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Kidepo Valley National Park

  • Elephant in kidepo

Kidepo Valley National Park was established as a wildlife reserve in 1958 and was designated as a national park in 1962. It has a land area of 1,442 km2 with an elevation range of 914 m to 2,750 m above sea level.

It attracts visitors seeking less travelled expanses of the African wilderness. The park, which is hidden away on Uganda’s border with Kenya and Sudan, offers stunning Savannah views that end in a rough horizon. A flora with a great variety in latitude and similarly varied climatic conditions has developed. Because of this, the park is home to a wide range of animal species, many of which are unique to Uganda.

Location of Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is the most remote park in Uganda located in the country’s extreme north-eastern corner, between Kenya and South Sudan, at the furthest extent of the vast, scarcely inhabited Karamoja area. The Kidepo environment is one of East Africa’s most stunning wildernesses, with meadows grazed by large game favourites reaching to steep mountains in all directions. The plains around the park are studded with the manyattas (homesteads) of Karamoja’s staunchly traditional pastoralists, making it a culturally rich environment.

Kidepo Valley National Park is tucked away in a hidden valley in the far northeast of Uganda, and it offers some of the most breathtaking landscape of any conserved region in Uganda.  Lonely Planet

The park is divided into two large, shallow valleys called Narus and Kidepo. These are drained by seasonal “sand rivers” in the Morungule Mountains that flood momentarily following rainstorms.

For the most part, the Kidepo Valley and its tributaries are entirely dry, but residual puddles remain along the Narus. These were historically vital water sites for which local clans contended during the dry months (Narus means “muddy area”).

Today, being the park’s main permanent water source, these ponds are equally important for wildlife. As a consequence, the park’s wildlife, tourist activities, and infrastructure are concentrated in the Narus Valley’s southern reaches, particularly at Apoka.

Wildlife in Kidepo Valley National Park

The park’s plants and animals are more like those in Kenya than in the rest of Uganda. Small hills, rocky outcrops, and inselbergs dot the landscape of the park, providing breathtaking vistas in all directions. The vegetation, which varies greatly in structure and composition, is best categorized as open tree Savannah. Some of the higher elevations are covered in mountain forests, while the Lorupei River Valley has extensive Acacia geradi forests.

Mammals

Despite the severe temperature, Kidepo’s savanna, shrub, and forest ecosystems sustain a diverse range of animals, with 86 species. Indeed, it is the sole refuge in Uganda for a number of species, including cheetah, bat-eared fox, striped hyaena, and caracal, eland and the little known Zebra subspecies the Maneless zebra is only found in Kidepo and Pian-upe wildlife reserve. The Boehm’s Zebra, another subspecies of the Plain Zebra, is found further south in  Lake Mburo National Park.

Though buffalos are not uncommon in Uganda, their massive seasonal gatherings in Kidepo’s Narus Valley cannot fail to amaze. There are also elephants, Rothschild’s giraffes, lions, leopards, spotted hyaenas, and black-backed and side-striped jackals.

The white-eared Kob and Mongalla gazelle, both of which are located mostly in Southern Sudan, have both been documented, with the Mongalla gazelle being reported for the first time in January 2021.

Birds

Kidepo has around 475 bird species, second only to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, which has 604 species. Over 100 “dry country” inhabitants of northern Uganda and Kenya are included on the list, including a handful that is native to the Kidepo area, such as rose-ringed parakeets, Clapperton’s francolins, and Karamoja Apalis. The ostrich, Denham’s bustard, kori bustard, red-throated bee-eaters, Abyssinian roller, and Abyssinian ground hornbill are among the other attractions.
Kidepo is also known for its 56 raptor species, which include the unusual lappet-faced vulture, lesser kestrel, and secretary bird.

Activities and Attractions in Kidepo Valley National Park

Game Drive in Narus Valley

The Narus Valley, south of Apoka, is the park’s best game-watching region, with species congregating here for most of the year. Look for buffalo in the valley floor wetlands, giraffes on the drier slopes above, and lions on the granite outcrops. Aside from the major game circuits at Kakine, Katurum, and Nagusokopire, freshly formed loops north of Apoka and south of the seasonal Crocodile Pool have opened up additional valley regions for exploration.

View Points

Apoka Rest Camp, Nagusokopire Campsite, and Kakine Campsite now feature binocular Viewpoints. The latter has a stunning 360-degree view of the Napore-Nyungea range, the Morungule mountains, and Mount Lomej in South Sudan.

Kidepo Valley Drive

In contrast to the Narus, the dry Kidepo Valley is light in the big game but gigantic in beauty, and its immense size more than rewards the 30 km trip from Apoka.

Stop at Lokimorigen on the Narus-Kidepo watershed for a beautiful view of South Sudan’s towering, 2975-meter-high Jebel Lotuke before descending to the Kidepo River crossing to stroll on the dry, sandy riverbed. Mammals are uncommon on the wide semi-arid plains beyond the river, although ostriches and secretary birds are common. Kanangorok Hot Springs, a modest grouping of tiny hot springs near the South Sudan border, is an easy 11-kilometre detour. This activity requires a ranger guide escort.

Guided Nature Walk

Short nature excursions surrounding Apoka Rest Camp allow visitors to see zebras, hartebeests, and reedbucks. Longer hikes across East Kakine’s broad grasslands should provide sights of giraffes, buffalo, elephants, and maybe distant lions. Visitors may also explore part or all of the 15-kilometer Rionomoe Trail on the Narus valley’s southern side. A ranger guide is required for all hikes.

Bird Watching

At Apoka, experienced ranger guides can assist you in locating and identifying birds in the park’s diverse ecosystems.

Mountain Hiking

The Morungule range, which rises from the plains northeast of Apoka, may be explored on foot with the assistance of a ranger guide.

Community Walks outside the Park

Community walks allow visitors to learn about living in the Karamojong manyattas (homesteads) of Kawalakol, Lorukul, and Karenga.

Accommodation in Kidepo Valley National Park

Within the Park:

at the Apoka Rest Camp, there are 16 distinct cabins. A facility with 14 non-self-contained bandas, each with two beds, is also offered. Both Apoka Lodge and the Bandas are supervised by the park. To make reservations, get in touch with the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s Kampala office.

The park offers campers two “Do it yourself” campsites. You must bring your tent and other camping gear.

How to get to Kidepo Valley National Park:

By Road:

Kampala-Lira-Kotido-Kidepo-705 km
Kampala-Mbale-Soroti-Moroto-Kidepo-792 km
Kampala-Mbale-Sironko-Kotido-Kideop-740 km
Kampala-Soroti -Kotido via Amuria 656 km
Driving is more rewarding as vast parts of Karamoja are scenic and total wilderness. However, road conditions are sometimes difficult and 4-wheel drive vehicles (4WD) are recommended. Visitors should note that the road mainly in use from Kotido to Kaabong passes via Kanawauat.
Visitors intending to travel by road are advised to contact UWA headquarters to seek advice about conditions and safety on the roads.

By Air :

Chartered aircraft are available from Entebbe International Airport to the Park Headquarters. The Civil Aviation Authority manages an airstrip at Lomej about 3 km south of the Park Headquarters.

Map of Kidepo Valley National Park

Map of Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
Map: Uganda Maps, By Andrew Roberts