Kidepo valley national park
Kidepo enjoys the status of being the true African wilderness. Because the park has some of the most beautiful African savannah landscape sceneries dotted with acacia, rock kopjes,swamps, which make it a great location for nature photographers.
The park covers 1442 sq. kmwith altitude range from 914 in the narus valley to 2754 meters at mulongore dry mountain ranges. Its located in Uganda’s most isolated region Karamoja north eastern Uganda along the border with South Sudan and north eastern Kenya.It’s a semi-arid savannah wilderness that contain life giving kidepo and narus river valleys. These seasonal rivers provide water for wildlife. During the dry season, large herds of buffaloes, elephants along with zebra, hippo, giraffe are mostly seen in the narus valley water pools. While lions sit on top of rock kopjes watching for prey.
Getting there is relatively far traveling by road from Kampala city.It’s about 700 km journey and it can take between 10-13-hour drive depending on the route used.Though, domestic charter or scheduled flights provide the quickest way to get toapoka airstrip near the park.
Despite having lost its population of black rhinos during the civil war in Uganda in 1971. Kidepo valley national park has remained undisturbed since it was gazetted in 1962 to protect wildlife. The park is home to 77 different mammals and over 475 bird species.
Notable wild animals found only in this park include cheetah, Aard wolf, ostrich, African hunting dog,bat-eared fox, stripped hyena. While eland, burchell’s zebra are found else in lake Mburo. Buffaloes are found in most of Uganda national parks but kidepois home to 4000, one of the largest single herd of buffaloes in East Africa.Animals you can expect to see lions, leopard,Uganda kob, Rothschild giraffe.
It’s also one of Uganda’s bird rich parks with over 475 species. Birders can exploreApoka lodge area, narus and namamukweny valley to look for ostrich, bee-eaters, hornbills, rollers and more than 56 birds of prey of which 16 are endemic to the area including pygmy falcon, verreaux’s eagle, Egyptian vulture, lapped faced vulture, lesser kestrel. Plus, endemic species such as karamojaapalis androse ringed parakeets.
Kidepo is also an area of rich cultural heritage. The local people the Karamjong and Ik indigenous tribes offer some of the best Uganda cultural safari encounters.Karamajong are nomadic pastoralists and their traditions are similar to masai of Kenya. While the Ik tribe are bushmen more or less similar to san people of Botswana. Cultural tours can be done outside the park to visit manyattas, the karamajong settlements and at mount murungule towards the border with South Sudan.
Weather and climate; when to visit kidepo
It’s a semi-arid climate just the opposite of western Uganda, Albertine rift valley, Bwindi forest and Virunga volcanoes. Weather is characterized by little rainfall and scorching sunny days where temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius during the peak of the dry season-from December to February. While September to November is still a dry season, but some rains fall and it’s a mid-season. visitors have the best chances of viewing wildlife because, large mammals inhabit the narus valley along the permanent water sources.
On the other hand, April to August March, kidepo receives 600 to 800 mm of rainfall which turn the vegetation into green.
View point areas
Areas such as apoka rest camp and tourism center, kakine and nagusokpire campsites are great spots for landscape photography. Beautiful locations, with far reaching views across the kidepo and narus valleys to the murugule and lomej mountains and South Sudan beyond.
Apoka tourism center
The park’s tourist center, Apoka is open all year round. The area offers luxury accommodation at Apoka safari lodge. Night stays for camping and a budget traveler is recommended at bandas run by Uganda wildlife authority. The rangers are also stationed here to take tourists who don’t have guide or need specialist to identify wildlife. Specialized open land cruiser vehicles are available for hire for those who don’t have car for game drives.
Game drive safaris
Game drives safaris are the best way to discover wildlife especially in the Narus valley. It’s a good place to spot cheetahs and lions. The leopard is elusive. Other animals you can spot include elephant, hartebeest, and Rothschild’s giraffe, jackals, eland, zebra, Uganda kob mountain reedbuck. The park is home to largest single of herd of buffaloes in east African, approximately 400 heads.
The combination of savannah grasslands, scrub, seasonal rivers and wetlands ensures high diversity of over 475 bird species. Birders come here to look for birds of prey, more than 56 species including 16 which are endemic to karamoja region including species like Egyptian vulture, verreaux’s eagle, Karamojaapalis, Abyssinian ground hornbill among others.
Most visitors experience wildlife of kidepo from a vehicle. However, you can explore the wildlife rich narus valley on foot with armed ranger, hike to the lomeji hills and Morungole Mountains where visitors can meet Ik tribe, the hunter gatherers of the savannah.
You might see wildlife such as mountain reedbuck, elephants, and birds as you walk through narus and kidepo river valleys.
Hikes start at 07 a.m. and go up to midday, though there are shorter walks lasting for 2 hours.
A highlight of any trip to kidepo is a cultural experience when you take a walk outside the park and interact with the karamajong cattle herders in their stunning homesteads- manyattas. Karamajongs similar to masai of Kenya, their livelihood is centered around herding cattle. Visitors get the opportunity to meet the lorokul cultural group which will share their beliefs, folklore and perform dances. Walks can be done early morning to visit the indigenous IK tribe, the smallest ethnic tribe in Uganda which lives on the slopes of Morungule Mountains. Mount morungule is 2750 meters above sea level and forms the watershed of two rivers; Narus and kidepo which provide water for wildlife.
Kidepo valley national park is situated in karamoja region north eastern most part of Uganda along the border with South Sudan and north eastern Kenya. The designated four routes to the park vary in time and distance. All roads to kidepo require 4-wheel drive vehicle.
The longest route from Kampala via lira, kotido, kaboong districts takes an approximate distance of 705 km from the capital Kampala.The shortest route from kampala goes through Gulu, kitgum districts to kidepo and covers about 571 km taking approximate 9-10 hours.
The easiest way to visit kidepo is by charter plane from Entebbe international airport or kajjansi airfield in Kampala. The flight takes 2 hours followed by a short drive to apoka tourist center.
Where to stay
Apoka safari lodge is the only providing luxury accommodation. There are bandas run and managed by uganda wildlife authority which offer budget accommodation and the option for those who wish to camp and prepare meals for themselves and cooking gas are provided.