Kidepo Valley National Park is located around 700 kilometers from Kampala in the rough, semi-arid lowlands between Uganda’s borders with South Sudan in the north-west and about 5 kilometers from Kenya’s eastern border. It was established as a national park in 1962 and is home to over 77 different species of mammals and a plethora of big game. Kidepo is the most remote national park in Uganda, but many who undertake the lengthy trek through Karamoja, Africa’s untamed frontier region, would agree that it is also the most gorgeous. Kidepo is one of the best wilderness areas on the continent.

Kidepo Valley national park

The park’s wetlands and remaining lakes in the expansive Narus Valley close to Apoka are the only sources of permanent water throughout the dry season. With its dense concentrations of lions, buffalo, elephants, and other comparable angulates, the Narus Valley is the park’s main game-watching spot. These seasonal oases, along with the wide, savannah environment, make this the case.

Elephant numbers in Kidepo have increased dramatically from 200 in the middle of the 1990s to 650–1000 now. Currently, 10,000–15,000 African buffaloes are thought to exist in the park. The Rothschild Giraffe is remarkable for having produced more than 50 offspring from a population of three in the middle of the 1990s, as well as a number of additional individuals through translocation. A list of more than 476 species of birds, including the common ostrich, secretary bird, northern carmine bee eater, small green bee eater, and Abyssinian scimitar bill, is available.

Kidepo Valley national park
Game sighting in Kidepo

Wildlife in Kidepo valley national park

Out of all Uganda national park, Only Queen Elizabeth National Park has a higher biodiversity than Kidepo valley national park, Uganda’s third-largest national park. 77 different mammal species may be found at Kidepo national park, and there are many opportunities to see game there. There are 20 different types of predators, including lions, leopards, and spotted hyenas.

Aardwolf, cheetah, caracal, bat-eared fox, and black-backed jackal are some of the common native animals to Kidepo in Uganda. The number of elephants has increased to over 650 (from 200 in the middle of the 1990s), the number of buffalo is thought to be over 10,000, and there are over 50 Rothschild’s giraffes, a population that is significant on a global scale. Both larger and smaller kudu roam the dense woods while zebra graze on the plains. Adventurers in luck might even spot a white-eared kob, which is more frequently spotted in South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Getting There

By road transport: Driving from Murchison Falls often takes 7 hours or less due to the sealed road. Some travelers decide to take a break from the adventure by staying the night close to Sipi Falls. Kidepo is 571 kilometers away from Kampala city, Uganda’s capital. Few people prefer the rigorous 10-hour drive through Gulu and Kitgum from Kampala since it is a difficult road.

By air transport: Kidepo valley national park is served by a few small aircraft operators who land at the airport near Apoka. These flights are expensive for couples or small groups traveling alone because they only operate on specific days and require a minimum number of passengers, but they are not too pricey for families or bigger groups. But don’t let that deter you—there is something quite magical about taking off from Entebbe and circling over the dramatic Murchison Falls before continuing on to the vast Kidepo.

When Should You Go and visit Kidepo?

Kidepo is open every day of the year. Its general climate does, however, differ from that of the rest of Uganda while on Uganda Safaris. Despite the fact that June used to be dry, it is now generally acknowledged that a lengthy wet season will last from April through the end of November. There won’t be an eight-month downpour, but most days will likely have some rain.

From December to March, it is considered the dry season. During this season, the temperature soars, frequently reaching 40 degrees Celsius. Since the park’s sandy soils can’t hold water, it becomes arid during the middle and end of the dry season (November to February), which increases the likelihood of seeing wildlife.

Animals gather around dependable water holes during these months since there are fewer available water sources, increasing the likelihood of sightings. Additionally, this is the ideal opportunity to witness cheetahs hunting on the short-grass plains. Animals leave the lowlands during the wet season (April to August) in favor of higher ground, where sightings are less frequent, making it harder to find them.

Game Drives in Kidepo valley national park

The best option to quickly explore the furthest areas of the park is with Apoka game drives. It is an incredible experience to encounter enormous beasts and predators up close while being safe in your safari vehicle/car. Typically, cars take one of two 20-kilometer paths through the abundantly vegetated Narus Valley. Large buffalo herds, thirsty elephants, and antelope are drawn to this area where a small amount of water persists even during the dry season. When herbivores congregate, predators are drawn to the area, and you can observe a variety of stunning creatures.

Kidepo Valley national park
Game drives in Kidepo

Game drives leave in the early morning and late afternoon during the hot, dry season. This enables you to watch the animals in their most animated form and record memories within the optimum photo-taking lighting conditions. Less species can be seen in the drier Kidepo Valley, but it is nevertheless well worth seeing because of its untamed beauty. Focus on the Kanangorok hot springs, which are located 30 kilometers north of Apoka, but avoid becoming naive. Drive gently, meandering past plains flanked by mountains and across the Kidepo River, which in the dry season has a vast sand bank. Ostrich and secretary birds thrive here, and kudu benefit from the heavier bush’s shelter.

Walking safari/ Wildlife Walks in Kidepo valley national park

Observe the feeling of vulnerability that permeates every walk when you head out onto a trail. With the wisdom of your guide at your side, you can experience the wilderness in all its splendor. The majority of the two-to three-hour walking routes wind through the Narus Valley. Given that the short (5 km) radius makes it comfortable for most tourists, the Narus Valley stroll is particularly well-liked. It provides you with plenty of opportunities to view a wide variety of gorgeous creatures and birds in a breathtaking environment.

In search of the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is exclusively seen in Kidepo, birders frequently scour the edges of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys. A 15-kilometer route that follows the ridge line into the hills is available for those seeking a more difficult challenge. There are a lot of potential trails, but some may not have been used in a while and may even be temporarily closed.


  1. Karamojong

The Karamojong are a Nilotic language-speaking ethnic group of nomadic agro-pastoralists who love cattle and came from Ethiopia more than 500 years ago into what is now north-eastern Uganda. The Karamojong, like their compatriots in northern Kenya and south-western Ethiopia, have mostly resisted modernization (although this is starting to change) and continue to lead traditional lives that haven’t changed much since their initial arrival.

Conflict has always been a feature of Karamojong culture as a result of the community’s love of cattle, which has led to disagreements over animals. Assault guns became commonly available after the demise of the Amin administration, briefly closing the area off to outsiders and giving it a more menacing edge. However, since Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army left northern Uganda in 2005 and the Ugandan government de-militarized Karamoja in 2011, the region is now both safe to explore and hospitable to tourists.

The Dodoth Karamojong were deprived of their usual grazing and hunting grounds because of the park. Therefore, it is not only important to travel responsibly and interesting to visit the Karamojong to learn about their culture. The Karamojong will thereby directly profit from tourism.

  1. Ik Treks

The establishment of the park caused the Ik people the most harm. The Ik were formerly pastoralists who lost their cattle to invaders from the Karamojong, Turkana, and Pokot tribes. They are believed to have been the first settlers from Ethiopia. They were expelled from the park in 1962 after reverting to a hunter-gatherer way of life on the lower slopes of the Morungole Mountains. They had little choice except to try subsistence farming in the high mountains beyond the park, which was their only option.

The movement, which coincided with a period of widespread starvation known as “the time of one cup,” drove the Ik to extinction, put long-held societal norms to the test, and transformed them into shadows of their former selves. The anthropologist Colin Turnbull spent three years living with the Ik at this time in the 1960s, documenting the collapse of their society and the horrifying extent to which group members resorted to self-interest. He wrote about it in the book “The Mountain People,” which at the time of its release sparked an uproar.

Turnbull was partially aware that the Ik’s exile from the park may have contributed to some of his interactions with them, but he was unaware of the full extent of the trauma. Turnbull overlooked the fact that the Ik would be able to bring back nicer, more conventional human customs with more prosperity—not just survival.

Although the Ik still lead a meager existence in the Morungole Mountains, they have overcome their difficulties in recent years. They encourage guests who want to learn more about their distinct way of life and their surrounding landscape through guided excursions.

Kidepo Valley national park
Ik People

Accommodations:  where to stay in Kidepo valley national park

The Kidepo Savannah lodge

There are only two modest tourist lodges in Kidepo valley national park. A straightforward but cozy lodge, Kidepo Savannah Lodge, is situated 500 meters from Kidepo’s Kalokudo Gate. Eight self-contained “safari tents” and nine “tents” that share an ablution block branch off of a central eating room and bar.

Apoka Safari Lodge

The luxurious Apoka Safari Lodge is well situated on a slight hill in the center of the plains. There is wildlife all around the lodge. You are in a great position to admire the wilderness in all its splendor, whether you see zebra or buffalo right outside your room when the grass is lush or a lion relaxing by the pool in the dry months.

Ten roomy Bandas constructed of thatch, canvas, and wood offer cozy lodging. The eating area and bar are wonderful, with a thatch-roofed area and a high platform that is ideal for observing wildlife. There is a tall observation tower as well, which serves as an unforgettable place to have a private breakfast.

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