Kidepo River along the Sudan border which is a marvelous place to sit down and observe the mountains far past the frontier. The walk through the dried out Kidepo River along its 50 meter wide river bed comprised of white sand in between the banks blanketed with borassus palms.
Mount MorunguleMount: Morungole towers to 2,750 meters and it is crossed by River Kidepo and River Narus which nourish the wildlife plus the natural habitat of this park. The Morungole Range defines the southern boundary of this park and soars from these plains a couple of kilometers north-east of Apoka.
Lonyili Mountains: Lonyili Mountain is largely covered in montane forest and home to primates such as colobus monkeys though the mountains are now inaccessible due to poor road conditions in this area.
Namamukweny Valley: Namamukweny is a native Napore word for a place having no birds or perhaps a lonely place with very few people although on the contrary the valley is populated by a huge amount of bird like the Eastern Paradise Whydah, Green Wood Hoopoe, White-crested Turaco, Abyssinian Roller and the Common Bulbul.
Lomej Hills: The Lomej Hills is a great viewing point to see wild animals and birds such as the mountain reedbucks and it is just a brief drive from the park headquarters.
Apoka Tourism: CentreThe centre provides amazing views over the game filled Narus Valley and is well positioned for the start of game drives and nature walks. For people not having their private transport, there are park trucks offered for hire.
Kidepo being located in the far north of Uganda makes it quite inaccessible due to the long distance to cover to get there, but the park has various activities to offer to an enthusiastic traveler including;
Game Drives: As compared to other National Parks in Uganda where game drives can be encountered in the wild of Africa, Kidepo Park is less crowded since it is remote and less visited allowing you to view the best of Africa where you will enjoy views of the various attractions, wildlife and bird life.
Nature walks/ Hikes: Kidepo Park has some great places for walks offering nothing like any African wild on foot and there are not many better places to do so than Kidepo Valley Park. There are also places outside of the park area where you can go for a hike such as an all-day hike up the Morungole Mountains to visit the Ik People, one of the smallest ethnic groups in Uganda.
Birding: Kidepo Valley National Park is a perfect birders destination with it being the only park in Uganda where you can spot the common ostrich which is certainly a sight to see. Ostrich Eggs are harvested by Uganda Wildlife Authority for breeding purposes in order to increase number ostriches in the Park
Karamojong Village Visit: The Karamojong People are warrior nomads who pride themselves in their cattle and in the past cattle raids were the rule of the day. Though the Karamojong have been disarmed and have become a lot more passive in nature and have adopted subsistence farming. On this cultural visit you will get interesting insights into the livelihood of the Karamojong People.
A Visit to the Ik People: The Ik People are one of the original tribes in the in the Northeast Uganda area who were here long before the Karamojongs entered this land and today their population is at 10,000. With an early morning you will climb up into the Monrungole Mountains for a visit with the Ik Tribe and watch them perform the Larakaraka and Apiti dances.
Kidepo Valley National Park is the most remote park in Uganda and unlike other Parks, it limited lodging choices as new lodges are being built just outside of the park which will improve accommodation facilities in the park. Some of the options in Kidepo include;
- Apoka Safari LodgeKidepo
- Savannah Lodge:Apoka
- Rest CampNga’Moru
- Wilderness Camp
How to get to Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National park is found in the northeastern part of Uganda and is the most remote park in East Africa. It can be accessed by both road and air though driving is rewarding, as you enjoy the scenery of the vast and unspoiled wilderness however road conditions are sometimes poor and a four-wheel vehicle is always advisable.
By Road: Below are the possible routings to get to Kidepo Park
- Kampala to Karuma to Gulu to Kitgum to Kidepo at 571 km (10 hours)
- Kampala to Karuma to Lira to Kotido to Kaabong to Kidepo at 705 km (12 hours)
- Kampala to Mbale to Sironko to Moroto to Kotido to Kaabong to Kidepo at 740 km (12 hours)
- Kampala to Mbale to Soroti to Moroto to Kotido to Kabong to Kidepo at 792 km (13 hours)
By Air: There are chartered flights from Entebbe International Airport to the headquarters of the park. These charter flights to Kidepo may be arranged from Kampala (Kajjansi), Kampala Aeroclub, or Entebbe with Eagle Aviation lasting about two hours. The Civil Aviation Authority plans to make Lomej airstrip near Apoka, an international airport to enable visitors to fly direct to Kidepo from other countries.
When to visit
Kidepo Park can be visited all through the year though the best time to visit is during the dry season (September to March) when the animals are much easier to see as they are concentrated around the various water sources. Kidepo is normally quite hot and generally dry with fewer rains in April and May (wet season) lasting less than an hour and it is the worst time to go wildlife viewing as the paths and tracks are quite muddy and slippery.