Fairend Safaris

Kidepo Valley National Park

The True African Wilderness

Kidepo Valley National Park is the true African wilderness and is Uganda’s most isolated national park. The park is located in the semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with South Sudan in the North West and Kenya in the East. There are more than 400km from Kampala making it the furthest national park from the capital. However, the travelers who visit the park agree that it is the most magnificent park in the region.

This region has two main biomes, the savanna/acacia grassland and semi – arid short grass. The savannah is in the Narus Valley which lies in the southern area of the park. The semi-arid short grass area is in the northern Valley. The park is generally dry, experiencing only one rainy season, and has two rivers Kidepo and Narus.  Both rivers are seasonal therefore they only flow during the rainy season. During the long dry spells, water can only be found in wetlands and remnant pools in the Narus Valley.

attractions in Kidepo Valley national Park

Kidepo Valley National Park was gazetted as a national park in 1962 and hosts over 77 mammal species. It has a wide diversity of wild species among which 28 cannot be found in any other park in Uganda. These species are Caracal, Stripped Hyena, Aardwolf, Cheetah, Bat-eared Fox, and Hunting dogs.

The park also harbors 5 primates including the Kavirondo Bush Baby which is also unique to the area. There are several rare ungulates including the Greater and Lesser Mountain Reedbuck, Klipspringer, Dikdik, Gazelle, Beisa Oryx, and Roan Antelope.

The park has small crocodiles with a maximum length of 2.5m compared to the Nile crocodiles which regularly exceed 4m. The small size is a result of the limited food availability. More than 470 bird species are making it one of the best birding areas in the country thanks to its outstanding birds of prey including Verreaux’s Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, and Pygmy Falcon.

How to get to Kidepo Valley National Park

You can get to the park by road or by air. The park is quite far from the country’s capital, flying is so quick and less tiring. However traveling by road is quite tiring but more adventurous.

By air

When traveling to Kidepo National Park by air travelers use domestic flights from Entebbe airport straight to the park. This means the trip will definitely start from Entebbe which is the point of entry. Travelers then head to Kajjansi Airfield where they get a flight to Kidepo National Park. It lands at Kidepo airstrip, after which there is a drive of about 45mins or an hour to the Park. These flights are booked in advance to avoid delays.

 

By road

The most common and direct route is Kampala through Karuma – Gulu – Kitgum to Kidepo. This route takes you about 9 to 10 hours to get to Kidepo Valley National Park. To make the journey less tiring it’s advisable to have an overnight stop in Gulu or Kigtum. This is the most preferred route howerever, there are other routes used especially for visitors who combine safari with Murchison Falls National park. You should note that all the alternative routes to the park are longer and rougher but more adventurous.

Activities to do in Kidepo Valley National Park

Game drives

Game drives are mostly done along the Narus Valley because wildlife usually gathers here throughout the year. This area is well designed with track circuits and from a 4WD safari vehicle travelers can have clear views of wild species. Herbivores like elephants, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, kobs, elands, oribi, and Jackson’s hartebeest among others can be seen grazing in the short savanna plains. Predators like leopards, cheetahs, bat-eared foxes, side-striped jackals, and Lions are often sighted on top of rocks and kopjes.

The best time for the game drive is in the early morning when herbivores are grazing and the cats are on the hunt. However, there are other game drives carried out in the afternoon/evening and at night.  During the afternoon animals are seen around the water sources like the sand bed river, especially during the dry seasons.

The sand bed is like an oasis in a desert lined with palm trees and has plenty of birds. Crossing it is another highlight at the Kanangorok Hot Springs. Travelers get to enjoy the spectacular landscape and also have a picnic near the springs which the local people believe have magic powers. The night game drives are conducted after dinner where you will be accompanied by a park guide or ranger. They help to spot nocturnal animals with the aid of spotlight torches for clear viewing.

Nature walks and hiking

This is an interesting activity that allows visitors to explore the park on foot with the company of an experienced park guide and an armed park ranger. Nature walks in Kidepo valley national park are conducted on different trails including Narus Valley, Namamukweny Valley, and Kidepo plains. The kidepo trail leads to Morungole Mountains where travelers can meet the IK people and, hike to the Lomej Mountains.

During the guided nature walks which start at Apoka tourism office tourists get an opportunity to spot animals. The species to look out for include elephants, buffaloes, warthogs, reedbucks, waterbucks, zebras, and giraffes among others. These are usually seen grazing, and the park has a lot to offer like different bird species, beautiful scenery, and the landscape. Listen to the sweet sounds of bird species, and enjoy the cool breeze among others as you enjoy the walk.

Bird watching

Kidepo Valley National Park is home to more than 475 recorded bird species. They include endemic birds, savannah birds, migratory birds, and 28 species from the Somali-Masai biome. During a birding safari in this park which can be done during the game drives or nature walks, travelers get a chance to see different bird species.

Birders should look out for the common African grey flycatcher, Abyssinian ground hornbill, rufous crowned roller, red-billed oxpecker, J singing bush lark, grey capped social weaver, purple heron among others. These can be seen in areas like Apoka rest camp and around the fringes of Narus and Namukwenyi valley.

Cultural encounters

The local people such as the Karamajong live in the neighboring villages and the IK people live on top of Morungole Mountain. During the cultural encounter, tourists are able to learn about their culture, lifestyle, history, and way of living.

Visiting their locally built Manyatta homesteads and learning how to make their traditional instruments like beads, stools, and spears is the highlight. Travelers get to learn how bride price is determined in their culture and buy some craft items from the gift shops as souvenirs.

When to visit Kidepo valley national park

Kidepo valley national park can be visited all year round though the best time is during the dry season. Travelers may visit from June to August, and from December to February because during this period there is less rainfall in the park. The vegetation is short giving clear views of different wildlife species.

The daily average temperature of the park is 27.5°C with daily variations from 21.5°C-34°C. On some occasions, temperatures rise to 400C. There is a high rate of evaporation, water pools and swamps drying up, vegetation withers and dries making the environment windy, hazy, and dusty.

Where to stay

Kidepo valley national park has various accommodation facilities ranging from budget, midrange, and luxury. Travelers can stay in any of their during their visit to Uganda.  These include Apoka Safari Lodge, Kidepo Savannah Lodge, and Nga Moru Wilderness Camp. Adere Safari Lodge and Apoka Rest Camp among others.