Kidepo valley national park is a true gem with huge abundance in wildlife. It remains a true rendition of tourism in Uganda but remains unknown to many! The park is situated in kaabong district in the distant north-east of Uganda, close by the boarders of South Sudan and Kenya. Kidepo valley national park was first established as a game reserve and upgraded as a national park status in 1962, currently hosts over 75species of mammals and 470 species of birds. Covering an area of 1,442 square kilometers. Altitude range from 914m above sea level which dominates by the 2,750m peak of mountain Morungule and bisected by the Kidepo and Narus rivers.
kidepo is a deep place of semi-arid savanna, seasonal rivers and low mountains. It is beautiful and reachable at any time of the year. It is about 510km from Kampala and is the third best national park in Africa. The park contains two rivers, kidepo and Narus that flows through the savannah landscape only in the rainy season. In the dry season, the wildlife depends on remnant pools along the Narus. Kidepo’s distant location makes it Uganda’s isolated national park. Though for years kidepo could only be reached by air due to poor roads, it has only recently become accessible by both road and air. Currently there are only two lodges and a government rest camp available.
The kidepo land scape is one of the huge drama with grasslands roamed by big game favourites extending towards rugged mountains in all points of the compass. It is a home of rich cultural interests. The plains around the park are marked with the manyattas “home steads” of karamoja’s fiercely traditional pastoralists.
Wildlife in kidepo Valley National Park.
Kidepo’s savannah, bush and forests habitats support a wide diversity of mammals with 86 species. In Uganda cheetah, bat-eared fox, striped hyenas and caracal are endemic to kidepo. Elephants, lions, Giraffes, spotted hyenas, leopards and black and side-striped jackal are also present in the park giving great opportunities for game viewing.
Zebras graze on the plains and both greater and lesser kudu roam around the bush. The lucky adventurers may have a chance to view a white- eared kob commonly seen in South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Kidepo hosts over 475 species of birds, a number second in Uganda only to queen Elizabeth national park’s 604 species. 60 0f these are only recorded in kidepo national park no any other national park in Uganda. These are rose ringed parakeets, clapperton’s francolin and karamoja apails. Other species include the majesty of common ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, red-throated bee-eaters, the Abyssinian roller and the Abyssinian ground hornbill. Kidepo is also having 56 species of raptor including the rare lappet-faced vulture, lesser kestrel and Denham’s bustard.
Most of the people bordering the park are Karamojong who though are traditional nomadic pastoralists, they are slowly adopting a more settled lifestyle. Interested visitors can visit their manyattas at kawalakol, lorukul and karenga to learn more about their traditional cultures such as dancing, Karamojong stools, knives, spears and jewellery, are possibly the most sought after crafts in Uganda. Visitors can also visit the IK, Uganda’s most isolated tribe, who stay on the lofty, 2570m Mount Morungule on the Kenyan border.
By Road: The quickest most popular route that some visitors use from Kampala to kidepo runs via Gulu and Kitgum is about 571km. the surfaced road as far as kitgum and it is possible to reach in a single day. However, the journey is more enjoying with an overnight break in kitgum commonly with a tour to Murchison falls NP. Most visitors drive from Murchison falls which a 7hours drive or less on the sealed road.
By Air: The charter and scheduled flights fly to kidepo airstrip close to Apoka from Kajjansi or Entebbe international airport. These flights only work on certain days and require a guaranteed number of passengers to fly, making it expensive for the small groups traveling on their own, but cheap for the large groups.
Activities and attractions.
Narus Valley Game drive: The Narus valley in the south of Apoka is the best area where game viewing can be done possible by vehicle on dirt roads, coming face to face with large mammals and predators from a safe distance. Looking for buffaloes in the swamps along the valley floor, Giraffes on the drier slopes above and scan the rock outcrops for lions. In addition to the main game circuits at kakine, katurum and Nagusokopire, currently created loops to North west of Apoka and to the South of the seasonal crocodile pool have opened up new parts of the valley exploration.
Kidepo valley drive: The dry kidepo valley has less wildlife, but having a wild beauty and is well worth discovering. Is short on big game but massive on scenery and its vast scale more than explains the 30 km drive north of Apoka. Stop on the Narus-kidepo watershed at lokimorigen to enjoy eye-catching view towards the looming, 2975m- high Jebel Lotuke in South Sudan before sloping to the kidepo River crossing to walk on the dry, sandy riverbed. This is a famous place for ostriches and secretary birds.
Short nature walks around Apoka Rest camp provide you with great opportunity to view different animals like Zebras, hartebeest and reed bucks. longer walks through open grasslands of East kakine give you a chance to see animals like giraffes, elephants, buffalo, elephant and distant lions and birds. The walk trail takes 2 to 3 hours. Visitors can also tour part or all of the 15km Rionomoe trail on the southern side of the Narus valley. All walks require a ranger guide.
community walks involve interacting with the local Karamojong people and getting opportunity to know more about their culture and learn about their lifestyles in their manyattas “homesteads” at kawalakol, lorukul and karenga. You can also choose to visit the IK people is an indigenous community that inhabits the Morungule mountain range as their sacred home.
The landscape and land features of karamoja and kidepo valley national park are unique from the rest of Uganda. Kidepo national park is a park where you find special bird species from different geographic zones meet and is an important birding safari area in Uganda with huge abundance of birds and a dream Uganda’s tour destination for bird watching, about 50 birds of prey species in Uganda are endemic in Karamoja region. The birding safaris in kidepo valley national park have high opportunities of seeing famous ostriches, Abyssinian Roller, verreaux’s eagle, yellow billed hornbill, Egyptian vulture, Kori bustard and many others.
Mount Morungole range covers large parts south of kidepo valley national park and is the source of River Kidepo and the Narus river the blood vessels of wildlife species in the park. The hike into the mountain gives hikers great opportunity to view the Narus, kidepo plains and rest of kidepo valley national park in the foothills. Mount Morungule is a formal ancestral home of the IK people, a minority group in Uganda. Hiking mount Morungule is a serious test for physical fitness, it is done early morning before the temperatures of kidepo valley hit melting levels. The hike also gives you opportunity for photography snapping beautiful images of entire kidepo valley and the island. The hiking requires a ranger guide to get a maximum satisfaction from your special tour in Uganda.
When to visit kidepo:
kidepo valley national park is best visited during the dry seasons between the month of September to March. However, since the park has a semi arid climate with just one light of rain season per year, the park can be visited anytime of the year depending on the visitor’s interest. In September to march the park is less congested, April and May the camps and tents are closed because of heavy rains, September, October and November the rain stops and December to February the park is extremely hot and dusty. For visitors interested in wildlife adventure, the dry season is the best time to visit kidepo valley np for game viewing because the animals will be moving looking for water and vegetation and also game driving is good on rough marram roads in the park compared to when the roads are muddy. Whereas wet season is the best for bird watching, during this period the less animals are spotted but you can still spot some.
Accommodation in kidepo Valley National Park:
Kidepo savannah lodge:
This is a simple and enjoying, providing a position of contentment and security around the lodge. Offering accommodation in midrange facilities, located 500m from kalokudo Gate to kidepo. There are nine tents, one is a bathing block and eight self-contained safari tents. The place gives visitors a great view of the Narus valley and the mountains beyond.
Apoka safari lodge:
It offers upmarket accommodation in luxurious cottages located on a low rise in the middle of the plains. Here wildlife is everywhere you can see zebras, buffaloes, or lions outside your room when the grass is high. 10 large bandas made from wood, canvas, and thatch provide comfortable accommodation, dining room and bar is amazing, thatch-roofed with a raised platform that is good for wildlife viewing.