Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kidepo Valley National Park

The Kidepo Valley National Park attracts the attention and curiosity of many.  This remote park in the Karamoja region of northeast Uganda offers outstanding views and gives you a true wilderness feel.  It is Uganda's least explored park but is quickly gaining popularity.  CNN recently named it among the top 10 parks in Africa for its spectacular landscape and its large herd of buffalo.  For those who embark on a Kidepo safari, which can be done by either road or air, you will not regret your decision.  The masses are absent from this park and the all too familiar scene of dozens of cars surrounding an animal certainly don't occur in Kidepo.  In December we made the journey to KVNP for our third time.  As we descended the mountain pass into the Kidepo Valley we instantly remembered why we love this place so much.  The wild remote feel is just too much to keep us away, this is the real Africa, the Africa that seeps deep into your heart!

Looking out over the savannah of the Narus Valley
Kidepo in the local Karamajong language means "to pick".  The valley got its name from the numerous people that came to pick up the fallen fruit from the Borassa Palms for making Palm Beer.  During our time in Kidepo, we stayed at the N'ga Moru Wilderness Camp which is situated just outside of the park and is approximately 4 kilometers from the Katarum park gate.  The camp is a relaxed place with great views of the Narus Valley and surrounding mountains.


The Kidepo Valley is not teeming with plains animals so don't go expecting to see large herds of antelope like so many other parks in Uganda.  What you can expect is pretty much everything in between including a few species found nowhere else in Uganda, the greater and lesser kudu, eland and cheetah. Other species found in Kidepo are lion, leopard, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, side-striped jackal, elephant, Burchell’s zebra, bushpig, warthog, Rothschild’s giraffe, Cape buffalo, bushbuck, bushduiker, Defassa waterbuck, Bohor reedbuck, Jackson’s hartebeest and oribi to mention a few of the 77 mammal species in the park.  We spent hours driving around and exploring the many bush tracks, besides spotting plenty of amazing animals we encountered the large herd of Cape buffalo that Kidepo is renowned for, all while enjoying spectacular views and scenery.  Kidepo is abound with stunning views and vistas and sometimes you just need to stop driving, find a scenic spot (not hard) sit there for awhile and enjoy it!  You may also be amazed at what starts to come to life around you.

Kidepo boasts over 475 species of birds, making it the second top national park in Uganda for birding.  The best place to begin is around the Uganda Wildlife Authority bandas at Apoka where you can arrange for a guide/ranger who will accompany you in the park and help to spot and identify many different species.  Although we didn't do a dedicated bird safari, we were happy to see many species that we had never seen in the wild before and gain ourselves a few "ticks" for the bird book.
Abyssinian Roller

  • Common Ostrich
  • Secretary Bird
  • Abyssinian Roller
  • Rufous-crowned Roller
  • White Crested Helmet Shrike
  • Northern White-crowned Shrike
  • Knob Billed Duck
  • White Faced Whistling Duck
  • Ruppells Griffon Vulture
  • Clapperton's Francolin
  • Spotted Redshank
  • Speckled Pigeon
  • Eurasian Hoopoe
  • Jackson's Hornbill
  • Hemprich's Hornbill
  • Nubian Woodpecker
  • Silverbird
  • Fan Tailed Raven
  • Superb Starling

A visit to the Kidepo River, a seasonal river near the South Sudan border is well worth it.  A UWA ranger will accompany you on the journey as there is little or no mobile phone network in that area.  There isn't a lot of game in this section of the park but it's a nice easy drive. We did manage to see ostrich, zebra, secretary birds, jackson’s hartebeest and oribi. The area is also home to cheetah which managed to elude us. This is also a great opportunity for spotting various bird species that you are unlikely to see in other parts of Kidepo.  Our ranger told us that water flows in the river about three times per year during flash floods and generally flows for only five hours. What a sight that would be.

Sitting in the Kidepo River

A little further north from the Kidepo River, approximately 11 km from the South Sudan border is a hot spring.  Now to be perfectly honest, the hot spring is nothing more than a couple pools of water on the ground.  You can get up close and dip your hand in to feel the temperature of the water however after a quick look around you're likely to be back in your vehicle.  Despite the anticlimactic nature of the hot springs themselves, we did see a number of birds on the drive between the Kidepo River and the spring, so it is worth checking out.

Kanangorok Hot Springs

Kidepo has three designated camping sites.  There is a campsite at the UWA ranger post in Apoka while the other two are remotely based within the park and require you to be accompanied by a ranger which can be organized from the ranger post in Apoka.  The remote sites are both perched atop a hill with rocky outcrops and have incredible views across the valley. The sites are equipped and supplied with firewood, a couple of open thatched rondovals that provide shade and shelter, water and long drop toilets. I would have to rank these two campsites among the top in Uganda.  Each provides superb 360 degrees views of the Narus Valley.  If you really want to understand and appreciate why Kidepo has been named one of Africa's top 10 parks, take some time to visit these sites.  Even if you don't intend to camp they make a great spot for a lunch stop or sundowners.

Taking some time to enjoy the view from one of the remote campsites

If you are planning a visit to Kidepo Valley National Park, a detailed map of the park can be found here: Kidepo Valley NP Map

Young lioness


  1. Hi,thank you so much for sharing your safari experiences, i always wanted to start a safari company, with your experiences you have made me feel i should have done that earlier, i also feel that i done know my own country. I am definitely including KVNP on my list.

  2. Hi guys,
    Thanks for the referral!
    Rumor has it that Andy Roberts will soon have one of his beautiful hand-painted maps available for KVNP as well.

  3. I feel happy after analysis your lovely post. The all added photograph of Kidepo national park is really looks startling. I just loved it.