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Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is Uganda’s tour destination that ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses for its magnificent vegetation, geology, and thrilling wildlife. Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Gazetted as a national park in 1962, it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species.

Kidepo is Uganda’s most isolated national park, but the few who make the long journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja would agree that it is also the most magnificent, for Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. From Apoka, in the heart of the park, a savannah landscape extends far beyond the gazetted area, towards horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges.

Overview: Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is a national park in the Karamoja region in northeast Uganda. Kidepo is rugged savannah, dominated by the 2,750 meters (9,020 ft) Mount Morungole and transected by the Kidepo and Narus rivers. Kidepo Valley National park is located near Karenga in Kaabong District, in the northeastern corner of Uganda. The park is approximately 220 kilometers (140 mi), by road northwest of Moroto, the largest town in the sub-region. It is approximately 520 kilometers (320 mi), by road, northeast of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city.

Kidepo Valley is Uganda’s most remote national park. Few undertake the pilgrimage to the park but the spectacular beauty of this pristine wilderness impresses all that make it. For the visiting birder, Kidepo Valley National Park boasts a bird list of over 475 species, a total second only to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Amongst the host of dry, eastern “specials” not found in any other Ugandan national park are some of East Africa’s rarest and most sought after birds such as Black-breasted Barbet and Karamoja Apallis.

History

The Ketebo or Mening are the inhabitants’ farmers and hunters who lived in the area since 1800 before it was gazetted as a game reserve by the British colonial government in 1958. The purpose was both to protect the animals from hunting and to prevent further clearing of bush for tsetse fly control. The eviction of the resident people and the resultant famine, especially the Ketebo people who were forcefully relocated to other areas within Bira such as Napotpot, Kalo Kudo, Namosingo, Loriwo and Naurkori in South Sudan, is cited in contemporary protected area management as an example of the unacceptable consequences of not taking community needs into account when designating reserves.

The newly independent government of Uganda under Milton Obote converted the reserve into the Kidepo Valley National Park in 1962. The first chief warden of the park was Ian Ross, a Briton. In 1972, Paul Ssali, a Ugandan, replaced him. Their handover and training were the subjects of the 1974 American documentary film, “The Wild and the Brave.

Geography

The park consists of the two major valley systems of the Kidepo and Narus Rivers. The valley floors lie between 3,000 feet (910 m) and 4,000 feet (1,200 m) AMSL. Kanangorok (also spelled Kananorok or Kanatarok) is a tepid hot spring in the extreme north of the park, in Lotukei, South Sudanese boundary. This spring is the most permanent source of water in the park. The soil in the park is clayey. In the Kidepo Valley, black chalky clay and sandy-clay loam predominate, while the Narus Valley has freer-draining red clays and loams.

How to get there: Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is accessible either by road or by air.

The most commonly driven route from Kampala is via Gulu and Kitgum, an 600 km journey taking a minimum of 12 hours and a sturdy 4WD to complete.

 

Wildlife: Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo National Park’s mammal list of over 80 species includes 28 that are found in no other Ugandan National park. Amongst these are charismatic African animals as Bat-eared Fox, Carcal, Cheetah, and Klipspringer. Unfortunately, Kidepo suffered the same fate as many other Ugandan parks during the Amin era and is still recovering from years of poaching that left game herds depleted. Striped Hyena, Lesser Kudu, Grant’s Gazelle, and Beisa Oryx have not been seen at all in recent times and are presumed to be locally extinct.

Other large mammals have shown a remarkable recovery and there is now a healthy population of Elephant, Common Zebra, Buffalo, Bohor Reedbuck, Waterbuck, and Kongoni. Predators are plentiful and Spotted Hyena, Leopard, and Lion are frequently seen. 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 Sidestriped 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.

Birding: Kidepo Valley National Park

  • Ostrich
  • African Swallow-tailed Kite
  • Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk
  • Pygmy Falcon
  • Fox 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 Sand Grouse
  • Bruce’s Green Pigeon
  • Rose-ringed Parakeet
  • White-crested Turaco
  • White-bellied Go-away bird
  • White-faced Scoops 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

 

  • 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-colored 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 and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weavers
  • Grey-capped Social and Speckle-fronted Weavers
  • Green-winged Orange-winged and Red-winged Pytilias
  • Black-bellied and Black-faded Waxbill
  • Steel-blue and Strawtailed Whydahs
  • Brown-rumped Bunting
  • Singing Bush Lark

 

 

 

    Where to Stay: Kidepo Valley National Park

    Kidepo Valley national park has also got amazing accommodation options for you to stay.

    Within the Park:
    • Apoka Safari Lodge (Wild places) – UWA Concession
    • Apoka Rest Camp (UWA)
    • Kakine Self-catering Campsite (UWA)
    Outside the Park:
    • Nga Moru Wilderness Camp
    Apoka Rest Camp:

    It run by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, offers comfortable bandas within the national park, including bedding, mosquito netting, and showers. It is recommended that you bring all your own food although it can be cooked for you if necessary.
    A more upmarket option is the exclusive Apoka Lodge. This luxury lodge is located in the middle of Kidepo National Park with spacious rooms and private veranda. Each room has a sitting room and ensuite bathroom. A restaurant and swimming pool are available as well.

    It is recommended that a ranger-guided accompany you at all times whilst at Kidepo Valley National park and this can be arranged on arrival at Apoka. Patrick is an excellent ranger who knows many of the birds. Park officials also suggest that all vehicles traveling north into the Kidepo Valley be escorted by multiple armed guards due to the periodic presence of poachers and cattle rustlers in the area.

    Gallery

    Best Time To Visit:

    • All year-round.

    Attractions: Kidepo Valley National Park

    Game Drive:

    • For game drives in this park, it is advisable to move with a  park ranger who will help you spot the lions that may be sitting on the valley’s various rocks. Other wildlife includes elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, ostrich, buffalo and much more, in the wild Narus Valley.

    Birding in the Kidepo Valley:

    • Apoka Rest Camp is a great spot to begin your Kidepo birding experience. Birding can also be done on the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys. Among the birds seen are the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo. The activity can be arranged both in the morning and evening.

    Hiking/Natural Walks in the Kidepo Valley:

    • Hike to the Lomej Mountains, take leisurely walks through the Narus Vally, meet members of the endangered IK tribe and wander the splendid Kidepo River Valley between banks of borassus palm forest.

    Cultural Tours:

    • See the energetic dances of the Kikorongo Equator Cultural Performers; workers harvesting salt on Katwe Salt Lake; a traditional Banyaraguru hut; or an agricultural village – all guided by those who know them best – local community members.

    Areas of Interest: Kidepo Valley National Park

    Apoka Tourism Centre:

    • Overlooking the game-rich Narus Valley and home to an upmarket lodge and simple UWA-run cottages, Apoka is the park’s tourism hub. Ranger guides are stationed at Apoka to escort tourists on game drives and walks. For those without their own transport, park trucks can be hired.

    Narus Valley:

    • Narus Valley is a rolling, grassland plain enclosed by distant mountains. The valley has permanent water, and for much of the year the park’s wildlife congregates here. Thus, the area is well provided with game tracks, with four loop circuits exploring the valley around Apoka. Many creatures such as lions, Jackson’s hartebeest, buffaloes, giraffes, oribis and reedbucks can be seen in the valley. Less commonly seen are cheetahs and leopards.

    Kidepo Valley and Kanangorok Hot Springs:

    • For most of the year, a lack of surface water means that little wildlife is found in Kidepo Valley, though it is still worth the drive to visit the dry Kidepo River to stroll along its 50m wide bed of white sand between banks covered with borassus palms. Kidepo means to pick from below and the valley was visited by people coming to gather fallen borassus fruit for fermenting to make palm beer. The Kanangorok Hot Springs lie 11km beyond the Kidepo River on the Sudan border. This is a glorious place to sit and view the mountains beyond the frontier.

    Mount Morungule:

    • Mount Morungole stands at 2,750m and is crossed by the Kidepo and Narus Rivers that nourish the park’s wildlife and this natural habitat as a whole. The Morungole Range marks the southern boundary of the park and rises from the plains a few kilometres northeast of Apoka. This region can be explored on foot with a ranger. The mountain slopes are home to the IK people, the smallest ethnic group in Uganda, with their own unique culture.

    Namamukweny Valley:

    • Namamukweny is a Napore word meaning a place with no birds or a lonely place with few people – though regarding the birds, quite the opposite is true! The valley is inhabited by a large number of bird species such as the Eastern Paradise Whydah, White-crested Turaco, Common Bulbul, Abyssinian Roller and Green Wood Hoopoe among others. It is located in the north-west of the park and can be accessed by car or on foot.

    Lomej Hills:

    • The Lomej Hills are a short drive from the headquarters. They are a good viewing point for birds and wildlife, including the mountain reedbuck.