Kidepo Valley National Park is a small isolated reserved game area located in the north eastern region of Uganda near Karenga in Kaabong district. It covers an area of 1,442 square kilometers along the northwestern border with Bira in South Sudan and Abuts; approximately 220 kilometers by road, northwest of Moroto and about 520 kilometers by road northeast of Kampala.
The true definition of “the wild west”, even if it is in the north, Kidepo Valley National park is characterized by rugged dry open savannah fields, randomly scattered acaia and sausage tress, red sandy-clayey paths and a 2,750 meter high Mountain. In fact, the entire Karamoja region is regarded as a semi arid valley with hot temperatures and moderate to little rainfall all year round.
How to get there; Kidepo can easily be accessed from Kampala via the Jinja highway to Mbale then to Kotido. The whole journey could take you about 14 hours. From Kotido, accessing the park is often a few minutes’ journey.
As the main game viewing area in Kidepo Valley National Park, the Narus Valley is a very popular attraction for Uganda safari. The valley receives average annual rainfall of 86 cm thus providing a permanent water source for most of the animals in the park even amidst the heat of the dry season. In fact, the valley is filled with game tracks and loop circuits for viewing abundant wildlife.
Apart from the wildlife, the Narus Valley also makes for exclusive semi desert vibes with free draining red clays and loams circled by open tree golden savannah plains and red oat grass. Tree species in the valley include; Red and Whistling thorn acacias, monkey bread, desert dates, drumstick and Buffalo thorn tress. The water’s edge is lined with sausage trees and fan palms.
Kidepo valley and Kanangorok hot springs:
The name “Kidepo” was adapted from the local Ketebo phrase that can be translated to mean, “To pick from below”. The Ketebo people named the valley this way because of the several borassus palms that line the banks of River Kidepo; the easiest way to collect their fruits was to pick up the ones that had already fallen to the ground and then go on to ferment them to make palm beer.
Owing to the fact that River Kidepo is a seasonal water source, you will not find much wildlife here; especially in the peak dry season. When the River finally dries up, it appears as an endless 50m wide stream of white sand at the base of the valley creating an outstanding contrast between itself and the black chalky clay and sandy clay loams covering the rest of the valley.
The Kanangorok Hot springs or as sometimes they are often called; the “Kananorok or Kanatarok” are located within Kidepo Valley National Park in Lotukei just about 11 kilometers from River Kidepo along the border of Uganda and South Sudan. They serve as the most permanent source of water for the animals in the park.
Forming the southern boundary of Kidepo Valley National Park, Mount Morungole rises above the rest of the safari fields at 2,750 meters northeast of Apoka tourism center. The mountain is crossed by the Narus and Kidepo river systems and it is the highest point in the park where vistas of neighboring cities can be obtained. Its slopes are home to the smallest ethnic group in Uganda; the IK people.
The Namamukweny Valley is an isolated depression located within the north western region of Kidepo Valley National Park. The word Namamukweny can be translated from Napore to mean “a lonely place” and this is true because the valley is mainly inhabited by birds such as; Common Bul Bul, Green Wood Hoopoe, White crested Turaco, Eastern Paradise Whydah and Abyssinian Roller among others.
Lonyili Mountain and Lomeji Hills:
Lonyili Mountain is located between Kitgum and the Sudan border off a beaten track that is presently closed. The mountain is the primates’ paradise as you can uncover many primates such as Black and white Colobus monkeys within its montane forests. The Lomeji Hills on the other hand are near the park’s headquarters and are a famous birding spot with occasional wildlife like reedbuck.
Kidepo Valley National Park has a high count of 80 mammals with about 28 species endemic to the wild plains of north western Uganda. Game drives are mainly conducted in the Narus Valley early at 6.00 am in the morning and at 4.00pm. Wildlife includes; spotted hyena, Lion, cheetah, Leopard, wild dog, Elephants, Zebra, Oribi, Jackson’s hartebeest, Buffalos, Bat eared foxes and Rothschild’s giraffes
Photography, Hiking and Nature walks:
The vast plains of Kidepo Valley National Park are always open to travelers that are in the mood for a bit of physical engagements. Hiking and Nature walks safaris can be organized to visit attractions like the Lomej hills, Kanangorok hot-springs and Namamukweny Valley where you will have the opportunity to take as many pictures of the scenery and wildlife as you want.
A Cultural safari in Kidepo Valley National Park is all about meeting the native Karimojong people that live outside the park’s borders. The Karimojong are a nomadic tribe that often embarks on long journeys to find pasture and water for their many animals. Learn about the importance of a large herd to a Karimojong herdsman and all about their culture when you visit their Manyattas.
Kidepo Valley has a bird count of about 500 recorded bird species including unusual birds like Ostriches. This makes it a top birding destination with spots like the Lomeji Hills and the Namamukweny valley. Keep an eye out for birds like Egyptian Vulture, Pygymy Falcon, Kori Bustard, Karamoja Apalis and Jackson’s hornbill among other birds.
When visiting Kidepo Valley National Park, you can always spend a night here as you cool off from the heat of your safari. There are several accommodation facilities on the premises from luxury set-ups such as Apoka safari lodge to mid range accommodation like Kidepo Savannah Lodge and budget accommodations like Apoka rest Camp and Nga Moru Wilderness Camp.