PARK AT A GLANCE
Kidepo Valley National park is located in the Karamoja region of Northern Uganda and borders with Sudan in the North West and Kenya in the North East.
A wilderness Park measuring 1442km2; dry, hot and isolated, yet spectacular, magniﬁcent and virgin, waiting to be discovered. Traversed by large sand rivers, the park is renowned for its distinctive composition of wild game co-existing with the dry mountain forests, open savanna and hilltops capped by rock kopjes. Enjoy the isolated wilderness dominated by the 2,750m Mount Morungole and transected by the Kidepo and Great Narus rivers.
Perennial rains may make Kidepo an oasis in the semi-desert, but its tract of rugged savannah is home to 77 mammal species and almost 500 birds. Game viewing is exciting all year round and so is bird watching, foot safaris and mountain climbing. And even in the dry season, it is worth the drive just to visit the seasonal Kidepo river and stroll along its 50m wide bed of white sand between banks covered with Borassus palm trees.
The local communities around the park include pastoral Karamojong people, similar to the Masai of Kenya, and the IK, a hunter- gatherer tribe whose survival is threatened.
Most of the people bordering the park are Karamojong, traditional pastoralists who have lived a nomadic life but are adapting slowly to the changes in their traditional lifestyle. Visits to their traditional homesteads (Manyatas) can be arranged with Great Value Safaris Ltd to learn about their traditional customs and dances as well as crafts like stools, knives, bows, arrows and jewellery.
Visitors can also visit the Ik tribe, one of the most reclusive tribes in Uganda who still live in a very traditional manner in relative seclusion high a top Morungole Mountain. Visits to these communities requires advance booking.
There are four routes by road; The 705 km journey from Kampala via Lira, Kotido, Kaabong and then to Kidepo;
The 740km journey from Kampala via Mbale, Soroti, Moroto, Kotido, Kaabong and then Kidepo;
The 780km journey from Kampala via Mbale, Soroti, Matany, Kotido, Kaabong and on to Kidepo, and;
The 571 km journey from Kampala through Gulu, Kitgum and to Kidepo.
Driving through the wilderness is an exciting experience as one gets the chance of better scenery. One will need a good 4X4 vehicle especially during the rainy season.
Chartered aircrafts to Kidepo may be arranged from Kajjansi, or from Entebbe international airport to Lomej airstrip near the park headquarters. Flights take two hours. There are currently scheduled flights to the park but pre bookings and reconfirmations are necessary. Flights depart with minimum numbers.
The park has a semi arid climate with just one light rainy season per year (April-September). The valley of the Nurus River in the south of the park receives some 890mm of rain per year while only 635mm falls in the Kidepo valley in the north. Both rivers are seasonal and disappear in the dry season.
THE VALLEYS, the Park consists of two valleys;
The Narus Valley: which means ‘muddy area’ among the locals, was also formally known as the water provision point. This area that was always scrambled for by the native tribes, the Napore and the Mening of Sudan during the dry season, today serves as the heart of tourism due to the presence of water throughout the year thus attracting a lot of wild animals.
Kidepo valley: where the park gets its name is known for the borassus tree plantations stretching approximately 100 meters wide naturally planted by Elephant droppings through the years. These trees also worked as the source of food during food crisis in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.
Kidepo conservation area supports a wide diversity of mammal species, several of which, like the cheetah, are only found in this park. Among the 77 species of mammals include localized carnivores like the bat-eared fox, stripped hyena and caracel. The tree-climbing lion, leopard, spotted hyena and the black-backed and side-stripped jackal can also be found here.
The park is also home to Chandlers, mountain reedbucks, elephants, Burchells Zebra, bush pig, Rothschild’s giraﬀes, bush bucks, buﬀalos and the eland. Kidepo Valley is also referred to as the home of buﬀalos.
Kidepo prides of an extensive bird list of over 475 species of birds, a number only second to Queen Elizabeth National Park’s 625 species. Highlighted ones include the Ostrich, Kori bustard, secretary bird, red throated bee eaters and the Abyssinian ground hornbill. Kidepo is also notable for its 58 species of birds of prey including the Verreaux eagle, Egyptian vulture and the pygmy falcon.
Hot Springs: The Kanangorok, meaning ‘the place of black stones’ is the only hot spring in Karamoja; it is 40 km away from Apoka camp. The Kanagorok Hot springs are a small collection of natural hot springs located in Kidepo valley near the Sudan border. The drive to the Hot Springs cuts through the two main biomes of Kidepo Valley National Park allows visitors to see Zebras, elephants, giraﬀes, cheetahs, lions, ostriches and the Kudus while embarking on this memorable ride.
Game drives can be done along Narus valley as the park’s wildlife congregates here much of the year. This area has adequate track circuits enabling visitors view the animals at a close range. The Katurum kopje provides superb views north across the valley towards Morungole mountain range.
Nature walks can be done around Apoka camp at any time of the day and visitors will be able to view diﬀerent species of animals like elephants, Bulbul, zebras and Reedbucks. At the eastern Kakine circuit, visitors can see wildlife at a close range of up to 50-70 meters. Nature walks can also be done along Rionomoe trail and around this hill where one can view the lower side of the Narus valley.
Community walks are one of the ways you can get to know more about the Karamojong lifestyle, cultures, dressing style, dancing and the tools used. The Karamojong are traditionally cattle raiders and hunters. However, through community conservation education, their lifestyle is gradually changing and most of them now know the value of conservation of the park.
The Morungole ranges rise from the plains a few kilometers north of Apoka. A trip to Kidepo valley is needed to get a good view of Morungole Mountain, the highest peak in Kidepo. Even at 2,749m, this peak is not easily seen from most vantage points in the Narus valley. This can be explored on foot with a ranger guide escort.
Sand along River Kidepo:
Kidepo River is an intermittent sand river found in the northern part of the park. It stands out because it is lined by Borassus palms, making it look like an oasis in the Sahara. The sand bed experience on river Kidepo can be very fascinating especially during the dry season. Many bird species can be found around this area and one can enjoy the wilderness experience while listening to the diﬀerent bird calls.
This activity can be done either in the morning or afternoon as the park has got a variety of birds. The experienced guides will show you around.
There is a selection of accommodation units to choose from ranging from Hostels, Campsites, Bandas and Lodges some including the below:
APOKA SAFARI LODGE (Luxury)
At Apoka Safari Lodge, Everything is handmade by local craftsmen and rooms are built with comfort.
10 expansive rooms with natural canvas walls surround a rocky kopje with endless views across the savannah. With inside sitting room and private verandas there are plenty of places to relax, read and sprawl. Big hand-hewn beds with soft duvets are draped with mosquito nets, hand-woven woolen carpets, extra large plush towels, over-sized dressing gowns…. You may be far away from the city as you’ll ever be, but you won’t miss a thing.
Step outside to a sheltered terrace and slip into your own outdoor stone bathtub, big enough to fit the whole family.
The swimming pool at Apoka lodge – deep and cool has been carved out of the big rock. This is the kind of pool that makes you want to jump in, splashing and yelling, feeling like a kid again.
KIDEPO SAVANNAH LODGE (Moderate)
Kidepo Savannah Lodge is inspired by savannah surroundings, the grasslands, and rocky outcrops and by the Karamajong tribe. The Lodge boasts of eight safari tents on raised decks each with a private verandah with ensuite hot bush showers, running water for hand basins and flushing toilet. There is a budget option in 9 non self contained tents that share a communal ablution block with hot showers and flushing toilets. All linen, beddings and towels are provided.
ADERE SAFARI LODGE (Upscale)
Adere Safari Lodge is a moderate accommodation unit in Kidepo Valley National Park with 20 self contained charlets with comfortable lounge where you can read some of the in house book collections
The lodge has a restaurant, bar and swimming pool where you may cool off in the heat of the afternoon sun
APOKA REST CAMP (Budget)
Apoka rest camp is a budget facility managed by the Uganda Wild Life Authority alongside other camping sites positioned inside the wild area.
Apoka rest camp is close to the Narus Valley where you can view wildlife even at your accommodation veranda. The camp has 16 self contained Bandas (fitted with bathroom and flushing toilets) and 14 non self contained bandas where you share the toilet and bathrooms. Meals and drinks need to be pre arranged prior to your stay.