Far detached from other natural bio diversity areas of Uganda in the Northeast in Kaabong district at the border of Sudan and Kenya, Kidepo valley national park is one of the most exciting natural habitats to visit. Kidepo valley national park was first recognised as a protected area for wildlife species in 1958 when it was turned into a game reserve to alleviate human vices that were detrimental to the eco system by the British colonial masters. In 1962, the newly independent government of Milton Obote, transformed it into a national game park.
The topography of Kidepo valley national park consists of two main valleys of Kidepo and Narus and Morungole mountain with a vegetation cover of open savannah grasslands and semi arid vegetation. The two valleys of Kidepo and Naurs are the two most productive areas in the park and where most animals call home. Each Valley has a river that feeds it, the two rivers being seasonal with the water flow occurring in the rainy spell. This is why animals are seen migrating from the two valleys in the dry season to the north of the park at Kanangorok a tepid hot spring. The hot spring in Lotukei at the border of South Sudan is the permanent water source in Kidepo national park.
With its scenic and wilderness topography, Kidepo valley national park is regarded as of the best tourism destinations in Africa for game viewing. The open savannah enables visitors to watch the wildlife clearly.
More to that Kidepo valley national park is an ore of wildlife species, it has about 76 animal types and over 474 bird species. It has inimitable species which are not found elsewhere in Uganda for example ostriches, cheetahs, wild dogs, maneless zebras and orx. There also other common mammals found in this habitat and these include buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, klipspringer, hyenas, bush bucks, elands, antelopes, jackal, bat eared fox and many more.
Nonetheless with all the mentioned wildlife species, Kidepo national park remains the least visited natural tourism destination in Uganda. Kidepo valley national park receives less visitors because of its remoteness. The park is so far away from the capital of Uganda kampala. The distance between kidepo and kampala is over 570kms. The visitors find it very difficult to travel that far. Some roads also leading to the park from the nearby towns are in a sorry state, they are almost impassable especially on a rainy day. Also in the past years, the northern areas where kidepo is located had lots of instabilities caused by the Kony rebels and people feared to travel to the place.
However, as time has gone by there has been some beacon of hope, Kidepo national park is making great leaps, many travellers have started to include it on their Uganda safari itineraries. The wars are no more hence turning into a peaceful and safe place to be, the road network is steadily improving and also other tourism auxiliary services like safari lodges are being established.
Activities to do at Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley national park is regarded as one of the best places in Africa to view game and engage in the different safari activities. It offers a lot of exciting and captivating activities to travellers and below are the things to do in the park.
Game drives: This is one of the most exciting activities to do in Kidepo valley national park. Game drive involves driving 4×4 pop up roof vehicle in search of the various animals in the park. The lawns of Kidepo are utterly open which makes game viewing an amazing experience. The game drives normally lead to the popular homes of wildlife species like Narus and Kidepo valleys. In these valleys, there are animals like buffaloes, leopards, giraffes, elands, oribis, Uganda kobs, lions, elephants, jackals, birds and many more. The visitors take their time in these places observing different animals trying to survival in the jungles. They capture pictures of these wild animals. The photos are always beautiful and interesting. The game drive around Kidepo valley national park takes about 4 hours or more, it depends on the time the traveller has on his/her itinerary.
Nature Walks and Hikes: Kidepo valley national park has some walking trails and hill to make a nature trek and hike a viable experience. The nature walks and hikes are guided by the park rangers who go showing visitors some famous natural features and wildlife species on the trail. Places to hike in Kidepo valley national park include Morungole mountains, lonyili and lomeji hill
Birding: Kidepo is a natural habitat with over 400 bird species to its name. It is a matter of time, grit and desire for the visitors to go bird watching in the savannah park. Most of its popular places like kidepo valley, narus, apoka, lomeji, hotsprings, Namamukweny and lonyili are bird havens. Birds like ostriches, turaco, little bee eater, dark chanting goshawk, red and yellow barbet, Abyssinina ground hornbill etcetera are commonly seen within the savannah plains of the park. To best watch the birds in Kidepo national park, a visitor must carry a binocular and must be ready to spend the a whole day in park to search for the different bird species.
Touring the Karamojong: Karamajong is the most dominant tribe around Kidepo valley national park. These local people are mainly found in Karamoja and Moroto district. Their culture and ethos are more or less like the great Masai people in Kenya. The karamajong are cattle keepers, they breathe and live for cattle. Cattle is their life. They are nomadic pastoralists who keep moving from one place to another with their cattle looking for food and shelter. However, their communities are majorly found in Karamoja area and Moroto. They live in grass thatched houses, they have a very interesting and authentic culture to indulge in. It is one of the cultures, a tourist would fall in love with because of its uniqueness and realness.
Visiting the Ik People: Their settlements or homesteads are at the top of Morungole mountains at the border of Uganda and Kenya in Kidepo valley national park. the IK are nilo Saharan people who might have migrated from Ethiopia after their communities were raided by superior tribes. They settled at the top of Morungole where they built their homes. They live in small villages which consist of family and close friends as their neighbours and there are always outer walls created on each of the village. The IK people are known to be grain grinders. Each home has a granary to keep food in case famine breaks out. A visit around their homesteads is noteworthy, they have interesting traditions and their way of living is very intriguing.
How to reach Kidepo National Park
The shortest route to Kidepo National park from Kampala- Karuma- Gulu- Kitgum and finally Kidepo Park. it is about 570kms by road. There are other two routes but these are too long over 700kms. By road, a traveller is advised to hire an all terrain 4×4 vehicle to get to Kidepo valley national park. This is because of the bumpy roads encountered while traveling. There is also another means of transport to Kidepo, the air means. Aerolink Uganda provide charter flights from Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe Airport to lomeji airstrip near Apoka tourism centre. It is a 2 and half hour’s flight. The flights operate on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
When to visit Kidepo Valley National Park
Due to the remoteness and the bumpy gravel roads leading to Kidepo national park, it is best visited during the dry spells of the year. In Uganda, the dry spells are experienced in the months of January-mid March, June-mid October and December. In these months the roads are accessible hence convenience is guaranteed. In dry spells, most of the animals are around the known oasis in the park. It is therefore very easy for the visitors to track them while a game drive.