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Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Gazetted as a national park in 1962, it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species.

Kidepo is Uganda’s most isolated national park, but the few who make the long journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja would agree that it is also the most magnificent, for Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. From Apoka, in the heart of the park, a savannah landscape extends far beyond the gazetted area, towards horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges.

During the dry season, the only permanent water in the park is found in wetlands and remnant pools in the broad Narus Valley near Apoka. These seasonal oases, combined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing location.

History

Dodoth pastoralists and Ik farmers lived in the area before it was gazetted as a game reserve by the British colonial government in 1958. The purpose was both to protect the animals from hunting and to prevent further clearing of bush for tsetse fly control. The game reserve was converted into the Kidepo Valley National Park in 1962.

The first Chief Warden of the National Park was Ian Ross, a Briton. In 1972 Paul Ssali, a Ugandan, replaced him. Their handover and training was the subject of the 1974 American documentary film, "The Wild and the Brave."

Geography and Climate

The park consists of the two major valley systems of the Kidepo and Narus Rivers. The valley floors lie between 910 m and 1,200 m above sea level.

Kanangarok is a tepid hot spring in the extreme north of the Park, beside the South Sudanese boundary. This spring is the most permanent source of water in the park. The park predominantly has clay soils although in the Kidepo Valley, black chalky clay and sandy-clay loam predominate, while the Narus Valley has freer-draining red clays and loams.

Kidepo Valley National Park’s climate is divided into one short wet season and a long dry spell. The wet season falls between April and October and the dry season fills the remainder of the year. On average 800 mm of rain is received annually. The dry season is characterised and dominated by very hot north-easterly monsoon winds which results in extreme drought with no green vegetation. At this point temperatures can reach over 40 degrees Celsius and average 30 degrees Celsius. Water is primarily a temporary phenomenon, flowing only during the wet season. However, throughout the length of the Narus River Valley, surface water flow alternates to subterranean flow and emerges at few permanent water points throughout the year. The climate can be summarised as arid but changes to semi arid towards the Narus Valley, which is the only region of the park containing water during the dry season.

The relief of the park rises dramatically from 900-1200m above sea level. on the border with Sudan, to 2750m above sea levell. at the top of the forested mountains of Morungole and Zulia. It comprises of semi-arid plains intersected with hills, rocky out crops and mountain ranges. Two great valley systems divide the park into almost two equal parts. The Narus Valley in the south and west of the park occupies one third of the park and is much favoured by wildlife due to the permanent availability of water. The Kidepo valley system in the east and north-east occupies the remaining two thirds of the entire park. Nyangea-Napore hills and Morungole and Zulia hill ranges hold the sources of most rivers in Karamoja, including River Nalakas and River Kidepo.

Biodiversity

The vegetation of the park can be categorised into four associations; the Narus Valley contains grey-haired acacia (Acacia gerrardii) savannah woodland that emerges in the south and into a fire climax grassland, tree and shrub steppe and slowly graduates into bush lands with forests on the higher mountain slopes. The borassus palms (Borassus spp.) follow ridges that are associated with water and sand alluvial soils, and are common along the major rivers of Kidepo, Lopirpir and Kulao. Much of the park is composed of open savannah grassland, dominated by a mixture of acacia and other perennial grasses, such as Themeda, Chloris, Panicum and Seteria species. Dry thickets composed of numerous short trees and shrubs also common. This vegetation is usually dry for more than a half of the year and antelopes such as Guenther’s dik-dik (Madoqua guentheri), which is found nowhere else in Uganda, are common in such habitats.

Kidepo Vally National Park has high biodiversity, with at least 86 mammal species, 475 bird species and 692 plant species, second only to Queen Elizabeth NP in terms of its known plant diversity and third behind Queen Elizabeth and Murchison for its mammal and bird diversity. Twenty-eight of the 86 species of mammals in KVNP are not found in any other of Uganda’s national parks. Some of the animals unique to this park include striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), aardwolf (Proteles cristata), caracal (Caracal caracal), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), greater and lesser kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros and Ammelaphus imberbis), klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), dik-dik, Bright’s gazelle (Nanger granti brighti) and Chandler’s mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula chandleri). The beisa oryx (Oryx beisa) and the roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) are believed to have been extirpated from the region. African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) have been observed to come into the park from Sudan occasionally but are not resident in the park. Many of the other large mammals found elsewhere in Uganda such as African elephant (Loxodonta africana), zebra(Equus spp.), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), Jackson’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus jacksoni), lion (Panthera leo), leopard (Panthera pardus), and both black-backed and side-striped jackal (Canis mesomelas and C. adustus), are found here.

The park is outstanding for its birds of prey, of which 58 species have been recorded including lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Verreaux’s eagle (Aquila verreauxii), the pygmy falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus), and Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Fourteen raptors are unique to this park in Uganda. Of the hornbills (Bucerotidae) which are characteristic of the savannah habitat, five species are represented. Some of Africa’s rarest and most sought after birds occur in KVNP, including the the Karamoja apalis (Apalis karamojae) and black-breasted barbet (Lybius rolleti).

The Narus valley is very important for the elephants in the park and also holds a population of Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus), which, during the dry season, is restricted to a 10 km long section of the Narus River that retains water intermittently in depressions or pools. Perhaps due to limited availability of food, water and space, the crocodiles have a diminutive size with a maximum length of 2.5 m. (Nile crocodiles regularly exceed 4m in other parts of the species range).

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season (Jan to May, and Oct to Dec: It is Quite hot and generally dry, where as June to Sept: Rain is more prevalent, temperatures still warm and storms generally don't last more than an hour) and it is usually advisable to use 4x4 vehicles while in the park. Available tourist accommodation in and around the park includes lodges notably Apoka Safari Lodge, Nga Moru Wilderness Camp, and alternative budget accommodation at Apoka Rest Camp managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority.

The major tourist activities in the park include game viewing by vehicles on dirt roads that crisscross the southern and western parts of the park. A few trunk roads are improved with murram and are passable in all weather.

Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park as well as how to pay for any of the activities you wish to get involved in. Note that you can book your activities from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala or at any entry points of the park.

Kidepo Valley National Park is approximately 12 hours from Kampala by road. Regular scheduled flights by Aero Link take about 2 hours and fly into Kidepo from Entebbe airport. Charters can easily be arranged as well by Aero Link, Eagle Air, Kampala Aero Club, and Ndege Jju.

Park at a Glance

Size: 1,442km2

The park’s altitude ranges between 914m and 2,750m above sea level.

The park contains two rivers – Kidepo and Narus – which disappear in the dry season, leaving just pools for the wildlife.

The local communities around the park include pastoral Karamojong people, similar to the Maasai of Kenya, and the IK, a hunter-gatherer tribe whose survival is threatened.


Areas of Interest

  • KVNPAI1
    Kidepo Valley
  • KVNPAI2
    Narus Valley
  • Apoka
    Apoka


Wildlife and birding summary

  • Ostrich
    Birds
  • lions
    Wildlife

Published in Parks by Name

Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda's largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.

The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids. The mighty cascade drains the last of the river's energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. This stretch of river provides one of Uganda's most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.

Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals.

History

Murchison Falls Conservation Area is one of the oldest, and is the largest, protected area (PA) in Uganda. It is comprised of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Wildlife Refuge and Karuma Wildlife Refuge. Currently, the national park itself encompasses 3,893 sq.km. Bugungu Wildlife Refuge (501 sq.km) and Karuma Wildlife Refuge (678 sq.km) are adjacent and act as buffer zones for the park. In addition is Budongo Forest Reserve which overlaps parts of both wildlife reserves, and covers an additional 591 sq.km. This makes a total of 5,663 sq.km of space that is under some level of protection through controlled use. The national park and the two wildlife reserves are managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) and the Budongo Forest Reserve is managed by the National Forestry Association except where it overlaps with UWA-managed lands.

Between the years of 1907 and 1912, the inhabitants of an area of about 13,000 sq.km were evacuated due to sleeping sickness spread by tse-tse flies. This paved the way for the establishment of the Bunyoro Game Reserve in 1910, which encompassed roughly the area south of the Nile River that is now part of the National Park in Masindi District. In 1928 the boundaries were extended into Gulu District north of the river, and the resulting protected area (PA) became known as the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve. As the human population had already been evacuated due to sleeping sickness, it was possible to establish this game reserve without displacing any of the local people for the sake of the park. In 1932, the Budongo Forest Reserve was established. This became the first commercial logging concession in Uganda, and to date is one of the most intensively studied “working” forests in the world. The boundaries of this forest continued to expand over the next thirty years until they reached the current size of 825 sq.km. Much animosity was created by this process as locals lost land and never quite knew where the boundaries were due to the frequent changes.

In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. After forty years of reduced hunting in the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve, the animal populations had expanded to an extent that justified upgrading the reserve, which became Murchison Falls National Park, one of the first two national parks, along with Queen Elizabeth NP. By the mid-1960’s, Murchison Falls had become the premier safari destination in all of East Africa, with over 60,000 visitors per year.

Geography and climate

The park lies in north western Uganda, spreading inland from the shore of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile. Together with the adjacent 748 square kilometers Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and the 720 square kilometers Karuma Wildlife Reserve, the park forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area MFCA. Murchison Falls National Park is located in Buliisa District in western Uganda and in Nwoya District in northern Uganda. The park is situated approximately 300 kilometers, by road, northwest of Kampala, Uganda's capital city.

The climate in Murchison Falls is tropical and hot. Being close to the equator, temperatures are quite uniform throughout the year. The area around Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) has two rainy seasons. These seasons are not as pronounced as they are at more equatorial regions in Uganda.

Biodiversity

Murchison Fall National Park houses a combination of grasslands, wooded savannah, tropical forests, wetlands, and open water covering approximately 39,000 ha at an altitude of more than 600m. The park houses 109 species of mammals including; hippopotamus, antelope, giraffes, hartebeest, oribi and Uganda kob, 145 tree species and 0ver 476 bird species. Murchison Falls NP is one of the best places in Africa to find the shoebill stork. The boat trip on the Victoria Nile is a great start for many water-associated birds. With 53 species recorded, raptors are also very well represented. The park's impressive checklist contains more than 450 species. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

The park supports four of the "Big Five", only rhino being absent. Buffalo and elephant are particularly common. There is a very healthy population of lions that like to prey on the abundantly available Uganda kob. Hyena is present but rare but zebra is absent. The Victoria Nile is a magnet for wildlife and it teems with crocodiles and hippos. Chimpanzees can be tracked in neighboring Budongo Forest Reserve. Large herds of the localized Rothschild's giraffe are found in the park. The rare Patas monkey can sometimes be spotted on the grassy plains.

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season and it is usually advisable to use 4x4 vehicles while on your Murchison Falls safari. Available tourist accommodation includes lodges notably Paraa Safari Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Sambiya River Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Budongo Eco Lodge, Bakers Lodge, and alternative budget accommodation at Red Chilli Rest Camp.

The major tourist activities in the park include game viewing typically around the delta circuit, chimpanzee tracking in the Budongo Forest, Launch cruise along the Nile to the bottom of the falls rewards you with sights of a diversity of bird species as well as wildlife, and there is also an interesting walk to the top of the falls.

Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park as well as how to pay for any of the activities you wish to get involved in. Note that you can book your activities from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala or at any entry points of the park.

Park at a Glance

Size: 3,840km2

Murchison Falls became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952

At Murchison Falls, the Nile squeezes through an 8m wide gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the "Devil's Cauldron", creating a trademark rainbow

The northern section of the park contains savanna and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland. The south is dominated by woodland and forest patches

The 1951 film "The African Queen" starring Humphrey Bogart was filmed on Lake Albert and the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park


Areas of Interest

  • murchisonfalls
    Murchison Falls
  • elephant
    Buligi Game Tracks
  • Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
  • Nile Delta


Wildlife and Birding

  • wb4
    Birds
  • Game
  • Primates

Published in Parks by Name

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