Kidepo is Uganda’s best-kept secret is located in the remote northeastern part of the country covering an area of 1,442 kilometers squared, the park borders Kenya from the east and South Sudan from the North. Kidepo was ranked as one of the top tourist’s destinations in the world by lonely planet. Kidepo valley was first gazetted as a game reserved during the colonial government in 1958 and was later established as a national park during Obote’s regime in Uganda in 1962 hosting over 70 species of mammals and 475 species of birds.
If you want to uniquely enjoy wildlife without crowds and paparazzi then the untouched Kidepo valley is an ideal place for you as it represents Africa the way it was 5O years ago. It provides some of the most breathtaking scenic views in Africa. The name Kidepo is derived from a local word akidep to mean “to pick up”. This is because the locals used to pick fruits used for making local beer, Kidepo valley boasts with the highest buffalo population in the world with over 1,700 recorded.
The road to Kidepo valley national park has got some of the most beautiful scenic views in Africa if you pass through Pian Upe game reserve, Kidepo valley was ranked the third top tourist’s destination to visit in Africa.
Kidepo valley national park is a real gem when it comes to wildlife viewing, some of the animals found in Kidepo valley national park cannot be found in other famous national park s in the country like Queen Elizabeth. Some of the wildlife you can spot while on a game drive in Kidepo are; Lions, cheetahs, Elephants, leopards, buffalos, warthogs, bushbucks, hartebeests, zebras, greater and lesser kudu, spotted hyena, chandlers mountain reedbuck, Klipspringer, giraffes, oryx, gazelles, black, stripped jackal, aardwolf, caracal, bat-eared fox, Oribi, Elands, Uganda kob and primates like the patas monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and Oliva baboons to mention a few.
Kidepo valley national park is a birder paradise with some of the worlds rarest birds with 56 species being raptors , the park is home t over 400 species of bird some of which include; Ostrich, red and yellow barbet, dark chanting goshawk, kori bustard, little bee-eater, Karamoja Apalis, red-throated bee-eater, Abyssinian roller, black breasted barbet, fox krestel, golden pipit, northern carmine bee-eater, chestnut weaver, Jacksons hornbill, white-bellied go away bird, purple grenadier, pygmy falcon, Abbysinian crimitarbill, rufous chatter, taita fiscal, black winged pratincole, palid harier, Hartlaub’s turaco, Emins shrike, ring-necked spurfowl, dusky turtle dove and little rock thrush to mention a few.
Hiking & Nature Walks
The Morungole mountains at the backdrop of the Kidepo valley are home to the smallest ethnic group in Uganda the IK tribe numbering about 10,000 people with hardly 5 having degree education, the IK used to live at the valleys of Kidepo before the Karamojong people came who forced them to relocate to the mountains. There is so much more to learn about this mountain people and explore the Morungole mountains. Mount Morungole stands at an elevation of 2,750 kilometers above sea level. Tourists can also visit Namamukeny valley for a thrilling birding experiences where you can spot birds such as Greenhood hoppoe, eastern paradise whydah and white-crested turaco to mention a few.
Nature walks in Kidepo valley can be taken to the Kanangorok hot springs, you can also tour the Idi Amin’s dream lodge that was never completed during his reign as president of Uganda. The hot springs are located beyond the Kidepo river along the South Sudan border. Lomej hills is also a great place for spotting wildlife such as mountain reedbucks. When taking a walk in Kidepo valley, tourists should ensure to be in companion of a ranger guide and never try to wander alone in the true African wilderness.
The Karamojong who are well known for their nomadic pastoralists live around Kidepo valley national park, they are cattle herders who value cattle so much just like the Masai tribes of Kenya and Tanzania. They have very unique cultural values, ways of dressing and so much more not forgetting their dances, the Karamojong used to be very hostile making Kidepo unreachable but due to the disarmament, they are now very calm and friendly welcoming all tourists worldwide.
Kidepo valley national park boasts with semi-arid climate therefore the park can be visited all year round though June to September and December to February is the very best time to visit the park for wildlife encounters, this is the time the grass is short and animals can easily be seen and they also concentrated on water catchment areas within the park. The best time to do birding is from November to April when migratory birds from North Africa and Europe are present.
Kidepo valley national park has got limited accommodation units due to its remote nature, some of the lodges you can sleep in while in Kidepo valley are; Apoka safari lodge, Kidepo savannah lodge, Nga’moru Wilderness Camp, and Apoka bandas among the rest. Kidepo valley national park can be accessed from Kampala in a whole day drive via Gulu or Soroti-Moroto road. Tourists can also fly into Lomej airstrip in Kidepo park through Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airfield.