KIDEPO NATIONAL PARK
Kidepo Valley National Park is located in Kaabong district on the extreme north- eastern corner of Uganda. It boarders Sudan and Kenya and covers a total area of 1442 Square Kilometers / 557 Square Miles. Kidepo valley National Park got its name from a Karamojong word ‘akidep’ which means ‘to pick’ from down. The borassus palm that lined Kidepo valley was visited by people coming to gather fallen borassus fruit for making beer, it was later transformed it into ‘Kidepo’ thus the name.
Though isolated, the park brags of being among Africa’s finest true wilderness parks and the few who make the long journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja would agree that it is also the most magnificent. The park is dominated by an open savannah grassland that is composed of a mixture of acacia and other perennial grasses plus dry thickets, short trees and shrubs. This vegetation covers the famous Narus valley to the south west and Kidepo valley to the north, mount Morungole standing at 2,750m. The park is crossed by two major seasonal rivers Kidepo and Narus that serves the park’s wildlife and this natural habitat as a whole.
The climatic conditions of Kidepo park dramatically vary and therefore you have a wide variety of flora at your glance.
Kidepo valley park has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species, around 475 bird species as well as 692 plant species and having a semi-arid and varied climate, kidepo valley national park boast to have 28 unique animal species not found anywhere else in Uganda. These include: striped hyena, aardwolf, caracal, cheetah, greater and lesser kudu, klipspringer, dik-dik, bright’s gazelle, and chandler’s mountain reedbuck. Occasional visitors to the park from south sudaninclude the african wild dogs. Other park dwellers include: lions, leopards, giraffes, zebras, african elephant, buffalo, waterbuck, jackson’s hartebeest, buffaloes, and both black-backed and side-striped jackal.
In the swamps of Narus also reside midget crocodiles, measuring about two and a half metres. There is nowhere in Uganda where “pigmy” crocodiles are found other than in Kidepo valley national park. It is said that their midget size is due to limited availability of food, water and space, as they are confined in a 10 metre long swamp.
The common bird species of Kidepo national park includes nubian woodpecker, abyssinian ground hornbill, long tailed grossy sterling, bruce’s green pigeon, eastern yellow and jackson’s hornbill, white-faced scoops owl, red cheeked cordon bleu, black-headed plover…to mention but a few.
Kidepo valley national park is also known for its birds of prey, 58 species of which have been recorded. These include lammergeier (gypaetusbarbatus), verreaux’s eagle (aquilaverreauxii), the pygmy falcon (polihieraxsemitorquatus), and egyptian vulture (neophronpercnopterus).Some of africa’s rarest and most sought after birds in the park are: the karamojaapalis (apaliskaramojae) and black-breasted barbet (lybiusrolleti).
Kidepo national park is the only park in Uganda where the biggest and fastest birds in the world -ostriches, are found. Ostriches can also be found in pianupe game reserve in karamoja sub-region.
Kidepo’s is usually dry for more than half of the year and during the dry season, the only permanent water source in the park is found in the broad Narus valley near apoka. because of the limited water sources, most of park habitants are usually confined to this valley and it is possible to spot elephants, lions and giraffes, jackson’s hartebeest, buffaloes, oribis and reedbucks many other creatures including cheetahs and leopards though rare.
This water source makes the Narus valley the park’s prime game viewing location and more amazing is that most predators such as lions are attracted to Narus valley because it has a variety of easy to catch prey. Another interesting factor about the lions of Kidepo valley national park is that they climb rocks as opposed to those of Ishasha which climb trees.
WHEN TO VISIT KIDEPO NATIONAL PARK
From September -March
Dry Season And The Best Season for visiting the Park
Time to visit this Park is open to visitors year round however if you are interested in getting the real authentic wildlife experience of Kidepo valley National Park, the most perfect season to Visit the Park is during the dry season; From September-March.
During this season, Water and grass becomes scares so it makes most of the park residents to be confined to Narus Valley because of its permanent water supply and grass.
This season also the game drive tracks and paths interconnecting to various game viewing spots are in good conditions so make game drives much easier.
For lovers of Camping, this season is the best to visit the Park to enjoy Camping on the savannahs of the Park underneath a starry sky.
Wet Season And Good enough to visit the Park
Though challenged by the dry season, the wet season which rains from April-August is also good enough. Visiting the Park during this season will make you enjoy what you wouldn’t have enjoyed in the dry season. Foristance, the Park’s vegetation is presented at its best, so you can enjoy the beautiful and stunning scenery of the Park.
For birders, this is the best time to encounter many bird species including migratory birds.
Visiting the Park during this season may also favor those who may not be comfortable with the heat of the dry season.
Worst Months From December-February
December-February are the worst months to visit the Park because of the too much sunshine and excessive heat. The temperature can rise up to 27.5°C. During these Months is also very dusty.
GETTING TO KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Kidepo National Park can be accessed by both Road and Air transport. Having a journey to this true Africa’s wilderness Park is rewarding though long. They are many alternative routes which all lead to Kidepo National Park.
And for those who would wish to connect to Kidepo Valley National Park by Air, Aero link arranges chartered flights to Kidepo National Park.
With many options, you decide which route is best to connect to the Park.
- Kampala-Karuma-Gulu-Kitgum-Kidepo (571km)
These is the nearest route to Kidepo National Park. From Kampala, you take the Northern route-drive through Luwero and make the first stopover at Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary afterwards continue with journey through Karuma then make a stopover in Gulu. Later go to Kitgum and finally connect to Kidepo National Park through Karenga.
The Journey may take you 10 hours.
- Kampala-Karuma-Lira-Kotido-Kaabong-Kidepo (705km)
You may also choose to take the northern route then branch off from Kamdin to connect to Lira then proceed with the journey to Kotido-Kaabong and finally to Kidepo Valley National Park.
The journey may take you about 12 hours.
To get to Kidepo Park by road, you can able use the Eastern route which seems further but the few who use it, indeed appreciate it. A long the routes are decorated with natural wonders.
- Kampala-Mbale-Nakapiripirit-Moroto-Kotido-Kaabong-Kidepo (740km)
Leave Kampala then drive through the Eastern route up to Mbale then connect to Nakapiripirit and continue with your North Eastern journey to Moroto. Proceed to Kootido and enter the Park via Kaabong. The Journey is long and may take you about 13 hour drive in a 4x4WD safari vehicle.
- Kampala-Mbale-Soroti-Moroto-Kotido-Kaabong-Kidepo (792km)
Alternative option is taking the Eastern route up to Mbale the connect to Kidepo Park through Soroti-Moroto-Kotido-Kaabong route
Because of the long journey, some visitors prefer getting to Kidepo by Air
Flights can be arranged from Kajjansi Airfield OR Entebbe International Airport to Kidepo’sLomej Airfield near Apoka.
Aero Link conducts scheduled flights to this National Park.