Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Gazetted as a national park in 1962, it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species.
The park contains one of the most exciting faunas of any Ugandan national park. Along with the neighboring Karamoja region, it houses many species found nowhere else in Uganda, including the greater and lesser kudu, eland and cheetah. Carnivores here include the lion, leopard, spotted hyena and black-backed and side-striped jackals. Other large species regularly seen here are elephant, Burchell’s zebra, bushpig, warthog, Rothschild’s giraffe, Cape buffalo, bushbuck, bushduiker, Defassa waterbuck, Bohor reedbuck, Jackson’s hartebeest and oribi.
The park boasts an extensive bird list of around 475 species, making it second only in Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National Park. A few species of note are the Ostrich, Kori Bustard and Karamoja Apalis.
Kidepo is notable for its birds of prey. Of the 56 species recorded, 14 – including Verreaux’s Eagle, Egyptian Vulture and Pygmy Falcon – are believed to be endemic to the Kidepo and Karamoja region.
Activities In Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park Game Drives are tracks where you can encounter the Wild of Africa without the crowds. This remote – unvisited park allows you to see the best of Africa while on a game drive.
Game drives in Kidepo Valley National Park depend on where you stay – if you stay at Apoka Lodge you will find that two activities a day such as game drives are included in the price of the room per night,
Other lodges such as Nga Mmoru Wildlife Camp or the Uganda Wildlife Authority Bandas mean that like in other wildlife parks we take you in our safari vehicle on game drives. We always use a Uganda Wildlife Authority Ranger who comes on board with weapon for your protection.
Kidepo Valley Park – some of the best game drives in all of Uganda.
Nature – Bush Walks – Hikes
Kidepo Valley Park has some great places for Nature and Bush Walks. There is nothing like taking in the African Wild on foot and there are not many better places to do so than Kidepo Valley Park.
There are also places outside of the park area where you can go for a hike such as an all day hike up the Morungole Mountains to visit the Ik People, one of the smallest ethnic groups in Uganda.
There are many places within the park where you can hike and or climb including Idi Amin’s dream lodge that was never completed while he was president of Uganda – maybe in the future as more visitors come to the park it will be.
All Nature Walks and Hikes within the Park will guided by Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers, you cannot wander off on your own in this remote park.
Birding – Kidepo Valley Park
Kidepo Valley Park is a great place for birders that also would like to enjoy wildlife in the remote Kidepo Valley Park.
Attractions in Kidepo
Kidepo can be visited all year through although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season, It is Quite hot and generally dry, whereas June to Sept: Rain is more prevalent, temperatures are still warm and storms rarely last more than an hour and it is usually advisable to use 4×4 vehicles while in the park.
Accommodation within and around the park is really scarce and the few reasonable options include Nga Moru Wilderness Camp and Apoka Safari Camp. The only budget accommodation available is Apoka Rest Camp managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Game viewing is what mostly brings visitors to this park – viewing herds of different game while driving in vehicles on dirt roads that crisscross the southern and western parts of the park. A few improved murram roads exist and are easily passable no matter the weather.
The best way to organize a visit to Kidepo national park is going through a local tour operator / Safari Company for ease of booking and a stress free tour. Note that you can book your activities from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala or at any entry points of the park as well but Kidepo is a difficult place to maneuver without the tested driving skills of a local.
By road, it is approximately 12 hours’ drive from Kampala. Regular scheduled flights by Aero Link take about 2 hours and fly into Kidepo from Entebbe airport. Charters can also be easily if you contact any of the flight operators or through your tour operator.
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.
Narus Valley is a rolling, grassland plain enclosed by distant mountains. The valley has permanent water, and for much of the year the park’s wildlife congregates here. Thus, the area is well provided with game tracks, with four loop circuits exploring the valley around Apoka. Many creatures such as lions, Jackson’s hartebeest, buffaloes, giraffes, oribis and reedbucks can be seen in the valley.
Less commonly seen are cheetahs and leopards. The Narus dam and the water hole near the Tourism Centre are perfect observation points for game, especially during the dry season. At the southern end of the Katurum loop, Katurum kopje (the site of a derelict lodge) is an attractive destination with superb views north across the valley towards the Morungule mountain range.
Kidepo Valley and Kanangorok Hot Springs
For most of the year, a lack of surface water means that little wildlife is found in Kidepo Valley, though it is still worth the drive to visit the dry Kidepo River to stroll along its 50m wide bed of white sand between banks covered with borassus palms. Kidepo means to pick from below and the valley was visited by people coming to gather fallen borassus fruit for fermenting to make palm beer. The Kanangorok Hot Springs lie 11km beyond the Kidepo River on the Sudan border. This is a glorious place to sit and view the mountains beyond the frontier.
Mount Morungole stands at 2,750m and is crossed by the Kidepo and Narus Rivers that nourish the park’s wildlife and this natural habitat as a whole. The Morungole Range marks the southern boundary of the park and rises from the plains a few kilometres northeast of Apoka. This region can be explored on foot with a ranger. The mountain slopes are home to the IK people, the smallest ethnic group in Uganda, with their own unique culture.
Namamukweny is a Napore word meaning a place with no birds or a lonely place with few people – though regarding the birds, quite the opposite is true! The valley is inhabited by a large number of bird species such as the Eastern Paradise Whydah, White-crested Turaco, Common Bulbul, Abyssinian Roller and Green Wood Hoopoe among others. It is located in the north-west of the park and can be accessed by car or on foot.
The Lomej Hills are a short drive from the headquarters. They are a good viewing point for birds and wildlife, including the mountain reedbuck.
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.
Want to travel to Kidepo? 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.
Safari Lodges in Kidepo
The facilities of accommodation in Kidepo Valley National Park are currently three; Apoka Safari Lodge, Apoka Rest Camp and Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp all distributed in Luxury (Apoka Safari Lodge), Mid-Range (Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp) & Budget (Apoka Rest Camp) safari settings.
Apoka Luxury Lodge
Apoka luxury lodge is located in the middle of Kidepo National Park with spacious rooms and private veranda. Each room has a sitting room and bathroom. A restaurant and swimming pool are available as well. Apoka Rest Camp, run by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, offers comfortable, affordable bandas within the national park, including bedding, mosquito netting and showers. It is suggested that you bring all your own food although it can be cooked for you if necessary.
Nga’moru Wilderness Camp
Nga’Moru Camp is situated on the border of the park only 4kms from the Katarum Gate. Here you will find comfortable accommodation in either Safari Tents under thatch or in Cabanas, and all accommodation is en-suite. Nga’Moru is located on a hill, and the camp offers spectacular views of the Narus valley and the savannah plains stretching all the way to the Morungole Mountains. Hyenas, Elephant, Waterbuck, Zebra and Lion are frequent visitors to the Camp.
It is recommended that a ranger-guide accompany you at all times whilst at Kidepo Valley National park and this can be arranged on arrival at Apoka. Park officials recommend that all vehicles travelling north into the Kidepo Valley be escorted by multiple armed guards due to the intermittent presence of poachers and cattle rustlers in the area. Kidepo Valley National Park is accessible either by road or by air.
How much does a Gorilla permit cost?
The prices of Gorilla permits in Uganda are fixed at 600 USD for both the high and low season. In the past the price would be lowered in the off peak seasons of February, March and April to 450 USD but due to increased demand for the permits it’s no longer the case.
The increase in demand for the Uganda Gorilla permits is primarily due to the fact that the Gorilla permit in Rwanda was increased from 750 USD to 1500 USD per permit effective 6th May 2017. That’s a 100 percent increment in the price of the permit.