Pian Upe is a reserve located in the Karamoja region, the northeastern part of Uganda, covering about 2,275 square kilometres. This makes Pian Upe the second largest wildlife conservation protected area in Uganda after Murchison Falls National Park. The reserve is found between Mountain Elgon National Park from the east and Kidepo Valley National Park from the west. Pian Upe is also bordered by Bokora wildlife reserve and Matheniko game reserve in different directions.
The Pian Upe wildlife reserve is dominated by spectacularly large plains, rocky hills, mountains, and caves. The landscape in the reserve is incredible, making it perfect for photography and exploration. This reserve also comprises untouched grassland and woodland vegetation, with a section of riverine woodland and kopjes. The common tree species in the reserve include red acacia, desert dates, bush willows, and red spine thorns, as well as woolly caper bush shrubs and butterfly plea shrubs.
The community at this game reserve.
Pian Upe accommodates two pastoralist tribes for which it is named: Pian is part of a subgroup of the Karamoja, as Upe are Kalenjin-speaking people known as Pakot in Kenya.
Wildlife at Pian Upe game reserve
With about 44 species of mammals, several of them restricted to the Karamoja sub-region, the Pian Upe game reserve is one of the most famous for harbouring several rare animals found nowhere else in Uganda. The ecosystem has also attracted unique bird species, making the reserve a bird-watching destination. An example is the Karamoja Apalis, Fox’s Weavers, and Common Ostrich, to mention but a few.
Major Activities in Pian Upe
Pian Upe wildlife reserve is the traveller’s best destination, offering an enjoyable wildlife viewing safari with few people on the adventure. Some of the major tourist activities done in Pian Upe wildlife reserve include guided game drives, bird watching, guided walking safaris, mountain climbing, cultural tours, and many more.
Assisted Game Drive
A guided game drive can be done very early in the morning or in the evening. This is because the afternoon is always so hot and many animals will be hiding in shades, proving fewer chances of better active game viewing, early morning drive will also give you the best sunrise experience in the wild, as late evening provides you with a beautiful sunset.
Following different game tracks in the reserve offers great views of animals like herds of Elands, Kobs, Hartebeests, waterbucks’ buffaloes, a dazzle of giraffes, and on a lucky day, you will be able to sight the following: Greater Kudus Roan Antelopes, elands, reedbucks, Dik Dik, and many other rare species of mammals. The game drive also highlights chances of viewing predators like lions, leopards, hyenas, both common and side-striped jackals, and cheetahs.
The game drive will also allow you to see some primates like Olive Baboons, Patus, and Velvet Monkeys. While on the same drive, expect to see a lot of different species of birds in different colours and sizes.
Note: game drives in the Pian-Upe wildlife reserve can be challenging due to the unapproachability of some tracks. However, with a good 4×4 vehicle, the tracks can be drivable.
Birdwatching in Pian Upe game reserve
It is home to over 242 species of birds, making it one of the best birding destinations in Uganda. Bird watching is usually done during the game drive and nature walks. This is to provide you with chances to sight rare bird species like Secretary Bird, Ostrich, Karamoja Apalis, Fox’s Weaver, Superb Starlings, and Jackson’s Hornbills, among others. The River Girik in the southern part of the reserve provides a perfect habitat for waterfowl like herons, ducks, geese, and many others.
Nature walks/hiking in Pian-Upe
During the walk, an armed ranger and an experienced park guide knowledgeable about all the hiking trails and nature will join you to explore the reserve on foot, enabling you to get up close to different animals like zebras and giraffes, waterbucks, Elands’ baboons, and monkeys. variety of bird species, tree species, and beautiful scenery.
The walk gives you a chance to reach areas where vehicles can not reach. Since the reserve is surrounded by hills and mountains that offer hiking experiences, including Mount Napak at 2538 meters and Mount Kadam at 3063, the hiking safaris will also offer sightseeing of Napedet Cave, which is popularly known as an ancient recreational place for the first inhabitants of this area, who would gather to engage in painting before the area was gazetted as a national reserve.
Tourists will be able to take a closer look at ancient paintings of different animals like Roan Antelopes, Hartebeests, Baboons, and Giraffes. However, hiking to Napedet will test one’s physical fitness levels, working on health levels and giving way to an awesome view of the reserve ranges.