Considered one of the most remote safari parks in Africa, Kidepo Valley National Park is most notable for harboring a number of animals found nowhere else in Uganda, including cheetahs, bat-eared foxes, aardwolves, caracal, and greater and lesser kudus. There are also large concentrations of elephants, zebras, buffaloes, bushbucks, giraffes, lions, jackals, leopards, hyenas, and Nile crocodiles. The park also offers some of the most stunning scenery of any protected area in Uganda; the rolling, short-grass savannah of the 1442sqkm park is ringed by mountains and cut by rocky ridges. Amazingly, most of the animals, including even the occasional lion, are content to graze and lounge right near the park accommodation, so you can see a whole lot without going very far, a kind of armchair safari.
Kidepo is the only park in Uganda where the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has a vehicle for hire to visitors, but it’s not available always. For those with their own vehicles, there’s an extensive network of tracks in the park, with the Narus Valley being a top target for wildlife. Lions are often spotted lazing in rocky outcrops and climbing branches of big trees. Also popular are the Borassus palm forest and Kanangorok hot springs by the Kidepo River near the South Sudan border; which is also the habitat of Ostriches. Note that only the Apoka gate (at Apoka Rest Camp) staffs ranger guides for morning safaris. It’s a good idea to book yours a day in advance, as the staff is small.
A great option for wildlife viewing is to venture out on foot, accompanied by armed rangers.
UWA can organize visits to Karamojong and Ik villages with hiking at Mt Morungole, both memorable experiences allowing you to interact with these northeast tribal groups.
There are only a few lodgings, but there’s something for every price range, from budget to luxury. If you want to be in the thick of the action, the park maintains several isolated campsites with latrines, firewood, and water, but you provide the tent. You’ll be accompanied by an armed guard who can arrange firewood for cooking.
Well outside of the park in the small town of Karenga about 8km from Kidepo’s gate, this simple roadside guesthouse is a good option for those wanting to experience Karamoja culture by staying in a manyatta (traditional Karamoja round hut). There are also basic rooms, and food is served in its pleasant restaurant. It can arrange cultural performances and park transport. Wi-fi use can be purchased.
Apoka Rest Camp
Run by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), this campus of basic bandas is spread over a grassy site. There’s plenty of wildlife around, so be sure to keep your distance and always carry a torch. A small restaurant offers a limited menu and cold beers to enjoy the nightly campfire.
Kidepo Savannah Lodge
Just outside the park boundary, this stylish addition delivers excellent value. It sits on a low ridge with expansive park views and visiting zebras and waterbuck. The simpatico staff serves meals or chilled beers in the main lodge with ample lounging space. Deluxe safari tents feature decks, beds clad in Masai blankets, and hot showers in attached open-air bathrooms.
Apoka Safari Lodge
A unique luxury property, Apoka Safari Lodge spoils you with 10 lovely rooms, fine dining, and a swimming pool chiseled into rock. Large, thatched cottages with canvas walls and solar power lookout on wildlife attracted to the on-site watering hole. Each cottage features an outdoor tub, stone showers, and a writing desk that would suit Hemingway to a tree.
The swimming pool is available today visitors when no guests are booked. Meals are another possibility to non-guests, depending on other bookings. Reception displays the skull of Kidepo’s last rhino, shot by poachers in the early 1980s.
Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp
This wild and peaceful spot just outside the park border has safari tents with hot solar-powered showers and huge cottages with prime views. Installations have seen some wear and a small dining area with little windows takes little advantage of the cool setting. Lions occasionally hang out here. The owner Patrick is a very excellent source of information for northern Uganda.