Pian Upe Game Reserve is one of Uganda’s best-kept secrets. This beautiful, raw, and less visited game reserve is the second largest conservation area after Murchison Falls National Park. It covers an area of about 2,788km2 to the north of mountain Elgon and is managed by the Mountain Elgon Conservation department. It is located in the North-Eastern part of Uganda in Nakapiripiti and can easily be accessed by road from Kampala which takes about 8 hours and about 2 hours from Mbale and 6 hours from Pian Upe to Kidepo Valley National Park. The beauty of this game reserve is the stunning landscape sceneries with surrounding mountains and most of the time you will have the whole game reserve to yourself. The southern part of the reserve was gazetted as the Debasien Animal Sanctuary in 1958. In 1964 the area was expanded northward.
There are two most popular pastoralist tribes around this reserve. The Pian, being part of a subgroup of the Karamoja, and the Pian Upe, being a Kalenjin speaking people more widely known as the Pakot within Kenya and Uganda thus the name Pian Upe.
A traveler can extend a visit to Pian Upe from Sipi falls and continue on safari to wilderness Kidepo Valley National park. We can organize a tailor-made Uganda and Rwanda safari for you to include this less-visited wildlife reserve. Uganda was nicknamed ‘The Pearl of Africa’ by Winston Churchill.
If you are a traveler who wants to avoid crowds, then Pian Upe game reserve on one of our safaris is perfect for you.
On a guided safari to Pian Upe, expect to see Jackals, hyenas, cheetahs, cape buffalo, Roan antelope(only conservation area in Uganda where you can find this fine-looking antelope), dik-dik, Uganda kob, water back, aardvark, velvet, and patas monkeys and olive baboons and birds like the giant Ostriches.
Although Pain Upe wildlife reserve cannot be rated as high as the other national parks in Uganda like Queen Elizabeth National park and Murchison falls, in terms of density and diversity of wildlife, it is worth visiting when traveling to Uganda. Various types of antelopes especially the roan antelope, baboons, velvet monkey, the strong vocalized patas monkey, zebras, buffalos, dik-dik, birds, etc. are the easiest to be seen and with a bit of luck, you can also spot the cheetahs.
Here is a list of the top things you can do in the Pian Upe wildlife reserve. You can combine a safari to Pain Upe with a visit to Sipi falls in Eastern Uganda and Kidepo Valley national park (6 hours) in North Eastern Uganda. Contact us for these combination Uganda safaris
The major activities in Pian Upe are;
Guided wildlife safaris- You can go for guided game drives in the plains of the reserve where you expect to see the Roan antelope. This is the only place you can see the roan antelope in Uganda. Other animals you should look out for on this Uganda safari are the cheetahs, the zebras, greater kudu, dik-dik, buffalos, black-backed and side stripped jackals, eland, and harte beast. You definitely need a 4 x 4 wheel customized safari vehicle for the game drives since most of the tracks are not clear and not yet open. You will create your own game drive tracks too.
Pian Upe is a birder’s paradise. There are a massive number of birds, with about 242 confirmed, and 11 unconfirmed bird species. This makes the reserve 2nd to Queen Elizabeth National park to bird species density. You will see the land’s largest bird- the ostrich only found here and in Kidepo Valley National park.
A traveler can go Mountain climbing to the less challenging hills of the area like Mt. Kadam, but you can also go on one of our mountaineering adventure safaris to Mountain Rwenzori National park, up to Margherita peak, the only place with snow in Uganda.
Guided nature walks are a great way to get up close and personal to the wilderness at Pian Upe wildlife reserve. For sightseeing, look out for zebras, antelopes, baboons, and the many birds in the reserve. The walks are guided by a ranger from Uganda Wildlife Authority.
To learn about the culture and ways of the people living around Pian Upe, go for a guided community visit. You will learn about their traditional weddings and marriages, traditional dances that you can take part in, and their raiding activities for cattle.
This is an old cave that is close to the hearts of people around the area. During ancient days, the cave was used as a recreational place, especially for art. Drawings of baboons and other animals by the first people who stayed here are still visible to date.
Most national parks and wildlife reserves in Africa have the best time to visit and Pian Upe is not an exception. The best time to go on a wildlife safari to Pian Upe is as below
January – March: This is the best time to visit Pian Upe. The vegetation is dry, you have clear views and animals gather at the water sources which makes it easy for game viewing
April – October: rainy season, therefore muddy or even impassable roads and game drive tracks. The tracks are not well developed so, in the wet season, it can be a bit challenging), lush vegetation, bad hazel views.
November – December: dry season but still lush vegetation that makes it difficult to spot animals, hidden in the grass, treetops etc.
We strongly recommend at least a two days visit to Pian Upe game reserve to fully explore the reserve. Early morning game drives are better since rain showers may show up in the afternoon.