Kidepo National park which is located in the north-eastern region of Uganda is home to a wide range of wildlife. Kidepo was a game reserve at first but later on in 1962 declared a National Park and is home to over 450 bird species, and 76 mammals some of which are herbivores while others are carnivores. Animals that are found in Kidepo Valley National Park include the lesser kudu, cheetahs, aardwolf, striped hyenas, greater kudus, black-backed jackals, bat-eared fox, lions, Gunther’s Dik-dik, Mongoose, zebras, giraffes, oribi, waterbucks, Uganda Kob, monkeys, bushbucks and leopards among others.
Kidepo valley National Park has quite a large number of herbivores that roam around the National park and these include the African elephant, zebras, buffalos, and 12 species of antelopes like Jackson’s hartebeest, giraffes, elands, Oribis, klipspringers, Uganda Kob, waterbucks and bushbucks among others. Below are some of the most common herbivores that you will get to see while in Kidepo.
African elephant: this is the largest land animal in the world and part of the big five. Scientifically known as the Loxodonta Africana, the African elephant is one of the commonest animals in Kidepo and although it is one of the gentlest animals, tourists should avoid it when it becomes agitated and the signs that show that it is agitated are raising of the trunk and flapping of the ears.
Buffalos: the African buffalo which is a bit smaller than the water buffalo is also part of the big five and a top tourist attraction in Kidepo. It can be found in the different parts of the National Park. It is however a dangerous and unpredictable animal and therefore tourists are advised to avoid getting close. It is also a very strong animal and that is why you will find that many of the predators are not able to attack it.
Antelopes: Kidepo valley National Park has about 12 antelope species some of which include the Uganda Kob, elands, waterbucks, Oribi, Jackson’s Hartebeest, duikers, and Klipspringers to mention a few. These can be seen all year round in the Narus valley with other animals in the country.
Carnivore animals in Kidepo
Some of the most common herbivores that are found in Kidepo Valley National Park include hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackals, lions, and white-tailed mongoose among others.
Lions: the kings of the jungle although rarely seen are some of the animals that are found in Kidepo. They belong to the cat family and live in groups of 10 to 30 with the female lions doing the hunting. They feed on the smaller and other animals within the Park and in most cases can be seen lying around the Park as they scout their prey.
Cheetahs: a cheetah is the fastest animal in the world belonging to the cat family. Occasionally seen while on a drive in Kidepo, the cheetah normally hunts in the night, and the few times that they come out during the day, they easily blend in with their surroundings making it hard for them to be spotted. The best highlight is seeing a leopard as it hunts down its prey.
Leopards: leopards are rarely seen in Kidepo but if you are lucky, you will get to see one on your game drive. They are scientifically known as Panthera Pardus and have spots that are not as solid as those that the cheetahs have. Leopards are also best seen during the night.
Bat-eared fox: the bat-eared fox can easily be identified due to its large ears and black /grey patterns. The animal is an endangered species that live in groups of 3 to 6 and is being protected at all costs
Hyenas: these are vicious animals that are best seen during the night and normally feed on carcasses left by other animals although they sometimes hunt for their food. They are known for their irritating laugh that they use as a way of communication and even though they are dangerous animals, they are good for the ecosystem since they are natural recyclers.
Bird species in Kidepo Valley National Park
The National Park is home to over 460 bird species making it the second best birding destination in Uganda after Queen Elizabeth National Park which has the highest recorded bird species within the country. The National Park is home to about 20 endemic bird species that can only be seen in the Karamoja region. Some of the most common bird species in Kidepo include the yellow barbet, red-throated bee-eater, fox kestrel, pygmy falcon, ostrich, white-bellied bustard, African swallow-tailed kite, superb starling, black-headed plover, red plate Cisticola, yellow barbet, yellow-billed shrike, secretary birds, long-tailed nightjar, Karamoja Apalis, Clapperton’s francolin, Verreaux’s eagle, and the African grey flycatcher among others.
How to see the wildlife and animals in Kidepo valley National Park
There are two ways in which you can get to see the wildlife in Kidepo and these are through game drives and guided nature walks.
Game drives: Game drives within the National Park are one of the best ways in which you can see the wildlife that is found in the National Park. These are carried out two times a day that is one in the morning starting as early as 6:30 or 7:00 am and the afternoon drive which normally starts at 3:00 pm. Game drives are carried out all over the National Park but mainly in the Narus Valley which has the largest concentrations of animals, especially during the dry season, the Kidepo valley is also home to some wildlife animals and other places that you can drive to include the Murongole Mountain and the Lomej hills among others. While on game drives, you will be able to see both animals and bird species.
Night game drives: these start early in the evening and take about 2 to 3 hours. They can only be done at the request and an extra charge comes with the night drives that are carried out in Kidepo. A spotlight will be used to help you easily spot the animals at night and you will go with an armed ranger. Some of the animals that you get to see while on night game drives include leopards, hyenas, bush babies, and cheetahs among others.
Nature walks: this is an extremely exciting activity that helps get the real feel of the Ugandan wilderness includes animals, birds and the beautiful scenery provided by the vast and unique landscape. The guided nature walks will take you through the Narus valley, Kidepo valley, the Morungole Mountains where the IK people live, Namamukweny which is a top birding spot, and the Lomej hill. While on your nature walk, you will be able to see animals like warthogs, zebras, elephants, buffaloes, and waterbucks among others.
Best time for viewing wildlife in Kidepo valley National Park
Wildlife in Kidepo valley National Park can be seen throughout the year but the best time is during the dry season which is experienced in June to September and December to January. Kidepo is located in a semi-arid area and receives little rainfall as compared to other parts of the country. When the dry season sets in, many of the seasonal water bodies dry put leaving a few water pools around the Narus Dam where many of the animals converge to cool off from the heat.