Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Gazetted as a national park in 1962, it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species.
Kidepo is Uganda’s most isolated national park, but the few who make the long journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja would agree that it is also the most magnificent, for Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. From Apoka in the heart of the park, a savannah landscape extends far beyond the gazetted area, towards horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges.
During the dry season, the only permanent water in the park is found in wetlands and remnant pools in the broad Narus Valley near Apoka. These seasonal oases, combined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing location.
The park can be reached by both road and air. Driving is rewarding, as much of Karamoja, like Kidepo itself, is a vast and unspoiled wilderness. However, road conditions are sometimes poor and a 4WD vehicle is essential.
There are four possible routes by road as listed below. Optimum driving times are given
• Kampala – Karuma – Gulu – Kitgum – Kidepo = 571km (10 hours)
• Kampala – Karuma – Lira – Kotido – Kaabong – Kidepo = 705km (12 hours)
• Kampala – Mbale – Sironko – Moroto – Kotido – Kaabong – Kidepo = 740km (12 hours)
• Kampala – Mbale – Soroti – Moroto – Kotido – Kabong – Kidepo = 792km (13 hours)
The most usual route passes through Gulu and Kitgum. Ideally, travellers should plan to stay overnight in one of these towns or at Chobe, near Karuma in Murchison Falls National Park.
Visitors should note that the road mainly in use from Kotido to Kaabong passes via Kanawat not via Losilang as indicated on most maps.
Charter flights to Kidepo may be arranged from Kampala (Kajjansi), Kampala Aeroclub, or Entebbe with Eagle Aviation. Flights take about two hours. The Civil Aviation Authority plans to make Lomej airstrip near Apoka, an international airport to enable visitors to fly direct to Kidepo from other countries.
There are currently no scheduled flights to Apoka.
Kidepo is served by a network of game tracks in the Narus Valley in the south of the park. These cross seasonal streams and tracts of wetland, making a 4WD vehicle essential, especially during the rainy season. To the north, a single track leads across the Kidepo River to Pirre in the north east of the park.
Hiking boots are ideal for forest walks although stout walking shoes are adequate. Lightweight raincoats are advisable. Altitude and the forest environment makes evenings cool and a light jacket is also recommended.
Apoka Safari Lodge (Wildplaces) – UWA Concession
Apoka Rest Camp (UWA)
Kakine Self-catering Campsite (UWA)
NgaMoru Wilderness Camp
The annual rainfall is 800mm a year. The long rainy season runs from February to June and short rains last from September to December, leaving just three dry months. The rains are rather erratic, though the wettest months are usually April and November. July and August are the hottest months. The average temperature is 27.5°C with daily variations from 21.5°C to 34°C.
The best time for game viewing is the dry season when animals are concentrated near water points. During the rainy seasons, animals disperse from the valleys, moving to higher, drier ground where they are not so easily seen.