What is Kidepo Valley National Park?
Out of all the national parks I’ve visited in Uganda, Kidepo Valley Nationa Park is by far the farthest and remotest in the country. I can say that it’s one of the least visited parks in Uganda because of how long the travel time is to get there. It’s located at Uganda’s northeasternmost point right at the country’s border shared with Sudan and Kenya.
But this is a good thing for those who do visit as the park is less touched by industry and offers a more private experience to tourists who chose to visit. Our entire stay there reminded me of my stay in Meru National Park in Kenya. Both parks are unspoiled by the number of tourists in cars and offer a more authentic experience in the wilderness.
Kidepo Valley National Park is the third-largest national park in Uganda and is the most unspoiled of all the parks I’ve been to in Uganda. Its territory spreads out 1,442 square kilometers and there are barely any other cars and tourists when we visited.
The park is home to two valleys, the Kidepo Valley, to which the park is named after, and the Narus Valley. During the rainy season, both of the valleys’ river overflows and the surrounding area comes to life with greenery. Kidepo Valley is where most of the wildlife congregate during the rainy season and moves back to Narus Valley as the dry season begins.
The soils of Narus Valley retain more water and remains wet long after the rainy season ends. This creates temporary swamps, bushes, and oases which can last throughout the dry season. And it’s precisely because of this that most tourists ventures into the Narus Valley almost all year round while it’s mostly during the dry season when it’s ideal to visit Kidepo Valley.
So we got to Kidepo Valley National Park at a good time. I noticed that the park was more green compared to others even during the dryer season. The park hosts 75 species of mammals and 470 species of birds, some of which are extinct in Uganda and can only be spotted in Kidepo Valley National Park.
How to Get There
Kidepo National Park is estimated to be about 510 kilometers by road from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. There are two ways to reach the park if you want to visit its lush terrain.
1. By Road
It takes around 10 hours to drive from Kampala to Kidepo. There are other routes to take from the capital to the park with the shortest one being a 10-hour drive. Tourists taking this drive can take breaks on lodges along the road, one of them being the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. I highly recommend this because apart from the long journey being tiring, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is really worth the visit.
2. Chartered Flights
For a more relaxing and faster mode of travel take a chartered flight from Entebbe National Airport straight to Kidepo National Park which would only take about 1 hour. This would probably cost quite more than driving to the park so it’s best to do it in a group. Just watch out for the weather as this can delay scheduled flights.
Charter flights can range from 100 to 150 USD for a one way trip to the park.
What to Do in Kidepo
The main attractions in Kidepo Valley National Park are, of course, the animals. Due to the park’s remote location, the wilderness is unspoiled and rarely any other tourists as you admire the animals in the landscape. The park offers great activities that will immerse visitors in their surroundings.
Game drives are one of the best ways to see as many animals as you can in the park. The best times for this activity is early morning, at sunset, and even in the evening. Most of the lodges on the park offer game drives and other safari activities to their guests and the game drives are probably the best things to do here, in my opinion. We got to the small and huge mammals up close as we possibly could and our guide was very informative as well.
There were a lot of lions, and we saw elephants from afar. There were also zebras, buffalos, warthogs, and different types of antelopes.
2. Nature Walk
The Kidepo National Park is huge and vast and this makes nature walks from different parts of the park is possible. From Apoka Tourism Center, visitors can join guided nature walks through the Narus Valley over a 5 km radius and even along the banks of the Kidepo River Valley. For hikers out there, you can join guided hikes up the Lomej Mountains which can be reached on foot in four hours and starts at 7 am.
3. Bird Watching
The park is home to hundreds of different bird species and makes bird watching one of the most popular activities just because of how many different species one can spot. The ostriches are the first ones we spotted and we were delighted to spot other species of birds and identifying their defining characteristics. There were purple herons, Clapperton’s francolin, and many more!
4. Participate in Cultural Activities
Kidepo National Park is home to a number of indigenous tribes and visitors can schedule a guided tour to visit tribes like the IK and Karamajong people to experience and learn about their culture. It’s a great way to discover the little known indigenous cultures of Uganda.
What is the Cost to Visit the Park?
The entrance fee to Kidepo National Park varies. For foreign adults, you’ll have to pay 40 USD while foreign children will have to pay 20 USD for the entrance fee.
Renting a car to take you around the park will cost a hundred USD per day and other activities like bird watching and safari walks can cost about 30 USD.
Where to Stay in Kidepo National Park
We stayed at the newly established Adere Safari Lodge that opened just last December in 2019. They offer great activities like game drives, nature walks, bird watching, and many more. The lodge is spread out on this huge property with many of its buildings built on the side of a hill so the pathways can be steep.
The rooms were beautifully spacious and use local materials for the furnishing that never fails to remind you that you’re in the middle of the wilderness, especially because of its balcony. Each room was built like a villa with its own outdoor shower. Everything was very homey. The only slight downside is that the rooms are quite far from the lobby so be prepared to do a lot of walking back and forth.
They only have wifi in the lobby and that’s where my group and I spent most of our time. They also have a great dining experience that serves delicious local Ugandan cuisine. For relaxation, you can pay for a massage or dip into their exquisitely huge outdoor pool.