The park got its name from a Dodoth verb”akidep” which means “to pick up” the Dodoth pastoralists and the IKs farmers were the early inhabitants of the place before it was gazetted as a game reserve in 1958 by the British government. Their main aim was to protect the wildlife from hunting and from clearing the bushes because of tsetse fly control that had invaded the place. Later the game reserve was converted to Kidepo Valley National Park in the year 1962 the year Uganda got its independence. As a result of the eviction, famine struck the area and especially the IK community. The IK community was close to extinction until when they got their first member of parliament in the history of Uganda. The first chief warden of the national park was Ian Ross from Britain and was replaced by a Ugandan Paul Sali in 1972. Their handover and training was the subject for the 1974 American documentary film, “The wild and the brave.” The park is nestled in the wild frontier region of Uganda it is the most isolated park in Uganda but still out to be one of the virgin places in the country it is dry hot yet spectacular, magnificent and waiting to be discovered, the park is famous for its unique structure of wildlife co-existing with dry mountain forests, open savanna and hilltops covered by rock kopjes crossed by big sandy rivers. The park is home to over 77 mammal species and almost 500 bird species. Game viewing is an exciting activity all year round as well as bird watching. Foot safaris as well as mountain climbing can be done even in the dry season. It is worth to visit the kidepo seasonal river and you can also stroll along the wide bed of white sand between banks that are covered with Borassus palm tree.
The park is located in karenga near kaabong district in the northeastern corner of Uganda. The park lies in the rugged semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with south Sudan and Kenya. It is approximately 700km from Kampala the capital city of Uganda. The local communities around the park are the pastoralist karamajongs who are similar to the Maasai of Kenya and the IK who are a hunters and gatherers whose survival is threatened.
The park is a semi arid region with temperatures of about 290c but during the day it can really get extreme and the temperatures get to 400c. The park receives rain one season per a year and this is usually from April- September, during the rainy season the vegetation is all green, grasslands, shrubs sprout and the wilderness fills with visible vibrant wildlife. The vegetation stunts and withers to sand and bare ground during the longer periods of drought. The open vegetation cover of the park is ideal for spotting a wide range of game during the safaris.
The security of the park is very tight; the safety of the park over 10 years ago was not very good. The history of the park depicts a lot of volatile acts but it is not the case, currently the park is considered to be 100% safe for tourism because even the locals got to understand the importance of tourism in the region. But the also the managing body which is Uganda Wildlife Authority together with Uganda peoples defense force train the parker rangers military skills which include self defence, then also how to defend the tourists so all the parks of Uganda have 100% guarantee that they are safe for tourism .
The park has a variety of things that are appealing to the eyes, the moment you step foot in the park you are welcomed by the unique cultures of the people, wildlife, birds and so on and the rest of the attractions in the park are below;
- Wildlife; The park has over 77 different species of mammals and among these include elephants, lions, buffaloes, Rothschild giraffes, striped hyenas, cheetahs to mention but a few.
- Birds; the park has over 500 bird species and these include Ostriches, Jackson’s hornbill, lemon dove, African hill bladder, grey cuckoo shrike, Eastern bronze napped pigeon to mention but a few.
- Culture; you can get to know these people more if you take a community walks and get to know them more, their lifestlyle,their different cultures, dressing style, staple food, dances. The karamajongs are traditionally cattle raiders and hunters.
- Rivers; the park has different rivers that flows through it and these include river kidepo and the Narus river and these rivers usually disappear during the dry season leaving just pools for wildlife.
- Mountains; and these include Lonyili Mountain and Morungole Mountain which are usually good places for hiking and nature walks.
- Manyattas;These are their homesteads and they are typically in a cluster of several grass-thatched, mud and wattle huts enclosed inside a perimeter fence of thorny twigs for protection.
The park also has some many things that can keep you occupied and some of the activities you can do while in the park are as follows below;
- Game drives; game drives can be done along the narus valley since it the place where most wildlife congregates much of the year which makes this area have adequate track routes which gives tourists a chance to view the wildlife at close range. During the game drive you will be able to see elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, giraffes and lions on the rocks sunbathing to mention but a few.
- Bird watching; the park is notable for its birds of prey, it has about 14 birds of prey are known to be endemic to the kidepo and karamoja region and some of the birds of prey include verreaux’s Eagle, Egyptian vulture, the pygmy Falcon to mention but a few other birds you can be able to spot are the Ostriches which are the common species around, karamoja apalis and so many other different species.
- Community walks; This activity gives you a chance to get to know more about the karamajong lifestyle, dressing style, their dances and songs and tools they use for different activities like hunting, their homesteads(manyattas that are grass thatched have and thorns).
- Nature walks; nature walks can be done along the Apoka camp at any time of the day. Tourists are able to view different wildlife like elephants, buffaloes, reedbucks among others. At the eastern kakine circuit tourists are able to see wildlife from a close range, nature walks can also be done along the Rionomoe trail and around this hill you will get a chance of viewing the lower side of the Narus valley.
- Hiking; take a hike through the Lomej mountains where you will have a chance to meet the endangered IK tribe and wander through the splendid kidepo river valley between banks that are filled with borassus palm forest.
Kidepo valley national park can be accessed by either road or by air. And the most commonly used route and most interesting which gives you better scenery as you drive through the wilderness is from Kampala through Gulu- Kitgum which is approximately 700km and about 12-13hours drive and a sturdy 4WD will be the best. The park can also be accessed by air from Entebbe international air port or kajjansi in Kampala to Lomej airstrip which is near the park headquarters. The park has four routes you can use to access it; there is that one of about 705km journey which is from kampala via lira, kotido, kaabong and then to kidepo valley national park, there is also another one of about 740km from kampala via Mbale, Soroti, Moroto, Kotido, Kaabong and then kidepo valley national park, and then the journey from Kampala via Mbale, Soroti, Matany, Kotido, Kaabong and on to the kidepo valley national park and this is about 780km.
The park has different accommodations both inside and outside the park and these include luxury, moderate and budget. And these include kidepo savannah lodge, Apoka safari lodge (luxury) Nga’Moru wilderness camp (midrange) Apoka hostel bandas which is one of the budget accommodations near the park.