Pian Upe wildlife reserve

Pian Upe wildlife reserve is found in Karamoja region in the northeastern region of Uganda, this reserve is ranked as one of the largest wildlife conservation areas in Uganda covering an area of 2,788 square kilometers. Pian Upe wildlife reserve is part of the great Mount Elgon conservation area and it is bordered by the Bokora Wildlife Reserve and Matheniko game reserve. Pian Upe wildlife reserve is situated very close to Mbale town, the reserve is very accessible as it is a t distance of 6 hours’ drive from Kampala the largest city of Uganda and only 2 hours’ drive from Mbale town.


History of pian up wildlife reserve

The area known today as Pian Upe wildlife reserve was a famous battleground for the traditional tribal groups that is the Karamojong found in northeastern Uganda and the pokot who originates from Kenya.  Today’s main road which leads through pian Upe wildlife reserve through matheniko and Bokora wildlife reserve into kidepo national park was used as a boundary for both the tribes and cross it by any of these tribes meant war. These tribes used to cross the boundary to raid each other’s live stock.

Upon noticing that this area was used as a home by many wild animals the southern section of current pian up was gazetted in 1958  as the Debasien Animal sanctuary, when the government of Uganda introduced and established an agricultural production project south of river Girik the sanctuary boundaries were threatened .Threats escalated to the sanctuary’s resources which forced the government to expand the area occupied by the reserve north wards, after the extension the whole area was name pian Upe game reserve in 1964.

Future plans for the reserve

In 2003 a proposal for gazetted the reserve as a fruit farming farm was presented which was blocked

The government of Uganda has recently showed interests in restocking the reserve and upgrading it to national park

Attractions in pian Upe wildlife reserve


Pian Upe wildlife reserve is used as a home by many wildlife of various kind, many animals like in this reserve and they are seen upon visiting it as they roam around in the Savannah grassland dominating the park. Attractive animals found in the reserve include giraffes, lions, leopards, zebras, buffaloes, heart beast, greater kadu, spotted hyena, serval’s, cheetah, ungulates, common Eland, hare, aardvark, waterbuck, Gunther’s dik dik, blue and common duiker, klipspringer, topi, Oribi, antelopes and many more. Pian Upe is known for habiting Uganda’s last population of antelopes and the reserve is one of the few locations in Uganda where you get to spot Rothschild’s giraffe. There is also primates which habit and spotted in the reserve and they include vervet monkey, para’s monkeys and olive baboons.

Pian Upe wildlife reserve is also a home to enormous rock pythons, harmless water snakes, small venomous puff adders, skinks, chameleon, common agama savannah monitors and geckos


Pian Upe is a great birding paradise, the reserve is a habitat to a variety of bird species, birds in the reserve are more concentrated around the swamp terrain of loporokocho swamp. Bird species such as the great ostrich, Jackson’s horn bill, Hartlaub’s bustard, white headed buffalo weaver.

Pian Upe wildlife reserve
Birding safaris

Spectacular landscape

Pian Upe wildlife reserve is dominated by spectacular vast plains, rocky hill, mountains and caves. Landscape in the reserve is very breathtaking making it perfect for photography and sightseeing.

 Things to do in pian Upe wildlife reserve

Game drive

Pian Upe wildlife reserve offers interesting game drives in the vast plains dominating the reserve, this reserve is famed for being the only place where you get to spot roan antelope in Uganda. A game drive in pian Upe game wildlife reserve you get an opportunity to encounter and spot many animals such as the rare cheetah, spotted hyenas, civets, jackals, serval cats, cheetahs, leopards, topi, wildcats, buffaloes, roan antelopes, reedbucks, Duikers, Dik-dik, the Ugandan Kob, waterbucks, hares, porcupines, the rock hyrax, aardvark, hedgehogs and zebras, elands, gazelles and Oribi. Primates spotted in the reserve include Olive baboons, patas monkey and Vervet monkeys, game drive are offered in this wildlife throughout the year but the best time to engage in this activity is during the dry season reason being the routes are dry and easy to drive through and the animals are easy to spot.

Bird watching

For bird enthusiastic, pian up wildlife reserve is your perfect destination as it ranks second to Queen Elizabeth national park considering the population of bird population. The reserve is dominated by vast dry plains which is a home to many interesting birds estimated to be 240 bird species in number, the most interesting bird enjoyed by tourists is the giant ostriches. Other bird species include the African eagles, cormorants, cranes, darters, egrets, grass birds, hawks, herons, hornbills, jacanas, lapwings, owls, pelicans, plovers, turacos, vultures, weaver birds and many more. In pian Upe wildlife reserve the best spot for bird watching is at around cheposukunya hot springs.

Pian Upe wildlife reserve
Pian Upe wildlife reserve ostriches

Mountain and rock climbing

The reserve is dominated by vast plains, rocks and mountains which are the most spectacular features which surely take your attention on your first step in the wilderness in the reserve. Mountain and rock climbing in the reserve involves climbing rocky hills and mount kadam which is a little bit challenging, this activity does not only offer you an adventurous hiking but you get to enjoy the beautiful scenic views.

Nature walk

If you are looking for an authentic true African wilderness and adventure  reserve is your best retreat, guided nature walks are offered through the park and nearby communities and as you walk you encounter many wildlife in the park such as herds of antelopes, primates like Olive baboons, patas monkey and Vervet monkeys, ostriches and many reptiles.

Pian Upe wildlife reserve

Cave exploration

The reserve consist of numerous rocks which feature ancient rock painting, the most notable rock in the reserve is Napendio cave. Paintings in this cave are believed to date thousands years ago, Napendio cave is a highly respected cave considered as a sacred place by the locals and it’s a hiding place for many animals which are spotted upon visiting this cave. Another notable cave in the reserve is Napedet cave, this cave is situated in a former hunting area for Pokwot and Karamojong tribal people. In this cave there is cooking stones which date back 500 years ago and are said to be used for meat roasting, the walls of this cave are also interesting as they are decorated with ancient art of animals like warthogs, giraffes, elands, warthogs and others.

Cultural visit

The reserve is surrounded by typical tribal communities that is the Karamojong and Kalenjin, these two tribes are typical nomadic pastoralists and one of the few tribes in Uganda which have had their tribe intact by forces of modernity and technology. Visiting these communities you get to enjoy cultural dances, songs and drama, spot people carrying out their day to day normal life and interact with elderly people where you learn about more about them and their history. On the foothills of mount Moroto there is a newly established karamoja cultural museum which showcases Karamojong culture through collection of artifacts.

How to get to pian Upe wildlife reserve

Pian Upe wildlife reserve is situated along Mbale- Moroto road which is 90 kilometers from Kampala the starting point for most the safaris in Uganda, from Mbale the nearest town it is 11 kilometers to reach the reserve through its northern boundary. The reserve can also be accessed from the south through chepsikunya trading centre, by air transport the closet airstrip to the park that is used is Amudat airstrip.

Accommodation in pian Upe wildlife reserve

Accommodation in pian Upe wildlife reserve can be got from either inside the reserve or outside the reserve, inside the park there is affordable self-contained tents and cottages managed by Uganda wildlife authority, in the park there is also camping site where you can camp on your own. Outside pian Upe wildlife reserve you can stay at shalosa hotel, Hotel leslona limited, lavender inn, mount Moroto hotel, karamoja safari camp and many more.

Best time to visit pian Upe wildlife reserve

According to the climate, the reserve receives two dry seasons and one rainy season, dry season is received in months of January to march and wet season is received in months of April to October. The most ideal time to visit pian Upe is in the dry period because in dry season you get a clearer view animals and the reserve at large.

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