Explore the amazing Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve

Sitting on 2,043 km2, Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve is one of Uganda’s largest conserved and protected areas, it comes second to Murchison Falls National Park. Located in the Karamoja sub-region in Nakapiripirit District, north of Mount. Elgon. The reserve has quite several wildlife species like plain zebras, impalas, giraffes, buffalos, elands and so much more. It is a birder’s favorite with a variety of interesting bird species such as ostriches.

Thinking of a wildlife safari destination, this should top your list, it offers beautiful landscapes and sceneries that you get to enjoy and take beautiful pictures. Managed by the Elgon Conservation Department which also manages two other conservation areas, Mount Elgon National Park and Mount Elgon Conservation Area.

Before being reserved as a conservation area, this area was a battleground for two pastoral Karamojong groups, those from North Eastern Uganda and those from Pokot in Kenya. Here is where most of the cattle rustling took place. Due to the efforts put up to conserve the environment, there are hopes that the reserve might get upgraded to a National Park.

“Pian” is a clan of the Karamoja people while “Upe” is a community of Kalenjin-speaking pastoralists who currently stay within the Karamoja region but originally came from the Pokot tribe of Kenya.  In other terms “Pian” means calm people while “Upe” refers to the enemy, when joined together, these words form “friendly enemies.”  It was sort of a spot where “frenemies” met.

Attractions and Activities in Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve


Consisting of a variety of wildlife animals, this is home to a variety of savanna grassland animals like elands, zebras, Hartebeests, Oribis, Impalas, cheetahs, jackals, and Serval cats among others. Some animals were obtained from Lake Mburo to conserve and protect them against extinction and poaching such as Duikers, Reedbucks, Uganda Kobs, and Klipspringers. It also hosts very rare species such as crested porcupines, African Hare, Four Toed Hedgehogs, patas monkeys and so much more.

Other animal species like reptiles are not left out, find crocodiles, rock pythons, geckos, and chameleons roaming around the reserve. To enjoy a better view and experience of the wildlife animals, it is better to take game drives around the park usually in the morning or late in the evening. These periods offer opportunities to see both day and nocturnal animals like lions, and cheetahs.


The Park is largely covered by savanna grasslands and woodlands characterized by shrubs, long grass like lemon grass, thatching grass, short and spaced trees, red acacia, bush willows, and more. The park is surrounded by mountains, seasonal rivers, and plains. Game drives can also be carried out to just go around the park and check out some of the vegetation that grows there.

Bird watching

 The reserve is home to some unique and rare bird species. These include; the Green Bitta, Secretary Bird, and Abyssinian ground hornbill that can be seen flying over the park, rare ostriches are also a major attraction of the park. Bird lovers have a variety of birds t choose from and to watch, Pian Upe is one of Uganda’s best bird-watching destinations.

Community tours

The Karamoja region is where the reserve is found, these people have a similar culture to the Masai of Tanzania and Kenya. They are all nomadic pastoralists who rear cattle by moving from one place to another. The Karamojong community also is made up of manyattas, these are homesteads in which people belonging to the same family construct their houses and stay together in a circular format. A cultural visit to the community will give you more exposure as you get to learn about the different cultures.

Mountain Hiking

The park is surrounded by Mount Napak, Elgon, and Kadam, while in the park you get to see the mountains lying at the edge of the park, hike any of these mountains and you will be rewarded by the amazing features found at their summits, for example, a hike to Mount Elgon will surprise you with the world’s largest caldera. The hikes are a way of performing some exercise and burning calories.

Nature walks

Unlike mountain climbing, nature walks take place on relatively low plains, walk through the reserve and get close to the different vegetation types found in the reserve, walk past the short trees and grass as you enjoy the beautiful plains within the park, and you can always be guided by a local guide or follow the trails.

 How to get there?

The reserve can be accessed by road through Kampala to Mbale City and then to Soroti which connects you to Nakapiripirit, it takes about 9 hours to get there by road. By air, you can board from the airport or any airstrip and you will be dropped at Amudat airstrip.

When to Visit Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve?

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is located in a semi-arid region and therefore it can be accessed any time of the year. However, the dry seasons are most preferred by travelers since the roads are clearer and the views are so much outstanding. Book your Uganda safari and explore Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve and create a signature of memories. 

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