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Kidepo Valley National Park - A view from our expert author
Hidden in the remote northeastern corner of the country, the mountain-ringed plains of this national park are an unforgettable tract of true African wilderness.
Uganda’s most remote and third-largest national park, Kidepo lies in the far northeast of Karamoja subregion, bordering South Sudan to the northwest and only 5km from the easterly border with Kenya. It’s one of the country’s most alluring 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 increased stability in northern Uganda, improved approach roads, and better amenities. Even so, it retains a genuinely off-the-beaten-track character by comparison to most other comparably wildlife-rich savannah reserves in East Africa – indeed, it was voted Africa’s third-best wilderness park in the 2013 CNN Travel Awards.
The park covers an area of 1,442km², and it has an altitude range of between 914m and 2,750m above sea level. The highest point in the park is Mount Morungole (2,750m) on the southeastern border, and the slightly higher Mount Lutoke (2,797m), which lies just within the Sudanese border, is visible from several points. The mountainous terrain is broken by the Narus Valley in the southwest and the Kidepo Valley in the northeast.
The dominant habitat in the Narus Valley is open grassland studded with tall sausage trees (Kigelia africana) and the massive elongated fruits for which they are named. 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. The bird checklist of 463 confirmed and 26 unconfirmed species is second only to Queen Elizabeth National Park, and more than 60 of the birds listed have been recorded in no other Ugandan national park.