Katonga Wildlife reserve
Katonga Wildlife reserve : Katonga wildlife reserve is a very fine tourist destination situated in western region of Uganda the pearl of Africa, the reserve is an interesting protected area though very unpopular. Katonga wildlife reserve is situated along the bank of Katonga River covering an area of 207 square kilometers, katonga wildlife reserve is a magical place stretching through two districts that is ibanda and kamwengye with ibanda town as the nearest city. It also borders with Biguli sub county and part of the Mpara sub county in Kyenjojo district.
Katonga wildlife reserve derives its name from river katonga, river katonga from the south west of Lake Wamala to Lake Victoria in the east. The reserve was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1964 to serve as a corridor for migrating of wildlife from western Uganda to and from Tanzania, in 1996 the reserve was upgraded to a wildlife reserve when a former game department and Uganda national park merged to create Uganda wildlife authority (UWA) an administrative body governing and managing all protective areas in Uganda. Today katonga wildlife reserve is managed by Uganda wildlife Authority in conjunction with kibale conservation area administration with a warden in charge based at reserve head office at Kikorogoto.
Katonga wildlife reserve protects a network of forest fringed wetlands along Katonga River, the reserve is made up of undulating terrain in nature with a unique geographical location between tropical and riverine forests. Katonga wildlife reserve is a diverse ecological system dotted with beautiful vegetation cover filled with mixed species such as papyrus swamp, rain forest, savannah, acacia scrubland woodlands, grasslands, riverine woodlands and woodlands. A large portion of the reserve is dotted with either permanent or seasonal wetlands mostly referred to as katonga wetland system which is interlinked with Nile system to form an important wetland system for human survival. The most dominant plant species in katonga wildlife reserve are sporoblus festivus and chloris gayana, these species grow in association with species like setaria species, hyparrhenia species and panicum maximum.
Katonga wildlife reserve’s beautiful vegetation cover of different species most especially wetlands provides a comfortable habitant for many fauna species, the reserve is well known for being a home to the viable Sitatunga population and high population of waterbucks. Katonga wildlife reserve is a home to over 30 mammal species and 140 bird species, the reserve is a home to the following animal species such as African elephant, buffalo, waterbuck, Uganda kob, bushbuck, reedbuck, zebras, hippopotamuses, otter, colobus monkey, baboon, black and white colobus monkeys.
Katonga wildlife reserve is also a home to many bird species making it a great bird species such as Grey Heron, black-headed Heron, goliath Heron, purple Heron, great Egret, black Heron, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Madagascar Pond-Heron, rufous-bellied Heron, cattle Egret, striated Heron, black-crowned Night-heron, White-backed Night-heron, dwarf Bittern, great Bittern and many more.
Katonga wildlife reserve is best toured while on a canoe ride and nature walk which are the best safari activities offered in the beautiful reserve
A canoe ride in the reserve takes you through the a narrow channel and swampy vegetation of the reserve and while on this ride you get to enjoy the beautiful swamp vegetation of the park and enjoying many bird species and spotting other animals as they graze in the reserve. Otters can never be missed while on a canoe ride.
Guided nature walk
Guided nature walk in katonga takes the tourist through various developed trails where you get to enjoy the beautiful nature of the reserve and spotting animals like forest elephants, uganda kob, zebras, Sitatunga, impala and many more.
Efforts of reviving the reserve
Katonga wildlife reserve has been greatly affected by poaching both commercial and subsistence poaching, poaching in this reserve has greatly lead to the killing of various animal species most especially in the period between 1971 and 1985. Also cultivators and livestock farmers heavily encroached the park for farming activities and as grazing area for their animals. Fortunately in 2014 all encroachers were evicted from the lands of the reserve by the authorities who later devised ways of reviving the reserve as a tourist destination.
Among the attempts of enriching the reserve with wildlife species which were lost during poaching, the government through Uganda wildlife authority have translocated animals in to the reserve for example 60 impalas and 5 zebras were successfully translocated in to the reserve in 2015. Over through the years the population of animals in the reserve has increased and this is credited to both Uganda wildlife authority and kibale conservation area administration.
How to access katonga wildlife reserve
Katonga wildlife reserve is situated within ibanda and kamwenge district which is approximately 200 kilometers from east region of Kampala the capital city of Uganda the beginning spot of tour safaris, from Kampala to katonga wildlife reserve it is approximately a 4 hours’ drive. The reserve can be reach using fort portal- Kampala route.
Best time to visit katonga wildlife reserve
Katonga wildlife reserve is open to visitors throughout the year but the best time to visit this amazing reserve is during the dry months of December- February and June-July.