Lying in the rugged, semi-arid valleys of Karamoja province on the far northern border with the Sudan, Kidepo Valley is Uganda’s most remote national park. Few undertake the pilgrimage to the park but the spectacular beauty of this pristine wilderness impresses all that make it. For the visiting birder, Kidepo Valley National Park boasts a bird list of over 475 species, a total second only to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Amongst the host of dry, eastern “specials” not found in any other Ugandan national park are some of East Africa’s rarest and most sought after birds such as Black-breasted Barbet and Karamoja Apallis.
The Apoka Rest Camp and Park Headquarters overlooking the swallow, southern Narus Valley is a great spot to begin your Kidepo birding. The attractive Silverbird and small bands of Yellow-billed Shrike frequent the thorn trees around camp, as do a number of other widespread species such as Vinaceous Dove, Hoopoe, Nubian Woodpecker, Mosque Swallow, Ruppell’s and Superb Starlings, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Little Weaver and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu. A small permanent water hole at the edge of camp attracts swallows and a variety of seedeaters including Yellow-rumped Seedeater and is visited at night by Four-banded Sandgrouse, Elephant, Buffalo and occasionally Lion. Clapperton’s Francolin, Black Coucal, African Moustached and Broad-tailed Warblers, Marsh Tchagra and Crimson-rumped Waxbill may be seen in the rank grass along the normally dry stream bed adjacent to camp or along the track to Apoka lodge.
Key Species of Birds
African Swallow-tailed Kite
Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk
Clapperton’s and Heuglin’s Francolins
White-bellied and Hartlaub’s Bustards
Four-banded Sand Grouse
Bruce’s Green Pigeon
White-bellied Go-away bird
White-faced Scoops Owl
Long-tailed and Standard-winged Nightjars
Little Green Bee-eater
Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned Rollers
Eastern Yellow and Jackson’s Hornbills
Red-fronted and Black-breasted Barbets
Singing Bush Lark
Pied, Isabelline and Heuglin’s Wheaters
African Grey Flycatcher
Foxy and Red pate Cisticolas
Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit
Northern White-crowned and Yellow-billed Shrikes
Red billed Oxpecker
Eastern Violet backed
Pygmy and Beautiful Sunbirds
Rufous and Chestnut Sparrow
White-headed and White-billed Buffalo Weavers
White-browed and Chestnut- crowned Sparrow Weavers
Grey-capped Social and Speckle-fronted Weavers
Green-winged Orange-winged and Red-winged Pytilias
Black-bellied and Black-faded Waxbill
Steel-blue and Strawtailed Whydahs
Kidepo’s mammal list of over 80 species includes 28 that are found in no other Ugandan National park. Amongst these are such charismatic African animals as Bat-eared Fox, Carcal, Cheetah and Klipspringer. Unfortunately, Kidepo suffered the same fate as many other Ugandan parks during the Amin era and is still recovering from years of poaching that left game herds depleted. Striped Hyena, Lesser Kudu, Grant’s Gazelle and Beisa Oryx have not been seen at all in recent times and are presumed to be locally extinct. Other large mammals have shown a remarkable recovery and there are now healthy population of Elephant, Common Zebra, Buffalo, Bohor Reedbuck, Waterbuck and Kongoni. Predators are plentiful and Spotted Hyena, Leopard and Lion are frequently seen. Oribis is abundant in the Narus Valley, whilst the dry thorn thickets in the north are home to Guenther’s Dik Dik. Senegal Galago and Sidestriped Jackal may be found in the rest camp at night and White-tailed Mongoose is common but more likely to be found on a night drive. The park also has a very rich and diverse reptile fauna.
Apoka Rest Camp, run by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, offers comfortable bandas within the national park, including bedding, mosquito netting and showers. It is recommended that you bring all your own food although it can be cooked for you if necessary.
A more upmarket option is the exclusive Apoka Lodge. This luxury lodge is located in the middle of Kidepo National Park with spacious rooms and private veranda. Each room has a sitting room and ensuite bathroom. A restaurant and swimming pool are available as well.
It is recommended that a ranger-guide accompany you at all times whilst at Kidepo Valley National park and this can be arranged on arrival at Apoka. Patrick is an excellent ranger who knows many of the birds. Park officials also suggest that all vehicles travelling north into the Kidepo Valley be escorted by multiple armed guards due to the periodic presence of poachers and cattle rustlers in the area.
Kidepo Valley National Park is accessible either by road or by air. The most commonly driven route from Kampala is via Gulu and Kitgum, an 600 km journey taking a minimum of 12 hours and a sturdy 4WD to complete.