7 Tips For Exploring Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda

kidepo national park

An Affordable Safari Awaits You in Kidepo

It’s not easy to get to, in fact it’s a downright mission from most parts of Uganda, and for that matter, the world. But that is part of the magic of Kidepo. Nestled in the far northeast corner of Uganda, in the region of Karamoja, is Kidepo Valley National Park. This park is the 3rd largest in Uganda but many people never come here. But those who do are treated to everything you would expect in a classic African safari without any of the expense or crowds you would find in other places.

About Kidepo

The valley borders South Sudan to the north and Kenya to the east. It’s about as remote as you can get in Uganda. There is one main road in, with a central lodge and visitor centre with hostels and restaurants in the middle of the park. Other than that you’re on your own if you want. But here are a few tips to make sure you make the most of the time.

To Whet your appetite, here are a few shots of some animals!


#1: Get up Early

The early morning hours is my favorite time in Kidepo. When we were there every morning had a misty, ethereal feel to it. Check it out:

early morning at kidepo national park, uganda
See? I told you so!

That’s also the time when predators like lions are most active. So if you’ve got the will, you’ll be happy you beat the crack of dawn to see some of the best light and animal conditions of the day.

#2: Hire a Guide

A guide will cost you $20 USD for a three hour tour. It’s the best $20 you’ll spend. Most of the guides have been doing their job for a long time and know the park and its inhabitants so well that they can almost sense where to find all the creatures. Plus they talk to one another while in the field so you have the added resource of all the other guides at your disposal. Not to mention they carry AK47’s just in case an animal encounter is just a little too close.

safari guide in kidepo
Makes all the difference.

#3: Tip Your Guide

The guides really do not make much money. Even $5 USD is a huge payout for them. So if you have a bit of disposable income, be a champ and chuck them a 20 spot to really make their day. It’s not a huge amount of money to us in the west, but to the guides, it is big dollars. They are educated and motivated to show you an amazing time so be sure to show your appreciation the best way possible.

#4: Do a Walking Tour

You will still need a car to get to the middle of the park, as well as a driver to drive the car to the pickup spot. You can start and return in the same area but you won’t cover as much ground. This is where the guide’s AK comes in handy. But it’s a pretty magic feeling being out on the open savannah amongst the massive herds of buffalo, antelope, and zebra.

A guided walking tour in Kidepo park
Not in this shot but animals we found!

#5: Check Out Idi Amin’s Castle

Ok it’s more of a lodge than a castle but it’s pretty much a castle. Idi Amin was the dictator of Uganda back in the 70’s. He built an amazing lodge providing what might possibly be the best view in all of Uganda. Soon the lodge will be converted to a hotel. But at the time of writing it’s still under renovations. It’s worth checking out before it gets full of tourists and imagine a time in the past.

idi amin lodge in kidepo
The view from the palace…er…lodge

#6: Use a Four Wheel Drive

Ok this might be a bit more obvious to some than others but when I was there there were a couple of girls who had rented a 2WD. Luckily they hired a Canadian (myself) who is skilled at unpaved roads. We almost got stuck several times but luckily never did! I even got some props from an African dude who was driving another car behind us, and laughed at how the driver in front of him got stuck. What can I say, driving in slick muddy conditions is a bit of a way of life for me.

#7: Stay in the Bandas

The bandas in the middle of the park cost 40,000 shillings per night, which is about $11 USD. That’s what I call a deal. It’s nothing pretty but it will save you some serious coin as opposed to the Apoka Lodge which I believe costs $700 per night. Which is cool if that’s your thing, but at the end of the day, it’s the end of the day. You’ll be fine sleeping in the Bandas.

the groundskeeper hard at work
the groundskeeper hard at work

Hopefully that information was useful to some of you. If you want to know more please feel free to contact me.

misty morning in kidepo
more misty mornings