Kidepo Valley National park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya. The park is situated in Kaabong District in the north eastern part of Uganda .The park is located in an estimated distance of 520 kilometers by road from Kampala and 220kilometres by road from Moroto town. The wonderful park was gazetted as a national park in the year 1962 and it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species.
Kidepo Valley National Park covers an approximated area of 1,442 square kilometers (557 sq mi) and the national park lies in the Karamoja region in northeast Uganda. Kidepo is rugged savannah is dominated by the 2,750 meters (9,020 ft) Mount Morungole and transected by the Kidepo and Narus rivers.
Kidepo is Uganda’s most isolated national park, but the few who make the long journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja would agree that it is also the most magnificent, for Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. From Apoka, in the heart of the park, a savannah landscape extends far beyond the gazetted area, towards horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges.
In 1958, before the park was gazzetted as game reserve, the area was first occupied with the Dodoth pastoralists and Ik farmers who depended on the area’s natural resources. The park was later on gazzetted in the year 1962 to help protect the animals from hunting and to prevent further clearing of bush for tsetse fly-control. The first Chief Warden of the National Park was Ian Ross, a Briton. In 1972 Paul Ssali, a Ugandan, replaced him.
During the dry season, the only permanent water in the park is found in wetlands and remnant pools in the broad Narus Valley near Apoka. These seasonal oases, combined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing location.
The Primary grasses in the Narus Valley are the shorter red oat grass and taller bunchy Guinea grass and fine thatching grass. Common trees in the drier areas are red thorn acacias, desert dates, and to a lesser extent drumstick trees. The iconic sausage trees and fan palms line the water courses. Euphorbia candelabrum and the shorter monkey bread (or camel’s foot) and Buffalo thorn trees are also found.
Perennial water makes River Kidepo an oasis in the semi-desert which hosts over 86 mammal species including lion, cheetah, leopard, bat-eared fox, giraffe as well as almost 500 bird species.
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Wildlife and Birding
Wildlife-The Park contains one of the most exciting faunas of any Ugandan national park. Along with the neighboring Karamoja region, it houses many species found nowhere else in Uganda, including the greater and lesser kudu, eland and cheetah. Carnivores here include the lion, leopard, spotted hyena and black-backed and side-striped jackals. Other large species regularly seen here are elephant, Burchell’s zebra, bushpig, warthog, Rothschild’s giraffe, Cape buffalo, bushbuck, bushduiker, Defassa waterbuck, Bohor reedbuck, Jackson’s hartebeest and oribi.
Birds-The Park boasts an extensive bird list of around 475 species, making it second only in Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National Park. A few species of note are the Ostrich, Kori Bustard and Karamoja Apalis. 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
Apoka Tourism Centre-Overlooking the game-rich Narus Valley and home to an upmarket lodge and simple UWA-run cottages, Apoka is the park’s tourism hub. Ranger guides are stationed at Apoka to escort tourists on game drives and walks. For those without their own transport, park trucks can be hired. There is a craft shop with books and souvenirs; bottled water, sodas and alcoholic beverages can also be purchased here. Food is cooked on request and cooking gas and utensils can be hired by individuals who wish to cook for themselves.
Narus Valley-Narus Valley is rolling, grassland plain enclosed by distant mountains. The valley has permanent water, and for much of the year the park’s wildlife congregates here. Thus, the area is well provided with game tracks, with four loop circuits exploring the valley around Apoka. Many creatures such as lions, Jackson’s hartebeest, buffaloes, giraffes, oribis and reedbucks can be seen in the valley. Less commonly seen are cheetahs and leopards. The Narus dam and the water hole near the Tourism Centre are perfect observation points for game, especially during the dry season. At the southern end of the Katurum loop, Katurum kopje (the site of a derelict lodge) is an attractive destination with superb views north across the valley towards the Morungule mountain range.
Kidepo Valley and Kanangorok Hot Springs
For most of the year, a lack of surface water means that little wildlife is found in Kidepo Valley, though it is still worth the drive to visit the dry Kidepo River to stroll along its 50m wide bed of white sand between banks covered with borassus palms. Kidepo means to pick from below and the valley was visited by people coming to gather fallen borassus fruit for fermenting to make palm beer. The Kanangorok Hot Springs lie 11km beyond the Kidepo River on the Sudan border. This is a glorious place to sit and view the mountains beyond the frontier.
Mount Morungole stands at 2,750m and is crossed by the Kidepo and Narus Rivers that nourish the park’s wildlife and this natural habitat as a whole. The Morungole Range marks the southern boundary of the park and rises from the plains a few kilometers northeast of Apoka. This region can be explored on foot with a ranger. The mountain slopes are home to the IK people, the smallest ethnic group in Uganda, with their own unique culture.
Namamukweny is a Napore word meaning a place with no birds or a lonely place with few people – though regarding the birds, quite the opposite is true! The valley is inhabited by a large number of bird species such as the Eastern Paradise Whydah, White-crested Turaco, Common Bulbul, Abyssinian Roller and Green Wood Hoopoe among others. It is located in the north-west of the park and can be accessed by car or on foot.
Lomej Hills-The Lomej Hills are a short drive from the headquarters. They are a good viewing point for birds and wildlife, including the mountain reedbuck.
Lying between Kitgum and the Sudan border, Lonyili Mountain is largely covered in montane forest and home to primates such as colobus monkeys. Due to poor conditions in this area the road is currently out of use. There are plans to repair it – you are strongly advised to contact UWA for updates before embarking on your journey to the mountain.
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The park harbors a great diversity of animal species than other parks. Of the 80 species of mammals listed in 1971, 28 were not known to occur in any other Ugandan park. Among the Carnivore species unique to Kidepo and only Karamoja region include the bat-eared fox, striped hyena, aardwolf, caracal, cheetah and hunting dog. Kidepo suffered the with poachers during the Amin era, and is still recovering from years of poaching that left some game herds depleted. Striped Hyena, Lesser Kudu, Grant’s Gazelle and Beisa Oryx have not been seen at all in recent times and are presumed to be locally extinct. Elephant, burchell’s zebra, bush pig, warthog, rothschild giraffe, cape buffalo, eland, bush buck, bush duskier, defassa water buck, bohor reed buck, jackson’s hartbeest and oribi are some of the other large game herds as well as; lion,zebra, leopard, Buffalo,several small cats, Kangoni, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal and side-striped jackal-commonly seen. Five species of primate are found in the park- the Kavirondo bush baby being endemic. Oribis is abundant in the Narus Valley, whilst the dry thorn thickets in the north are home to Guenther’s Dik. Senegal Galago may be found in the rest camp at night and the common White-tailed Mongoose but are more likely to be found on a night drive. Kidepo also has a very rich and diverse reptile fauna.
You have high chances of viewing tree climbing lions, that always sits on rock just as you enter the Apoka park headquarter or on sauces trees along Narus valley.
Hiking/Nature Walks in Kidepo Valley
The Lomej Mountains can be reached on foot in four hours, the hike starts at 7am. Shorter guided walks of around two hours can be taken through the Narus Valley extending over a 5km radius from Apoka Tourism Centre.
Visitors can also wander along the splendid Kidepo River Valley between banks of attractive borassus palm forest. Namamkweny Valley can be reached in one hour from Apoka. Visitors can also meet members of the IK tribe during prearranged hikes to the Morungole Mountains outside the park
Birding in Kidepo Valley
Apoka Rest Camp is a great spot to begin your Kidepo birding experience. Birding can also be done on the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys. Among the birds seen are the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo. The activity can be arranged both in the morning and evening.
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Kidepo Valley National Park can be connected to from the following originating areas;
The roads to Kidepo are in bad state especially in rainy seasons which requires 4×4 wheel drive in good mechanical conditions.
Kidepo can also be accessed by Air. Scheduled flights are operated by aero link to Kidepo from Entebbe International Airport. Other charter carriers offer the Air transfer on demand for either Entebbe or Kajjansi to Kidepo.
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Apoka Safari lodge.
Apoka Safari lodge is an upmarket accommodation establishment in Kidepo Valley National Park. It is a luxury setting in the remote wilderness of Kidepo located on a picturesque kopje overseeing the Narus River valley the epicenter of the park’s game viewing. It comprises of ten distinct cottages that are self-contained with inbuilt bath facilities and a terrace to chill at. These cottages are also ideal for honeymooners on Uganda tour. The lodge has a rock swimming pool making it unique. The lodge also has a restaurant and bar.
Apoka Rest Camp
This is a budget facility with sixteen self-contained chalets and a hostel consisting of fourteen Bandas each having 2 beds; the Bandas are actually not self-contained. The facility has a camping ground where the visitors can coordinate their camping arrangements thus carrying own tent and other camping gear is advisable. Guests are recommended to carry enough food as well as drinks to last them throughout their stay within the park. Cooking on this Uganda safari may be arranged with the camp staff.
Kakine Self-catering Campsite.
It’s located over a small distance from Apoka. This campsite is a budget facility has firewood and clean drinking water. It offers self-catering services.
Accommodation around Kidepo Valley National Park.
Nga Moru Wilderness Camp.
Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp is located on a hill top offering impressive sights across the Narus Valley along with savannah plains that stretch up to the towering Morungole Mountains. It has two self-contained cabanas. And each cabana can house up to four single beds. Three safari tents with a thatched roof are available to provide a cozy relaxing atmosphere with the capacity of two occupants. The tents are self-contained with basic units.