Kidepo Valley National ParkAncient
Uganda is the pearl of Africa and indeed there are unique places where nature is at its most beautiful and visiting Kidepo valley National Park can truly be one way of appreciating nature at its best. Located in the North Eastern park of Uganda, the Park is 1442km2, established in 1958, the park lies about 584km from the Kampala thus making it the furthest park to visit. It’s for this reason that many visitors do not put it on their itineraries when visiting Uganda. So be prepared to travel for 12 hours by road or you can use a charter plane to save on travel time to the park.
How to get to Kidepo Valley National Park
The shortest route is to travel from Kampala, by passing Murchison Falls National park, via Gulu to Kidepo valley National park. The longer route is if you travel from Kampala via Jinja, home to the source of the Nile then proceed to Mbale town and have a stopover at Sipi falls for some activities and lastly proceed to Kidepo Valley National park.
Kidepo valley National park is the gem that many do not know about and you have to visit the park to indeed appreciate the wildlife, vegetation, great sceneries and unique people of this region. Since the park is not visited by many because of its remote location, most parts of the park have virgin wilderness with landscapes stretching for long distances as far as the eye can see and if you are one who does not enjoy crowds then this is the place to be.
The Park has savannah grasslands dotted with both acacia and palm trees these are mainly found in the southern Narus Valley, while as in the north is the Kidepo valley which has mainly short savannah grass lands. The North Eastern part of Uganda has less rain fall with only one rainy season from May to September. During the rainy seasons the two rivers, Kidepo and Narus flood the valleys so it is advisable to have a strong 4 wheel drive vehicle while visiting the park.
Key attractions of the Kidepo National park
If you are looking for variety in terms of different animal species then Kidepo valley National park beats the rest of the parks in Uganda. With over 80 mammal species, the park boosts of having 28 more species than all the other parks combined in Uganda; with plenty of Buffalo, Elephants, both stripped and spotted Hyena, Aardwolf, Lion, Leopard, cheetah, Fox, Jackal, Hunting dog, the primates include baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Bush Baby, among the antelopes there are; Jackson’s Hartebeest , Greater Kud, Lesser Kudu, Uganda Kob, Reedbuck, Dik Dik, Zebras, Elands, Oribi, Rothschild Giraffe, Bush pig etc.
Activities to do on visit to Kidepo National Park
Game drives / Hot springs
Have your breakfast early enough and by 6am you are already on the tracks so that you don’t miss out on the nocturnal animals returning to their dens. Narus valley is a washed with lots of wild life and the game drives are not disappointing. We recommend a 4*4 safari vehicle at all times because of the terrain and you might be caught out in case it rains. There are lots of grazers or herbivores in this part of the park so expect to see the carnivores lacking around stalking the big herds of herbivores.
The valley has short grasses which tend to attract animals because they can easily spot their predators. The lions are often seen on the rocks and sometimes they do climb trees. The cheetahs and leopards are also good at climbing trees. These spend most their time up in the trees for safety from predators like lions and other animals.
Kidepo valley is mostly dry throughout the year with sandy riverbeds. These gain life only when it rains. The sights of these dry river beds are quite fascinating; with the palm trees doted across the valley it gives you a spectacular panoramic view. With the big herds of wild animals grazing on the savannah grasslands coupled with the beautiful scenery, you can’t ask for more. Lastly you will visit the Kanangorok hot springs; it is believed by the local people that these springs have healing powers.
With over 475 bird species, Kidepo Valley National Park is only second to Queen Elizabeth when it comes to bird varieties. Get to see the a number of Ostriches here while on your Uganda safari only in Kidepo National Park. Most of the visitors start their bird spotting at Apoka Rest Camp. Some of the bird species here include Yellow-billed Shrike, Sand grouse, Clapper ton’s Francolin, Piapiac, Yellow billed Shrike, Dusky- Turtle Dove, Pallid harrier, African pied Hornbill, Ostrich, Golden pipit etc can all be spotted. The birding is expeditions are always best suited in the morning hours and late in the evenings.
Nature walks are done with the guidance of the Park rangers; you start your nature’s walks from Apoka camp and traverse the beautiful landscape. You will come across a number of animals most especially the grazers such as Zebra, Antelopes Buffalos etc. Dont miss the biggest bird, the Ostrich at close range. You will also see other birds as you move through the Narus valley.
Hike Mt. Morungole and get to know the Ik people
At your own discretion, you may opt for a Mount Morungole hike.. The activity is fun to do because it’s not a very strenuous activity. You may combine the two activities of hiking and visiting the IK people. Start your hike early enough to avoid the high heat during the day. The activity involves walking through different vegetation types and rocky terrain. When high up the mountain you can have a clear view of this spectacular Park. You will then get to know the IK people and their way of life. You can participate in some of their daily chores eg cattle milking, being a “cow boy” and food preparation.
Visiting the Karamajong settlements (Manyattas)
The Karamajongs migrated from Ethiopia and are close relatives of the Masai and Turakana. The karamojong are nomads and keep large herds of cattle in enclosed settlements known as Manyattas. They live in enclosed settlements because of fear of raiding their cattle by other tribes. The Karamojong rely on their cattle for all their needs.
Visiting the Karamojong is pretty interesting because you get to experince a unique culture. This is mainly centered around their large cattle herds. The Karamojong build settlements with security for their animals being paramount. Their settlements have fences around them. The huts are built in such a way that you will find it difficult to enter. This is a strategy employed to keep out the enemy in case of any raid on their settlements / Manyattas.
When you visit the Karamojongs, you will also see their day to day life style. For example;- the way of dressing, different foods on their menu, songs and dancing, storytelling. If you are a ‘’hands on’’ person then you will participate in all the activities.
Visiting this park is always amazing as you determine the number of days to spend at the park. However you should plan accordingly with your tour operator. But if you choose to travel on your own, then get as much information as you can.