Kidepo Valley National Park
Safari suitability: 8/10Write a review
4 of the big 5 (no rhino). This park is a dream come true for the adventurous traveler seeking true African bush solitude.
What YAS members think
- One of Africa’s finest and most magnificent national parks.
- Amazing game viewing throughout the year in the Narus Valley.
- Four of the big five regularly spotted: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard.
- Amazing variety of bird species, second only to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
About Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is Uganda’s most remote and isolated park. Those who venture to the wild frontier region of Karamoja, are rewarded with spectacular views of pristine wilderness and unmatched natural beauty. The long journey to Kidepo is certainly worth the effort, as the park’s reputation as one of Africa’s finest is definitely justified.
The park is located 520 kilometers (320 miles) northeast of Kampala, and its northwestern boundary runs along the border with South Sudan. The largest town in the region is Moroto, which lies approximately 220 kilometers (140 miles) from the park. The easiest way to reach the park is by air. Adventurers, who brave the over 12 hour long road journey from Kampala, need to be equipped with a sturdy four wheel drive.
The park stretches over an area of 1,442 square kilometers (557 square miles) and is dominated by a rugged savannah landscape. It features 2,750 meters (9,020 feet) high Mount Morungole, which can be explored on foot. The park’s two rivers, Kidepo and Narus, provide water for the local wildlife and much of the year the animals congregate around the Narus Valley. Adjacent to the the Kidepo River are the The Kanangorok Hot Springs, where you can sit tranquilly and absorb the view of the mountain ranges beyond the frontier.
Kidepo Valley National Park is home to an amazing variety of wildlife, with 28 of its resident species not found in any other Ugandan park. The park has seen an amazing recovery of mammal species in the recent years and has a healthy population of large mammals, including the elephant. Other large species that can be spotted regularly are zebras, warthogs, Rothschild’s giraffes, buffaloes, reedbucks and waterbucks. Lions, leopards, spotted hyenas and black-backed and side-striped jackals are some of the carnivores residing within the park, and cheetahs can only be seen in this Ugandan park.
Bird watchers will be delighted by the park’s 475 species of birds, including the ostrich and birds of prey. Some of the birds are not even listed yet, and only Queen Elizabeth National Park boasts more bird variety in Uganda.
It is advisable to hire one of the knowledgeable rangers to make the most of your visit in Kidepo. The guides are stationed at Apoka, which is the park’s tourism hub. Morning game drives to the hot springs are a unique experience and some parts of the park can be reached on foot. Kidepo also offers an opportunity to get introduced to the ancient culture of the Karamojong and visit homesteads of this interesting local people.
When to visit
The park is good to visit throughout the year. March and April are particularly good months; this a time when you can expect to see many transit migrants.
Safari newbies tend to want to see cats and more cats and then close-up. The maintenance of the parks no off-roading policy does mean that though one sees cats (everyday, on this revisit) they can be a binoculars distance away. I was privileged to have my own private close-up viewing on my last night at Apoka as I finished cleaning my teeth I heard an almighty and close-up lion roar. As quietly as I could I made my way out onto my veranda (raised off the ground). I stood still in the corner and waited a male lion strolled past, about thirty feet from my perch. My presence irrelevant as it progressed across the terrain to disappear into the dark of night. The sheer magic of African safaris. I found the park full of wildlife. Buffalo in their thousands, sizeable numbers of waterbuck, Jacksons hartebeest, warthogs and oribi. There are numbers of elephant, fourteen of the re-introduced giraffe are pregnant, Ugandan kob bushbuck, common duiker and eland were also seen. The park is a paradise for anyone interested in birds. Four hundred and sixty varieties and counting our guide added one on our visit Stuhlmanns starling. So, birding from happy snapping to twitcher level is certainly catered for.
I visited Kidepo in November 2015. It was about an hour flight from Entebbe and is probably the most expensive park to visit due to its remote location. I enjoyed the Apoka Lodge. The pool and the vistas are stunning and you really do feel like you've got the park to yourself. In terms of quantity of wildlife, I much preferred QENP. We hardly saw any giraffe and the lions we did see were not in a good way. It actually made me very sad to see them so emaciated and one was badly wounded. I recommend this park for seasoned safari goers but wouldn't recommend it for first time folks.
Abacus African Team took time off and visited Kidepo Valley National Park and it was one of our favorite activities we did in 2015. It is a bit of a drive to get there, but so worth it. The scenery is absolutely mind blowing but even more amazing is the fact that it is still relatively unvisited so you literally feel like you have the park to yourself. We were there in high season (July/August) and across two game drives we only saw one other vehicle. The quantity of animal sightings was not even in the same ballpark as Murchison Falls, but when we did see them, the combination of the animals, scenery and perfect lighting made the quality of the experiences unreal every time, almost magical. I highly recommend doing a game drive later in the day as the lighting of the sun setting was phenomenal and really brought out the true beauty of Kidepo. We enjoyed this game drive far more than our morning one. The entire experience at Kidepo is the whole package and you really can't beat it! Also, Kidepo valley National Park is the only park in Uganda that you find the big five on your game drive. Its the most beautiful park I have been to.
I wasn't prepared for just how solitary this park would be. I visited in November and, while the volume of wildlife was underwhelming, the lack of commercial vehicles was refreshing. We stayed at Apoka and the game drives were shared, which is also something to consider.
I've been a tour guide for over 10 years, and Kidepo Valley National Park is my favorite park in Uganda. It's isolated and private and you cannot be the landscape. If you come visit and stay at Apoke Lodge, I'll gladly show you the beauty of this park!
Perhaps the most difficult to reach of Uganda's parks, but absolutely worth the trouble. We ran the lodge here 2008, and while we (sadly) haven't been back since, the private outdoor double-wide bathtubs overlooking the savanna still fill me with happiness and relaxation just by remembering. Slightly more crowded than it was during less secure times, you still may be one of less than a dozen vehicles on 1,400 square kilometers. The best lion-viewing in the country; the best secret sun-downer spots; the largest buffalo herd; red-necked ostrich; elephants that still congregate in immense extended families and answer back to you when you say hello. So close to Kenya and Sudan, adding this stop to your safari in Uganda is like adding a second country - wildlife and vistas here are different than anywhere in Uganda.
Kidepo Valley National Park is the most remote safari destination in Uganda. Until a few years ago, the only flights to this park were charter flights, making it a very expensive safari destination. There are now scheduled domestic flights on select days of the week, which brings costs down considerably. But, it's still important to coordinate your safari dates with the days when there are scheduled flights.
Scheduled domestic flights to Kidepo Valley National Park
- Aerolink is one local carrier. Here is the current time table.
- Kampala Aero Flight & Training Company also offer scheduled flights to Kidepo Valley.
- Eagle Air also offers charter and scheduled flights.
Driving to Kidepo Valley National Park
It's a long and tedious drive from Entebbe or Kampala to Kidepo Valley. Although Google Maps lists the drive between 10 and 11 hours, most people report the journey actually took several hours longer, as parts of the road require very slow speeds.
If the situation in South Sudan improves, it will also be possible to drive to Kidepo Valley National Park from Juba, the capital of South Sudan. In fact, part of this park is found in South Sudan, although it's reported that the vast majority of the wildlife is found in the Ugandan side.
The following airlines travel to Kidepo Valley National Park
AeroLink Uganda Limited is a domestic airline offering both scheduled and charter flights into Uganda's national parks. From its base at Entebbe International Airport, AeroLink using its Cessna Grand Caravans, offers daily flights into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Kihihi and Kisoro airstrips), Queen Elizabeth National Park (Kasese and Mweya airstrips), Murchison Falls (Bugungu, Pakuba and Chobe airstrips), Semuliki National Park (Semliki airstrip) and Kidepo Valley National Park (Apoka airstrip). Effective 1st June 2019, in partnership with its sister company Airkenya Express Limited, Aerolink commenced scheduled flights from Entebbe International Airport to the famous Maasai Mara in Kenya via Kisumu International Airport for Immigration. AeroLink Uganda is affiliated to Airkenya Express in Kenya and Regional Air Services in Tanzania. Visit website
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Regional services within Kenya. At Airkenya safety and security are of paramount importance. As one of Africas leading aviation companies Airkenya aspires to reach new heights of service delivery. At Airkenya our diverse operations are looked into with eagle eyes. Our aircraft are thoroughly inspected by highly trained engineers to ensure our passengers enjoy consistently smooth safe flights. Our excellent maintenance facilities have been approved by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority in accordance with international airworthiness safety standards. This together with our dedicated ground team has secured Airkenya an impressive track record for safety. Visit website
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Based in Kampala, operates scheduled and charter services across eastern and central Africa. Eagle Air is a Private Ltd Company specialising in the provision of Charter and Schedule Air services both within Uganda and around the East & Central Africa Region. Eagle Air was incorporated as an air operator in June 1994. Visit website
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Precision Air is a publicly-listed Tanzanian airline and a leader in providing scheduled flight services to over 10 destinations within and outside Tanzania from its main hub Dar es Salaam. The company operates on the principle that quick, comfortable and reliable service is the best way to serve its customers. Through its customer-focused approach, many have become part of the Precision Air family. Precision Air started with its headquarters in Arusha - the midpoint between the Cape and Cairo, which is the entry point to many of Tanzania's world-renowned landmarks and national parks. The headquarters of Precision Air are now Dar es Salaam, the business complex of the country, which is home to a vast size of traffic travelling within and outside Tanzania. Visit website
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