Major Attractions in Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda's Extreme Wilderness

Major Attractions in Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda’s Extreme Wilderness

February 22, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

What are the Major Attractions in Kidepo Valley National Park? Kidepo Valley National Park is located in North Eastern Uganda sharing a border with the Republic of Kenya and South Sudan. Kidepo Valley National Park is one of Uganda’s harshest wilderness game parks in Uganda because of its extreme weather conditions characterized by its semi-arid type of climate. The Park is quite hot and generally dry except from June to September when rainfall is more prevalent. The Park is 1442 square kilometers with its nearest biggest town in the sub-region being Moroto. Given the variety of attractions such as Mountains, different bird species, different fauna, and flora species, Kidepo Valley National Park is ranked among Africa’s Top Wilderness Safari destinations.

Kidepo is generally made of a rugged terrain mainly dominated by mountains like mountain Morungole, savannah plains like the Narus Valley, rivers passing through such as the Narus River, and hills such as Lomej Hill. Even during the rainy season, temperatures in the park remain relatively high and in case of a rainstorm, it doesn’t last more than one hour pouring down.  Visitors are advised to use 4-wheel drive vehicles when visiting the park to access all sectors of the park despite the weather conditions. Some of the major attractions in Kidepo Valley National Park include the following:

Narus Valley

Despite the extreme semi-arid weather in the Karamoja region where the park is located, the Narus Valley is one of the few places in Kidepo Valley National Park that has water throughout the year hence the Narus Valley is home to most of the wild animals as every living thing needs to always quench such as Cheeters, Lions, Uganda Kob, Reedbucks, Spotted Hyenas, Giraffes, Jackson’s Hartebeest, Bat-eared Fox, Black-backed, and Side – striped Jackals, Zebras, and many more. This is mainly because of the Narus River that bisects the valley. Some of the best observation spots in the valley are at the Narus dam and also the water hole that is close to the tourist visitor center. For those interested in flora, the valley comprises the Guinea grass which is the primary grass in the valley, Red Oat grass, and the fine Thatching grass. Also, the valley consists of some trees which include the Drumstick trees, Red Thorn Acacias, Desert Dates, Sausage Trees, and Buffalo’s Thorn Tree. One can be sure to spot 86 species of animals of which 28 of them are unique and cannot be seen or viewed elsewhere. Furthermore, one can also be sure to spot over 500 species of birds, especially along the Narus River such as the large striding Secretary Bird, White-bellied, Hartlaub’s and Kori Bustard, the Cardinal looking Brown-backed Woodpecker, and Nubian, the turquoise-blue ramped Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Abyssinian-ground Hornbill, the unique Pink-breasted and Singing Bush Lark and the White- Bellied Go Away Bird. The Narus Valley contains several game tracks with four loop circuits that are used for game viewing for example the Katurum Kopje loop and the Katurum loop.

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

Apoka Tourism Centre

Apoka Tourism Centre is located in the heart of Kidepo Valley National Park and acts as the starting point for most of the game park activities such as nature walks, hiking, and game drives. It is the same point where a tourist expects to meet the game rangers who are stationed in the Tourism Centre. Also, expect to find a fully stocked craft shop selling souvenirs, books, and drinks. Apoka Tourism Centre is the hub of Kidepo Valley National Park.

The Locals and Their Culture

Since Kidepo Valley National Park is situated in the famous Karamoja region, it is a wonderful tradition and culture hub. The game park mainly consists of two tribes of people, the Karamojong who stay around the boundaries surrounding the park/ share boundaries with the park, and the IK, or at times called the Tueso – “meaning the first to migrate here” which interesting and still remote tribe of people who stay at the summit of mountain Morungole. Those looking for an authentic cultural tourism experience, / should visit Kidepo Valley National Park to meet some of the few tribes that are still holding on dearly to their norms, culture, customs, and traditions. These cultural experiences include storytelling, singing and dancing, cattle rearing and milking, and food of the locals among others.

Namamukweny valley

The valley is situated in the north-eastern part of Kidepo Valley National Park. It developed its name Namamukweny from a local Karamojong word meaning a place with no birds. Despite the local meaning of the valley name, the valley is a great birding spot. It inhabits large bird populations such as the gleaming White-crested Turaco, Abyssinian, the migratory Eurasian Roller, and tapering-tailed Eastern Paradise-Whydah, Boran, and Red-pate Cisticola, Three-banded Courser among others. One should note that the valley is easily accessed either on foot or by a vehicle. On the whole, the Namamukweny Valley is a birding haven and is regularly visited by travelers especially birders and others interested in birding like photographers. Join our naturalist expert guides at Journeys Uganda for a rewarding birding experience while in Namamukweny Valley and Kidepo Valley National Park.

Kidepo Valley

The Kidepo Valley is one of the most famous spots in the Kidepo Valley National Park and it is so famous because of the Kanangorok hot springs; the unique and magnificent hot springs are situated in the northern sector of the park adjacent to the Kidepo River. The hot springs boil at 50 degrees Celsius and locals believe they have got healing and magical powers. The valley also is home to numerous bird species. Such as the Northern -carmine Bee-eater, the brightly colored Purple Grenadier, White-headed and the attractive White-billed Buffalo Weavers, the visiting Western Red-footed Falcon, and the Secretary bird.

Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Mountain Morungole

Mountain Morungole is located on the southern boundary of the Kidepo Valley National Park northeast of Apoka and stands at an elevation of 2,750 meters above sea level which creates beautiful scenery in the park. The raised block mountain is bisected by the only two most important rivers in the game park. These rivers are the Kidepo River and the Narus River. Furthermore, the mountain is also home to the indigenous IK people which is the smallest tribe of people in Uganda. They stay on the summit of the mountain and tourists usually hike the Morungole mountain to catch up with the culture and lifestyle of the IK people.

Lomej Hills

One of the best places to visit when looking for a spectacular scene of Kidepo National Park. It especially offers magnificent views from the game park and it’s also one of the top spots for bird watchers in the park as one should be sure to spot most of the birds on your Kidepo Valley wish list especially the huge Black-breasted Barbet, the tail cocking Stone Patridge, Chestnut Weaver, the very localized and hard to find Karamoja Apalis, among others.

Lonyili mountain.

Lonyili Mountain is another spectacular mountain in Kidepo Valley National Park and a sight to behold. The magnificent mountain is situated between the border of Kitgum and South Sudan. This is one of the most perfect homes of primates in Kidepo Valley National Park and this is because the slope of the Lonyili mountain is dominated by green forests. The primates that inhabit the mountain include Chimpanzees, Black and White Colobus monkeys, and the fasted ground-dwelling Patas monkeys. As of now, the only way one can access the mountain is by air. The Lonyili mountain cannot be accessed by road since the roads are in poor condition.

Patas Monkeys

Birding in Kidepo Valley National Park

First, birding in Kidepo National Park is one of the few activities that can be carried out successfully throughout the whole year despite the two different seasons which are wet and dry. The two different seasons offer quite different experiences as the wet seasons attract migratory birds to the park while the dry season also offers its endemic species such as the generally silent Ostrich which is the biggest bird. Birding in the park can be carried out both in the evening and morning times of the day. Some of the best birding spots in Kidepo Valley National Park are Apoka Rest Camp, the Narus Valley, and Namakwenyi Valley among others. The different bird species one should be sure to tick on their checklist include the Kori Bustard, Secretary Bird, Egyptian Vulture, Karamoja Apalis, Purple Heron, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Fox Kestrel, Jackson’s Hornbill, the solitary Three-streaked and Marsh Tchagra, d’Arnaud’s Barbet, the Stunning Red, black and Yellow Barbet, Shelley’s Rufous-sparrow, Chestnut Weaver, Northern Carmine Bee-eater and the rare Pale and Dark Chanting Goshawk among others. For one to have a successful and satisfying birding experience in Kidepo, he/she needs to be accompanied by a professional and energy-filled birding tour guide and these are always available at your service by Journeys Uganda.

Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow

How to get to Kidepo Valley National Park?

The game park is 520 km from the Capital city of Uganda Kampala to the Kaabong district where it is located. It also takes 12 hours from Kampala to Kidepo Valley National Park by road and 2 hours by air. It covers a total area of 1,442 square kilometers with its’ nearest biggest town in the sub-region being Moroto which is 220 km from Kampala.

What is the best time to visit Kidepo Valley National Park?

This park can generally be vistaed almost all year round but in any of the either dry or wet seasons. August, September, October, December, January, February, and early March are generally the months that are dry in Kidepo Valley National Park.  They are characterized by dry winds in the late and early afternoons and temperatures are usually high only close to the Murchison Falls of all conservation areas in Uganda. These are among the best months to go game viewing and birding in Kidepo Valley. The most wet or rainy months are late March to April, May, and a little bit of July. In these months, the vegetation cover depicts how green Africa has to offer as a tourist destination, unlike Europe or other parts of the world, even in the wet season, our rains will rarely last a day and are usually light which makes it not hard to have a fun-filled and unique Uganda safari.

Where to find accommodation around Kidepo Valley National Park?

Accommodation around the game park is scarce as a few luxury lodges are readily available for visitor use, the most common of the Luxurious lodges around the park are; the famous Apoka Safari Camp and Nga Moru Wilderness Camp, the new Savanah Lodge, and Zebra. Budget travelers could also use the Uganda Wildlife Authority-controlled Apoka Rest Camp with nice self-contained bandas.