Kidepo Valley National Park is one of those Out of the Ordinary places in East Africa it not all of Africa. Africa as you dreamed about, read about in an Ernest Hemingway account, or one of the Safari tales by Karen Blixen in her “Out of Africa” – this is unspoiled Africa, remote, untouched, unvisited, Africa without the crowds – a park with less than 10 new visitors a day, Experiential Africa at its best. This is the place in case you’re looking for a wildlife area rather than a park. There are no crowds of tourists. It’s truly awesome. It is a true wilderness. There’s a reason Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa. It’s been a top tourist destination for a few years now because of its stunning scenery and wildlife. One of its best treasures, however, remains hidden.
Off the beaten track, the rugged isolated wilderness of the Kidepo Valley National Park ranks as one of Africa’s most prized, less explored destinations. Here, over 77 mammals and around 475 bird species find shelter amidst a pristine savannah landscape, broken by the Kidepo and Narus Rivers.
Visitors are treated to exceptional wildlife sightings on thrilling game drives. Animals, some of which cannot be found elsewhere in Uganda (think greater and lesser kudu, eland and cheetah); include lion, leopard, elephant and an assortment of plains game.
Kidepo is a birdwatchers paradise-specifically for those interested in Africa’s birds of prey, the Nuru Valley, will never disappoint you, as you get lost in a truly wilderness of bird sounds and echoes from the bush. It’s quite amazing here as you smile and enjoy the nature, exactly what your mind wanted to have, is found in this landscape with great terrain.
This virgin national park is undoubtedly among the best wilderness areas in Africa, harboring a couple of extinct species of wildlife that can’t be found in any other Ugandan national park. Kidepo is right at the core of a Savannah landscape right next to a few mountainous bodies. The reasons for planning your safari here are endless, something you will definitely see when you set foot on Uganda’s soil. Besides the exceptional wildlife safari experience, this national park is another great spot for a cultural trail especially to those who would like to see the Karamojong, Acholis plus other great tribes. Watching the traditional homesteads, the manyattas is an exceptional experience. Kidepo National Park is a true gem with huge abundance in wildlife
Kidepo Valley Attractions
There are a lot of unique attractions that has made Kidepo Valley to be known of and they are still authentic. Off the beaten track
Home to a legendary tribe
Kidepo National Park is home to one the smallest ethnic groups in Africa, a people called the Ik. According to folklore, the Ik have wandered through much of East Africa, and came from Ethiopia hundreds of years ago.
Praying to ancient gods, the Ik believe they will one day have to move on from Kidepo Valley. But they are fighting to preserve their unique culture and language, which no rival tribes understand.
Terrill Schrock is a linguist working with three generations of Ik to uncover the secrets of the Ik language. He’s found evidence linking them to cultures as far away as southern Egypt.
“It’s like a museum,” he says. “It’s a storehouse of historical information, cultural information, ecological information. When a language like that dies, you could liken it to a library burning down. Losing a window to the past that will never be recovered in the future.”
Apoka Tourism Centre
This is the center of the park, its where all activities and human resource center is located. Looking over the game filled Narus Valley and habitat to a luxury lodge and the standard UWA managed cottages; the Apoka is the tourism centre of the park. Ranger guides are positioned at Apoka to accompany tourists on their game drives plus nature walks. For people not having their private transport, there are park trucks offered for hire. In addition, there is a craft shop having books plus souvenirs, alcoholic beverages, bottled-water plus sodas which can as well be bought here. Food is prepared on request and also cooking gas as well as utensils may be hired by people who desire to cook on their own.
Narus Valley is a rising and falling grassland plain surrounded by faraway mountains. This valley provides permanent water, and through most of the year its wildlife and birds gathers here. Therefore, this area is properly supplied with game tracks, having 4 loop circuits that explore the valley close to Apoka. Several creatures for example lions, reedbucks, Jackson’s hartebeests, oribis, buffaloes and giraffes are visible within the valley. Cheetahs plus leopards are as well seen but in smaller numbers.
The Narus dam together with the water hole close to the Tourism Centre are ideal observation places for game, particularly throughout the dry season. At the far southern tip of the Katurum loop, there is the Katurum kopje (a site of an abandoned lodge and is recently being refurbished) is an eye-catching destination with outstanding views north over the valley in the direction of the Morungule mountain range. See the Uganda safari packages that take you to Kidepo
Kidepo Valley and Kanangorok Hot Springs
Through most of the year, shortage of surface water implies that less wildlife is seen within Kidepo Valley, although it is still definitely worth the drive to go to the dried out Kidepo River to walk along its 50 meter wide river bed comprised of white sand in between the banks blanketed with borassus palms. “Kidepo” means “to pick from below” and this valley was frequented by people traveling to collect fallen borassus fruits to use for fermenting when making palm beer.
While on a safari to Kidepo Uganda, you will enjoy Kanangorok Hot Springs are located 11 kilometers past the Kidepo River along the Sudan border. It is a marvelous place to sit down and observe the mountains far past the frontier.
Mount Morungole towers to 2,750 meters and it is crossed by River Kidepo and River Narus which nourish the wildlife plus the natural habitat of this park. The Morungole Range defines the southern boundary of this park and soars from these plains a couple of kilometers northeast of Apoka. This area may be visited on foot in the company of a ranger. The slopes of the mountain are habitat to the IK people, who are the tiniest ethnic group found in Uganda, and have their own special unique and authentic culture.
“Namamukweny” is a native Napore word for “a place having no birds or perhaps a lonely place with very few people” – although concerning the birds, pretty the contrary is true! This valley is populated by a huge amount of bird species for example the Eastern Paradise Whydah, Green Wood Hoopoe, White-crested Turaco, Abyssinian Roller and the Common Bulbul, among others. It’s found in the northwest part of the park and may be accessed on foot or using a car.
The Lomej Hills are found just a brief drive from the park headquarters. These hills are a great viewing point to see wild animals and birds such as the mountain reedbucks.
What to do in Kidepo Valley
The reasons for planning your safari here are endless, something you will definitely see when you set foot in this great landscape. There is a lot to do and see for your whole stay that you may run short of time without finishing some.
Game Drives in Kidepo Valley
The uniqueness of wildlife and surrounding nature is second to none. Nowhere else can you find such a beautiful environment paired with an enchanting flora and fauna. Your guide will help you spot the lions that may be sitting on the valley’s various rocks. This reserve has the largest number of Cape buffaloes anywhere. Other wildlife includes elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, ostrich, buffalo and much more, in the wild Narus Valley.
You will see animals difficult to find in other parks of Uganda. Game drives in Kidepo Valley National Park depend on where you stay – if you stay at Apoka Lodge you will find that two activities a day such as game drives are included in the price of the room per night. We always use a Uganda Wildlife Authority Ranger who comes on board to gives you added insight about the wildlife found in the park.
Birding in Kidepo Valley
Kidepo Valley Park is a great place for birders that also would like to enjoy wildlife in the remote Kidepo Valley Park. Kidepo is notable for its birds of prey. Of the 56 species recorded, 14 – including Verreaux’s Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, and Pygmy Falcon – are believed to be endemic to the Kidepo and Karamoja region.
There has, however, been no comprehensive survey of birds in Kidepo and visitors stand a good chance of adding to the current list. Kidepo Valley Park is the only park in Uganda where you can find the common ostrich which is certainly a sight to see. Ostrich Eggs are harvested for breeding purposes by Uganda Wildlife Authority in order to increase number ostriches in Kidepo Valley National Park. Kidepo Valley Park is a Birders Paradise. Birding can also be done on the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys.
Hiking/Nature Walks in Kidepo Valley
Kidepo Valley Park has some great places for Nature and Bush Walks. There is nothing like taking in the African Wild on foot and there are not many better places to do so than Kidepo Valley Park. Get your feet touch the hot sands of the Kidepo and get going as you keep your eye on the open for any wildlife sightings.
Hike to the Lomej Mountains, take leisurely walks through the Narus Valley, meet members of the endangered IK tribe and wander the splendid Kidepo River Valley between banks of borassus palm forest. All Nature Walks and Hikes within the Park will be guided by Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers; you cannot wander off on your own in this remote park.
Cultural Encounters in Kidepo Valley
Lorokul Cultural Group
The cattle-herding Karamojong occupy the north-east of Uganda, in an area covering one tenth of the country. Discover the unique culture of this remote tribe with the Lorukul Cultural Group, located just outside Kidepo Valley National Park.
A Visit to the Ik People:
You will need an early morning start to climb up into the Morungole Mountains for a visit with the Ik Tribe. One of the original tribes in the in the Northeast Uganda area. They were here long the Karamojong entered their land. Today they number around 10,000.
Karamojong Village (Manyatta) Visit:
The Karamojong People are Warrior – Nomads – the Karamoja region has often been called the Wild West of Uganda. When Uganda was a British Protectorate – they simply left this area alone. Their pride is their cattle and in the past cattle raids were the rule of the day. Things have calmed down in recent years and the Karamojong have been disarmed and have become a lot more passive in nature. Cattle is still king, however, subsistence farming has become a lot more common
Best Time to visit Kidepo Valley
The best time to visit Kidepo national park for game viewing is during the dry season months of July and August when animals are concentrated near water points. During the rainy seasons, animals disperse from the valleys, moving to higher and drier ground where they are not so easily seen. Keep in mind however; that these are the two hottest months as well considered to have the worst weather with average temperature of 27.5°C with daily variations from 21.5°C to 34°C making it very hot and dusty.
You can as well visit Kidepo during the short rains from September to December in the comfort of our 4X4 safari vehicles. Let’s compare the seasons looking at the advantages and disadvantages if you are to visit Kidepo in certain months of the year.
Accommodations in Kidepo Valley National Park
The facilities of accommodation in Kidepo Valley National Park are currently three; Apoka Safari Lodge, Apoka Rest Camp and Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp all distributed in Luxury (Apoka Safari Lodge), Mid-Range (Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp) & Budget (Apoka Rest Camp) safari settings.
The park can be reached by both road and air. Driving is rewarding, as much of Karamoja, like Kidepo itself, is a vast and unspoiled wilderness. However, road conditions are sometimes poor and a 4WD vehicle is essential.
By Road : There are four possible routes by road as listed below. Optimum driving times are given
Routes passing west of Lake Kyoga through Acholi land
Kampala – Karuma – Gulu – Kitgum – Kidepo = 571km (10 hours)
Kampala – Karuma – Lira – Kotido – Kaabong – Kidepo = 705km (12 hours)
Routes passing East of Lake Kyoga through Karamoja
Kampala – Mbale – Sironko – Moroto – Kotido – Kaabong – Kidepo = 740km (12 hours)
Kampala – Mbale – Soroti – Moroto – Kotido – Kabong – Kidepo = 792km (13 hours)
The most usual route passes through Gulu and Kitgum Ideally, travellers should plan to stay overnight in one of these towns or at Chobe, near Karuma in Murchison Falls National Park.
Visitors should note that the road mainly in use from Kotido to Kaabong passes via Kanawat not via Losilang as indicated on most maps. Enquire at Kotido for details.
By Air : Charter flights to Kidepo may be arranged from Kampala (Kajjansi), Kampala Aeroclub, or Entebbe with Eagle Aviation. Flights take about two hours. The Civil Aviation Authority plans to make Lomej airstrip near Apoka, an international airport to enable visitors to fly direct to Kidepo from other countries. For more information about Kidepo Valley National Park, kindly contact our office by email: [email protected], you can well make a phone call: +250788439357