Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with south Sudan in the north west and only 5km from the eastern border of Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Gazetted as a national park in 1962, it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species.
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.
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 especially with its dense populations of Lion,Buffalos,Elephant and many similar angulates.
Kidepo’s elephant population has surged from around 200 in the mid 1990’s to between 650 and 1000 today. The African Buffalo population is now estimated at 10,000-15,000.The Rothschild Giraffe is very notable ,breeding more than 50 individuals from the bottleneck of the mid 1990’s population of three and supplemented several from translocation.
The bird checklist of over 476 species with the common Ostrich, secretary bird, northern carmine bee eater, little green bee eater, Abyssinian scimitar bill and many more colorful and visible species.
The Kidepo and Narus rivers glide through the savannah landscape in the rainy season and disappear in the dry season. Kidepo’s remote location makes it Uganda’s most isolated national park. The low number of visitors has preserved the unique ambience of this untouched wilderness.
Cut off for years by conflict of varying forms, it has only recently become accessible by both road and air. Currently, there are only two lodges and a government rest camp available. These two factors, along with the relatively high cost of reaching the park, have combined to keep visitor numbers low. But those who do make it are in for a treat, with enjoyment only amplified by the fact you are well off the beaten track, miles from anywhere.
Kidepo is home to 77 mammal species and the park offers great opportunities for game viewing. 20 species of predator are present, including lion, leopard, and spotted hyena.
In Uganda, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, aardwolf, cheetah, and caracal are endemic to Kidepo. The elephant population is over 650 (up from 200 in the mid ‘90s), buffalo are estimated to exceed 10,000, and there are over 50 Rothschild’s giraffes, an internationally important population.
Zebra graze on the plains and both greater and lesser kudu roam around the thick bush. Fortunate adventurers may even see a white-eared kob, more commonly seen in South Sudan and Ethiopia.
The bird list currently numbers 470 species. 60 of these are recorded in no other national park in Uganda. East Africa’s population of Clapperton’s francolin and the rose-ringed parakeet are found only in Kidepo. There are 56 species of raptor, and the park’s vultures are thriving. Kidepo is also the only place in Uganda where bird enthusiasts can encounter the majesty of the Common Ostrich.
WHEN TO VISIT
Kidepo is accessible all year round. However, its general climate does differ from the rest of Uganda. While June used to be a dry month, it is now accepted that a long rainy season will run from April to the end of November. This is not an eight-month deluge, but you can expect some rain most days.
The dry season runs from December to March. The temperatures soar during this time, often reaching 40 degrees Celsius. The middle and end of the dry season (November to February) offers higher chances of wildlife sightings since the park’s sandy soils cannot hold water, and it becomes arid.
During these months, the reduced availability of water sources causes animals to congregate around reliable water holes, increasing the chances of sightings. This is also the best chance to see cheetah hunting on the short grass plains.
In contrast, animals are more difficult to locate during the wet season (April to August) since they leave the valleys for higher ground, where sightings are lower.