Tourist Attractions in Kidepo National Park, Uganda Wildlife safari tour in Kidepo Valley National Park
- Mammalian species
The last census established that Kidepo Valley National Park has a total number of 86 mammal species in its 1,442 square kilometer perimeter. Some more mammal species can be seen in the neighboring Karamoja region with many species that cannot be seen anywhere else in Uganda. Flesh-eating and blood-sucking mammals include the leopards, lions, side-striped and black-backed jackal, bat eared fox, spooky hyenas and the high speed cheetahs which cannot be found in any of Uganda’s other nine (9) National Parks. Tourists can expect to see herbivores like the Burchell’s zebras, elands, greater and lesser kudu, Jackson’s hartebeest, the defassa waterbuck, the five primate species including the Kavirondo bush babies which are endemic to this region; bohor reedbuck, bushpigs, bushduiker, warthogs and the Rothschild’s giraffe which can only be seen in two other places in Uganda (Murchison Falls National Park and Lake Mburo National Park)
- Bird species and BirdingSecond to only Queen Elizabeth in the number of bird species, Kidepo Valley National Park is the birder’s pride. The park has over 475 bird species including 14 endemic species and 56 birds of prey. The bird’s list includes the Verreaux’s eagles, Karamoja apalis, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, chestnut weaver, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Abyssinian roller, Jackson’s hornbills, Kori Bustard, black-breasted barbets, yellow-billed and red-billed hornbills, Egyptian Vulture, Pygmy Falcon, buffalo weavers and the ostrich which can only be found in one National Park in the whole of Uganda. The other ostriches are in captive in the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) a zoo located just a few minutes from Entebbe International Airport.
The Kanangorok Hot Springs in Kidepo Valley
The Kanangorok Hot Springs have a warmish feel and are believed to be curative. Tourist can confirm their healing nature of the Kanagorok Hot Springs while on safaris to Kidepo Valley National Park.
- Apoka the Park’s hub
We could call it the heart of Kidepo national Park because at this point activities start and from this point tourists begin to enjoy their long awaited Kidepo adventures. Apoka is also home to the luxurious Apoka Safari Lodge which offers topnotch accommodation in the true African wilderness. At Apoka tourists get to meet their guides before engaging on activities like game drives and nature walks. They can also meet with other tourists and exchange stories about what they anticipate and what they have already experienced. At the Apoka Tourist Center tourists can also find shops to purchase crafts, and most necessities for the tour. Tourists can also hire transportation for the game drives at Apoka.
- Mountain Morungole
Mount Morungole reaches 2,750 meters above sea level making it the highest point in the park. Summiting Mount Morungole yields a satisfying feeling within the hearts of the mountain climbers, but the series of things to adventure along the way contribute a lot to that final gorgeous view that tourists will enjoy at the end of it all. The mountains are transected by the park’s two major streams Kidepo and Valley, and the mountain’s higher points give rise to vegetation times which birds and some mammals find refuge in.
- The Lomej Hill
The Lomej Hills are situated just a few minutes’ drive from the Park Headquarters. The Lomej hills provide spectacular views of the park and they offer points from which tourists can enjoy birding Safaris and can also see wildlife like stunning reedbucks. The hills have sparkling streams like Kapeta and Kaikem; and waterholes like Lokimait and Lopitapar.
- Lonyili Mountain
Outside Kidepo Valley National Park and between Kitgum district and South Sudan, tourists can arrive at a mountain called Lonyili. The hills have a variety of flora and fauna species and tourists can enjoy sightings of primates like the colobus monkeys. The road leading to this mountain is still under renovation and tourists are advised to use d a FWD vehicle so that they do not get stuck on the way.
- Game Drives in Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is located in the northeastern semi-arid region of Uganda making it a water deficient park. The park’s wildlife frequently treks to the few points in the park where they can get a drink of water. The park is mainly served by two rivers called Narus and Kidepo which are seasonal in nature and for that reason dry at the end of the wet season leaving back only ponds of water for animals to drink from. The Narus valley receives 890 mm, and 635 mm in the Kidepo Valley during the light rains that the park experiences in its short annual season. Animals therefore congregate more in these two valleys (more wildlife in the Narus Valley) for the bigger part of the year, and the game drives will most definitely reach these two valleys. Game drives are more enjoyable if they start in the morning at around 7:00am or late in the afternoon at 4:00pm. Tourists can anticipate seeing wildlife like the elephants, giraffes, lions, buffalos and the Burchell’s Zebras.
- Birding in Kidepo Valley National Park
Birding Safaris in Kidepo Valley National Park are very rewarding aided by the park’s many habitats which provide both permanent and temporary homes to over 475 bird species. Birding Safaris can start at any time of the day, and with the help of a ranger guide, tourists can be able to identify over 100 species of Kidepo’s bird list. Most birders choose to start their birding experience in the mornings or in the evening. The birding experience can begin from the park’s pivot at Apoka, particularly at the Apoka Rest Camp or tourists can drive to the Namamukweny and Narus Valleys where birds can also be sighted in the fringes. Birds to look out for include Clapperton’s Francolin which can only be found in Kidepo, buffalo weavers, White-crested Turaco, Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, the Common Bulbul, black-breasted barbets and the Green Wood Hoopoe. Tourists can also encounter two (2) record birds the ostrich and the Kori bustard. The Kori bustard is the world’s largest and heaviest bird of flight, while the ostrich is the world’s heaviest, largest and fastest flightless bird. Namamukweny translates as “an area with no birds”, but you will be surprised at how many birds you will be able to count in this area.
- Hiking and nature walks
While on Uganda Safaris to Kidepo Valley National Park, visitors can also participate in guided nature walks. Short hikes from Apoka at the Park’s hub can lead 60 minutes away to arrive at the Namamukweny valley which is one of the best birding spots in the park. Tourists can also enjoy guided nature walks in the finely decorated Kidepo valley which is home to most of the ostriches in the park. The Kidepo valley also offers gorgeous vistas of white sand that defines the Kidepo river banks and the borussus palms which are artistically aligned within the valley. Other hikes can lead to the northeastern part of the park in the Morungole Mountains where tourists can interact with the IK and Karamojong communities. A two (2) hour guided nature walk in the Narus valley is also highly rewarding, offering views of very many wildlife species as they assemble along the Narus River for a drink of water. A longer hike takes four (4) hours through the Lomej hills but allows tourists to see a great deal of mammal and bird species.
- The Karamojong/Karimojong
The park’s perimeters are guarded by the Karamojong settlements; a very interesting group of people. The Karamojong are a large herd cattle-rearing community in northeastern Uganda who migrate periodically with their animals in search for water and pasture. Their migrating nature forces them to construct temporary structures called “Manyattas” wherever they go. Some of their settlements can however be visited as part of the Morungole mountain hike. The Karamojong get their name from a phrase in their language “ekar ngimojong”, which means “the old man can walk no more”. The karamojong speak a language called Karamojong and live a life very similar to the Maasai of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. Their fascinating culture is something to look out for while on a Uganda Safari to Kidepo Valley National Park. They have a history of hostility but this is changing especially after the successful efforts by the government to disarm them. Tourists can enjoy safaris to Karamoja land where they can see traditional tools knives, stools and bows and arrows which the Karamojongs use.
Getting to Kidepo Valley National Park by road
|From||To Kidepo Valley National Park||Estimated Travel Time|
|Kampala via Gulu and Kitgum||571km||10 Hours|
|Kamapal via Lira and Kotido||705km||12 Hours|
|Kampala via Sironko and Kaabong||740km||12 Hours|
|Kampala via Soroti and Kaabong||792km||13 Hours|
|Murchison Falls National Park||440km||8 Hours|
Driving to Kidepo Valley National Park is surely more rewarding than flying there because along the way tourists are exposed to a lot even before they reach the awesome Kidepo Valley National Park. But due to the poor condition of the roads, the drive can kill the entire experience, especially when it rains. But a 4WD vehicle should find no problem at all in traversing the roads, and tourists are therefore highly advised to ascertain that they hire 4WD drive vehicles is they are to drive to Kidepo Valley National Park.
The option to fly necessitates tourists to book one of the flights from Entebbe International Airport and Kajjansi Airfield in Kampala to Lomej Airfield in Kidepo Valley National Park. The flight from Entebbe is operated by Eagle Air whereas the one from Kajjansi is operated by Kampala Aeroclub (both flights last about 2 hours). On arrival at Lomej, tourist can transfer on road for a distance of 3km to arrive at the park’s headquarters at Apoka.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Uganda is planning on transforming the Lomej airstrip into an International Airport. If this is implemented, tourists will not have to fly to Entebbe first, but will be able to book direct flights to Kidepo Valley National Park.
Apoka Safari Lodge (Wildplaces) – UWA Concession
Apoka Safari lodge is situated twelve (12) hours northeast of Kampala, Uganda’s Capital City in the heart of Kidepo Valley National Park. The lodge is creatively mounted on a rocky outcrop making a 24 hour picturesque surveillance of the Narus Valley. The lodge is the only luxury/upmarket lodge offering accommodation in its ten (10) huge rooms (4 twin sleeping 2-4 each & 6 double sleeping 2 each) with total capacity ranging from 20 to 28 depending on the rooming requirements. All the rooms are designed to offer comfort and are decorated with art pieces which were done by some of Uganda’s best painters and sketchers. One of the highlights of Apoka Safari lodge is the splendid swimming pool which was dug into the rock out crop which allows tourists to cool off the heat in this semi-arid area of Uganda. Guests who sleep at Apoka Safari Lodge do not have to move too far to reach the park’s headquarters where the game drives start from. Tourists who do not want to travel for very long distances can access Apoka Safari lodge by air. This necessitates booking one of the flights from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to the Lomej Airstrip in Kidepo Valley National Park. Tourists can then transfer just a few minutes to arrive at Apoka.
Apoka Rest Camp (UWA)
Like Apoka Safari Lodge, this rest camp is close to the park’s headquarters and is a starting point for some of the birding safaris in Kidepo Valley National Park. accommodation is offered in fourteen (14) bandas which have two (2) beds each and two (2) camping areas where tourists are free to erect their tents. Toilets are located just outside the bandas. The accommodation units are not self-contained and tourists are advised to come along with enough drinks and food to take them through the entire camping period. However depending on how long the tourists spend at the rest camp, they can ask for a chicken or goat to roast over a campfire. This can be sourced from the neighboring villages by the camp management. This accommodation unit is run by UWA; tourists can therefore find out more information from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)
Kakine Self-catering Campsite
Kakine Self-catering Campsite is also very close to the park’s headquarters offering budget accommodation to tourist on safaris to Kidepo Valley National Park. Local food can be bought from the neighboring villages but travelers are advised to carry enough food to cater for their meals for the time they are there. Like Apoka Rest Camp, tourists are advised to come along with their camping gear too. The camp’s management provides firewood and drinking water to their guests. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) takes ownership and management of this camp and can therefore provide more information about it.
Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp
This park is located just outside Kidepo Valley National Park. Guests are housed in a number of rooms as well as tented facilities. The camp’s two (2) private cabanas can accommodate a maximum of four (4) beds and the three (3) Safari Tents can hold a bed or two. The safari tents are built in the true African architectural style with a roof of straw. All the rates offered at the park are Full Board including bed, breakfast, lunch and dinner with the exception of drinks.
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Kidepo National Park, Uganda Wildlife safari tour in Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo valley is also an Important Birding Area (IBA) with up to 475 bird species making it second to only Queen Elizabeth National Park in the western part of the country which has 600 species of birds. This long bird list includes the ostriches which can only be encountered in their natural habitat in Kidepo Valley National Park; some have been brought closer to Kampala in the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) which is a zoo in Entebbe just a few minutes from Entebbe International Airport. Other bird species include the Karamoja Apalis, the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and the cryptically colored Kori Bustard (the world’s largest bird capable of flight).
The park’s elevations are dissected by two valleys and from one of these valleys the park gets its name. The Kidepo valley is an amazing place to be ranging from its beautiful white sand which forms the river bank to the Kanangorok hand-hot hot springs elegant palm trees and choral bird species. The Narus valley on the other hand is the assembly point for most of the park’s wildlife species, principally because of its permanent water holes from which animals can get a drink of water. In both valleys there are seasonal rivers which dry up in the dry season leaving only a few ponds from which animals can drink as they wait for the following year’s season of light rains.
Kidepo Valley National Park’s most immediate neighbors are the Karamojongs who can be found settling just outside the park’s boundaries. The Karamojong are nomadic pastoralists who move with their large herds of cattle from one place to another in search of pasture and water for their animals to eat and drink respectively. Their lifestyles are very similar to the Semi-nomadic Maasai of northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya and the IK tribe of northeastern Uganda. The Karamojongs’ traditions and livelihoods are something for tourists to look out for while on Uganda Safaris and adventure to isolated National park of Kidepo.
The Kidepo Safari adventure starts even before tourists arrive at the park. The challenging state of Kidepo’s roads is something that will fascinate tourists. Driving to Kidepo can either be a total disaster or adventurous. Tourists are therefore advised to use FWD vehicles. By driving to Kidepo, tourists can enjoy views of the beautiful virgin Karamoja wilderness before they arrive at Kidepo Valley National Park. The faster but less rewarding alternative involves chartering one of the daily flights from Kampala’s Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe International Airport to the Lomej airstrip which is situated just a few minutes from Apoka the heart of Kidepo Valley National Park.
There are a number alternative ways to get to the park either by road or air. Driving as opposed to the quicker alternative (flying) is a more fulfilling alternative. Although the roads are sometimes difficult to traverse, the ache in getting there is unquestionably overclouded by the beauty of vast unspoiled wilderness that trap the traveler’s eyes either sides of the vehicle, even before the park itself is reached. The shortest route by road to Kidepo Valley National Park goes 571km from Kampala through Karuma, Gulu and Kitgum and takes about 10 hours. Know more about Kidepo National Park
More information about Kidepo National Park