Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is situated in the northern region of Uganda, in the Kaboong district. The national park covers a surface area of 1442 km² and elevated at a height of 900-1200 meters above sea level. It was first established as a game reserve in 1958 by the British Colonial government. 

Later in 1962, Kidepo National Park was converted from a game reserve into a national park under the reign of the former president, Apollo Milton Obote. The park’s first chief warden was Ian Ross and was later replaced in 1972 by Paul Ssali. The national park is currently under the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Kidepo Valley National Park
Wildlife Safaris in Kidepo Park

The national park lies between Uganda’s borders with Kenya and Sudan. The park gets its name from the Dodoth word ‘akidep’, which means ‘to pick up’ in the English.

Kidepo national park is one of Uganda isolated national parks, and yet richly diverse with numerous species of flora and fauna. The national park is home to an estimated number of 480 bird species and is the only national park in Uganda where visitors can find the ostrich bird in the wild. The national park is famous for its serene landscape, large herds of buffaloes and rivers Kidepo and Narus. The park is dominated by Mount Morungole, elevated at 2,750 meters above sea level. 

Attractions in Kidepo Valley National Park.

There are quite a number of attractions in Kidepo National Park and these include;

Wildlife: Kidepo Valley National Park is home to about 77 mammal species and around 475 bird species. Visitors can be sure to see wildlife species like; elephants, jackal, leopards, buffalo, bush pig, bush duiker, ostrich and many more. There are two areas in the park where visitors can spot wildlife and these are in the Narus Valley and Kidepo Valley.

Kanangorok Hot springs: These hot springs are situated 11km from the Kidepo River on the border with Sudan. The water in this hot spring boils at a temperature of about 50°C, hot enough to boil an egg. Locals, as well as foreign tourists, visit the hot springs while touring to the national park.

Kidepo Valley: There is plenty of wildlife found in the Kidepo Valley, and not forgetting the Kidepo river flows through this valley. However, given that the Kidepo River is a seasonal river, the number of wildlife found in this valley varies depending on the availability of water from River Kidepo. 

Narus Valley: The Narus Valley is dominated by River Narus, which flows northwest through the southern part of Kidepo National Park. The name Narus is a Karamajong word to mean mud. Unlike the Kidepo Valley which is dominated by the seasonal River Kidepo, the Narus Valley has a permanent water source which is the Narus River. It is due to this fact that there are larger concentrations of wildlife in the valley, which can be spotted during a game drive. The Narus dam and the water pool near the Apoka Tourism Center, make the perfect spots to view wildlife.

Lomej Hills: The Lomej Hills are situated near the park’s headquarters and are a good spot for hiking expeditions, game viewing and bird watching activities.

Mount Morungule: The Morungule Mountain stands at an elevation of 2,750 meters; with rivers Kidepo and Narus flowing through it. Hiking expeditions are carried out on the mountain; with the highlight of the hike being a visit to the IK community. The IK people are the smallest ethnic group in Uganda, with their own distinct language and culture. They are believed to be the original inhabitants of Uganda. 

Apoka Tourism Centre: The Apoka Tourism Center is the major tourist hub in Kidepo National Park. The tourism center consists of cottages which are managed by UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and a craft shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs, bottled water and beverages. Park guides are stationed here to accompany tourists on game drives and nature walks.

Other areas in Kidepo Valley National Park that might be of interest to tourists visiting the park include; Lonyili Mountain and Namamukweny Valley.

What to do in Kidepo Valley National Park.

Visitors can engage in a series of activities in the national park like;

Game Drives: Game drive in Kidepo National Park are mainly done in two areas of the park, which are the Narus Valley and Kidepo Valley. Visitors have the option of doing with day or evening game drives and are usually accompanied by a park ranger. While on a guided game drive, tourist can view wildlife like; buffaloes, lions, leopards, ostrich, giraffes and many more. Game drives in the national park cost 30 USD for day game drives and 40 USD for night game drives. 

Kidepo Valley National Park
Game Drives in Kidepo Valley National Park

Bird Watching: Kidepo National Park is home to approximately 475 bird species, with around 23 of these species being found only in Kidepo national park. The national park is a perfect destination for birding activities and bird lovers can view species of birds like; Yellow-billed Shrike, Taita Fiscal, Rufous Chatterer, Ostriches, Karamoja Apalis and the Black-breasted Barbet among others. Birding activities in the park cost 30 USD.

Community/Cultural Tour: For those visitors who are interested in interacting with the local people in communities within and outside the national park, embarking on a trip to the neighboring Karamajong community would be the best option. Get to meet the Lorukul cultural group which is located just outside the park. Tourists have the opportunity to take a tour of the homesteads in the area and also watch performances from the Lorukul cultural group.

Another cultural encounter would be further north of the park to the IK community. This group can be encountered on a hike to Morungule Mountain. Since this group is located far, visitors on a hiking trip are always advised to spare a whole day for the activity.

Hiking/Nature Walks: Visitors in Kidepo Valley National Park can embark on a guided nature walk through the Narus valley and hike to the Lomej Mountains, and Morungole Mountains as well. The highlight of these hiking and guided nature walks is a visit to the IK communities living within the Morungole Mountains. Tourists hiking to the Lomej Mountains can enjoy four hours of hiking activities, exploring the parks beautiful and serene landscape, as well as its splendid flora and fauna species. Hiking expeditions to the Lomej Mountains being at exactly 7 am. Guided nature walks through the Narus valley takes about 2 hours. All hiking and guided nature walk activities in the park start from Apoka Tourism Center, well-trained and experienced UWA guides are allocated to tourists. Hiking and guided nature walk in Kidepo Valley National Park cost USD 30 dollars per person for day nature walks, and USD40 dollars for night nature walks.

Kidepo Valley National Park
Buffalo in Kidepo Valley National Park

Accommodation in Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda.

There are a couple of lodging facilities in Kidepo Valley National Park and these provide visitors with exquisite services ranging from Budget to Mid-range and Luxury. Some of the accommodation options available to tourists include; Apoka Safari Lodge, Apoka Rest Camp, Kakine Self-catering Campsite, Kidepo Savannah Lodge, Adere Safari Lodge, and Nga Moru Wilderness Camp.

However, it is important for visitors to know that campsites in the national park do not provide food for visitors. It is therefore crucial that visitors pack enough foodstuffs for their stay in the park; guests can hire a cook but this comes at an extra fee.

How to get to Kidepo Valley National Park.

Visitors can access Kidepo Valley National Park by either road or air. Driving to Kidepo national park in Uganda is a very rewarding experience as it gives travelers an opportunity to explore the beauty of the Karamoja region, located in the northern part of the country.

Traveling to Kidepo Valley National Park through Northern Uganda.

Travelers can get to Kidepo valley national park from Kampala city using the Kampala-Gulu Highway, passing through Kitgum district. This journey covers a total distance of 571km, taking about 10 hours to get to the national park.

Alternatively, tourists can choose to drive to Kidepo National Park from Kampala using the Lira-Kotido route. This route will take travelers through the amazing Karuma falls, heading straight through the districts of Lira-Kotido and Kaabong, before finally getting to Kidepo national park. Visitors using this route will take 12hours to get to the national park, and it covers a distance of 705km.

Traveling to Kidepo Valley National Park through Eastern Uganda.

Tourists can also travel to the national park using the eastern region of Uganda. Visitors will have to drive from Kampala, passing through the districts of Mbale-Sironko-Moroto-Kotido-Kaabong and finally reach Kidepo Valley National Park. This route covers a total distance of 740km, which takes about 12hours to get to the national park.

Another alternative for the eastern route to Kidepo national park would be from Kampala-Mbale-Soroti-Moroto-Kotido-Kaabong and finally, get to Kidepo national park. Travelers using this route will take approximately 13 hours to get to the national park, covering a distance of 792km.

Traveling to Kidepo Valley National Park by Air.

Alternatively, visitors can travel to the national park by air. This is a very fast and convenient way of travel for visitors who have a tight travel schedule or do not wish to embark on the long drive to the national park. There are charter flights available to fly visitors from Entebbe Airport to Lomej airstrip near Apoka, and these flights are provided flight companies like Kampala AreoLink and Eagle Aviation. Visitors who choose to fly to Kidepo Valley National Park are usually advised to travel back to Kampala by road, so as to get an opportunity to explore the beautiful scenery and landscape from the national park all the way to Kampala City.

Kidepo Valley National Park is the perfect embodiment of a true African wilderness destination. Visitors who get the chance to explore this national park in Uganda will agree that Kidepo Valley National Park is indeed ‘a diamond in the rough.’

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