Uganda’s most remote and third-largest national park, Kidepo lies in the far Northeast of Karamoja sub region, bordering South Sudan to the Northeast and only 5 km from the easterly border with Kenya. It is one of the country’s most alluring wildlife safari destinations combining rugged mountain scenery and a compelling wilderness atmosphere with some exceptionally good game viewing, particularly in the Narus Valley with its dense populations of lion, buffalo, elephant and many smaller ungulates. Until recently, the expense and difficulty of reaching Kidepo meant it attracted a low volume of tourists, but this is starting to change as a result of increasing stability in Northern Uganda, improved approach roads, and comparison to most other comparably wildlife-rich savannah reserves in East Africa — indeed, it was voted Africa’s third-best wilderness park in 2013 CNN Travel Awards.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The dominant habitat in Narus Valley is open grassland studded with tall sausage trees (Kigelia africana) and the massive elongated fruits for which they are named. The Kidepo Valley supports drier acacia woodland, through some significant stands of borassus palms line watercourses. Elsewhere are patches of montane forest and riparian woodland. Kidepo protects one of the most exciting faunas of any Ugandan national park, although its total of 86 mammal species has been reduced to 77 after a rash of local extinctions in recent years. Predators are particularly well represented, with 20 resident species, including lion, leopard, spotted hyena, and occasionally striped hyena, while black-jackal, bat-eared fox, aardwolf, cheetah and caracal are not to be found in any other Ugandan national park. Five primates species have been recorded, including the localised patas monkey. Kidepo’s elephant population has surged from around 200 in the mid-1990s to more than 650 today. The African buffalo is probably the most numerous ungulate, with the population now estimated at more than 10,000. Kidepo is an important refuge for the localised Rothschild’s giraffe, which has bred up to around 50 individual from a bottleneck mid-1990s population of three, supplemented by another three translocated from Kenya. Other conspicuous ungulates include Burchell’s zebra, warthog, Jackson’s hartebeest, Bohor reedbuck, oribi and, to a lesser extent, eland. Kidepo is the only park in Uganda to harbour population of greater kudu, lesser kudu, Guenther’s dik-dik and mountain reedbuck, none of which are all that common. The bird checklist of 470 species is second only to Queen Elizabeth National Park, and includes more than 60 birds recorded in no other Ugandan national park.
It supports East Africa’s only population of Clapperton’s francolin and the spectacular rose-ringed parakeet. Raptors are particularly well represented: there are 56 species in total, of which the most commonly observed include dark chanting goshawk, pygmy falcon, towny eagle, bateleur and several types of vulture. Other bird that must be regarded as Kidepo special in a Ugandan context include common ostrich, secretary-bird, fox kestrel, white-eyed kestrel, white-bellied go-away bird. carmine bee-eater, little green bee-eater, Abyssinian roller, Abyssinian scimitarbill, red-and-yellow barbet, black-breasted barbet, red-billed hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, Jackson’s hornbill, Karamoja apalis, rufous chatterer and purple grenadier — to name only a few of the more colourful or visible bird species.