Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda Safari Attractions, Activities, Accommodations & How To Gettingo Kidepo National Park
Find all information about Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda such as wildlife viewing safaris in Uganda, attractions, activities, Kidepo Valley National Park safari lodges/accommodation/where to stay, how to book a Uganda safari, Uganda safari travel tips/advice, what to wear, when to go/best time to go for Uganda wildlife safaris in Kidepo National Park.
According to CNN, Kidepo National Park might be the most picturesque of all Africa safari wildlife parks. The alluring scenery of uniquely formed valleys, the untampered wilderness, and freely roaming animals is the sight that welcomes you to Kidepo Valley National Park that is located at the furthest end of North Eastern Uganda. With the sweeping plains of Kidepo and Narus Valleys overshadowed by the brooding mountainscape of Mount Morungole (the sacred peak of the mysterious Ik people,) this park has huge appeal just for the scenery alone.
The vegetation of Kidepo Valley National Game Park is high-catching grassland and savannah that spread into horizons beyond the eye can see. The broad savannah and its mountain backdrop indeed paint gorgeous scenery and if there wasn’t a single animal living there it would still be a wonderful place to visit. But, that is not a concern because the Uganda animals populations in Kidepo National Park are high and the sightings are easy.
Kidepo has a healthy population of the Big Five (except for a lack of rhino) and many birds of Uganda species here are not found elsewhere in Uganda such as cheetahs, hyenas, caracals, jackals, klipspringers, aardwolves, bat-eared foxes, dik-diks, ostriches, and greater and lesser kudus.
The most numerous are elephants, buffaloes, zebras, Uganda kobs, and hartebeests. As with the mammals in Uganda, there are plenty of birds exclusive to this park, and with nearly 500 species on the checklist, it should be a must-visit for travelers on Uganda birdwatching safari tours.
Besides the exceptional Uganda wildlife safari experience, this Uganda safari park is another great spot for cultural tours in Uganda especially for those who would like to see the Karamajongo, IK, Acholi peoples plus other great tribes. Kidepo is also the definition of remote, and the reason there are so few tourists here is that it is a hard place to reach, but absolutely worth the time and effort to get there.
Where Is Kidepo National Park Found In Uganda?
Kidepo Valley National Park is located in the far northeastern corner of Uganda in the Karamoja sub-region, about 520 kilometers by road northeast of Kampala City.
Kidepo Game park borders South Sudan to the northwest, and it is located about 5 kilometers from the eastern border with Kenya. The park is approximately 220km by road northwest of Moroto, the largest town in the sub-region.
How Big Is Kidepo Valley National Park?
Kidepo Valley National Park is the third largest of the 10 National Game Parks in Uganda after Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park covers an area of 1,442km² (557 miles²).
Kidepo National Game Park’s altitude rises dramatically from 900-1200 meters above sea level on the border with Sudan to 2750 meters at the top of the forested mountains of Morungole.
History Of Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1958 by the British colonial government, to clear the bush in the name of tsetse-fly control, and protect its larger wild inhabitants from poachers.
The original 1,259km² reserves were upgraded to national park status in 1962, the same year Uganda got its independence. It was extended to its present size of 1,442km² in 1969.
Kidepo National Park was named after the magnificent Kidepo River. The name ‘Kidepo’ is a derivative of the Karamonjong ‘akidep’ which means ‘to pick’ and this river was frequented by people traveling to collect ripe Borassus palm fruits from the Borassus palm trees that line this seasonal water to use for fermenting when making palm beer.
How To Get There To Kidepo Valley National Park In Uganda
A trip to Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park can be undertaken by road and air. When flying from abroad, you’ll arrive at Entebbe International Airport (EBB).
It is located 40km from the capital (Kampala). Your local Uganda tour operator will usually arrange for you to be picked up at the airport and will take care of all further transportation as part of your Uganda safari package.
Uganda Road Trip To Kidepo National Park
There are several routes to Kidepo Valley National Park. These include;
Kampala – Karuma – Gulu – Kitgum – Kidepo
This is the most direct route, through Gulu to Lokumoit Gate, and takes about (571) 10 hours’ drive. The trip can be broken up with an overnight stop at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Chobe Safari Lodge, Gulu, or Kitgum.
Two longer routes pass through the remote Karamoja sub region, arriving at Nataba Gate. These include
Kampala – Mbale – Sironko – Moroto – Kotido – Kaabong – Kidepo
This route is popular for travelers on a Uganda trip seeking to explore the real wilderness and authentic African lifestyle, as it was years back.
It is approximately 740km and takes a 12 hours’ drive. There are several attractions along this route to break the road travel.
The route takes the eastern direction from Kampala, traverses the Mabira rainforest, and crosses the mighty River Nile at Jinja town. The visitors have an opportunity to tour Lake Victoria and explore the source of the Nile.
To access Sironko town, branch to the right a few kilometers on Mbale-Soroti road. The hike to the Sipi falls in Sironko is exciting and a test of body fitness while the travelers explore life in the countryside touring coffee plantations and interacting with indigenous people.
The travelers on this route have an opportunity to explore Matheniko and Bokora wildlife reserves, wander into the wilderness and discover breathtaking landscapes in virgin territory. The travelers can opt to spend a night in Kapchorwa or Moroto towns.
Kampala – Mbale – Soroti – Moroto – Kotido – Kaabong – Kidepo
This route takes the eastern direction from Kampala bisects the Mabira rainforest and crosses the bridge on the Nile before accessing Jinja. The visitors on this route can tour the Nyero rock in Kumi town and explore the authentic African lifestyle. Kumi and Soroti are strategic towns for a night depending on which tourism activity visitors take part in to break the long travel. This route is about 792km and takes approximately 13 hours’ drive.
Note: Driving is rewarding, but road conditions are sometimes poor and a 4WD safari vehicle is recommended.
A Google Map Showing You How To Get There To Kidepo Valley National Park In Uganda By Road
Uganda Domestic Flights To Kidepo Valley National Park
The best and the fastest way to get to Kidepo Valley National Park is by a scheduled or chartered flight. Flights between parks are usually scheduled by your Uganda safari tour operator. They will also arrange for your pick-up from the airport or your hotel in most cases.
A flight to Kidepo Valley National Park takes about 2 hours from either Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airstrip in Kampala.
Aerolink operates scheduled domestic flights from Entebbe airport to Lomej airstrip in the Apoka tourism zone on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays departing at 12:30 hours and arriving at Kidepo at 14:45 hours.
Fly Uganda is another private air travel company that offers charter flights to Lomej airstrip. The airstrip at Lomej is approximately 3 kilometers (2 mi) south of the headquarters of Kidepo Valley National Park.
Civil Aviation Authority manages an airstrip at Lomej about 3 km south of the park headquarters.
What Are The Regulations In Kidepo Valley National Park?
- Do not feed wildlife.
- The animals always have a right of way.
- Do not camp or make campfires except at designated sites.
- Do not drive off the tracks.
- Do not disturb wildlife
- Do not drive in the park between 7:00 pm and 7:00 am.
- Do not bring dogs or other pets into the park.
- Do not litter.
- Do not bring firearms or ammunition into the park.
- Do not pick flowers or destroy any vegetation.
- Do not exceed the speed limit of 40km per hour (25mph).
Safari Attractions In Kidepo Valley National Park | What To See In Kidepo National Park?
There are a variety of attractions in Kidepo National Park to see while on your Uganda wildlife tour and safaris in Kidepo Valley National Park, these include;
- Over 77 Uganda animal species
- 475 Uganda bird species
- Spectacular valleys
- Unique Karamojongs and the mysterious IK people
Below is a detailed description of what to see in Kidepo Valley National Park during your safaris in Uganda.
Animals In Kidepo Valley National Park
The two dominant features of Kidepo National Park: the Narus Valley and Kidepo valley have habitats that support the largest concentrations of animals in the park.
The dominant wildlife habitat in the Narus Valley is open grassland studded with tall sausage trees and the massive elongated fruits for which they named.
The Kidepo valley supports drier acacia woodland, through some significant stands of Borassus palms which line the watercourse. Elsewhere are patches of montane forest and riparian woodland. The Kidepo National Park habitats support the most exciting animals in Uganda, though its total of 86 Uganda mammal species has been reduced to 77 after some became locally extinct in recent years.
Predators In Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is particularly rich in predators, with over 20 species recorded. Some of the predators you will see during your Uganda safari in Kidepo Valley National Park include;
- Lions are the most conspicuous predators in the park,
- Side-striped jackals are common around Apoka safari lodge, and
- Narus Valley is gaining a reputation for increasingly frequent sightings of
- Leopards and Spotted hyenas are also present.
- While Black-backed jackals, Bat-eared foxes, aardwolf, and caracals are not be found in any other National Park of Uganda.
- African wild dogs have been observed to come into the park from Sudan occasionally but are not residents in the park.
Antelopes In Kidepo Valley National Park
About 14 species of antelopes occur in the Kidepo Valley National Park including;
- Jackson’s hartebeests (common)
- Bohor reedbucks (common)
- Oribi (common)
- Elands (slightly common)
- The recently introduced Uganda kobs from Murchison Falls National Park
- Guenther’s dik-dik
- Greater kudu
- Lesser kudu
- Waterbucks (common)
- Bush duiker, and
- Grant’s gazelles.
- Mountain reedbucks
The localized whited-eared kob is an occasional vagrant from South Sudan. The beisa oryx and the roan antelope are believed to have been extirpated from the region.
Other Herbivores In Kidepo Valley National Park
African bush elephants: Kidepo National Park elephant population has surged from 200 in the mid-1990s to over 1000 today.
African buffalos: This is possibly the most numerous ungulates you will see while on Uganda wildlife safari in Kidepo. The park host an estimated population of around 15,000 buffaloes and herds of up to 1,000 buffalos are often encountered.
Rothschild’s giraffe: Kidepo is an important refuge for the localized Rothschild’s giraffe, which has bred up to more than 50 individuals from a bottleneck mid-1990s population of three, supplemented by another 3 translocated from Kenya.
Also, to provide a boost for the population’s viability, an additional 14 giraffes (13 females and one male) were translocated to the park in August 2018 from Murchison Falls National Park
Other common herbivores in the park include Burchell’s zebras, Warthogs, and bush pigs.
Primates In Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is home to 5 species of monkeys including
- The localized ground-dwelling Patas monkeys which are often seen around Apoka safari lodge
- Vervet monkeys
- Red-tailed monkeys, and
- Black and white colobus
Birds In Kidepo Valley National Park
With over 475 bird species, Kidepo Valley National Park has the second-highest population of any Ugandan protected area, following only Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Raptors are particularly well represented with about 56 species recorded, of which the most commonly observed include;
- Dark chanting goshawk
- Pygmy falcon
- Tawny eagle
- Bateleur eagle, and
- Several types of vultures such as Egyptian vultures, White-headed vultures, and others
Kidepo Valley National Park also supports East Africa’s only population of Clapperton’s francolin and the spectacular African rose-ringed parakeet. Other birds that must be regarded as Kidepo Valley National Park special include;
- Common ostrich
- Secretary bird
- Fox kestrel
- Greater kestrel
- Abyssinian roller
- Abyssinian Scimitarbill
- Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
- White-billed go-away bird
- Northern carmine bee-eater
- Little green bee-eater
- Red and yellow barbet
- Black-breasted barbet
- D’Arnaud’s barbet
- Kori bustard
- Karamoja Apalis
- Northern red-billed hornbill
- Eastern yellow-billed hornbill
- Jackson’s hornbill
- Rufous chatterer
- Purple grenadier
- Golden pipit
- Chestnut weaver
- Purple Heron, etc
Narus Valley In Kidepo National Park
The name Narus means ‘muddy’ in Karimong local dialect. Narus Valley is a rolling, grassland plain enclosed by distant mountains.
Wildlife here is prolific throughout the year, but doubly so in the later dry season (January to March) when the Narus River is the only reliable source of water for miles around.
The lion Rock within the valley is often frequented by lions and the crocodile pond often attracts huge herds of buffaloes and reliably hosts a profusion of water birds including;
- African jacana
- Yellow-billed stork
- White-faced whistling duck
- Various herons and egrets
Also, herds of 20 to 30 elephants often come to drink in the Narus River in the morning before marching back to more remote grazing grounds in the afternoon.
A unique feature of the Narus Valley is the spectacular thousand-strong herds of buffaloes that are frequently encountered around Apoka, generally preferring wooded savannah to open grassland.
These buffaloes are the main prey to the Kidepo Valley National Park population of around 190 lions which currently include two large prides of more than 20 individuals each.
Lions in Kidepo National Park are often seen on the park’s trademark granite outcrop which they use as lookout points. The Narus Valley is also gaining popularity for increasingly frequent sightings of Cheetahs. Other large mammals that can be found in Kidepo Valley National Park include;
- Burchell’s zebras
- Rothschild’s Giraffe
- Bohor reedbuck
- Jackson’s hartebeest
Birders can look for Clapperton’s francolin and the spectacular African rose-ringed parakeet, most especially around Apoka. Other unique bird species to look for in Narus Valley include;
- Abyssinian ground hornbill
- Superb starling
- Meyer’s parrot, and
- Black coucal (only seen in the rainy season)
Lions In Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park has a thriving and growing Lion Population. It is one of the best places to see lions on tour in Uganda. The lion population in Kidepo is estimated at around 190 individuals.
Africa’s largest predator, the lion ((Panthera leo), weighs up to 190kg. It is one animal that everybody hopes to see on an African safari. An adult lion’s coat is yellow-gold, and juveniles have some light spots that disappear with age. Only male lions typically boast manes, the impressive fringe of long hair that encircles their heads.
Lions tend to travel in prides, which is the name given to groups of lions. A Lion pride consists of up to 30 members.
Lions usually hunt at night and in the pride, it is the females that do the hard work by hunting for meat whilst the males patrol the territory around to keep an eye out for the whole pride. Usually, one pride has 2 or 3 male lions.
When not hunting or feeding, lions are remarkably indolent, they spend up to 20 hours of a given day at rest. Lions begin to age and weaken at between 10 to 15 years of age at the latest. A lion’s roar can be heard up to 8 kilometres/5 miles away.
These majestic creatures are the fiercest animals in Africa and are well known among various tribes in Uganda. The lion is locally known as Empologoma in Luganda local language, Labwor in Lwo, Kami in Lugbara, Italanyi in Lugusu and the Swahili people of Kenya and Tanzania call it Simba.
African Elephants In Kidepo Valley National Park
The African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is one of the Uganda animals that many look forward to seeing on a Uganda safari tour.
The African elephant is not only the biggest of the Big Five, but it is also the largest animal walking on the Earth. They can weigh up to 7,000kg, and stand up 13 ft tall. Elephants are instantly recognizable with their large ears, long curved tusks, and unique powerful trunks.
Living in family groups, these graceful-gentle giants are highly social and often visitors on wildlife safaris in Uganda find them very entertaining to watch. Female elephants live in a close-knit family in which the eldest female plays a matriarch over his sisters, daughters, and granddaughters.
Mother-daughter bonds are strong and may last up to 50 years. Male generally leave the family group at around 12 years to roam singly or form bachelor herds.
It is no myth that elephants ‘never forget’. With the largest brain of any land animal, elephants are intelligent mammals. They possess a developed sense of memory that allows them to recognize a long-lost member of their social group.
Additionally, they even grieve for dead relatives and harbour grudges against other elephants – or even people. Elephants have a long life span and typically live 60-70 years in the wild. Kidepo Valley National Park is home to about 700 elephants.
African Buffaloes In Kidepo
If seeing huge herds of African buffalos is high on your wish list for sightings during the travel in Uganda, visit Kidepo. The total population of buffaloes in Kidepo National park is about 15,000.
The African/Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), is a large African bovine. Although it looks like a cow, it is never domesticated because of its unpredictable nature and it is regarded as a very dangerous animal because buffaloes are responsible for over 200 human deaths every year.
The buffalo’s horns are its distinctive characteristic; it had fused bases which is a continuous bone shield referred to as a “boss”! They are also part of the ‘Big Five’ and you will find huge herds of them during your Uganda safari and tours in Kidepo national park, moving majestically along the Narus Valley.
Cheetahs In Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Game Park is one of the only two places where visitors on a wildlife tour in Uganda might see a cheetah, other place is Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve.
Cheetahs prefer the open grasslands, savannas, even hills, and mountains – all-terrain found in Kidepo Valley National Park. The openness of the park with its grasslands fits the Cheetah’s lifestyle and how they hunt, where they run instead of stalking and pouncing like other cats.
Although the leopard is listed as the most elusive of the big cats to locate on safari. In truth, cheetahs on safari can be even more difficult to sight because their population is less abundant.
Regular sightings of cheetahs on safari are usually sporadic and local, hence they are limited to only a few regions where the habitat and predator pressures are most favorable.
Almost everyone knows that this greyhound of the cat family is the fastest land animal on the planet – reaching speeds of 120km/h.
But this cat also has many other remarkable qualities. In fact, the cheetah’s unique body structure, long legs, flexible spine, semi-retractable claws, and long tail are what allow this incredible creature to achieve unbelievable speed.
Thanks to their tremendous speed, the cheetahs are among the most successful hunters. However, the advantage of speed comes with a lack of strength to fight the lions and hyenas and they usually snatch his food from him.
Kidepo Valley And Kanangorok Hot Springs
Kidepo National Park was named after the magnificent Kidepo River within the Kidepo Valley. Kidepo valley is famous for its scenic Borassus palm tree a delicacy of elephants as well as indigenous communities; they are beautifully scattered all through the valley.
Possibly, the name ‘Kidepo’ is a derivative of the Karamonjong ‘akidep’ which means ‘to pick’ and as the Kidepo Valley was frequented by people traveling to collect ripe Borassus palm fruits from the Borassus palm trees that line Kidepo River.
Wildlife is sparse in Kidepo Valley, partly because the valley is drier than Narus Valley and partly as a result of poaching.
Worth a visit is the beautiful seasonal Kidepo River itself, lined by lovely Borassus palm trees. The river is completely dry for the most time of the year and its 50 meters wide course is a swathe of white sand.
About 11 kilometers from the Kidepo River on the Sudan border is found the Kanangorok Hot Springs, a glorious place to sit and view the mountains beyond the frontier. The hot spring water is about 50°C temperature hot.
The local people believe that the water in Kanangorok hot springs contains some healing powers or spiritual cleansing hence visitors can find some people bathing therein. The thicket bush that surrounds the Hotsprings harbours lesser and greater kudus and it is the place to look out for;
- Uganda’s only population of Ostriches
- Secretary birds
- Jackson’s hornbills, and
- Speckle fronted weavers
Ostriches In Kidepo Valley National Park
As noted above, Kidepo is the National park where you can see ostriches while on your Uganda tours. The ostrich is the largest feathered creature on Earth.
It belongs to the ratite family, along with its similarly flightless cousins such as emus, cassowaries, and kiwis. It is also the holder of many other records for example;
Ostriches are the fastest birds on land and can reach a speed of 70kmh. This is not only the fastest land speed of any bird, and the fastest of any two-legged creature, but also faster than most birds can fly.
An ostrich’s eggs are the largest of any bird: at up to 15cm long and weighing up to 1.4kg. They are 20 times the size of a domestic chicken. Nonetheless, they are the smallest eggs of any bird – in relation to their body size.
Ostriches have the largest eyes of any land animal, measuring up to 5cm across. This helps them to perceive predators at a great distance. Heavy eyelashes help shield them from the sun.
Secretary Birds In Kidepo Valley National Park
The secretary bird is one of Africa’s weirdest birds. It struts about the savannah with the head of an eagle and the legs of a stork. In reality, it is a bird of prey – with a family all to itself. The Secretary bird possesses a snake-killing prowess that is the stuff of legend.
Snakes form only a small part of the secretary bird’s diet, which also includes insects, small mammals, birds’ eggs, crabs, and other reptiles.
Secretary birds use the thickened soles of their feet to stamp on their prey, stunning it, and then swallowing it whole.
Studies of the secretary bird’s feeding technique helped scientists to shed light on the hunting strategies of the prehistoric ‘terror birds’. These were giant flightless predators that roamed the planet over 3 million years ago.
There are different theories about the origins of the secretary bird’s name. One holds that the feathers behind the bird’s head reminded 19th-century Europeans of the quill pens that secretaries tucked behind their ears. It is more likely, however, that the name derives from the Arabic saqr-et-tair or ‘hunter bird’.
Mount Morungole In Kidepo Valley National Park
Mount Morungole (also known as the IK land) stands at 2,750m on the eastern border of Kidepo Valley National Park.
This forest-swathed range is best known as the main stronghold of Uganda’s last population of around 10,000 IK people (the smallest ethnic group in Uganda, with their own unique culture) who hold the mountain sacred. This region can be explored on foot with a ranger.
Namamukweny Valley In Kidepo Valley National Park
Namamukweny is a Napore word meaning “a place with no birds or a lonely place with few people”. However, regarding the birds, quite the opposite is true. The valley is inhabited by a large number of bird species such as;
- Eastern Paradise Whydah
- White-crested Turaco
- Common Bulbul
- Abyssinian Roller, and
- Green-Wood Hoopoe, etc.
Namamukweny Valley is located in the northwest of the park and can be accessed by car or on foot.
People And Culture At Kidepo Valley National Park
Several communities of people live around Kidepo Valley National Park; these include,
- The Karamojong people
- The IK people
- The Acholi and other tribes.
The Karamojong People
The name Karamojong was derived from the phrase “ekar ngimojong”, meaning “the old men can walk no further”. The Karamojong people are Uganda’s most distinctive tribe known for their love for cattle and cattle rustling and their resistance to the trappings of the modern world.
They take a lot of pride in their culture and customs, habor foreign interference and with their traditional lifestyle, and view new trends in life, travel, education, technology, dress, fashion, housing, medicines, religion, and several others as unnecessary inconvenience.
This cattle-herding group of people lives on the edge of Kidepo Valley National park in their manyattas (villages) surrounded by sharp thorns, with small entry points for people and a larger entry point for cattle.
History Of The Karamojongs
The Karamonjo people originated from a southerly migration by the Jie, an Abyssinian pastoralists tribe 300-400 years ago. On reaching the Kenyan-Ugandan-Sudanese border region, the Jie split to create the Toposa of Southern Sudan, the Turkana of Kenya, and the Dodoth of northern Karamoja.
Then some of the Turkana Jie crossed the mountains that line the present-day border Kenyans to the plains of northeastern Uganda.
Some groups remained around Kotido as the Uganda Jie. Others continued further, until the aged parents among them became fed up with walking, the gist of the word ‘Karamojonjo’ meaning ‘the old men can walk no further’ or “the old men sat down”.
The youth among them continued nomadic lifestyle further southwards, reportedly consisting of seven groups or clans who settled in today’s southern Karamoja, eventually merging to become the three clans now existing: the Matheniko in the east around Moroto Mountain, the Pian in the south, and the Bokora in the west.
However, a significantly sized group went west and formed the Iteso, the Kumam, and the Langi. It was actually this group who were said to have used the phrase “the old men can walk no farther”.
More recently, to more Westernized Ugandans, Karamojong was something of an embarrassment. The common view was that they were a backward lot, who ran around naked, and half-century ago, the latter was absolutely true.
The attire of male Karamojongs comprised solely of an elaborated style hairdo, a feathered headdress, a small T-shaped stool, and a spear, while the female dress was represented by a heavy roll of neck beads and a bit of a skirt.
These minimalist styles were pushed underground in the 1970s when Dictator Idi Amin Dada sent soldiers to impose Western dress on Karamonjong at gunpoint.
Men took to wearing, at the very best, a light blanket/cloak, usually of a striped or-interestingly suggested a Gaelic connection-tartan pattern.
During the 1990s, this was frequently worn as a sole item of clothing but these days, some additional layers now seem mandatory, most obviously in the undercarriage department.
Despite expanding wardrobes and pressure from Kampala to join the modern world, most rural Karamojongs remain true to their traditional way of life.
Communities still commonly inhabit manyattas; traditional homesteads in which concentric defensive rings of thorny brushwood surround a central compound containing huts, granaries, and cattle pens.
Unlike the rest of Uganda, some semblance of the cultural dress remains part of everyday attire. For men, this is epitomized by the cloak and some form of the Western hat with ostrich feathers added to indicate status.
Though the great-headed ruffs of yesteryear are less common, neck beads remain very much in vogue with the ladies.
The language of the Karamojongo people (Ngakarimojong) is an interesting and seemingly ancient curiosity. Scotsman John Wilson, who lived in and around Karamoja for 30 years, has identified numerous words and phrases of similar meaning in Ngakarimojong and Gaelic.
Subsequent investigation has identified further similarities with other widely spaced languages including Hebrew, Spanish, Sumerian, Akkadian, and Tibetan among others.
For example, we have bot (a house in Gaelic) and eboot (a temporary dwelling in Ngakarimojong); cainnean (live embers in Gaelic), and ekeno (a fireplace in Ngakarimojong).
The Spanish word corral, for a circular stock enclosure, is uncannily close to the Ngakarimojong synonym ekorr, and the Spanish ajorar for ‘theft of cattle’ is not dissimilar to the Ngakarimojong ajore meaning ‘cattle raid’.
The thinking is that these various, far-flung modern languages are legacies of a common tongue spoken by the ancient human population, presumably before the Tower of Babel incident and perhaps as far as back as the late Pleistocene.
If you’re on an Uganda safari tour to Kidepo, a visit to Karamajong Manyattas can be included in your Uganda safari itinerary. There is such a rich culture in these homesteads that have been preserved over the centuries and has not been eroded by civilization.
The Karamojong is proud of their traditional lifestyle. They highly value their traditional beliefs and have rejected outside religions such as Christianity and Islam. To them, Akuj is still the god of their faith who they believe gave them the birthright of all the cattle in the Karamoja region and the world beyond.
They consider cattle royalty and it is the measure of a man. The number of cows the family head possesses is a sign of wealth, prestige, and social status symbol.
These people believed and many still believe that all the cattle in their known world or their area of existence were given to them by their god Akuj and that the cattle of the neighboring tribes were also theirs.
This belief is probably the root of years and years of tribal wars and cattle rustling because the neighboring tribes have the same belief.
The IK People (The Mountain People), Kidepo
You will need an early morning start to climb up into the Morungole Mountains for a visit with the mysterious Ik people. The climb is steep, part of the adventure of the day.
The IK is the smallest ethnic group in Africa, of between 10,000 to 11,000 people. In the local language, “IK” loosely translates to “the first to migrate here”.
True to the meaning of their name, they were the first settlers in the region possibly running away from their warrior neighbors.
The Mountain People, the IK are traditional hunter-gatherers who probably migrated from present-day Ethiopia and speak a unique language quite different from the Karamojong tongue.
Today the IK ranks among the most marginalized and isolated Ugandans, having been forced to turn to subsistence farming and beekeeping in response to outside factors such as their eviction from Kidepo Valley National Park and victimization from Karamoja cattle raiders.
But they also retain a strong sense of tradition, with ritual hunts for the small game being several times of the year, usually over the period between January and February.
The IK people became famous in 1972 when British-American anthropologist Colin Turnbull published his book “The mountain people” in which he described the IK people he comes across as people who did not love.
However, a visit to one of the IK villages on mount Morungole will disapprove that, they are loving, welcoming and Turnbull simply got it wrong. Like the Batwa people of southwestern Uganda, IK people still practice their ancient ways.
Uganda Safari Activities In Kidepo Valley National Park | What/Things To Do In Kidepo National Park?
They are a variety of things to do in Kidepo Valley National Park. Uganda safari Activities in Kidepo valley national park include;
- Game drives,
- Bird watching,
- Hiking and nature walks,
- Cultural visits
All these activities in Kidepo National Park are done after paying a park entrance fee. Below is a table showing Kidepo Valley National Park entry fees.
|Visitor category||Park entry fees (per person)|
|· Foreign Non-Residents (adult)||· US$ 40|
|· Foreign Non-Residents (children)||· US$ 20|
|· Foreign Residents (adults)||· US$ 30|
|· Foreign Residents (children)||· US$ 10|
|· East African Citizens (adults)||· UGX 20,000|
|· East African Citizens ( children)||· UGX 5,000|
A day’s entrance ticket to Kidepo Valley National Park is valid for 24 hours from the time of entrance. Extra time spent in the park after 24 hours will be charged as an extra day.
Children are persons aged between 5-15 years. Persons below 5 years are exempt
Entrance fees are independent of package activities such as game drives, bird watching, nature walks, and others.
Game Drives In Kidepo National Park
For travelers on Uganda tours, Kidepo Valley Park offers some of the best game drives in all of Uganda. The best thing is that you feel that you are all alone; it is Africa without the Crowds.
Much of Kidepo is flat terrain with scenic undulating hills scattered in a few spots. The vegetation is high catching grassland and savannah that spread into horizons beyond the eye can see. These natural conditions make spotting gems less difficult and game viewing is highly successful.
There is night and the normal daytime game drives in Kidepo. There are two sections in Kidepo valley national park where game drive safaris are conducted; Narus valley and Kidepo valley.
Narus Valley Game Drive
Situated south of Apoka, the Narus Valley is the Kidepo National Park’s prime game-viewing area as wildlife congregates here for much of the year, and more abundant during the later dry season from January to March when the Narus River is the only reliable water source in the park.
Narus can explore along two excellent road loops, both around 15-20km long, that runs south from Apoka.
These are the Kakine Circuit, whose centerpiece Kakine rock also known as Lion rock is often frequented by lions, and Katurum Circuit, named after a currently disused Cliffside lodge built in the Amin era.
A landmark along the road connecting these two circuits is a pair of lily-covered crocodiles ponds which often attract large herds of buffaloes and host a great variety of waterbirds such as White-faced whistling ducks, African jacana, yellow-billed storks, several egrets, and herons.
On either circuit, you should look out for the herds of 20 to 30 elephants that come here to drink from the river in the mid-morning, before moving back to more remote grazing areas of the park in the afternoon. They are usually quite relaxed around vehicles.
Narus Valley is also famous for huge herds of buffaloes that are frequently encountered here around Apoka. These attract prides of lions of around 20 individuals who come to prey on them.
Other large mammals you will see in Narus Valley during your wildlife drive in Kidepo Valley National Park include Burchell’s zebras, Rothschild’s giraffes, warthogs, elands, Jackson’s hartebeests, Bohor reedbucks, and Oribi.
Wildlife is most active in the Narus Valley during early mornings and late afternoon between 6 am and 4 pm are optimum times to set off on game drives.
Kidepo Valley Drive
Compared to the Narus, the dry Kidepo Valley is short on the big game but massive on scenery.
The hour-long drive to Kanangorok hot springs passes some magnificent landscapes, 30 kilometers north of the park’s tourism hub at Apoka, the road crosses the dry, sandy bed of the Kidepo River to enter an expansive plain lined to the east by the Morungole mountain range and to the north by the looming, 2975m high Jebel Lotuke in South Sudan.
Mammals are rare in this area but ostriches and secretary birds are often seen. The thick bush around hosts lesser and greater kudus
Night Game Drive In Kidepo Valley National Park
A night game drive is the only game viewing time that clearly exposes you to the nocturnal animals such as cheetahs, leopards, lions, jackals, hyenas, and others. There are chances of lions or leopards feeding on their hunted prey.
Night drives in Kidepo are done in the company of a ranger guide and are best done in a 4×4 safari vehicle.
Day Game Drives Fees In Kidepo Valley National Park
- US$20—Foreign Non-resident and Foreign Resident Visitors
- UGX 20,000—East African Citizens
Night Game Drives Fees In Kidepo Valley National Park
- US$40—Foreign Non-Resident and Foreign Resident Visitors
- UGX 40,000— East African Citizens
Bird Watching In Kidepo Valley National Park
For travelers on bird watching tours in Uganda, Kidepo Valley National Park host over 457 species of birds, the second-highest population of any protected area in Uganda, following only Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Sixty birds on its list haven’t been recorded in any other Uganda safari park. No comprehensive survey has been done, so visitors could easily see some species not previously recorded for the park.
Kidepo is perfect for Uganda safari national park/destination for spotting raptors, with 56 species on record, of which the most commonly observed include;
- Pygmy falcon
- Dark chanting goshawk
- Tawny eagle
- Bateleur eagle, and
- Several types of vultures such as Egyptian vultures, White-headed vultures, and others
The Narus Valley is a great site where birders can look for Clapperton’s francolin and the spectacular African rose-ringed parakeet, most especially around Apoka. Other unique bird species to look for in Narus Valley include Abyssinian ground hornbill, Superb starling, Bateleur, Meyer’s parrot, and Black coucal (only seen in the rainy season).
The lily-covered crocodile ponds in the Narus Valley also host a great variety of waterbirds such as White-faced whistling ducks, African jacana, yellow-billed storks, several egrets, and herons.
The thicket bush around Kanangorok Hot Springs in the Kidepo valley is the only place in Uganda to look for Ostriches. Secretary birds, Jackson’s hornbills, Speckle fronted weavers, and other bird species can also be seen around this area.
Other Kidepo National Park special to look for the wing on your birding tour to Kidepo Valley National Park include Fox Kestrel, Greater kestrel, Abyssinian roller, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, White-billed go-away bird, Northern carmine bee-eater, Little green bee-eater, Red, and yellow barbet, Black-breasted Barbet, Kori bustard, Karamoja Apalis, Golden pipit, Chestnut weaver and several others.
Guided Birding Tour Fees In Kidepo Valley National Park
- US$30—Foreign Non-Resident and Foreign Resident Visitors
- UGX 10,000 —East African citizens
Hiking/Nature Walks In Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is vast, beautiful, and full to the brim. To many travelers on a tour in Uganda, Kidepo has the exact features of the authentic African wilderness.
Flat plains in scenic landscape and land features where beautiful wildlife species spread into all corners of the grasslands and mingle at will.
Visitors on Uganda hiking safaris in Kidepo Park can walk 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. The Morungole range, which rises from the plains to the northeast of Apoka, can be explored on foot with a ranger guide escort.
Short nature walks around Apoka Rest Camp provides the chance to view species such as zebras, hartebeest, and reedbucks.
Longer walks through the open grasslands of East Kakine provide sightings of giraffes, buffalo, elephants, and perhaps distant lions.
Visitors can also explore part or all of the 15km Rionomoe Trail on the southern side of the Narus valley. All walks require a ranger guide.
Lonyilli Mountain is situated near the park on the border of South Sudan is a great ideal for nature walks and mountain hiking. The mountain provides striking views of the splendid montane forest canopy and an overview of Kidepo valley and South Sudan at a far distance.
The magnificent mountain is largely covered by montane forest making it and habitat for a good number of primates like red-tailed and black and white Columbus monkeys.
Guided Nature Walks Fees In Kidepo Valley National Park
- US$20—Foreign Non-Resident Visitors
- U$15—Foreign Resident Visitors
- UGX 10,000—East African citizens
Kidepo Lonyili Summit Hike fees
- US$50—Foreign non-resident and foreign Resident Visitors
- UGX 50,000—East African Citizens
Cultural Visits At Kidepo Valley National Park
A Uganda cultural safari to Kidepo National Park presents an opportunity for visitors to experience the authentic culture of the Karamojong and IK people.
The Lorukul Cultural Group is located just outside Park. Their main livelihood is herding livestock, and the social and cultural importance will be explained as you walk with the guides to the traditional Karamojong manyattas (homesteads), granaries and cattle enclosures.
Learn how the villagers make their distinctive beads, sample the local cuisine, and even meet the Karamojong King, who will narrate the tribe’s folklore and beliefs.
Also, Kidepo Valley National Park was the traditional hunting territory of the mysterious Ik tribe, one of Africa’s most culturally-intact communities.
The 3-hour trek up to the Ik villages high on the slopes of Morungole Mountain offers an unforgettable opportunity on your Uganda safaris tours to make friends among the charming people who were (inexplicably) portrayed as the world’s nastiest people in the 1973 best-seller The Mountain People by Colin Turnbull.
Accommodation In Kidepo Valley National Park | Where To Stay In Kidepo Valley National Park?
There are several Uganda safari lodges where visitors can stay during their travel to Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Par ranging from;
- Luxury safari lodges in Kidepo Valley National Park
- Midrange safari lodges in Kidepo Valley National Park
- Budget safari lodge in Kidepo Valley National Park
Luxury Uganda Safari Lodges In Kidepo Valley National Park
- Kidepo Apoka Safari Lodge
Apoka safari lodges are the only high-end Uganda safari lodge in Kidepo Valley National Park found inside Kidepo valley national park strategically located overlooking the Narus River Valley.
The lodge was built with everything handmade by the local craftsmen with only wooden materials to avoid meddling with the natural appearance of the park.
Accommodation At Apoka Safari Lodge
There are 10 expansive rooms with natural canvas walls surrounding a rocky kopje with endless views across the savannah.
With inside sitting rooms and private verandas, there are plenty of places for you to relax, read, and sprawl during your Uganda safari holidays here.
Big hand-hewn beds with soft duvets are draped with mosquito nets, hand-woven woolen carpets, extra-large plush towels, oversized dressing gowns.
The rooms at Apoka have been built with comfort in mind. Everything is handmade by local craftsmen, everything is large and capacious.
Facilities At Apoka Safari Lodge
- An outdoor stone bathtub, big enough to fit the whole family.
- The swimming pool at Apoka Lodge is deep and cool and has been carved out of the big rock. This is the kind of pool that makes you want to jump in, splashing and yelling, feeling like a kid again.
- Apoka lodge also has an excellent restaurant that will provide all kinds of meals upon prior booking, the lodge is basically in a remote dry region, and water and food supply are limited.
- The lodge bar is also fully equipped with different kinds of wines and beer for guests to explore when relaxing at the lodge.
Midrange Uganda Safari Lodges In Kidepo Valley National Park
- Kidepo Savannah Lodge
Kidepo Savannah Lodge is situated on the edge of Kidepo Valley National Park. Being just 500 meters away from Kalokudo gate, the lodge is literally on a stone’s throw from the park.
It offers unparalleled vistas of the expansive Narus Valley, Mount Morungole, and the distant mountain ranges which form the border with Southern Sudan.
The lodge is inspired by the savannah surroundings, the grasslands, rocky outcrops, and by the Karamajong, the tribe with their typical Manyattas and colorful blankets.
Accommodation At Kidepo Savannah Lodge Include;
Self-Contained Safari Tents
- The Lodge has 12 beautifully appointed safari tents on raised decks.
- Each is spacious and has a private verandah that offers splendid views of the mighty savannah.
- Comfortably furnished with 1 double or 2 single beds, all safari tents have an ensuite bathroom with 24 hours hot showers, running water for hand-basins, and a flushing toilet.
Non-Self-Contained Safari Tents
- For visitors on a Uganda budget safari, Kidepo Savannah Lodge offers 9 non-self-contained tents.
- These are comfortably furnished with 2 single or 1 double bed, a bedside table, and a power outlet for charging your electrical equipment.
- The views into the park are vast and magnificent with an occasional herd of elephants or buffaloes passing by.
- The tents share a communal ablution block with hot showers and flushing toilets.
- No need to worry about linen as all bedding and towels are provided.
Facilities And Services At Kidepo Savannah Lodge Include;
The thatched dining and bar area offers one of the finest views over the Park.
The vistas stretching up to southern Sudan are just breathtaking but so are the starry skies.
From the wooden deck in front of the restaurant, one can often witness the Milky Way-like only National Geographic can catch.
Dinners are 4-course meals while during lunch 2 courses are served.
Because everything on-site runs off solar, including the fridges and freezers, the lodge work with a fixed menu but if you have any dietary requirement you will be catered for.
- Adere Safari Lodge
Adere Safari Lodge is a midrange accommodation near Kidepo Valley National Park.
The accommodation at the lodge includes 20 self-contained chalets sleeping a maximum of 20 pax in single rooms, with a comfortable lounge where you can read the in-house book collection.
Facilities And Services At Adere Safari Lodge Include;
- A restaurant that serves different meals-breakfast, lunch, and dinner indoor and outdoor while enjoying the stunning beauty of the park.
- A well-stocked bar with both soft and hard drinks
- A swimming pool to cool off that hot Kidepo afternoon
- Solar electricity is available to full time
- Free parking spaces are available
- Laundry services are available
- Wi-Fi is available
- Nga Moru Wilderness Camp
Nga Moru which also means “a place of rocks” is also a mid-range lodge in Kidepo valley national park positioned close outside the park boundary, also overlooking the Narus river valley that contains large groups of animals and other wildlife species.
This is a great place to relax while viewing wildlife during your Uganda adventure vacation in Kidepo.
Accommodation At Nga Moru Wilderness Camp
Nga Moru wilderness camp has 5 comfortable and spacious rooms/caravans, all with en suite bathrooms and veranda overlooking Narus valley. The rooms have both warm and cold showers.
Facilities At Nga Moru Wilderness Camp
- Restaurant- provides meals of all kinds and dietary requirements are also considered upon prior notifications.
- Bar-fully stocked will all kinds of beer, spirits, and wines
- Laundry services
Budget Uganda Safari Accommodation In Kidepo Valley National Park
- Apoka Rest Camp
Apoka rest camp is found in the Kidepo valley national park are north of northern Uganda situated in the westerly Narus valley with accommodation in 10 thatched rondavels. It is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Accommodation At Apoka Rest Camp Include;
16 self-contained chalets are offered at this camp which is a hostel consisting of 14 bandas each having 2 beds and they are not self-contained.
Visitors intending to camp have to carry their own tent along with other camping gear.
Facilities At Apoka Rest Camp
They don’t offer food or drinks to visitors. Visitors are advised to carry enough food plus drinks to last them throughout their stay within the park.
In other words, cooking may be organized by the staff of the camp plus other additional diets like goat meat and chicken organized from the close-by community intended for visitors that intend to stay longer. Other facilities include toilets outside the cabins and bandas.
- Kakine & Nagusokopire Campsites
These two UWA campsites overlook the stunning Narus Valley. A shelter, flushing toilets, water, and firewood are provided as well as a ranger guide to entertain guests with cultural stories and other local information.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kidepo National Game Park
What Is The Weather And Climate Like In Kidepo Game Park?
- The climate of Kidepo National Park is semi-arid.
- Droughts are quite common.
- Temperatures can reach as high as 40°C/104°F, but average around 29°C/84°F in the afternoon and 17°C/63°F at night.
- There is one Wet season (differing from two Wet seasons in most of the country) from April to August.
- The dry season starts from September to March.
- January and February are the warmest months with daytime temperatures of 32°C/90°F and morning temperatures of 18°C/64°F.
When To Visit Kidepo Valley National Park?
The best time to visit Uganda’s Kidepo national park is during the Dry season (September to March).
Kidepo is however located in a semi-arid region and can be visited throughout the year. The Wet season months (April to August) are pleasantly less hot and bring beautiful scenery. Bird watching is at its best at this time as well.
Is It Safe To Visit Kidepo Valley National Park?
Kidepo is safe to visit. The park is located in the Karamoja region in northeastern Uganda. This part of the country has been volatile in the past but is now locally considered safe.
However, some countries have issued travel warnings for the region in the past and haven’t changed them – with the exception of the national park – despite the situation improving.
Before driving, it is recommended to get local advice about the safety situation en route to the park, and if there are any concerns, there’s always the option of a domestic or chartered.