Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is Uganda’s 2nd largest protected area in the country covering an area of 2043sqkm. It’s listed among the most catching adventurous destinations in the country, another fresh tourist destination that stature authentic and stunning scenic view of the Savannah plain, with intact culture.

Pain Upe Wildlife Reserve it’s the southern stretcher of the wider Karamoja conservation area corridor which include Bokora and Matheniko Wildlife Reserves just adjacent and the renowned Africa’s remotest Park Kidepo Valley National Park.

Pain-Upe was named after the residing karamoja sub-groups called the Pian and the Upe these are Kalenjin speaking pastoralist community originating from the Pokoto tribe in Kenya.  Pian is Karamojong word meaning “good spirited people” and Upe means “enemy.” The combination of the two meaning forms paraphrase of “Friendly Enemy”.

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve Historical background

The reserve was a battling zone for the pastoralists between Karamojongos in Uganda and the Kenyan bordering Pokoto from Cikuyu in Kenya. The region for many years suffered with regional arm insecurity from the local who owned guns for raiding cattle. In recent years 2004 the two governments of Uganda and Kenya agreed to disarm all local pastoralist and went into a memorandum of understanding as a way to combat insecurity in the region.

Pian-Upe was gazzetted as the Debasien animal sanctuary by 1958 by the government, later the reserve borderline were threatened as the government proposed for an agriculture project south of Girifi River in 1964. This prompted the mandatory to the government to stretch bounds of the reserve northwards and renamed Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve. In 2003, the government anticipated to regazett Pian Upe for fruits growing, the fruit project luckily blocked.

The reserve covers districts of Nakapiripirti, Amudat, Bukedea, Kween, Moroto, Katakwi, Napak and Bulambuli. Geographically seated at the foothills of mountain Elgon.

Flora and fauna of Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

In recent years UWA is making efforts to ensure great animal encounters; this follows the recent animal translocation of where Impalas were relocated from Lake Mburo National Park, in 2019 giraffes were relocated from Murchison Falls National Park to the reserve, the same year male Elands were first sighted at the reserve.

There is as well a wider range of rare wildlife species in Uganda that include the recently spotted white eared kobs, cheetahs, Roan Antelopes, Ostriches, Heart beast, zebras and other rarely sighted mammals.

The climate in the region features a semiarid climate with one short rainy season throughout the year, the rainy season usually starts in month of Match to around June during this season the roads and drive tracks are impassable. The long experienced dry seasons makes spotting of wildlife easier, positioning the reserve as one of the most rewarding destinations with wildlife sighting. However, the rainy season can extend to two seasons.

Impressing flora, Pian-Upe game reserve is nurture many of the indigenous plant species in particular the sun resisting species which feed the wildlife even in the driest seasons, these species include the red acacia, desert date, bush willows, harrisonia, Abyssinica, and red spike thorns as well as shrubs such as butterfly pea and woolly caper bush

Accessing Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

From Kampala capital the reserve is located in Northeastern, easily the reserve can be accessed via Mbale – Kapichorwa driving towards Nakapiripiriti district. The reserve is 338 km/h about 8-hour drive from Kampala capital.

Best season to visit Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

The reserve is located in the semi-arid corridor which largely experiences two weather throughout the year. It can be visited all year around but the drier seasons of November to February is suitable for an adventure safari when temperature raise up to 390C, grasses are short easing wildlife sighting.  Runny season’s roads are muddy, and impassable, and using the 4X4 land cruiser is a prudent idea.

What to do at Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

Wildlife Game drive

Uganda’s most rewarding adventure undertaking, can contact the reserve management to organize the guided wildlife drive into the open plain of savannah to watch variety of wildlife. There varieties of  including elephants, buffaloes, lions and leopards, zebras, presently giraffes and herds of antelope species among many other species.  Other species to encounter include Oribi and impalas, reptile species sights especially the rock pythons and puff adders as well as harmless water snakes. Can also encounter the biggest population of lizards, savanna monitors, common agama and skinks, chameleons and geckos all extend wildlife view.


Birds enthusiast, the destination hosts over 300 bird species, Pian Upe rewards with the finest birding opportunities comparably to even the well-spelled national parks in Uganda. Bird species to encounter include the ostrich and here one can do ostrich hatching, other birds are karamoja apalis, kingfishers, starlings and shoe bill storks found in Lake Opeta, 50 kilometers away from the headquarters. There also Hartlaub’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Dusky Turtle Dove, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Thick-billed Honey guide and Grey Cuckoo-Shrike among many species can be joyfully encounter.

Cultural tours

Tales about these people are fascinating, making it to happen for an encounter with the local people in their Community setups. Cultural visit exhibits the real lifestyle of nomadic northern people around Pian Upe reserve, among the cultural undertakings including the visiting of the communities, camping within gazette manyattas, tasting the local beers, cultural entertainments and visiting the Karamoja gold mining sites all can widen your regional cultural documentation.