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Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

Are you looking to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy a typical African Wildlife? If yes, pack your bags and head to the North-east of Uganda. Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is undisputedly the largest and one of the most popular Wildlife Reserves in Uganda and surprisingly second-largest Protected Area in the country after Murchison Falls National Park. This Reserve extends for 2275 square kilometers within the Karamoja sub-region in North-eastern Uganda covering numerous districts that include Nakapiripit, Bulambuli, Amudat, Moroto, Bukedea, Kumi, Kween, Napak, and Katakwi.

Conservation of the Reserve

The southern section of Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve was established as the “Debasien Animal Sanctuary” in 1958 and six years later was expanded northwards and named the Pian Upe Game Reserve. This Wildlife Reserve joins the Matheniko and Bokora Wildlife Reserves as well as the Mount Elgon National Park to form the vast Mount Elgon Conservation Area that is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve’s existence has been faced with several conservation challenges including the fact that in 2003 there was a proposal to degazette it for fruit farming although it was rejected.

Attractions 

Flora

This Reserve’s vast area is mainly covered by pristine grassland as well as wooded grassland with small areas of rock kopjes and riverine woodland. The main tree species in the Reserve are red spike thorns, red acacia, Harrisonia abyssinica and bush willows. The grass species here include the lemon grass, thatching grass, bristle grass, beard grasses and red nut sedge among others while shrubs such as wooly caper bush and butterfly pea are also found in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.

Fauna

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is a home to some of Uganda’s rarest and most sought-after wildlife species. There are several large mammal species such as the elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, grant’s gazelles and common elands among others.  Other wildlife species in this Reserve are the Uganda Kobs, Oribis, Defassa waterbucks, Klipspringer, spotted hyenas, cheetahs, serval cats, mountain reedbucks, Dik-Dik, olive baboons, Hartebeests, leopards, Bohor reedbucks, Topis, Roan antelopes, African hares, jackals, patas monkeys, blue duikers, Impalas, and vervet monkeys among others.

The Unique ecosystem of this Wildlife Reserve attracts numerous bird species. These include the Somalia Ostriches, Karamoja Apalis, secretary birds, superb starlings, Fox’s weaverbirds, Abyssinian ground hornbills and Green Pitta among others.

Reptiles especially the Rock pythons, water snakes, savannah monitors, puff adders and common agama are also found in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.

Hot springs

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve has several unknown hot springs especially at Cheposukunya as well as some mercury wells within Mount Kadam.

Tourist activities 

Game drives

Birding

With the numerous outstanding species of birds in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, birding is definitely a must-do tourist activity. Expect sights and sounds of the secretary birds, green pitta, superb starlings, and ostriches among others.

Guided Nature walks

Guided nature walks across Pian Upe’s rocky ridges and savannah plains can introduce tourists to the rich diversity of the Wildlife Reserve. However, you can instead opt for the physically demanding hikes of Mount Kadam and Napak as well as the Napedet Cave where Hartebeests, olive baboons, and Roan antelopes can also be seen.

Cultural tours

Tourists to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve can also get the chance to visit the nearby Karamojong settlement areas where energizing cultural dances including the popular Edonga dance can be enjoyed in addition to a chance to tour their traditional homesteads locally known as “Manyatta”.

Best time to visit 

Open all year round but if you can’t stand the muddy roads to and around the Reserve, then you better visit during the dry season. The dry season-June, July, August, September, December, January, and February also offer the best game viewing experiences since animals tend to converge at water drinking points during these months.

Where to stay during your visit 

There are few accommodation facilities in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve but tourists can choose from the four bandas as well as Campsites that are easily accessible to the Park Headquarters.

How to get there

Found in north-eastern Uganda within the Karamoja sub-region and is about 8-9 hours’ drive from Kampala City and only 2-3 hours’ drive from the magnificent Sipi falls within Kapchorwa district. It is also 5 hours’ drive from the Kidepo Valley National Park making it a perfect wilderness stopover for safari tourists.

Tourists interested in visiting Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve can also reach the area through air transport via Amudat airstrip.

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