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Katonga Wildlife Reserve

Katonga Wildlife Reserve , Katonga Wildlife Reserve is one of the most popular and frequently visited Wildlife Reserves in Uganda. This lush Reserve extends for over 207 square kilometers along the banks of River Katonga within the western districts of Kamwenge and Kyenjojo, bordering Tanzania.

The Katonga Wildlife Reserve was first established as a Game Reserve in 1964 to act as a corridor for migrating wild animals from the western side of the country to the neighboring countries of South Sudan and Tanzania. It was later changed into a Wildlife Reserve in 1996 when the former Game Department and Uganda National Parks combined to become Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Just like all Ugandan National Parks and Wildlife Reserves, Katonga Wildlife Reserve is controlled/or managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority under the management of the vast Kibale Conservation Area with its head office being at Kikorogoto. It was named after River Katonga that drains from the wetlands south-west of Lake Wamala towards Lake Victoria in the East.

Attractions 

The terrain of Katonga Wildlife Reserve is mainly characterized by undulating hills with varying vegetation types. These include papyrus swamp, riverine grasslands, savannah grasslands, seasonal or permanent wetlands, wooded grasslands, riverine woodlands that are dotted with woodland or acacia. The commonest species of flora in this Wildlife Reserve are the Rhodes grass (or Chloris gayana) and Sporobolus festivus.

Wildlife

Katonga Wildlife Reserve has several small herds of sitatunga living within the wetland system. There are also other antelope species such as the Uganda Kobs, impalas that were recently introduced, Defassa waterbucks, duikers, bushbucks, common elands and reedbucks among others. You will also see zebras, River otters, Hippos, elephants, warthogs, buffaloes, leopards and chevrotain among others. Primates such as the olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys and vervet monkeys are also found in there.

Birds

Katonga Wildlife Reserve is a haven to 150 species of birds, majority being species that are specific to the aquatic and wetland ecosystem. Some of these birds are African fish eagles, open-billed storks, shoebill storks, Pied and malachite Kingfishers among others.

Tourist activities 

Bird watching

Katonga Wildlife Reserve is one of the best wildlife reserves for birding and features several well-maintained birding trails. The most popular trail is the 2-kilometer long wetland canal trail through the papyrus swamp where wetland specific species such as the open-billed storks, shoebill storks, kingfishers and many others can be spotted.

Canoe rides

Canoe rides are conducted within the magical River Katonga, rewarding tourists with the rich faunal and floral diversity of the Wildlife Reserve. The ride is conducted under the guidance of a local guide who will identify the unique features within the River and the surrounding wetlands especially the River Otters and bird species among others.

Game viewing

Game viewing through the savannah grasslands offer outstanding chances of seeing the impalas, Defassa waterbucks, duikers, bushbucks, elephants, reedbucks, zebras, River otters, warthogs, buffaloes and common elands among others.

Guided nature walks

Katonga Wildlife Reserve has three spectacular trails where the guided nature walks are conducted. Walking along the sitatunga trail in the morning hours rewards visitors with the sight of the timid antelope specie.

Kisharara Trail passes through the vast savannah towards the wetland canal and joins the banks of River Katonga until of the tributaries of the River. It is where numerous primates, antelopes and birds are found.

The Kyeibale Trail is a circular path through the scrubland into the small forest, transversing stunning rock formations as well as Caves that shelter numerous animals. You can see the leopards on a lucky day.

Best time to visit 

Katonga Wildlife Reserve is open all year round but months of January, February, June, July, August, September and December are the driest with best game viewing opportunities when wildlife gather around water drinking points. However, rain is possible due to climatic changes. The good news of that numerous bird species can be spotted during the rainy season.

Where to stay

Tourists planning to visit and spend night/s in Katonga Wildlife Reserve have to be prepared for wilderness Camping offered within some of the designated Campsites, one being Kabangole Campsite with basic camping requirements and is only 2 kilometers from the Reserve Headquarters. Alternatively, visitors can opt for more comfortable accommodation within the nearby Towns of Ibanda, Kyenjojo and Kamwenge.

How to get to there

Katonga Wildlife Reserve in western Uganda is found in the districts of Kamwenge and Kyenjojo, at approximately 3 hours’ drive from Kampala City to Kyegegwa Town. Once you reach this Town, turn southwards for only 26 miles while following the well-labeled signposts.

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