Map of the park
Location of the park on the Ugandan Map
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 her 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.
Weather & Climate
- 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.
Tourist Attractions In Kidepo
There are a variety of attractions to see while on your Uganda wildlife tour and safaris in Kidepo Valley National Park, these include;
- Over 77 animal species
- 475 bird species
- Spectacular valleys
- Unique Karamojongs and the mysterious IK people
Animals in Kidepo
The Kidepo National Park habitats support the most exciting animals in Uganda, though its total of 86 mammal species has been reduced to 77 after some became locally extinct in recent years.
Lions, Elephants, Cheaters, Buffaloes, Jackals, Leopards, Spotted Hyenas, Bat-Eared Foxes, Aardwolf, Caracals, African wild dogs, and Antelopes are some of the common Kidepo Valley National Park animals
The dominant wildlife habitat in the Narus Valley is open grassland studded with tall sausage trees and the massive elongated fruits for which they are named.
The Kidepo valley supports drier acacia woodland, through some significant stands of Borassus palms that line the watercourse. Elsewhere are patches of montane forest and riparian woodland.
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.
Kidepo Valley National Park is home to 5 species of monkeys including, Patas monkeys which are often seen around Apoka safari lodge, Baboons, Vervet monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, and Black and white colobus
The African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is one of the Uganda animals that many look forward to seeing on a safari in Uganda.
The African elephant is not only the biggest of the Big Five, but it is also the largest animal walking on Earth. They can weigh up to 7,000kg, and stand up to 13 ft tall. Elephants are instantly recognizable with their large ears, long curved tusks, and unique powerful trunks.
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, and 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.
Birds of Kidepo
With over 475 bird species, Kidepo Valley National Park has the second-highest population of any Ugandan protected area.
Kidepo National Park has about 56 Raptors species, other common birds include; Dark chanting goshawk, Pygym falcon, Tawny eagle, Bateleur eagle, Vultures, Common ostrich, Secretary bird
Kidepo Valley National Park also supports East Africa’s only population of Clapperton’s francolin and the spectacular African rose-ringed parakeet.
As noted above, Kidepo is the National park where you can see ostriches while on your Uganda tour. 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 70km. 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.
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.
The Narus Valley
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 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.
The 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 the 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 the Kidepo River.
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 the 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 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 northwest of the park and can be accessed by car or on foot.
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 with their traditional lifestyle, and view new trends in life, travel, education, technology, dress, fashion, housing, medicines, religion, and several others as an 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.
The IK People (The Mountain People)
You will need an early morning start to climb up into the Monrungole 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, with 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 close to Spanish.
Game Drives in the 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 wildlife less difficult and game viewing is highly successful.
There is a night game drives and normal daytime game drive in Kidepo. There are two sections in Kidepo valley national park where game drive safaris are conducted; Narus valley and Kidepo valley.
Bird watching safaris
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 destination for spotting raptors, with 56 species on record
Hiking & Nature Walks
Kidepo Valley National Park is vast, beautiful, and full to the brim. To many travelers on a tour of Uganda, Kidepo has the exact features of the authentic African wilderness.
Flat plains in scenic landscapes 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 Morungule range, which rises from the plains to the northeast of Apoka, can be explored on foot with a ranger guide escort.
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
Safari Lodges in Kidepo
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
- Midrange safari lodges
- Budget safari lodge.
How to get there
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.
When is the best time to visit Uganda’s Kidepo?
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?
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
Park Rules & Regulations
- Do not feed wildlife.
- 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).