Pian Upe Game Reserve is located in northern Uganda, north of Mount Elgon, and encompasses a number of districts including Amudat, Moroto, Katakwi, and Nakapiripirit. After the Murchison Falls National Park, it is the second-largest Game Reserve, encompassing about 2043 kilometres squared.
The Reserve was established in 1985 as the Debasien Animal Sanctuary, and it had no limits at the time. The government attempted to transform it into a farm at one point, but there was opposition, so it was converted into a game reserve and christened Pian Game Reserve in 1964. The government is currently trying to transform it into a National Park after redeveloping it to attract more tourists.
It should be noted that Pian Upe Game Reserve was a battleground for the Karamojong clans before it was gazetted since it was utilised for pasture for their cattle. The Karamojong of Uganda and the Pokot of Kenya would clash and battle until the winner was granted access to the huge savannah grasslands.
Pian translates approximately as “calm-hearted people,” and it was called after the Pian, the locals that reside near the Reserve. Upe is Kalenjin for ‘enemy,’ and the Karamojong use it to refer to the Kalenjin who arrived from Kenya and have established around the Reserve. The name Pian Upe comes from the tribes of the Kalenjin and Karamojong people that dwell surrounding the National Park. When the words Pian Upe are combined, it signifies “friendly enemy.”
The park is situated in a semi-arid region with diverse vegetation. Savannah forests, seasonal rivers and swamps, Kopjes, rocky borders, and short plants such as butterfly pea, beard grass, thatching grass, bristle and lemon grasses, and red acacia surround it.
This is a one-of-a-kind location with a lot to offer in the wildlife sector, with many animal species found in the reserve’s various ecosystems. Cheetahs, jackals, spotted hyenas, Oribis, cape buffaloes, Ungulates, Uganda Kob, Impalas, zebras, Gunther’s Dik Dik, common duiker, mountain Reedbuck, blue duiker, lions, Aardvarks, crocodiles, olive baboons, and common Agama are among the animals found in the reserve. It should be noted that most of the creatures in the Reserve were extinct during the conflicts, but the Uganda Wildlife Authority has done all possible to return the animals into the Reserve.
Rock pythons, puff adders, Geckos, savannah monitors, and other reptiles may be found in the reserve. These creatures are divided into reptiles, primates, herbivores, and carnivores, and while some are difficult to view, the ones that are visible will keep you fascinated.
Pian Upe is home to around 242 bird species, making it a birding destination for travellers looking to escape heavy crowds while birding. Binoculars, a camera with additional batteries, a guidebook, and sturdy hiking boots are essential items to bring for birding at Pian Upe. Nature hikes and game drives around the Reserve are great ways to see the birds. Among the several bird species that may be observed at Pian Upe are the world’s largest bird, the ostrich, the Fox weaver, the shoebill stork, hawks, owls, herons, cormorants, African jacana, pelicans, and Hornbills.
There hasn’t been much bird recording or research in the Reserve, and it’s believed that there are additional bird species that haven’t been documented. The Pian Upe Game Reserve, along with the Bokora Wildlife Reserve and the Matheniko Wildlife Reserve, constitute the Mount Elgon Conservation Area, which is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The Uganda Wildlife Authority has done its best to protect the gazetted regions from poaching and encroachment, and so far there has been an improvement, with many extinct creatures being brought back to the Reserve.
Nature hikes are one of the finest ways to experience Africa’s wildness. A tour guide will lead you into the Reserve, where you will observe a variety of animals and birds. You must, however, adhere to the tour leader’s requirements, such as never approaching the animals, walking in a line behind the tour guide, wearing neutral clothing to fit in with the wild, and making little or no noise while on the nature walk.
This is best done during the dry season when the roads are passable and you may observe antelopes, various bird species, monkeys, and elephants among other wildlife.
In Pian Upe, game drives are conducted both in the morning and in the evening. The morning drives begin as early as 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. since the animals are always up early looking for food before the heat of the day sets in. The evening trips begin at 3:00pm or 4:00 pm and conclude around 6:30 pm. Game drives are the finest way to explore the National Park and view the animals and birds that live there. Among the species that you will view on the game drives are ostriches, crocodiles, lions, impalas, and cheetahs.
For those who dislike crowds, Pian Upe National Park is a fantastic choice for game drives. The Reserve has low numbers all year, and its game drives allow guests to observe the animals without the rush and bustle of other National Parks’ greater populations.
Pian Upe Game Reserve, like the Masai in Kenya and Tanzania, is surrounded by the Karamojong and the Kalenjin. They are both nomadic pastoralists who move from one location to another in search of grass and water for their livestock. A guided stroll around the villages will provide you with an insight into how the residents live, their daily routines, and their distinct culture, which has taken time to adjust to the new technology introduced into the nation. The Karamoja cultural museum is the ideal venue to learn more about Karamojong culture. Take a cultural trip around the villages and enjoy traditional dancing and music.
The scenery of the Pian Upe is ideal for hiking. There are various rocky plains to explore while in Pian Upe, as well as three important mountains to see: Mountain Napak, Mountain Kadam, and Mountain Elgon. The Napedet caverns also provide tourists with an excellent trekking option. The Napedet caverns are where you may find paintings that were created before the property was gazetted. It is thought that the early residents of the area painted it, and when you visit the cave, you will witness paintings of giraffes, hartebeest, antelopes, and baboons, among other animals.
Pian Upe Reserve is accessible by car and is an 8-hour trip from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. The journey begins in Kampala and ends in Mbale, where it takes roughly two hours to reach Pian Upe Game Reserve. You may also drive to the game reserve from Moroto through the Namalu commercial centre. Driving may be done in two ways: on public roads or on private roads.
Private methods are preferable because to the seclusion they provide, and you may also make a brief stop at the Sipi falls in Mbale before heading to the Game Reserve. There is just one operational airfield in the area, which is located at Amudat, for people who choose to go by air.