​Expert Reviews – Kidepo Valley NP

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Mark Eveleigh   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Mark is a travel writer who grew up in Africa and has written over 700 titles for Condé Nast Traveller, Travel Africa, BBC Wildlife and others.

16 people found this review helpful.

Uganda’s secret northern wilderness
Overall rating

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.

A sizeable lion population include formidable prides that prey on the park’s abundant 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 you have a good chance of spectacular sightings without even stepping off your veranda.

Kidepo Valley 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 470 bird and 86 mammal species. Lesser kudu, mountain reedbuck, caracal, Guenther’s dik-dik and cheetah are among 28 mammals found in no other national park in Uganda. Recent relocation efforts have boosted the population of eland and Rothschild’s giraffes, and established a growing herd of Ugandan kob.

Although flying into Kidepo is preferable if you have the budget, the road condition is ‘decent’ and security is no longer 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.

Tim Bewer   –  
United States US
Visited: August

Tim is a travel writer who has covered 10 African countries for Lonely Planet's Africa, East Africa and West Africa guidebooks.

12 people found this review helpful.

Blissfully remote and stunningly gorgeous
Overall rating

My favorite park in Uganda, Kidepo is relatively difficult to reach (unless you fly) but absolutely worth the time and effort to get there. Ringed by mountains, this short-grass savannah-filled valley in the far northeast of the country is one of the loveliest places in not just Uganda, but all of East Africa; yet it is seldom visited, allowing a primeval wilderness vibe that can’t be topped elsewhere in Uganda. Wildlife watching is good year-round with healthy populations of four of the Big Five (rhinos are absent) and many species not found elsewhere in Uganda such as cheetah, aardwolf, greater kudu, lesser kudu and common ostrich. I got really near a buffalo herd on my bush walk and had two up-close encounters with a famously fearless elephant who routinely hangs around the park headquarters. As with the mammals, there are plenty of birds exclusive to this park and with nearly 500 species on the checklist, it is a must visit for birdwatchers.

Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

10 people found this review helpful.

A Long Forgotten Eden
Overall rating

Imagine a place that looks like the Mara-Serengeti but surrounded by jagged mountains; a place full of wildlife but without another person in sight and you’re on the right track. Kidepo is Uganda’s slice of quintessential East African savanna. The Narus Valley teems with wildlife in the dry season and it’s not uncommon to see large herds of elephant, or buffalo gathering in their thousands. I have often seen lions climb the koppies or lie in the park’s shady sausage trees from where they spot their quarry. This is also Uganda’s only park where cheetah can be seen. I love this place: it’s a true African wilderness of extreme beauty with large concentrations of wildlife still enduring. It is also the definition of remote. The reason there are so few tourists here is that it is a hard place to reach, but unlike a few years ago, security is no longer an issue.

Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Dry season

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

8 people found this review helpful.

Uganda’s remote valley
Overall rating

Kidepo Valley National Park is by far the most remote park in Uganda. Most people fly here, but we drove the long bumpy road north, which made us appreciate its remoteness even more. The open grassland surrounded by mountains makes a stunning setting for a wide variety of animals including cheetah, which doesn’t occur in other Ugandan parks. We were welcomed by a large herd of slightly nervous elephants when we entered the park and we saw lions on several occasions. We stayed in Apoka Safari Lodge, which overlooks a waterhole where a constant stream of animals comes to drink. Waterbuck even came to drink from the lodge swimming pool. Patas monkeys can often be seen sitting on termite mounds and are a real specialty of the park. All in all, there was a lot more wildlife here than I expected. I was prepared to enjoy true wilderness with a few animals, but animal numbers are more than healthy. One oddity was a white-eared kob, which seemed slightly lost outside its distribution as it must have crossed over from South Sudan.

Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Dry season

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

6 people found this review helpful.

Uganda’s forgotten savannah reserve
Overall rating

Nestled up against the remote South Sudanese border in the far northeast of Uganda, Kidepo Valley National Park has long been a byword for inaccessibility and remoteness. This is partly due to geographical distance from Kampala and the southwest safari circuit, an isolation exacerbated by the risk associated with road travel in the north during the reign of terror wrought by the the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) between 1986 and 2005. However, this sensationally scenic national park is now relatively easy to reach from Kampala, and the presence of several good lodges and an adequate rest camp make it a thoroughly viable safari option.

It’s more than worth the effort of visiting Kidepo. Ob two previous visits, I’ve been blown away by the wildlife viewing. On most game drives, we saw herds of 20-plus elephant marching to or from the Narus Valley. Other highlights included a 1,000-strong herd of buffalo, and lions lounging up on one of the immense granite boulders that characterize the Narus River Valley, which is the main wildlife viewing circuit. Other wildlife associated with the Narus Valley includes Rothschild’s giraffe, plains zebra, Bohor reedbuck and oribi, while characteristic birds with a very limited distribution elsewhere in East Africa are Clapperton’s francolin and rose-ringed parakeet.

Game viewing is less reliable in the more northerly Kidepo River valley, but this is a good place to look for Uganda’s last wild ostriches and the very localized Jackson’s hornbill and Karamoja apalis. Overall, while game densities are not quite on a par with Murchison Falls or Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo offers an excellent balance between good wildlife-viewing and the genuine wilderness atmosphere craved by most repeat safari-goers.

Alan Murphy   –  
Australia AU
Visited: May

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

4 people found this review helpful.

Kidepo Valley – Wildlife stronghold of the north
Overall rating

Slammed into the northeast corner of Uganda, and jutting up against South Sudan, Kidepo Valley is unique in Uganda. It’s probably my favourite park in the country and in my top 5 in East Africa. Two enormous savannah valleys enclosed by rows of jagged mountains are often shrouded by thunderclouds. And in the valleys is plentiful wildlife including four of the Big Five (no rhino – although white rhino can be seen at Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch en route from Kampala).

I got some fantastic lion photos in Kidepo and saw more buffalo than I ever have – some a bit too close for comfort. On a morning walk we startled some old generals (aged males kicked out of the herd as they become old and weak) behind a thicket we walked past. Fortunately, our presence seemed to confuse the reputed ill-tempered beasts, and they thundered off in the opposite direction! Denis, the ranger leading the walk, filled my head with tales of derring-do in the bush, normally involving enraged buffaloes or hungry cats…I was quite glad to be surrounded by the metal of our vehicle once we returned to it…

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.2/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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