Kidepo Valley national is in the remote northeast corner of the country. The park has a true wilderness feel and is a great destination for the adventurous traveler. It has excellent wildlife viewing during the Dry season, featuring several species not encountered anywhere else in the country.
With sprawling savannah and soaring mountains, Kidepo Valley National Park might be the most picturesque park in all Africa. Sharing borders with South Sudan and Kenya’s Northern Frontier District, it is Uganda’s most remote and least-explored park.
The estimated population of 120 lion include formidable prides that prey on the park’s 13,000 buffalo. I’ve visited the park twice, had lions in camp on both trips and have seen incredible herds of more than 4,000 buffalo and hundreds of elephant.
Apoka Lodge is one of Uganda’s finest accommodation options and, although game-driving from here can be unforgettable, you have a good chance of spectacular sightings without even stepping off your veranda. Kidepo was once the playground of Idi Amin, and the haunting ruins of a lodge that could just as easily have been designed as a massive bunker is currently (although slowly) being converted into a lodge.
Kidepo Valley national park was the traditional hunting territory of the mysterious Ik tribe, one of Africa’s most culturally-intact communities. The 3-hour trek up to the Ik villages high on the slopes of Morungole Mountain offers an unforgettable opportunity to make friends among the charming people who were (inexplicably) portrayed as the world’s nastiest people in the 1973 best-seller The Mountain People by Colin Turnbull.
I’ve worked on photographic assignments in Kidepo in both the dry and rainy season. Although accessibility to some parts of the Narus Valley (‘muddy valley’ in the Karamojong language) can be difficult during the rain, the spectacular play of light on the mountains and plains makes this an unbeatable time to visit for a photographer. This is when you truly get the feeling that you’re in one of Africa’s most unforgettably beautiful corners.
Kidepo is home to 500 bird species and 86 mammals: lesser kudu, mountain reedbuck, caracal, Guenther’s dik-dik and cheetah are among 28 mammals which can be found nowhere else in Uganda. There’s an estimated 700 elephants here and recent relocation efforts have boosted the population of eland and Rothschild giraffes and established a growing herd of Ugandan kob. There have even been discussions about relocating black rhino here from Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary but until the rhino-horn problem has been solved, there’s little hope of such a move in a park that shares a border with South Sudan and northern Kenya.
The security issues that were a definite preoccupation – requiring driving in a convoy – during my first visit are now a thing of the past. Although flying into Kidepo is preferable if you have the budget, the road condition is ‘decent’ and security is unlikely to be a problem.
Many people split the 12-hour drive (a wonderful chance to see so much of the country) from Entebbe across two days, but I’d recommend making the drive in one bash and having more time in the park. Kidepo’s isolation is also part of its great charm: those who take the trouble to get here are rewarded with phenomenal wildlife sightings and a level of exclusivity that can rarely be had at any cost in neighbouring countries.