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KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK UGANDA.

Kidepo Vacations, safaris to Kidepo, Kidepo tour packages, short tours Kidepo Valley National Park Uganda.

Kidepo in local language means "to pick from below". The Kidepo valley used to be visited by the local Karimajong people for purposes of collecting fallen borassus fruit used in the making of palm beer.. Kidepo River is a 50m wide bed of white sand between river banks covered with borassus palms.

Kidepo National Park Uganda is sometimes referred to as Kidepo Valley National Park and is located in the far North Eastern corner of Uganda in the Karamoja region. Kidepo Valley Park is an off the beaten track safari destination and without a doubt Uganda's far flung, almost isolated national parks hence the reason why it is still not affected by mass tourism. The journey from Kampala to Kidepo is 700kms but well worth the lengthy drive for visitors who make the long travel journey time to get here. The park has an amazingly high population and concentration of big game, wildlife and is home to over 77 mammal species and an astounding 475 bird species.

Kidepo Valley National Park is 1,440 square kilometres in coverage area and has altitude ranges of between 900-2800m on the borders of Uganda with South Sudan and Kenya. The park was first gazetted in 1962 and hosts the Karimajong communities on the edges of this beautiful game rich park. The Karimajong people are a very culture rich tribe of Uganda almost comparable to the Masai of Kenya. Visitors to Kidepo will enjoy rewarding cultural interactions with the Karimajong in their homesteads and cultural dance performances. Kidepo National park hosts 2 rivers, Kidepo River and Narus River which provide much needed water to the game and wildlife, however they disappear during the dry season, leaving only pools that provide drinking water during the dry spells which can be fairly drastic. Narus Valley near Apoka is the only part of the park that retains water. The Narus Valley with its seasonal oases combines with the beautiful savanna to make the Narus Valley the park’s best wildlife and game viewing part of Kidepo National Park.

To many who have visited Kidepo in the past they all agree in unison that Kidepo is an amazing breathtaking destination and perhaps ranks highly among Africa's most beautiful and splendid wilds. Apoka Lodge which is luxury accommodation with a concession located bang in the middle of Kidepo Park provides beautiful un-ending views of the mountain ranges in the distance and savanna landscapes that extend into South Sudan.

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 water havens, combined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing location.

Kidepo Valley National Park visitors' places of interest.

Kidepo valley park has a number of areas which will be of great interest and immense safari value to visitors to Kidepo. We have highlighted a few of them below in no particular order.

Narus Valley.

The Narus Valley in Kidepo is the converging point for game in the national park as the valley has permanent water availability especially during the dry season when the Kidepo river has dried up. The Narus valley is a savannah open plain bordered by mountain ranges including the Morungule mountain ranges in the distance. The Narus valley has an elaborate network of game tracks with game viewing and game drive circuits that explore the game rich valley. Plenty of game will be seen during the day and night game drives including; buffaloes, giraffes, oribis lions, Jackson’s hartebeest, and reedbucks . On a lucky day you may also see cheetahs and leopards close to the Narus dam and the water hole near Apoka lodge which are splending game viewing points during the dry season. The south end of the Katurum loop, Katurum kopje is a great must check out area with fantastic views north across the Narus valley towards the majestic Morungule mountain ranges.

Morungule Mountain.

The Morungule mountain ranges provide immense and challenging hiking opportunities to adventure travel enthusiasts who travel to Kidepo National Park. At 2,750m avid mountain climbing visitors will have their work cut-out, not exactly to Kilimanjaro or Rwenzori mountain climbing levels, but would be sufficient for rehearsals for the bigger Kilimanjaro or Mountains of the moon climb adventures. Morungule mountain is intersected by both Narus and Kidepo rivers. The Morungule mountain ranges, form the south borders of Kidepo National Park and are found North East and quite near to Apoka Lodge. Visitors staying at Apoka Lodge would thus easily be able to visit the mountains on a day trip. Guided nature walks with your driver guide and park rangers. The nature walks can be combined with visits to the IK peoples and tribe who live in the valleys below the mountains. The IK tribe are the smallest ethnic group in Uganda, with very unique culture and cultural practices well worth learning about.

Lomej Hills

If you visit Kidepo Valley National Park, be sure to visit the Lomej Hills which are a very enrich place for bird watching, and game viewing especially the mountain reedbuck. The Lomej Hills are located a very short and comfortable drive from the Kidep Valley Park headquarters. The hills can be visited on your last day's visit to Kidepo, perhaps even on your way out of the park.

Kanangorok Hot Springs.

Kidepo River in combination with Narus River are the 2 water sources in the park that provide much needed drinking water for the game and wildlife that call the Kidepo home. However for most times of the year, during the dry season, the Kidepo river is dry and such not much game congregates here when it is dry. However the Kanangorok Hot Springs which are located a comfortable 11kms over the Kidepo river towards the South Sudan border , is a gorgeous place to visit and ogle at the mountains in the immediate horizon.

Namamukweny Valley.

The Namamukweny Valley of Kidepo National Park is situated in the north western park of Kidepo park. The valley is easily accessible making it ideal for guided birding and guided nature walks. Namamukweny locally means a place with no birds or a deserted lonely place with very few people – It turned out to be pretty ironic as the Namamukweny Valley is a birding haven which hosts a number of bird species including ,Common Bulbul, the Eastern Paradise Whydah, Abyssinian Roller White-crested Turaco, and Green Wood Hoopoe among others.

Activities in Kidepo Valley National Park.

Game Drives in Kidepo Valley

Wildlife is most active in the Narus Valley during early mornings and late afternoon - 6am and 4pm are optimum times to set off on game drives. 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.

Kidepo Valley Scenic Drive
Though wildlife is scarce in the arid Kidepo Valley, the hour-long drive to Kanangorok Hot Springs passes some magnificent landscapes. North of Apoka, beyond the river crossing, the road passes between rock outcrops and hills before descending into the Kidepo Valley, crossing the Kidepo Sand River and traversing open plains that extend past Kanangorok Hot Springs towards mountains across the Sudanese border. This is the part of the park where ostriches are most commonly seen.

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.

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.

 

Beyond Apoka

Lonyili Mountain

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.

Getting Here

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. Enquire at Kotido for details.

Prospective visitors should contact UWA Headquarters or the Apoka Lodge operator Wildplaces 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. The Civil Aviation Authority plans to make Lomej airstrip near Apoka, an international airport to enable visitors to fly direct to Kidepo from other countries.

There are currently no scheduled flights to Apoka.

Getting Around

Kidepo is served by a network of game tracks in the Narus Valley in the south of the park. These cross seasonal streams and tracts of wetland, making a 4WD vehicle essential, especially during the rainy season. To the north, a single track leads across the Kidepo River to Pirre in the north east of the park.

Climate and When to Visit

The annual rainfall is 800mm a year. The long rainy season 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 best time for game viewing is the dry season when animals are concentrated near water points. During the rainy seasons, animals disperse from the valleys, moving to higher, drier ground where they are not so easily seen.

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