Kidepo Valley National Park is in the remote northeast corner of the country. The park has a true wilderness feel and is a great destination for the adventurous traveller. It has excellent wildlife viewing during the Dry season, featuring several species not encountered anywhere else in the country.
The park has a very impressive mammals list. Twenty species of predators are residents, and several don’t exist in any other Ugandan parks (including cheetah and black-backed jackal). A lion is common and leopard also occurs. Elephant, Burchell’s zebra, buffalo, and Rothschild’s giraffe regularly seen, but black rhino has recently become extinct. Twelve antelope species are present – some of which don’t occur anywhere else in the country. The park has arguably the most diverse savannah fauna of any park in the country. It is particularly rich in predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah, and bat-eared fox. Black-backed and side-striped jackals are both presents. There are large herds of buffalo. Twelve antelope species occur in the park, including Jackson’s hartebeest, oribi, eland, Uganda kob, and klipspringer.
Two valleys (Kidepo Valley and Narus Valley) on either side of predominantly mountainous terrain dominate the park. There are wide, sweeping views of the Narus Valley from many vantage points. Open grassland is interspersed with acacia trees, desert dates, and rocky outcrops.
Kidepo usually offers excellent lion and elephant sightings. Herds of up 1,000 buffalos are often encountered. Cheetah is seen with increasing frequency, and it is home to many dry-country species, among them caracal, aardwolf, greater and lesser kudu, mountain reedbuck, and Guenther’s dik-dik. Five primate species are present, including the localized patas monkey. Lucky visitors might spot the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe.
The best time for wildlife viewing in the middle and end of the Dry season (November to February) when animals concentrate around reliable water sources. During the Wet season (April to August) animals disperse from the valleys and move to higher ground, where they are more difficult to locate.
Kidepo Valley has a very impressive bird list of over 470 species, the second-highest population of any Ugandan reserve, following only Queen Elizabeth National Park. Sixty birds on its list haven’t been recorded in any other Ugandan park. No comprehensive surveydone, so visitors see some species not previously recorded for the park. Kidepo is especially good for spotting raptors, with 56 species on record. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
The birdlife in Kidepo is good year-round, but at its best from March to April for all the specials and the many migrants. November to February has the least rain, while June to August has more. Rain shouldn’t be too much of a problem in this semi-arid part of the country. However, Migratory birds are in the valley from November to April. For wildlife viewing, the middle and end of the Dry season (November to February) is best.
The prime time to see wildlife in Kidepo Valley NP is during the Dry season (September to March). Kidepo is however located in a semi-arid region and can be visited throughout the year. The Wet season months (April to August) are pleasantly less hot and bring beautiful scenery. Bird watching is at its best at this time as well.
The climate in Kidepo Valley NP is semi-arid. Droughts are common. Temperatures can reach as high as 40°C/104°F, but average around 29°C/84°F in the afternoon and 17°C/63°F at night. There is one Wet season (differing from two Wet seasons in most of the country) from April to August.
September, October & November – It might still rain some days as the Wet season transitions into the Dry season. It is getting warmer, with average temperatures of about 29°C/84°F in the afternoon and 17°C/63°F in the morning.
December, January & February – There is almost no rain, and it gets drier and hotter. January and February are the warmest months with daytime temperatures of 32°C/90°F and morning temperatures of 18°C/64°F. Peak temperatures can easily rise to 40°C/104°F.
March – It is still dry, but the first rains will break the heat and settle the dust.
April, May, June, July & August – Afternoon showers should be expected. When compared to the Wet seasons of the parks in the south, there isn’t a lot of rainfall. The lowest yearly temperatures are experienced, but the daytime still averages around 27°C/81°F, with morning temperatures around 17°C/63°F.
The best way to get to Kidepo Valley NP is by a scheduled or chartered flight. It is also possible to drive to Kidepo. There are several routes. The most direct route, through Gulu to Lokumoit Gate, takes about 10 hours. The trip can be broken up with an overnight stop at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Chobe Safari Lodge, Gulu, or Kitgum. Two longer routes pass through the remote Karamoja subregion, arriving at Nataba Gate. Karamoja was subject to banditry in the past but it has been considered safe for several years and is a growing center of community-based tourism focused on the small town of Moroto.
Flights between parks are usually scheduled by your tour operator. They will also arrange for your pick-up from the airport or your hotel in most cases. You will enter Uganda by way of Entebbe International Airport (EBB), which is near the town of Entebbe and 46km/29mi from Kampala, Uganda’s capital.
In our opinion, Kidepo Valley NP is safe to visit. As with most other parks in Uganda, you will rarely come across anyone who isn’t a tourist or employed by tour operator, camps, and parks.
The park is located in the Karamoja region in northeastern Uganda. This part of the country has been volatile in the past but is now locally considered safe. However, some countries have issued travel warnings for the region in the past and haven’t changed them – with the exception of the national park – despite the situation improving.
It is important to guard against malaria. You can limit that risk greatly by using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective), covering up in the evening and by taking antimalarial medication.
Wildlife viewing comes with certain risks but safe as long as you follow your guide’s instructions. Do be aware of the small groups of ‘retired generals’ (older buffalo kicked out of their herd) if on a walking safari. They can be very aggressive – your guide should give them a wide berth. Please also take note of the ‘wildlife viewing safety precautions’ below.