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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kidepo Valley national park has also got amazing accommodation options for you to stay.
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.
Birding in the Kidepo Valley:
Hiking/Natural Walks in the Kidepo Valley:
Apoka Tourism Centre:
Kidepo Valley and Kanangorok Hot Springs: