Big game like elephant can be found on luxury safaris in Kidepo Valley National Park.

Luxury safaris in Kidepo Valley National Park

When I absolutely, positively have to get away from it all, the Kidepo Valley is my first Uganda safari port of call. It’s one of two valleys protected by this most remote of national parks, and I love its changing moods. This region undergoes dramatic changes several times each year, all driven by the availability or otherwise of rainwater.

The perception that the Kidepo and its sister valley, the Narus, are hard to reach keeps the idly curious away and means that this wilderness region is given over to more dedicated safari-goers, and, of course, the Karamojong people who herd their hardy cattle here (and whose prospective marriage partners must wrestle for the right to wed)!.

Going on safari, whether a game drive or a walking safari, will reveal a profusion of big-game species and some of the park’s many hundreds of bird species.

Classic safari experiences – such as picnics, bush breakfasts or my personal favourite, sundowners – seem to take on an added piquancy on the banks of a dried-up river – it’s hard not to notice the juxtaposition of a cool G&T and a dusty valley.

Mount Morungole and Mount Zulia stand guard over the twin river valleys and protect the secrets of this rugged swathe of savannah, while the initiated stake out the seasonal oases left behind by the Narus River and the thirsty creatures that frequent them. Aquatic refreshment of a different kind – and temperature – is available at the healing Kanangorok Hot Springs in the north of the park.

When to Go

In the two dry seasons, expect the mercury to climb on occasion above 40°C, with average daily temperatures of 30°C. Clouds are one of the few natural phenomena you’re unlikely to see! Vegetation seems to wither before the hot, northeasterly monsoon winds, which result in extreme drought, dried-up rivers and absence of green vegetation. This means that seasonal oases formed by remaining permanent wetlands and remnant pools in the semi-arid Narus Valley exert a magnetic influence on wildlife, ensuring great game viewing. Even in peak months, Kidepo is never busy.

The short and long rains mirror the corresponding dry seasons, with the short rains occurring first. Precipitation transforms the savannah from dry and dusty to lush and green and lends a welcome crispness to the air. The brief showers pose no real obstacle to going on safari, and the manageable temperatures are welcome. Resurgent rivers begin to flow again, and game tends to disperse with vegetation and water being more widely available. While the game viewing is still more than decent, it’s arguably outshone by the chance to spot migrating birds.

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