Kidepo valley National Park is by far one of Africa’s topmost destinations for a tourist who desires to have a comprehensive safari experience of the true African Wilderness. The park can be located in the northeastern corner of Uganda in a district called Kaabong which is also home to the Karamojong/Karimojong and the IK people. The park lies between the coordinates of 03°54′N 33°51′E and is one of Uganda’s larger savanna National Parks with a total area of 1,442km2.
The park’s northwestern boundary meets with Uganda’s margin with South Sudan but is also bordered by Kenya to the east. Kidepo is in a semi-arid region with a rugged type of topography that gives rise to different forms of life in their different flora and fauna characteristics. The park’s altitude falls between 914m and 2,750m above sea level (ASL).
Before she was gazetted as a protected area, the park suffered a great deal of habitat loss principally because of an initiative to wipe out tse-tse flies from the region. Much of the vegetation especially the grasslands were cleared in the course of this operation. Many of the park’s animals were also hunted down during this time and there was therefore a need to put an end to this lest more the regions the unique wild biodiversity would be lost.
Kidepo Valley National Park was gazetted in 1958 as a Game Reserve by the British Colonial Government and later transformed into a National Park by the Obote government in 1962 after Uganda had received her independence from the British colonial masters. Kidepo like Uganda’s nine (9) other National Parks is overseen by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Kidepo’s astounding beauty won it a nomination as Africa’s prime National Park by the World Travel Awards (2013). The park is home to over 77 species of mammals including lions, leopards, massive elephants, zebras, buffalos, giraffes which can only be found in three two other National Parks in Uganda (Murchison Falls National Park and recently some giraffes have been trans located from Murchison Falls to Lake Mburo National Park); the world’s fastest ground sprinter, the cheetah which can only be found here in Uganda.
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.
More information about Kidepo National Park
Other highlights and places to visit while in Kidepo Valley National Park
Tourist Activities in Kidepo Valley National Park
Safari Lodges and Hotels in Kidepo