Kidepo Valley National Park (Kidepo NP) lies in the rugged, semi arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Kidepo NP is Uganda’s most isolated national park, but the few who make the long journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja would agree that it is also the most magnificent, for Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. It has a profusion of big game and hosts over 86 mammal species and over 475 bird species.
Water is the most vital resource in this park. With just one short wet season, between April and October, Kidepo NP has a long dry spell that fills the remainder of the year. During the dry season, the only permanent water in the park is found in the wetlands and remnant pools of the broad Narus Valley near Apoka. These seasonal oases, combined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing location.
The Kidepo valley system in the east and north-east occupies the remaining two thirds of the entire park. Nyangea-Napore hills and Morungole and Zulia hill ranges hold the sources of most rivers in Karamoja, including River Nalakas and River Kidepo.
With at least 86 mammal species, 475 bird species and 692 plant species, Kidepo Valley National Park is among the most biologically diverse in Uganda, rivalled only by Queen Elizabeth NP and Murchison Falls NP.
The park contains one of the most exciting faunas of any Ugandan national park. Along wit h the neighbouring Karamoja region, it houses many species found nowhere else in Uganda, 28 of the 86 species of mammals in Kidepo NP are not found in any other of Uganda’s national parks. Some of the animals unique to this park include the eland, striped Hyena, Aardwolf, Caracal, Cheetah, greater and lesser Kudu, Klipspringer, Dik-dik, Bright’s Gazelle and Chandler’s Mountain Reedbuck.
Many of the other large mammals found elsewhere in Uganda such as African Elephant, Zebra, Buffalo, Waterbuck, Jackson’s Hartebeest, Lion, Leopard, and both Black-Backed and side-striped Jackal, are found here. Other large species regularly seen here are Bushpig, Warthog, Giraffe, Bushbuck, Bushduiker, and Oribi.
The Narus valley is very important for the elephants in the park and also holds a population of Nile crocodiles, which, during the dry season, is restricted to a 10km long section of the Narus River that retains water intermittently in depressions or pools. Perhaps due to limited availability of food, water and space, the crocodiles have a diminutive size with a maximum length of 2.5m.
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. There has, however, been no comprehensive survey of birds in Kidepo and visitors stand a good chance of adding to the current list.
The park is outstanding for its birds of prey, of which 58 species have been recorded including Lammergeier, Verreaux’s eagle, the Pygmy Falcon, and Egyptian Vulture. Fourteen raptors are unique to this park in Uganda. Of the Hornbills which are characteristic of the savannah habitat, five species are represented. Some of Africa’s rarest and most sought after birds occur in Kidepo, including the the Karamoja Apalis and Black-Breasted Barbet.
Birding Safari: Apoka Rest Camp is a great spot to begin your Kidepo birding experience. Birding can also be done on the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys. Among the birds seen are the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo. The activity can be arranged both in the morning and evening.
Wildlife Safari: Wildlife is most active in the Narus Valley early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Park rangers are at hand to protect and help visitors spot wildlife, including lions, elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, Kavirondo bush baby, buffalo and much more.
Scenic Drive: Though wildlife is scarce in the arid Kidepo Valley, the hour-long drive to Kanangorok Hot Springs passes some magnificent landscapes. North of Apoka, beyond the river crossing, the road passes between rock outcrops and hills before descending into the Kidepo Valley, crossing the Kidepo Sand River and traversing open plains that extend past Kanangorok Hot Springs towards mountains across the Sudanese border. This is the part of the park where ostriches are most commonly seen.
Nature Trekking: The Lomej Mountains can be reached on foot in four hours, the hike starts at 7am. Shorter guided walks of around two hours can be taken through the Narus Valley extending over a 5km radius from Apoka Tourism Centre. Visitors can also wander along the splendid Kidepo River Valley between banks of attractive borassus palm forest. Namamkweny Valley can be reached in one hour from Apoka. Visitors can also meet members of the IK tribe during prearranged hikes to the Morungole Mountains outside the park.
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