A Guide to Kidepo valley national park

The 1,442 sq kms Kidepo Valley National Park is founded on the rocky semi-arid karamoja province. It is among Uganda’s very most remote yet magnificent national parks which harbor scenery unrivaled in any other national park in the whole of East Africa. Several tourists who visit this park talk about the scenery and frequently promise and actually do return to re-visit Kidepo, for in accordance with them this excursion can’t be any better elsewhere.

Being a unusual Uganda safari destination, crammed in the corner of the border of Uganda with Kenya and, Kidepo National Park offers breathtaking savannah scenery, that end into a rocky horizon. It features a wide latitudinal array that offers a variety of climatic conditions which have evolved remarkably different vegetation. Essentially this has facilitated the growth of an assortment of animal species within the park which are equally plentiful among which are a number not seen in other parts of this country.

Kidepo Valley National Park is among the finest Uganda birding safari destinations. It features a bird list of more than 475 species, and as well ranks second in position to Queen Elizabeth National Park. On this list are dry eastern ” specials” are some endemics as well as East Africa’s most uncommon yet highly sought after species like the Black-breasted Barbet and Karamoja Apallis.
The vegetation in Kidepo is mainly open tree Savannah grassland that differs mainly in composition plus structure. The park is mainly dominated by the Mountain forests within the high areas while areas around River Lorupei are heavily blanketed by acacia forest. The game plus vegetation in the park are rather more characteristic of Kenya than Uganda. Within the park, the terrain is dotted with tiny hills, inselbergs plus rocky outcrops which jointly make Kidepo a very unique Uganda safari destination.

BIRD WATCHING

The Apoka Rest Camp and Park Headquarters overlooking the swallow, southern Narus Valley is a great spot to begin your Kidepo birding. 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.

WILDLIFE

Kidepo’s mammal list of over 80 species includes 28 that are found in no other Ugandan National park. Amongst these are such charismatic African animals as Bat-eared Fox, Carcal, Cheetah and Klipspringer. Unfortunately, Kidepo suffered the same fate as many other Ugandan parks during the Amin era and is still recovering from years of poaching that left 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. Other large mammals have shown a remarkable recovery and there are now healthy population of Elephant, Common Zebra, Buffalo, Bohor Reedbuck, Waterbuck and Kongoni. Predators are plentiful and Spotted Hyena, Leopard and Lion are frequently seen. Oribis is abundant in the Narus Valley, whilst the dry thorn thickets in the north are home to Guenther’s Dik Dik. Senegal Galago and Sidestriped Jackal may be found in the rest camp at night and White-tailed Mongoose is common but more likely to be found on a night drive. The park also has a very rich and diverse reptile fauna.

ACCOMMODATION

Apoka Rest Camp, run by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, offers comfortable bandas within the national park, including bedding, mosquito netting and showers. It is recommended that you bring all your own food although it can be cooked for you if necessary.
A more upmarket option is the exclusive Apoka Lodge. This luxury lodge is located in the middle of Kidepo National Park with spacious rooms and private veranda. Each room has a sitting room and ensuite bathroom. A restaurant and swimming pool are available as well.
It is recommended that a ranger-guide accompany you at all times whilst at Kidepo Valley National park and this can be arranged on arrival at Apoka. Patrick is an excellent ranger who knows many of the birds. Park officials also suggest that all vehicles travelling north into the Kidepo Valley be escorted by multiple armed guards due to the periodic presence of poachers and cattle rustlers in the area.

ACCESS

Kidepo Valley National Park is accessible either by road or by air. The most commonly driven route from Kampala is via Gulu and Kitgum, an 600 km journey taking a minimum of 12 hours and a sturdy 4WD to complete.