Seated on an expansive area of 1,442sqkms; Kidepo Valley National Park is situated in North Eastern Uganda at the edge of Karamoja region. The park stretches up to the border of Uganda and South Sudan and also proximate to the border of Uganda and North Western Kenya in the Turkana Land. The elevation of the park ranges between 914m and 2750m above sea level.
Nominated as one of the most beautiful national parks in Africa, Kidepo Valley National Park is a hidden natural gem. Gazette in 1962, the eco system of Kidepo Valley National park is supported by two seasonal rivers; Narus and Kidepo. These completely lose water in the dry season and the only sources of water are natural pools and wetlands within the park. Kidepo experiences semi-arid climate with only annual wet-season between April and September. Narus Valley receives 890mm of rain while Kidepo receives on 635mm; Narus valley is the perpetual source of water to wildlife in the park.
Flaura and Fauna
The park is beautifully decorated by dry mountain vegetation, open savannah grasslands and semi-arid vegetation in the Kidepo valley section of the park. Kidepo National Park nestles 77 mammal species and these include Bart-eared fox, stripped hyena, caracal, tree-climbing lion, leopard, spotted hyena, black-backed and side-stripped jack and cheetah (only found in Kidepo N.P. in Uganda). Among chandlers are Burchell’s zebra, bush-pig, Rothschild giraffe, elephants, mountain reedbucks, bushbucks, buffalo and eland among others. Endowed with over 475 bird-species, Kidepo is home to the Ostrich, Kori bustard, Secretary bird, red throated bee-eater and the Abyssinian ground hornbill. Among preying birds are Egyptian vulture, Verreaux Eagle and pygmy falcon.
The papyrus swamps of this Ramsar wetland site are home to the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope. One can spot the elusive Shoebill plus other native birds on the lake.
The 72 huge round basins scattered across the equator are evidence of the Albertine Rift’s bubbling volcanic past, and are a must-see for those with a particular interest in the region's fascinating geological history.
The 27km drive between Kabatoro gate and Queen’s Pavilion takes in views of the enormous craters, circular lakes, the Rift Valley escarpment and the Kazinga channel - all in front of the mighty backdrop of the Rwenzori Mountains.
One of the most famous lookout points in Uganda is in the Katwe-Kabatoro community on Katwe Salt Lake where traditional salt mining has been practiced since the 16th century. The neighboring Lake Munyanyange is a bird sanctuary, as well as a migratory location for the lesser flamingo from August to November.
The vast savannah of Kasenyi is the perfect setting for a classic African safari experience.
Huge herds of Uganda kob attract prides of lions; warthogs graze bent down on their knees; guinea fowl scuttle through the grassland; and huge dark elephants stride across the game drive tracks, providing dream photo opportunities for visitors.
Mweya is Queen’s focal point. It contains the Visitors Centre, a luxury lodge and restaurant, hostel, campsite, budget food options and the departure point for the Kazinga Channel launch trip – and is still jam-packed with birds and animals.
Its elevated position commands gorgeous views of the Kazinga Channel and surrounding savanna, and its proximity to Kasenyi and the North Kazinga plains make it an ideal departure point for wildlife-filled game drives in the morning or evening.
A cruise down the Kazinga channel is the most relaxing way to enjoy a wildlife safari in Queen. The banks are crammed with hippos, buffalos and water birds, along with caimans, monitor lizards, marabou storks, weaver birds and elegant pairs of fish eagles. Elephants stride along the banks – all you need to do is sit back with your camera or binoculars at the ready, and enjoy the incredible spectacle.
The Kyambura River flows through this thick “underground forest”, 100 meters below the Kichwamba escarpment.
The gorge is best known for its resident chimpanzees – some of which are habituated and can be tracked through the forest with your Safari Guide. While walking through the gorge, you may spot other primates and some of the many birds found in the forest. The entrance to the gorge is also a pleasant spot for a picnic.
Kyambura Wildlife Reserve
The beautiful crater lakes of this reserve, located to the east of Kyambura Gorge, offer excellent opportunities to observe many water birds including greater and lesser flamingoes and the great egret.
Buzzing with primates, including chimpanzees, baboons and several monkey species, the forest is also alive with numerous birds including the rare Forest Flycatcher, White-napped Pigeon and the striking Rwenzori Turaco. One can also visit the ‘cormorant house’, a large tree that has been turned white by the birds that roost here at night.
The shady forest also conceals crater lakes and a “Bat Cave” with a specially constructed viewing room.
This remote southern region enjoys fewer visitors than the north, but those who venture this far may be rewarded with sightings of Ishasha’s most famous residents – the tree climbing lions – lounging in the branches while keeping a close eye on herds of Uganda kob. It is also home to many buffalo and elephants as well as the rare shoebill.
Ishasha is also a convenient region to pass through on the way to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Game drives in Kidepo valley
Wildlife is most active in the Narus Valley during early mornings and late afternoon - 6am and 4pm are optimum times to set off on game drives. You are advised to use a ranger at all times; they will help you spot some of the park’s lions that may be sitting on the valley’s various rocks. Other wildlife includes elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, Kavirondo bush baby, buffalo and much more.
Kidepo Valley 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.
Birding in Kidepo valley
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 Clapper ton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo. The activity can be arranged both in the morning and evening.
Hiking/nature walks in Kidepo valley
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. Namamukweny 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.
Cultural encounters in Kidepo valley
Lorokul Cultural Group
The notorious, cattle-herding Karamojong occupy northeastern Uganda, in an area covering one tenth of the country. Discover the unique culture of this remote tribe with the Lorokul Cultural Group, located just outside Kidepo Valley National 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.
The fee for this tour has contributed to the construction of a clinic and the training of midwives – essential facilities in this isolated region
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