The Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve in Karamoja 

The Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve in Karamoja 

The Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve in Karamoja

With a land area of roughly 2788 square kilometers, Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is one of the most remarkable protected areas in the Karamoja sub-region of northeastern Uganda. It is the second largest protected area in the nation, only surpassed by Murchison Falls National Park.

Where is Pian Upe found?

The southern portion of the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve was gazetted as the Debasien Animal Sanctuary in 1958. The reserve is located north of Mountain Elgon.

The name of the hot spring-filled Pian Upe Reserve, which is located near Mount Kadam and is considered one of the best places in Uganda for safaris, comes from the Karamojong dialect, which means “Friendly Enemy.”

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is connected to Bokora Wildlife Reserve, Mountain Elgon National Park, and Mountain Elgon Conservation Area, the other two wildlife protected areas in northeastern Uganda.

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve’s location

The Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve covers eight districts, including Moroto, Amudat, Napak, Kween, Bukedea, Katakwi, and Bulambuli. It is located in the northeastern region of Uganda, north of Mountain Elgon in the Nakapiripiriti district.

How to access Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve may be reached by car from Kampala in 8 to 9 hours via the Mbale to Soroti road; from Mbale City, it takes 5–6 hours, and from Kidepo Valley National Park, it takes 5–6 hours. Visitors from Moroto City can enter the park from Nakapiripiriti by going north of Namalu Trading Center or south of Chepsikunya Trading Center. Amudat airfield is the closest airfield to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.

About Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

When Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve was first gazetted as a conservation area, it was a well-liked Batake group for two Karamanjong pastoral groups, comprising people from northeastern Uganda and Kenya’s Pokot region. These groups also frequented Matheniko and Bokora Wildlife Reserves, as well as Kidepo Valley National Park. Where the two tribes meet to raid each other during the brutal livestock rustling is along the primary path that connects the reserve.

But times have changed, peace has returned to this area, and tourism has been brought in to improve community life.

Even though the government’s intention to develop agricultural output south of the Girik River continued to threaten the wildlife reserve’s boundaries, the southern portion of Pian Upe was gazetted as the Debasien animal sanctuary in 1958. The state was strongly pressured to enlarge the region and rename it Pian Upe game reserve in 1964 as a result of the increasing threats to the reserve’s resources. We are grateful for the Ugandan government’s efforts to restore and bring species to the reserve, as well as its interest in promoting the reserve to the status of a national park.

The origin of the term Pian Upe wildlife reserve

The Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve derives its name from the surrounding community. “Pian Upe” denotes a clan of Karamojong people living in northeastern Uganda, while “Upe” refers to a pastoralist community of Karamojong people who speak Kalenjin and are believed to have moved from the Pokot tribe in Kenya to the Amudat district, close to the wildlife reserve.

When two terms are combined, they actually mean “calm hearted people” and “enemy,” but the result is the phrase “friendly enemies.” These people live very traditional lives, centered mainly around their livestock, and are mostly pastoralists. The primary location of this group is near the Pian Upe headquarters in the Nakapiripirit district.

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve attractions


The Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is primarily made up of woody savannah plains that are bisected by seasonal rivers, kopjes, ridges, and rocky outcrops. The plains are encircled by mountains. Short trees and bushes, thatching grass, bristle species, lemon grasses, and beared grasses, among others, predominate in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.

The reserve’s grasslands are covered in bush willows, butterfly pea, desert dates, and red acacia bushes.


Numerous endangered species of animals, including Uganda’s last surviving population of roan antelopes and a robust cheetah population, can only be found in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.

The best place to see cheetahs, the fastest mammal in the world, is at Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve. Other predators in the reserve include jackals, civets, leopards, lion prides, wildcats, and spotted hyenas.

Large herds of ungulates, such as the common eland, a small population of zebras, Cape Buffaloes, Waterbucks, Uganda Kobs, Klipspringers, Blue and Common Duiker, Bohor, and Mountain Reedbuck, can also be found in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve. These animals were recently relocated from Lake Mburo National Park.

Fauna in the Piedmont Upe Game Reserve

A variety of reptiles, including the common agama, venomous puff adders, chameleons, crocodiles, rock pythons, and savannah monitors, can be found in the reserve, along with some of Uganda’s rarest animals, such as African hares, aardvarks, crested porcupines, rock hyrax, olive baboons, and four-toied hedgehogs.

Birdlife in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve: With over 242 documented bird species, the reserve is home to a variety of rare bird species. Notable rare bird species include the great Hartlaub’s bustard, ostrich, white-headed buffalo weaver, and jackson’s hornhill, which can be found in Loporokocho Swamp.

African eagles, cormorants, cranes, darters, egrets, grass birds, hawks, herons, hornbills, jacanas, lapwings, owls, pelicans, plovers, turacos, vultures, and weaver birds are among the common bird species found at Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.

Activities for a Uganda Safari in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

Drives for games

A game drive through the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve’s extensive plains offers the chance to witness uncommon creatures like cheetahs and roan antelopes, among others. The reserve is the only location in Uganda where roan antelopes may be seen.

During the dry season, Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve offers fantastic game drives where you may see a variety of animals, such as serval cats, civets, buffaloes, leopards, larger kudus, Topis, Hartebeests, dik-dik, jackals, and cheetahs.


The two most popular bird species in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve are the huge ostrich and the Karamoja Apalis, an endemic bird found exclusively in the north-eastern region of Uganda. The reserve is ranked second in Uganda in terms of birdlife density, only behind Queen Elizabeth National Park. Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is home to a variety of different bird species that are worth spotting, including the uncommon shoebill stock, the Abyssinian ground hornbill, Green bitta, Secretary bird, and superb sterlings.

Cultural Encounters and Community Tours

The Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is located in the Karamoja region, home to the Karamojong people, who are related to the Masai of Kenya and Tanzania. Despite their early reputation as hostile, these people have a rich culture and tradition that is fascinating to witness.

The Karamojong are well-known for their pastoral lifestyles. If you have the opportunity to interact with one of the groups within the Karamojong, you can enjoy occasionally scheduled performances of native music, dance, and drama, including the well-liked Edonga dance.

The new Karamoja Cultural Museum, which is situated at the base of Mount Moroto, is the ideal site to learn about the lives and culture of the Karamojong. It has an extensive collection of objects and artifacts that depict Karamojong culture.

Nature Walks with Guides

The Uganda Wildlife Authority may arrange for guided nature walks at Pian Upe Wildlife area, which are undoubtedly the finest way to explore the area. There aren’t many people around, so the treks give tourists a terrific sense of being in a true African wilderness. You may also expect to witness antelope herds, birds, reptiles, and primates while strolling.

Climbing Mountains and Rocks

The expansive plains, rocky terrain, and mountains of Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve are its most remarkable features. If Mount Kadam is too difficult for those who enjoy rock exploration or climbing less difficult mountains, they can begin with any of the many sizable rocks.

The ideal time of year to visit Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is open year-round, but January through March are the ideal months to come because of the dry vegetation, breathtaking views, and easy access to game viewing due to animals congregating around water sources.

Additionally, regulated bush burning is done by the reserve’s administration during this time to maintain short grass, which makes it easier to see the animals around the main water sources when they congregate for bathing or drinking.

Animals that live in the semi-arid area can get water from the Girik River, which is located in the reserve’s southern section.

Although November through December is a dry season, there is still a lot of lush vegetation, making it challenging to see animals concealed in the grass and treetops.
Since April through October is always considered the rainy season, game viewing is not possible due to muddy trails and often impassable roads caused by flooding. Because of the poorly constructed trails at Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, it can be a little challenging during the rainy season due to the dense vegetation and poor overhead vistas. It is always recommended that, in the event of inclement weather, visitors take a 4WD land cruise.
There is lodging in the Pian Upe wildlife reserve.

The Uganda Wildlife Bandas, located near the park headquarters, are the most often utilized lodging choice in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve. There aren’t many other lodging options available. You can also set up camp with a tent you rent from the reserve or bring your own around the park headquarters.

Karamoja Overland Camp is the only midrange lodging option in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve. It offers self-contained tents with en suite amenities like power and showers and great services. Just book with us for the best experience.

× Get Quote On WhatsApp