Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda Wildlife safari tour in Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda Wildlife safari tours in Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda wildlife safari game drives, cultural encounters, nature walks, when to visit, how to get there & where to sleep in Kidepo National Park. Strategically situated in the rugged, semi-arid valleys of the remote Karamoja region on the extreme border with Sudan and Kenya, Kidepo Valley is Uganda’s most splendid national park, for it ranks among Africa’s finest Wildernesses. The Park was Gazetted as a national park in 1962, it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species.
Spanning on 1,442square kilometers of land, Kidepo is Uganda’s most isolated national park and its seclusion lends the park a certain air of peace and tranquility in which to enjoy its majestic scenery. Kidepo’s exorbitant vistas, largely unrestrained by woodland and forest, are the sequel of the open tree savannah habitat that covers the largest portion of the park. Hill top areas of the park have been occupied by dry mountain forest while some watercourses support Acacia forests. Many of the hilltops are capped by rock kopjes which provide habitats for klipspringer and give panoramic 360 degrees views.
The park has arguably the most diverse fauna of any park in Uganda.With over 77 species of mammal, several of which are restricted to the Kidepo and Karamoja region, the park also has circumscribed carnivores such as the bat-eared fox, cheetah, striped hyena as well as caracal and aardwolf. Other carnivores accommodated in the park area are lion, leopard side-striped jackal, spotted hyena, and black-backed. The rarely ungulates species include the lesser and greater kudu, chandlers Mountain reedbuck, klipspringer and Guenther’s dikdik among others. Other large ungulates include elephant, Rothschild’s giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, bush pig, warthog, Capped buffalo, eland, bushbuck, hartebeest and oribi, Defassa waterbuck, Bohor reedbuck, Jsckson’s hartebeest and oribi. Five pronounced primate species are recorded in the park including the endemic Kavirondo bush baby.
The park has unique record of 475 bird species, making it second only in Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National Park. A few species of note, at least in Ugandan standards include the Ostrich, Kori Bustard and Karamoja Apalis, secretary bird, carmine, little green and red-throated bee eater, Abyssinian scimitarbill, yellow-billed and Jackson’s hornbills and the Karamoja apalis. Kidepo is also 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.
The park has a semi-arid climate with one long rainy season which runs from February to June and short rains last from September to December, leaving just three dry months. The rains are rather erratic, though the wettest months are usually April and November. July and August are the hottest months. The average temperature is 27.5°C with daily variations from 21.5°C to 34°C. The valley of the Narus River in the south of the park receives some 89mm of rain per year while just 635mm of rain per year falls in the Kidepo valley to the north. Both rivers are seasonal, and dwindle and disappear in the dry season. During these months, the only water source in the park is situated in remnant pools and wetlands along the southern Narus valley near Apoka and as a result, wildlife is concentrated in this area. This concentration, amalgamated with the valley’s open, savanna habitat, makes it the park’s prime game viewing location. Indeed it is possible to sight a wide range of fauna simply by scanning the valley with binoculars from the comfort of the Apoka lodge.
The park is surrounded by Karamojong and Masai people who are pastoralists survive on nomadic life style entirely depending on Cattle. However, these are adapting slowly to changes to their traditional way of life. Interested tourist may be able to explore Karamajong manyattas (homesteads) to see traditional customs, spears, stools, head dresses and knives, bows as well as jewelry.
KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK AT A GLANCE........!
KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Welcome to the “True African Wilderness” experience
Park at a Glance
Name: Kidepo valley national park
Location: continent- Africa, region- east African region, country- Uganda, district-Kaboong, direction- northeastern from Kampala city
Geographical co-ordinates: 03o54’ N 33o51’ E.
Size: 1442sqkm Year of designation: 1962
Responsible Governing body: Uganda Wildlife Authority
Elevation of kidepo valley National Park: highest elevation is Mungole mountain at 2349m while lowest elevation is Narus valley at 999m above sea level.
Climate of Kidepo valley National Park: semi-arid climate with low rainfall amount of 20mm during dry season and high temperatures of 30-35o C and 650mm of rainfall during the wet season between April- May.
Attractions in Kidepo valley National Park 4 out the big 5 game i.e. lions, leopards, buffaloes and elephants with only the black rhino missing here other animals Zebras, Kiplisnger, Hippos, Gazelle, Greater and Lesser kudus, Rothchild’s giraffes, Jackson’s hartebeest, Oribis, Elands, now the Uganda kob is also present here though rarely sighted after a transfer of 100 Uganda kobs from Murchison falls national game park in 2017. There are also over 475 bird species including the Karamoja apalis, white turaco, Pygmy falcon, Clapperton’s and Heuglins francolins, Kidepo valley national park also prides itself as the only park in Uganda to be the home of the biggest bird on the planet the ostrich and also hosting the fastest animal on the planet the Cheetah. Communities of the Karamojong and Ik people are found on the fringes of this park.
Activities in Kidepo valley National Park: game drives, nature walks, birding, cultural encounters
Accommodation in Kidepo valley National Park: Apoka safari lodge, Nga’ moru wilderness camp, Kakine self-catering camp, Apoka bandas and camping grounds
Access to the park: can accessed by both road and air
Travel distance and time to Kidepo Valley National Park: About 600km or a 14-hour drive away from Kampala city Uganda’s capital
Best time to visit Kidepo valley National Park: September- march during the dry season when all murram leading to and within kidepo are easily navigable.
Location and historical background of Kidepo valley National Park
Kidepo valley national park is found in Uganda which is found in East African region on the African continent on the geographical co-ordinates of 03o54’ N 33o51’ E. Located in the north eastern corner of Uganda in Kaabong district, Kidepo valley national park lies about 600km or 14-hour drive away from Kampala city Uganda’s capital and its bordered by South Sudan in the north, Kenya in the east and Kotido district in the south and Kitgum district in the west. Kidepo valley national park, is one of the jewels that make Uganda truly the Pearl of Africa as per the words of Sir Winston Churchill in his book entitled “My African Journey” in 1906, due to its beauty and splendor and that’s why its commonly referred to as the “True African Wilderness”. This park covers about 1442sq kilometers of land that is mainly dominated by the Mungole mountain and it further sprawls down into the Narus and Kidepo valleys with its lowest elevation being 999m or 3,278ft found in the Narus valley and the highest elevation being 2340m or 7707ft above sea level. The Narus valley is very essential to the existence of this park because it has the permanent Narus river which provides a constant water source to the wild game in this park all year round and also nourishes the grass in this valley hence ensuring the continued survival of game in the harsh semi-arid conditions of Karamoja sub region.
Kidepo valley experiences a semi desert climate pattern with relatively long winter or dry seasons that are characterized by very little or no rain fall received during this period between September- March that experience relatively high temperatures of between 30-34oC and short summer or wet seasons characterized by 650m -1000m of rainfall received during this period of April-August with relatively low temperatures of 28-30oC.
Kidepo valley national park has a myriad of attractions ranging from wild game like 4 out the big 5 game i.e. lions, leopards, buffaloes and elephants with only the black rhino missing here other animals Zebras, Kiplisnger, Hippos, Gazelle, Greater and Lesser kudu, mountain Reedbucks, Rothchild’s giraffes, Jackson’s hartebeest, Oribis, Elands, now the Uganda kob is also present here though rarely sighted after a transfer of 100 Uganda kobs from Murchison falls national game park in 2017. There are also over 475 bird species including the Karamoja apalis, White bellied go-away bird, Great white turaco, Pygmy falcon, Clapperton’s and Heuglins francolins, Giant hornbill. Kidepo valley national park also prides itself as the only park in Uganda to be the home of the biggest bird on the planet the ostrich and also hosting the fastest animal on the planet the Cheetah. Kidepo valley has also won the international accolades such as CNN’s park with the best buffalo herds in Africa in 2015, 2016 listed among the top destinations of Africa in safari category, CNN 2nd best safari park in 2017 out of 8 safari parks in Africa.
Kidepo valley national park has its name stemming from the Mening or Kitebo tribe which occupied these lands as early as 1800. The meaning of the verb Kitebo is “HELP US”. The Mening people were predominately hunters-gatherer community and as a result carried out massive hunting escapades of wild game. This community got infected with sleeping sickness due to presence of tsetse flies in this region, they carried out massive bush burning in an attempt to control tsetse flies, this in turn forced the colonial government to relocate these people to areas such as Birra and Kulo-kudo in South Sudan in 1958 to have the Kidepo valley area gazetted into a national wild reserve, this resulted into many of these communities to die as a result of famine in areas where they were relocated. Kidepo valley national park is one of the earliest game reserves to have been designated a national park as early as 1962 by the post-colonial Ugandan government of Milton obote with Ian Ross a British national as its 1st warden who later handed over to Kidepo’s 1st Ugandan warden Paul Ssali in 1972.
Tourists Attractions in Kidepo Valley national park
Kidepo valley national park offers a variety of species of mammals and birds to see to anyone who dares to take the tedious journey to Kaabong and these include: 4 out the big 5 wild game of Africa ie Lions, Leopards, Buffaloes and Elephants with only the black rhino missing here other animals Zebras, kiplisnger, hippos, gazelle, greater and lesser kudu, mountain reedbucks, rothchild’s giraffes, jackson’s hartebeest, Oribis, Elands, now the Uganda kob is also present here though rarely sighted after a transfer of 100 Uganda kobs from Murchison falls national game park in 2017. There are also over 475 bird species including the Karamoja apalis, white bellied go-away bird, great white turaco, Pygmy falcon, Clapperton’s and Heuglins francolins, Giant hornbill.
Wildlife in Kidepo Valley National Park
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. With over 77mammal species, Kidepo’s wildlife includes 28 that are found in any other Ugandan National park. Amongst these include the circumscribed carnivores such as the bat-eared fox, cheetah, striped hyena as well as caracal and aardwolf. Other carnivores accommodated in the park area are lion, leopard side-striped jackal, spotted hyena, and black-backed. The rarely ungulates species include the lesser and greater kudu, chandlers Mountain reedbuck, klipspringer and Guenther’s dikdik among others. Other large ungulates include elephant, Rothschild’s giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, bush pig, warthog, Capped buffalo, eland, bushbuck, hartebeest and oribi, Defassa waterbuck, Bohor reedbuck, Jsckson’s hartebeest and oribi. Five pronounced primate species are recorded in the park including the endemic Kavirondo bush baby.
The cape buffalo is also referred to as the African buffalo and they are a very common sight throughout this park. It is usually mistaken to be a close relative to domesticated cattle but its rather related to actually other bigger bovines. Buffaloes have a coarse black coat unlike their close relatives the forest buffaloes which have a reddish coat. As the male buffaloes grow older, the bases of their horns grows closer and it can even unite forming a feature called a “boss” which is very had to penetrate even with a gun bullet of less 16mm. you can differentiate a male buffalo from a female one by observing the structure of their horns, the male buffalo horns grow while curving outwards while the ones of the female grow while curving inside. The African buffalo is a big animal with a shoulder height of 1.0-1.7m or 3.3-5.6ft. it has a body length of 1.7-3.4m or 5.6-11.2ft and its tail has a length of 70-110cm or 28-43in. An adult male African buffalo can weigh as much as between 500-1000kg but the females usually weigh less than this. Cape buffaloes are usually found in the great plains of African savanna like Murchison falls park.
Buffaloes usually stay in large herds that consist anywhere from 5-100 individuals and this is primarily for protection purposes from their predators. Although buffaloes have a very poor eye sight, this is compensated by possessing an acute sense of smell coupled with a keen sense of hearing, in fact, the buffaloes can stop whatever they are doing and stand still for many minutes or sometimes even hours just to listen even to the tiniest of sounds that may be made by any predator that may be stalking them. when buffaloes are attacked they male buffaloes form defensive wall by being at the flanks of the herd while the females and calves are within the inner part of the herd. the male buffaloes can even sometimes turn and chase the attacking predators They have a gestation period of 11.5 months and a life span of over 25 years in their natural habitats.
African elephants are the largest land mammals in the world with a male elephant weighing in at 4,700-6,048kg or 10,362-13,334Ib and a shoulder height of 3.2-4.0m or 10.5-13.1ft while their female counterparts weigh in at 2,160-3,232kg or 4,762-7,125Ib and a shoulder height of 2.2-2.6m or 7.2-8.5ft. these land giants have 24 teeth in their mouths and usually lose their teeth 4-6 times in their life time which lies between 60-70 years. What sets these land giants apart from the rest of crowd is their elongated tusks which are in fact their second set of incisors. This means that the tusks are very strong as they are used to up root trees and also as weapons they use while fighting. The tusks weigh between 23-45 kg or 55-99Ib with a length of 1.5-2.4m or 5-8 ft. elephants usually live in groups called families which comprise of 10 or more closely related females with their calves and each of these families is led by an older female called a matriarch.
Elephants have the ability to distinguish and communicate with each other using low frequency infrasonic calls. With a body mass that is compared to nothing else on land, African elephants have to feed on an average of 450 kg or 992Ib of foliage to sustain their huge bodies and also drink to over 50 liters of water per day. In fact, these elephants have the ability to smell water to up to 20 km or 12miles away. Elephants have an exposed skin so in order to control over heating of their body, they flap their big ears so as to carry away the heat or bathe in water ponds. It is believed that when an elephant flaps its ears, it can lose about 10oF of heat hence always staying cool even in the hottest temperatures. They also employ their elongated trunk to carry water and pour it over their ears to try and cool themselves.
These land giants have very thin hairs around body parts such as eyes and noses and these are mainly for ensuring that germs and other bacteria don’t find it easy to enter the elephants body through these parts. The elephant trunk is a master piece of creation as it is equipped with 40000 muscles which is way more than an entire human body has at only 639 muscles. This makes the trunks a very strong and agile part of the elephant that can do many things. The elephant trunk is also used for breathing, snorkeling and also as an extended arm for holding, lifting or pushing anything they want to carry. A female elephant reaches sexual maturity at the age of 10-12 years and can reproduce after every 3-6 years throughout its lifetime.
All elephants have a very poor metabolism and that’s why they eat a lot of food but ¾ of it will come out of the elephants undigested as dung. Due to the poor metabolic system, elephant calves have been recorded doing something bizarre and that is eating dung that has been passed out by their mothers but this is all because elephant calves can’t process raw grass hence have they have to resort to eating pre-processed food that has been passed out as dung. They have a gestation period of up to 22 months being the longest in all land mammals. Just like humans and apes, elephants are also highly intelligent species with a brain that weighs about 5kg or 11Ib which about 4 times heavier than that of human making it the heaviest brain of any land mammal. With such a brain, these land giants are believed to exhibit character traits like grief, learning, sense of humor, compassion, self-awareness, a very strong and vivid memory, play and use of tools and possibly a language.
Kidepo valley national park has the Rothschild’s giraffe species which is commonly sighted. The giraffe can easily be identified from its long neck and legs and also from its horn like structures the ossicones. The name giraffe originated from the Arabic world who called this animal “zarafah” which means fast walker. The giraffe has dark patches of orange or chestnut or brown color and these are separated by light hairs which are usually white or cream.
The giraffes have a unique walking pattern where as they have the ability to move both the front and hind limbs of one side of the body at once and then counter balance it by moving their long neck in the opposite direction. The adult male giraffe has an average height of 4.3-5.7m or 14.1-18.7ft and weighs in at 1192kg or 2628ib while an adult female weighs in at 828kg or 1825ib hence showing sexual dimorphism amongst giraffes. The giraffe also has a long tongue that is measured at an average of 45cm or 18in and its has a purplish black color which is believed to protect it from sunburns. Giraffes also have the ability to sleep while standing and even when they lie down, they will put their long neck on their hip. The giraffe has a gestation period of 14-15 months and can live up to 25 years in their natural habitat.
Zebras are black and white striped pattern animals that belong to the equine tribe which they share with their close cousins the horses and donkeys. Each of these zebras has a unique pattern of stripes that is used to identify it alone just like finger prints do in humans. Originally, it was believed that zebras were white animals that had developed black stripes due to presence of white underbellies but this was disproved by further research on the animals as it was revealed that these animals were rather black originally and the white stripes came in later on.
Various theories have been forwarded to explain the occurrence of stripes in these animals and the most common theories state that the stripes are a defensive mechanism that zebras use to elude their predators like lions but this theory has been highly contested as it’s known that the lions eye sight is poor especially during day from long distances hence they highly rely on their hearing and smell senses during daytime zebra hunting missions. The other theory believes that zebras use these stripes to protect itself from horseflies and tsetse flies by creating a blurred vision. Zebras have a shoulder length of 1.2-1.3m or 47-51in and the body length of zebras ranges between 2-2.6m or 6.6-8.5ft. Their average weight is 350kg or 770Ib and they have sexual dimorphism as males are usually larger than females. Zebras have a gestation period of about 13 months with a 20-30year lifespan.
The Jackson hartebeest are very numerous in this park so you won’t finish you game drive without sighting one I guarantee you. The Jackson hartebeest can also be referred to as the African antelope. The Jackson hartebeest has an elongated forehead, short neck and oddly shaped horns which are 45-70cm or 18-28in in length and are slender in females, the Jackson hartebeest coat color ranges from sandy brown to chocolate brown. This animal has a shoulder height of 1.0m or 3.3ft and its body length is 200-250cm or 78-98in weighing between 100-200kg or 220-440Ib. This animal has This animal has a gestation period of 240 days and a life span of 11-20 years.
Leopards are some of the big cat family predators that roam the plains of kidepo valley national park and they are at the top of the food chain together. Leopards are usually taken to be the same with cheetahs but they are completely different as cheetahs have tear marks on their faces small round spots while leopards have no tear marks on their faces and have larger rosettes on their body. The skin color of leopards ranges from pale yellow to golden or yellowish brown with rosettes and this enables these super predators to camouflage perfectly within the surrounding and this enables these super predators so to stalk their prey without ever being noticed in the savanna plains.
Male leopards are muscular with short limbs and a broad head, the males have an average shoulder height of 60-70cm or 24-28in and weigh in at 37-90kg while the females have an average shoulder height of57-64cm or 22-25in and weigh in between26-60kg. the cheetah has a very long tail that’s white tipped with a length of 60-100cm or 24-39in and this enables the leopards make quick sharp turns at high speed while on a chase. Leopards can sometimes have black color and this is caused by melanism which is a recessive gene in these animals and when a leopard is having this phenomena, it turns from being called a leopard to a black panther. Leopards are usually solitary animals, they have a gestation period of 90-105 days and can live in their natural habitat for 12-17 years.
In kidepo valley national park, hippos are found wondering around narus valley areas. Hippos are large animals only behind the African elephant that can weigh anywhere between 1300-1500kg or 2870-3310ib for both sexes. The hippos are semi aquatic as they both live on land and in water. Hippos are herbivores animals can come on land in the evening to graze, they can be easily identified basing on barrel shaped body, short legs and long muzzles or mouths, their body is hairless with a purplish gray to blue black color which is also thick about 2in or 6cm.
Due to lack of body hairs, hippos secret an element that is reddish orange to brown to act as a protective layer both from the scotching sun and bacterial infection. This phenomenon is referred to as “blood sweating” hippos have a very powerful jaw which can open as wide as 180o and its filled with monstrous teeth with their incisors growing up to 40cm or 1ft4in and canines growing up to 50cm or 1ft8in. despite their short legs and big sizes hippos can burst to 30km/hr in short distances. Hippos are highly territorial while in water but not on land, they have a gestation period of 243days and can live up to 40-50 years.
Lions can be occasionally sighted in Kidepo valley National Park. Lions are part of the big cate family and are muscular, deep chested with rounded heads. Most of the African lion males can distinguished from their females by the presence of a mane around the necks and heads of male African lions which is clearly absent in females but there quite many cases in Africa where the males also don’t have a mane or have a very short and thin one. The male lions are usually bigger than the females but their sizes vary according to location. In east Africa, adult female lions have a body length of 160-184cm or 63-72in weighing in at 119.5kg or 263Ib on average while the adult males have a body length of184-208cm or 72-82in weighing in at 174.9kg or 386Ib on average. Lions are social animals who live in groups called prides.
A pride is always led by a dominant male and their highly territorial animals controlling vast expanses that are strategic with a lot of prey and water. Male dominant lions are responsible for protecting the pride and they will fight off other male invaders, in case the dominant male is defeated by the invading lions, the victor lions will kill off all the cubs that are off springs to the defeated dominant male as a way of ending its blood lineage. Lions are carnivores and are at the top of the food chain feeding on almost all browsers and grazers within their domain due to their ability to hunt as a pride and carry out well coordinated and planned attacks which enables them to take down prey that can even be between 2-4 times bigger than them such as zebras, elephants and buffaloes.
Lions usually hunt at night because of their well-developed sense of sight especially at night where their vision is almost 6 times better than that of humans due to the presence of white patches around their eyes which enable them to absorb even the smallest amount of light available during the cover of darkness. Hunting among lions is an affair carried out by female lions mostly and juvenile males and when a kill has been made by the lionesses in a pride, it’s always the dominant male lion who will eat first up to his fill then the rest of the pride will feed on what has remained after the he has finished eating. They have a gestation period of 97 days and a life span of about 10-14 years
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest animals with the ability to accelerate up to 100-120km/hr in short circuits of about 100m or 330ft and this is all possible because the cheetah has its body built for speed in the following ways: the cheetah has a slender body, small rounded head which makes it perfectly aero dynamic with low air resistance, and long thin legs to give it big and quick strides and long tail for stability during high speed chase. The cheetah is the smallest of all big cats and its usually confused with the leopards but here are some striking and distinctive features that separate the 2 cats from one another; the cheetah has small solid black spots on its body unlike the leopard which has large rosettes, the cheetah has black eye streaks or tear marks on its face but the leopard lacks these features on its face.
The leopard has a body length 112-150cm or 44-59in with an average shoulder height of 70-90cm or 22-28in and an average body weight of 21-72kg or 46-159Ib. This therefore makes a cheetah taller and heavier than a leopard in terms of body size. The cheetah has its coat colored in a yellowish or rufous greyish white with nearly 2000 solid black spots. The leopards can be distinctively identified using the pattern of their black spots which is unique to each cheetah just like finger prints are in humans. Cheetahs have a set of 8 teeth with mostly canines which makes them a perfect predator for crushing the wind pipes of their prey which usually consists of aniamls like gazelles, Uganda kobs, kiplisingers and impalas. The cheetahs have a gestation period of about 95days and a life span of 10-12 years in their natural habitat.
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 is a 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.
Birdlife in Kidepo Valley National Park
The park boasts an abroad bird list of around 475 species, making it second only in Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National Park. A few species of note, at least in Ugandan standards include the Ostrich, Kori Bustard and Karamoja Apalis, secretary bird, carmine, little green and red-throated bee eater, Abyssinian scimitarbill, yellow-billed and Jackson’s hornbills and the Karamoja apalis. Kidepo is also 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.
White bellied go-away bird: It has a body length of 50cm with a long tail of 24-25cm. They have reversed sexual dimorphism with males weighing 170-225g while females weigh 225-250g. the adult bird is grey with a white belly and under tail coverts are also white. They have a stiff pointed long grey crown of about 60mm. this bird is quite vocal making mainly short nasal calls.
The black eagle: The black eagle has a body length of 65-80cm and weighing between 1-1.6kg with a wing span of 148-182cm. These birds are large almost similar to kites. They have broad paddle shaped wings, long tail, small head and bill with a large gape. These bird are usually silent but in breeding season they make repeated call which is sounds like a horse.
Karamoja apalis: This bird has a body length of 12cm and weighs between 8-11g this bird is grey just like many apalis bird species but it can be distinctively identified basing on its white wing panel and a relatively long bill. Male karamoja apalis are ash grey on their upper body parts. These birds make voice calls in pairs while perched on a tree usually acacia tree 2-3m up.
Pygmy falcon: The pygmy falcon has a body length of 18-21cm with an average body weight of 44-72g and a wing span of 34-40cm. Adult pygmy falcon white below and on their face grey above with white eye spots on the nape. These birds make a voice call of repeated fast series of 3-4 staccato yelps in a “kri!kikik”
Clappertons francolins: This bird species has a body length of 32-35cm with the male weighing 450-607g while 300-530g. size and streaked appearance just like p. ileucoscepus. This bird makes its voice calls in the morning and late afternoon.
Egyptian vulture: An adult Egyptian vulture has a body length of 47-65cm or 19-26in. The adult is white with black flight feathers. They have black bill. The facial skin is yellow and un feathered down to the throat. The young Egyptian vultures are blackish or chocolate brown with black and white patches.
Ostrich: The ostrich is the biggest bird on the planet and in Uganda its only found in Kidepo valley national park. Ostrich feathers are usually black with white primaries and a tail. Their heads have thin hairs which makes them seem bare when observed from a distance. The ostriches’ heads are small in relation to their enormous body size the legs of ostriches are long and strong capable of producing a stride of 3-5mand can reach a top speed of 70km/hr making them the fastest running birds on ground. These birds have a wing span of about 2m or 6ft7in and a wing chord of 90cm or 35in. Ostriches have a body weight of 63-145kg or 139-320ib. Mature male ostriches can have a body height of 2.1-2,8m or 6ft11in-9ft2in while the female ostriches average height ranges between 1.7-2.0m or 5ft7in-6ft7in. The chicks of ostriches have the ability to grow by 25cm or9.8in per month during their 1st year of growth. Ostriches have long legs and neck to give them that outstanding body height of 2.8m or 9ft. Ostriches live in herds of between 5-20 birds, the male ostriches compete for mating rites by building ground nesting, dancing and display of their feathers, the females will only allow to mate with the alpha male. The main female ostrich lays between 6-11 eggs will other females in the herd lay about 6 eggs and these are the biggest eggs in the world with an average diameter of about 15cm and an average weight of 1-1.5kg per egg. The female and males take turns to incubate the eggs which do hatch after about 40 days of incubation. ostriches have a life span of about 40-45 years
Mount Morungole straddles at 2,750m and is traversed 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 literally 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.
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.
Kanangorok meaning “the place of black stones” in the local language, are a small collection of natural hot springs located near the South Sudan border in Kidepo Valley, about 40km from Apoka Camp and 11km beyond the Kidepo River on the Sudan border. Locally called “Maji Moto” (which translates “Magic Water”) they are the only hot springs in Karamoja region. The natives hold an interesting myth about the formation of the springs and believe the hot springs produce magic water that can heal skin diseases such as scabies.
Taking tour to the hot springs leads you through the two main biomes of the park: savanna/acacia grassland of the Narus Valley turning into a semi-arid short grass area of the Kidepo Valley. The famous Kidepo Valley sand river is especially a huge highlight. There is a lots of possible wildlife sightings along the way including Zebras, Elephants, Giraffes, Cheetah, Lions, Ostrich and Kudus. While at the springs one can enjoy picnics and breakfast just next to the springs.
The Lomej Hills are a short drive from the headquarters. They are a good viewing point for birds and wildlife, including the mountain reedbuck.
The mountain is lying between Kitgum and the Sudan border, Lonyili Mountain is largely covered in montane forest and home to primates such as colobus monkeys.
Tourist’s Activities in Kidepo Valley national park
Games drives are mostly done along the Narus Valley as most of the game congregates here for it is the only area with water during the lengthy dry spell. The area is well optimized with trucks for ease of navigation and game viewing at close encounter. The Katurum kopje provides superb views north across the valley towards the Morungole Mountains. The Kidepo Valley is also great for game drives especially for the sand bed experience during the dry season.
Game drives along the Narus Valley are highly rewarding early in the mornings and late afternoon – 6am and 4pm. You are advised to use a ranger at all times; they will help you spot some of the park’s lions that may be sitting on the valley’s various rocks. Other wildlife includes elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, Kavirondo bush baby, buffalo and much more.
The park has developed various tracks within it to enable game drives occur. The Narus valley is a darling sight for game drives specially during dry seasons as most of these animals come in this valley to find drinking water since all the other drinking spots are seasonal and dry up when the dry season sets in. While on these drives look out for sight of animals likes the herds of Buffaloes, Zebras, Giraffes, Waterbucks, Jackson hartebeests. The park recommends early morning and night game drives for tourists who would like to maximize their chances of sighting predators like Lions, Leopards and Cheetahs as during these hours these predators busy stalking their unsuspecting preys.
You can hire a game drive vehicle which costs 30$ for both foreign nonresidents and foreign residents per person and 30000ugx for East African residents per person during day time, for a night game drive this vehicle costs 40$ per person for both foreign residents and foreign nonresidents and 40000ugx for east African residents, this vehicle requires a minimum of 3 persons for it to be hired out. Private daytime drive costs 20$ for foreign nonresidents, 20$ foreign residents and 20000ugx for East African residents. while private night drives cost 100$ foreign nonresidents, 100$ foreign residents and 100000ugx for East African residents. Night game drives require you to go with a UWA ranger.
Kidepo national park is safe haven for birds in Uganda safaris. The Park Headquarters and famous Apoka Rest Camp overlooking the swallow, southern Narus Valley is a perfect spot to start your Kidepo birding experience. The attractive Silverbird and small bands of Yellow-billed Shrike frequent the thorn trees around camp, as do a number of other widespread species such as Vinaceous Dove, Hoopoe, Nubian Woodpecker, Mosque Swallow, Ruppell’s and Superb Starlings, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Little Weaver and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu. A small permanent water hole at the edge of camp attracts swallows and a variety of seedeaters including Yellow-rumped Seedeater and is visited at night by Four-banded Sandgrouse, Elephant, Buffalo and occasionally Lion. Clapperton’s Francolin, Black Coucal, African Moustached and Broad-tailed Warblers, Marsh Tchagra and Crimson-rumped Waxbill may be seen in the rank grass along the normally dry stream bed adjacent to camp or along the track to Apoka lodge
Hiking and Scenery viewing
Hiking can be made on Lamoj Mountains situated few kilometers from the Park Headquarters. Visitors can also go to view the fabulous Kidepo River Valley dominated by Borassus palm forest; it has a large flatbed that is dry for most of the year. From Kidepo Valley, you may also visit the Kanangorok Hot Springs, which are situated only 11 km from Kidepo river valley. The mountain and Savannah scenery of the park is fantastic. The Narus valley is situated in the South West of the park; the rough Napore-Nyagia mountain range forms its western frontier. Separating it from the Kidepo Valley in the northeast, are the Natira and Lokayot Hills. To the north in the Sudan are the Lotukei Mountains and the Morungole range marks the southern edge of the park.
The hike on Mountain Morungole is an exciting activity leading to the Ik people. The great Morungole expedition which involves a day’s hike through varying vegetation and rocky mountain terrain commanding spectacular views of Kidepo Valley National Park. The hike shall reward you with dances from the Ik people, their lifestyles, and unique settlements and also learn about their unique migration history.
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.
Nature walks are done during any time of the day. One of the good spots is around Apoka camp; it offers an opportunity to encounter game like Zebras, and Reedbuck. Another good and established spot is the eastern Kakine circuit, especially very early morning. Lots of wildlife are within 50-70meters range. The Rionomoe hill trail too is an established nature trail and offers views of the lower side of the Narus Valley.
Kidepo valley national park offers you nature treks that will not only leave you feeling fitter than before but will also engage all of your sensory senses as you get on a journey to discover the beauty of Kidepo plains. A hike to the Lomej mountains will lead on a trek through the spectacular Narus valley giving sweeping views of wild game as it comes to graze on the fresh pastures of the valley and also drink from its water ponds, the Borassus palm will be there to give you the much needed shade from the Karamoja heat, don’t miss out on sighting some of Karamoja finest bird species as they take to the skies to give you company.
The Lomej nature trek begins from Apoka park center at about 07:00hrs lasting for about 4 hours. This walk will take you to the Ik communities giving you a one on one opportunity to relive the amazing village life of these incredible people. There is also a nature trail that leads you to the Kidepo valley via the Namamkweny valley which you will be able to reach in an hour journey. You can also visit the hot springs of Kanangarok. Nature walks in Kidepo valley national park go for 30$ for foreign nonresidents, 15$ for foreign residents and 10000ugx for East African residents during day time and night time walks cost 40$foreign nonresidents, 20$foreign residents and 15000ugx East African residents.
Cultural and Community Walks
Among the Kidepo local community tours includes visiting the Karamajong who have such unique lifestyle and traditions. The Karamojong are traditionally cattle raiders and hunters and thrive on raiding cattle from their neighboring tribes. To the Karamajong, all cattle is theirs by right. However through community conservation and education, they are gradually changing most of their ruthless ways. Communities near the park stage cultural dances and performances. Dances like Emuya of the Naporre and Nyangia, Larakaraka and Apiti dances of the Acholi are common and worth seeing or participate in if you so wish. Cultural visits and community walk to the Karamajong manyattas (homesteads) can offer you chance to see kraals local communities’ livestock, traditional costume, stools, spears headdress, knives, bows, arrows and jewellery. On the outskirts of this park are the Karamojong and IK people who have a unique culture and way of life.
Historical background and current status: The Karamojong people are believed to have migrated from Abyssinia or Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th century AD. They are believed to have migrated south wards in large groups but broke into 2 smaller groups which settled in different areas of Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. One of the group moved and settled into Kenya and this comprised of the Kalenjin and the Kenyan Masaai, the other group where the Karamojong were, broke down further to form tribes like the Turkana of Kenya, the Karamojongs Iteso, Dodoth and Jie of Uganda, Jiye and Toposa of South Sudan. During the migration, a group of old people of the Jie tribe decided to stop and settle in the north eastern Uganda current day Kotido, Kaabong and Moroto districts because they were too tired to continue with the trek further south. This led to the younger generation of the Jie tribe to them using the phrase “ekaranjimojong” which means “the old men can walk no further” hence giving birth to the current day Karamojong tribe of Uganda.
Marriage and courtship among the Karamojong: There was nothing like courtship among the Karamojong culture, if a man wanted to marry a girl, he had to wrestle her until he defeated her completely, please don’t be mistaken into a believe that this was an easy or just a walk over fight for the man because the Karamojong girls are some of the toughest and finest warriors you will ever find on the African continent so the man had to make advance preparations for the fight and give it his utmost best shot for him to stand a chance of winning. If the man won the fight, then he was allowed to marry the girl because he had proved beyond reasonable doubt that he could take care and protect his to be wife. Bride price was negotiated and this usually measured in numbers of cattle that were to be exchanged for the bride.
Politics and social status among the Karamojong: The political set up of the Karamojong is based around age groups. Elders of the society provide leadership because it’s believed that they are divine with divine authority. Anyone who disobeys orders or counsel from the elders is punished by younger aged men who are loyal to the elders and sometimes he might even be killed. This leadership is demonstrated through leading rituals, leading public gatherings, settling disputes among community members. Instructions from the elders’ council are passed down and implemented by the subsequent age groups below the elders. The Karamojong are also organized by close family ties, social status is acquired depending on the number of cattle one possesses.
Social life of the Karamojong: The Karamojong stay in fairly small communities comprising of a number of home steads called the manyatas. Each manyata is a family compound that has been enclosed off by a barrier of reeds and thorny bushes. Inside the manyata, are many huts of various family members with that of the head of the family in the middle.
Economic activities of the Karamojong: The Karamojong are primarily cattle herders who live and die for cattle as it is the measure of an individual’s wealth. These people are seasoned cattle raiders and since time immemorial, they have been engaging in these raids raiding neighboring cattle keeping tribes like the Itesot, Nandi of Kenya, Jiye of south Sudan and the Kalenjin. From the 1950s to the early 2000s guns especially AK47s found their way into Karamojong hands from Sudan, Kenya and Somalia and this escalated these raids even further but since 2005 up until today the government of Uganda has undertaken a deliberate strategy to disarm these people to create calmness in the region
The IK people: The Ik people are sub group of people found in the north eastern part of Uganda. It’s a minority group of people which suffered from extreme famine after being relocated from their ancestral lands where Kidepo valley national park is found today. They are sand witched between the Turkanas of Kenya and the Karamojong of Uganda. The Iks are mainly agriculturalists and grow sorghum which is their main staple food. Researchers like Archie Tucker have tried to come up with the ethnology of the Iks but it has always proved to be difficult as these people speak a language that’s isn’t similar to any of the known current ethnic languages like the bantu or Sudanic languages but it can only be nearly related to the classical middle kingdom Egyptian language.
The Ik people are organized in groups basing on their ages. Children as early as at the age of 3 or 4 are expelled by their parents to go join groups of their age mates and look for their own food. There is a junior age group of children between age 4-8 years and a senior age group of children between ages 8-14 years. IK parents have no kind of regard for their kids and never look after or care for them, so every kid must find an age group to belong to so as to find food and learn how to survive the harsh reality. These groups are formed as a survival technique to protect themselves from the attacks of the older groups who want to steal their food. It isn’t known whether this disregard of children by the Ik parents is as a result of extreme starvation they suffered during their displacement from the Kidepo valley at the creation of the national park in 1962 or it has always been embedded in their cultural and social norm to do so.
How to get to Kidepo Valley National Park
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.
There are four possible routes by road as listed below. Optimum driving times are given
Routes passing west of Lake Kyoga through Acholiland
- 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.
Prospective visitors should contact us to obtain up-to-date advice about road conditions and identify the preferred route, particularly if considering an approach through Karamoja.
Charter flights to Kidepo may be arranged from Kampala (Kajjansi), Kampala Aeroclub, or Entebbe with Eagle Aviation. Flights take about two hours.
Accommodation places in Kidepo Valley National Park
There are few safari lodges or hotels where one can stay and have a decent meal while n his or her Uganda safari tour to Kidepo. The recommended lodges include,
Apoka Safari Lodge-Luxury
Apoka Safari Lode is luxury lodge positioned on splendid kopje overlooking the Narus River valley in the remote and Magnificent Kidepo Valley National Park. Apoka contains ten separate cottages, each self-contained and including indoor showers and outdoor bathtubs, as well as a veranda for relaxing and enjoying the view. The other feature found in the rooms include the Big hand-hewn beds with soft duvets with mosquito nets, hand-woven woolen carpets, extra-large plush towels, over-sized dressing gowns .The lodge’s cottages are suitable for visitors on honeymoon safaris to Uganda. The rooms have been built in the way that they offer comfort and memorable experience to the visitors on Uganda safaris.
The lodge had a swimming pool which has been carved out of the big rock and it’s the kind of pool that makes you want to jump in, splashing and yelling, feeling like a kid again.
At Apoka, everything is capacious and handmade by local craftsmen.
Apoka is the best lodge you can base to explore the unique wilderness of Kidepo national park. The lodge organizes activities such as Cultural tour to the Karamojong villages to learn about their traditional way of life, Enjoy a sundowner in the arms of a massive fig tree, Game drives to watch a breeding herd of elephant frolicking in the mud among others.
Nga’moru Wilderness Camp-Mid-Range
Nga’Moru Camp is situated on the border of the Kidepo Valley National Park, only 4kms from the Katarum Gate. Located on a hill, Nga’Moru camp offers spectacular views of the Narus Valley and the savannah plains stretching all the way to the Morungole Mountains. Elephant, Hyenas, Waterbuck, Zebra and Lion are frequent visitors to the Camp
The lodge has comfortable accommodation in the lodge’s Safari Tents and in Cabanas. The lodge’s has 2 “Cabanas” each with its own unique and private view of the Kidepo Valley National Park. The Cabanas can accommodate 1 to 4 single beds.
Nga ‘Moru Camp site contains 3 Safari Tents each with its own unique and private view of the Kidepo Valley National Park. Tents can accommodate 1 or 2 single beds.
Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp is the best lodge to stay while exploring the beautiful Narus Valley or the Kidepo Valley with its Hot Springs or local Karamajong Manyatta.
|Room Type||Rates in USD|
|Single -Both Cabanas &Tents||$160|
|Double –Both Cabanas &Tents||$120pp|
|Children-Both Cabanas &Tents||$60pp|
Apoka Rest Camp-Budget
Apoka Rest Camp is basic/budget facility that offers wonderful budget facilities and services to budget travellers on Uganda Safari tours to Kidepo National Park. The lodge has sixteen self-contained chalets and Fourteen Bandas each having 2 beds. The Bandas are actually not self-contained. For those interested in camping, you are encouraged to carry your own tent along with other camping gear.