Pian-Upe Wildlife/Game Reserve ultimate guide; important travel information, attractions, amazing things to do, when to visit, where to stay, travel tips and advices, etc.

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is one of the untouched wilderness spots in Uganda, still offering incredibly authentic experiences. It is one of Uganda’s biggest wildlife protected areas and comes 2nd after Murchison Falls National Park. It is a newly treasured wildlife destination in Uganda hosting diversity of wildlife and abundant bird species.

The location of Pian Upe

Pian Upe Game Reserve is found in the Karamoja region, Northeastern Uganda. It is set in Nakapiripirit District and features abundant wildlife species. Adjacent to this spectacular nature reserve are other protected areas including Matheniko Game Reserve, Kidepo Valley National Park, Bokora Wildlife Reserve and Mount Elgon National Park.

The reserve was initially established as an animal sanctuary in 1958, then upgraded to wildlife reserve in 1960. In 1964, Pian Upe area was extended Northward, renaming it Pian-Upe Wildlife/Game Reserve. In 2003, there was a proposal to degazette the reserve and use the area for fruit growing, but the proposal was blocked.

Pian-Upe lies in the Semi-arid area, covering up to 2043 sq.km of land area. The reserve sits in Northeastern Uganda and the surrounding districts include Moroto, Napak, Kween, and others.

Wildlife species

Within Pian-Wildlife Reserve, there are plenty of faunal species to be viewed. The game reserve’s wildlife species include cheetahs, roan antelopes, elands, zebras, oribis, gazelles, spotted hyenas, leopards, topis, civets, serval cats, reedbucks, porcupines, hedgehogs, buffaloes, wildcats, aardvarks, klipspringers, dik-dik, patas monkeys, olive baboons, waterbucks, Uganda kobs, rock pythons, and more.

The vegetation/floral species

Pian-Upe Reserve is a vast grassland and woodland nature reserve. It features unique tree species, especially desert species. The other floral species include the red spike-thorns, shrubs (caper bush, butterfly plea), harrisonia abyssinica, lemon grass, beard grass, bristle grass and more.

Bird species

An estimate of about 242 bird species resides within Pian Upe making it a special birding spot in Uganda. The birds of Pian-Upe include the Karamoja apalis, ostriches, daters, Abyssinian ground hornbill, secretary bird, super starling, fox weaver birds, white headed buffalo weavers, great hartlaub’s bustard, Jackson’s hornbills, and more.

Amazing things to do in Pian Upe

Pian Upe Game Reserve is remotely located offering visitors unmatched wilderness experience of true Africa. Here are some of the amazing activities you should expect to engage in while on Uganda safari in Pian-Upe.

Game drive

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve offers remarkably unbeatable game viewing experiences in its sweeping savanna grassland. On a game drive, expected animal sightings will include roan antelopes, giraffes, lions, leopards, buffaloes, oribis, hartebeests, eladns, spotted hyenas, greater Kudus, aardvark, zebras and cheetahs. You can also have incredible bird sightings including ostriches, secretary birds, bustards, white headed buffalo weaver, hartlaub’s bustards and more.


A significant bird species can be spotted on birding tour in this game reserve. They include African eagles, ostriches, secretary birds, white headed buffalo weaver bird, great hartlaub’s bustard, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Jackson’s hornbills, fox weavers, and more.

Rock/mountain climbing

If you love hiking/rock climbing, then consider visiting Pian-Upe a must-do. Visitors can engage in the less and hard-climb rocks. For less demanding hikes, visit Mount Kadama and or hike through the large rocks at the reserve.

Nature walks

Nature walking is an exciting safari experience you should expect on Pian-Upe wildlife tour. It is a perfect option to immerse yourself into the reserve’s wilderness as you keep an eye on numerous primates, birds, reptiles and antelope families.

Cultural encounter

Adjacent to Pian Upe are two tribal groups: Karamojong and Kalenjin. These are nomadic pastoralists who largely depend on cattle keeping in the semi-arid area as their main survival means. Regardless of the exposure to modern life, these tribal groups haven’t abandoned their ancient ways of life. A cultural tour allows you explore their distinct traditions, cultures and these can also come with entertainment from traditional dances and music performances.

Explore the caves

A visit to Pian Upe isn’t only for wildlife. A tour in this area allows you explore some of the incredible caves such as Napendio cave, a sacred place for local residents. Napedet cave is another must-visit cave and this is lying in the previous hunting area for Karamojong and Pokwot.

When you should visit Pian Upe Reserve

The driest months of the year and also the best time to visit the reserve is from January to March or November to December. The rainy months start from April & October.

Pian Upe Game Reserve lodges to stay


Within the reserve, tourists can stay in the four bandas run by Uganda Wildlife Authority or stay at Karamoja Overland Camp and outside it, you can book lodges around Sipi Falls area. Alternatively, you can go camping.

Getting to Pian Upe Game Reserve

Accessing Pian-Upe from Kampala or Entebbe takes about 9-10 hours’ drive. You can also drive from Namalu trading center or Chepsikunya center. From Mbale, you may spend five hours driving or 2 to 3 hours starting from Sipi Falls area. Alternatively, fly from Entebbe airport to Amudat airstrip.