Ever thought that Kidepo National Park sounded nice but was only accessible by air? Think again. Thanks to much improved security and gradually improving roads, Kidepo by car is definitely do-able.
If you have the time to make the drive visiting Kidepo is well worth the hours on the road. So, what do you need to do it? As with all road trips in Uganda, preparation is everything. The trip is not for the badly organized or those preferring a spur of the moment adventure.
Given the remoteness of Kidepo, which is part of its appeal, ensuring that your car is fully serviced and properly functioning is imperative. Book it in for that long overdue service before you go. It’s worth it. A map is also a good idea so check out Aristoc’s selections. Plenty of fuel is also a must since supplies are unpredictable in remote areas. Try and calculate your vehicle’s consumption (fully laden) and take jerry cans of fuel in reserve to be safe.
Kidepo lies in the very north of the country on the border with South Sudan. The journey itself is best done over two days. This avoids unnecessary driving at night and allows you to make the most of the amazing scenery. The most accessible route is north through Gulu to Kitgum, and then east towards Kaabong/Kidepo. A stop overnight in Kitgum is recommended. (Try the incongruously-named Fugly’s for the beef burger alone!) The drive to Kitgum should take anywhere from 6-8 hours depending on the road. The second day’s drive to Kidepo is much shorter in distance, but depends on the state of the murram road surface. Expect to take at least four hours to reach the park entrance.
Kidepo is best attempted in the dry season (December-February and June-August) owing to the fact that after Gulu, all roads are murram and not paved. Whilst this might not be the optimal time of year to view wildlife it does make it easier to get to that wildlife!
The best part of the journey is unquestionably the unique scenery of northeastern Uganda. Reminiscent of a Malboro advert, the mountainous terrain alone is worth the journey. Imposing mountains form the backdrop to pristine cotton fields in a part of Uganda that for years has been better known for its insecurity rather than its rugged beauty. Signs periodically remind you that parts of the terrain off-road are still mined, so be careful where you stop for a short-call.
After Kitgum, there are few shops, so load up with fresh fruit and snacks at Kamidini Trading Centre before you reach Gulu. Before leaving Kitgum, stock up on fuel, food for self-catering and water. Once inside the park, there is a Shell filling pump, but don’t rely on it having fuel.
Accommodation in the park is divided between the exclusive Apoka Rest Camp, bandas managed by the UWA and camping. The bandas are perfectly adequate and simple local food is available for a reasonable price. The campsite is arguably one of the most beautiful in Uganda and you’re likely to be joined for breakfast by a pride of lions. Nature doesn’t get much closer than that!