east africa maps
No. 11 - KIDEPO VALLEY NP
Kidepo! Nowhere epitomises the superb diversity of scenery found in Uganda better than Kidepo Valley National Park! If you visit these remote, mountain-ringed plains after tracking gorillas in the shady forests of Bwindi, viewing the lush landscapes of the Fort Portal crater lakes and boating on the huge, wet expanse of Lake Victoria, you’ll find it hard to believe you’re in the same country!
Located in Uganda’s remote, north-eastern extremity near South Sudan and Kenya and with rolling grasslands extending towards rugged mountain ranges in all points of the compass, the remote Kidepo Valley National Park is Uganda’s most compelling wilderness. For years, this isolation was compounded by perennial insecurity on the approach routes through Acholiland and Karamoja making Kidepo the preserve of wealthy tourists and the occasional adventurous - or foolhardy – traveller - for the only safe way to reach the park was by buying a costly plane ticket.
However the LRA war in Acholiland ended in 2007 and the cattle raiding warriors of Karamoja have been disarmed, making road trips to Kidepo a safe proposition. And what a road trip this is, through some spectacular landscapes that have seen few tourists since the late Sixties. If you have time, do the circuit I did with Billy Reynell (who created this splendid website) in 2012, driving to Kidepo to do the fieldwork for this map. Our nine-day safari took us up to the park via Kitgum and returned through the length of wild Karamoja via Kotido and Moroto before detouring up to Sipi Falls for some greenery and cool mountain air.
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Kidepo Valley National Park is the last protected area in NE Uganda to retain significant wildlife populations. Wildlife is concentrated in the Narus Valley in the south of the park which is the only part of KVNP to have year round water.
The KVNP species list includes a number of creatures found in few or none of Uganda’s other protected areas. Those limited to Kidepo include ostrich, cheetah and lesser and greater kudu. Rothschild’s giraffe is present elsewhere only in Murchison Falls NP and eland and zebra in Lake Mburo. Other species previously recorded in Kidepo but now locally extinct are black rhinoceros, wild dog, roan antelope, Bright’s gazelle, Beisa oryx, white eared kob and greater kudu. Elephant are still present in good numbers as well as buffalo, which form seasonal congregations numbering several thousand in the Narus valley.
WHEN TO VISIT
Kidepo is best visited during the dry months. Road access is easier while wildlife should be located within range of water in the Narus and its tributaries. However the seasons are not as distinct as once expected and rain may fall at any time of the year enabling wildlife to disperse more widely.
AROUND THE PARK
Kakine and Katurum Circuits
Two game viewing circuits, Kakine and Katurum loop across the rolling grasslands to the south east of Apoka. The western arm of the latter doubles as the main track between Katurum Gate and Apoka. On the Kakine Circuit, a simple campsite is located on a knoll about 1km from the start of the loop. As well as being a scenic spot to pitch a tent, the 360 degree panorama makes this an excellent sundowner viewpoint. Further along the same circuit, the Kakine kopje is a regular haunt for lions.
The Kakine and Katurum Circuits are separated by a long, shallow wetland valley containing the upper section of the Narus river system. In dry conditions it is possible to cross this valley from one loop to another by means of a rough track. As well as being a useful and potentially adventurous short cut (do take a ranger guide with you), the route also passes the park’s largest waterhole. This is home to an unexpected resident - the Nile crocodile - and a variety of waterbirds.
Bradt Guide to Uganda (7th edition: 2013) Philip Briggs & Andrew Roberts.
Updates on blog: http://bradtugandaupdate.wordpress.com
Kidepo Valley National Park Information Guide, Mark Jordahl (AWF/UWA 2015)