12 GAME RESERVES IN UAGANDA – BEST UGANDA WILDLIFE RESERVES
There are many Game reserves in Uganda and some of these 12 Wildlife reserves are adjoined to national parks forming the best destinatoin for Uganda Safari. Uganda game reserves are good home for variety of Wildlife species but because of their distant location, these wildlife reserves are not so much visited by tourists.
Most of the Game reserves in Uganda offer a great game viewing Safari experience and are the alternative spot to do Wildlife tours in Uganda. Each of the 12 Uganda wildlife reserves harbors different animals from the largest African Elephant and vast Primate species to the smallest rodents.
Uganda Wildlife Safaris in these less explored reserves is so facinating and visitors get to enjoy best game drives, nature walks and hiking experience. Here is the list of Game reserves in Uganda or 12 Wildlife reserves that every traveler should consider when planning African trip to Uganda.
Bugungu Wildlife Reserve
Bugungu wildlife reserve is located on western side of Murchison falls national park at the base of the Albertine rift valley. It is located in the districts of Bulisa and Masindi. It covers an area of 501 km and was gazetted in 1968. This game reserve has many animals that can be seen and these include waterbucks, bushbucks, elephants, giraffes, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and elands. There are over 240 bird species especially the most thought after shoe bill stork, yellow throated greenbul, black billed barbets, white sparrow weaver and many more.
Different activities can be carried out at Bugungu wildlife reserve and these include nature walks, birding, game drives, community visits and sight-seeing.
Karuma Wildlife Reserve
The Karuma Wildlife reserve was established in 1964 to act as a safe zone between Murchison falls national park and the surrounding areas. Karuma Wildlife reserve is located in Kiryandongo district in western Uganda. Karuma wildlife reserve covers an area of 820 Sq km and is 902 meters above sea level. It is widely known for the beautiful Karuma falls on Victoria Nile which comprises of interlocking rocks that are naturally arranged like a series of steps and this is so fascinating to see. These locks are believed to have been arranged by a powerful traditional spirit called Karuma and so the falls were named after the spirit.
Karuma is one of the game reserves in Uganda and is adjoined to Murchison falls park, the largest conservation area in Uganda. There are so many animals that cross from the murchison falls park to this reserve. Animals that can be seen in this Karuma game reserve are elephants, buffaloes, baboons, Uganda kobs, Oribis, vervet monkeys, hippos, warthogs, hyenas, white colobus monkeys and Rothschild giraffes. There are various bird species especially aquatic birds including Shoebill stork, Golithe heron, grey crowned cranes, king fishers, cormorants and swamp flycatchers.
Activities that can be carried out here are game viewing, birding, visiting karuma falls, nature walks and more. Karuma wildlife reserve can be accessed through Kampala-Masindi-Gulu high way approximately 110km from Masindi town taking about 6 hours by road from Kampala. It can also be accessed by air with the domestic flights from Entebbe to Pakuba airstrip. There are both lodging and camping facilities within Karuma wildlife reserve unlike other reserves in Uganda.
Bokora Corridor Wildlife Reserve
Bokora Wildlife reserve is located in North Eastern Uganda in Karamoja region and was gazzeted in 1964 covering about 2056km. Bokora wildlife reserve is one of the best destinations for birders. The area around this reserve is occupied by the Bokora people of Karamojong tribe and so the wildlife reserve was named after them. The reserve costs of dry plains with mount napaka and mount kadam as the main features. Bokora corridor wildlife reserve has a lot of wildlife and beautiful scenery.
The animals here have been hardened to withstand the long dry seasons at the reserve. The animals that can be seen include lions, kobs, zebras, hyenas, antelopes, buffaloes, cheetahs, elands, and leopards. Visitors also can see different birds like Ostriches, pigeons, Jacksons’ Hornbill, the black throated wattle eye, the African hill babbler, lemon dove, white headed buffalo weaver, and so many more.
Activities carried out in Bokora wildlife reserve are game drives, bird watching, cultural visits to the Karamojong people who are basically cattle keepers so you can participate in grazing and milking the cows.
Bokora wildlife reserve can be visited all year round though the best time is in the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February since in the rainy season the roads are impassable. With the poor road connection there are no accommodation facilities within the reserve but visitors can opt for camping and enjoy the real wilderness. Uganda wildlife Authority has plans of building lodges in the reserve soon. One can opt to stay in moroto or Kotido towns.
For a complete tour in the Karamojong sub region one can combine visiting Bokora corridor one of the game reserves in Uganda with visiting Pian Upe wildlife reserve, Matheniko wildlife reserve and kidepo valley national park.
Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve
Pian Upe wildlife reserve is the largest of the game reserves in Uganda and the second largest conservation area after Murchison falls national park covering an area of 2043 km. It is located in Karamoja region in north eastern Uganda. The reserve is covered with grassland and wooden savanna plains.
The Pian upe wildlife reserve is a Sanctuary of rare animals that are not found in any other conservation area of Uganda such as Cheetahs and Roan antelopes. This makes it the best place to see these animals. Pian upe derives its name from the two pastoral tribes that stay around the reserve which are the pian a subgroup of Karamojong and Upe the Kalenjin speaking people of Kenya.
Pian Upe wildlife reserve joins with other conservation areas like Matheniko and Bokora wildlife reserve and Mount Elgon national park, forming the Elgon conservation area managed by Uganda wildlife authority. This reserve was gazetted in 1958 starting in southern part but in 1964 the area was expanded northwards and the government has plans to upgrade it to a national park.
The wildlife at Pian Upe is a combination of mammals, birds and reptiles. The animals in this area include waterbucks, common eland, cheetahs, popular ibis, topi, olive baboons, hares, wild cats, roan antelopes, Uganda Kob, Patas Monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Cape Buffaloes, Spotted hyenas, leopards and many others. Over 240 bird species can be spotted at Pian Upe wildlife reserve and these include herons, egrets, ostriches, weaver birds, pelicans, turacos, vultures, cormorants and so mnany more.
Activities that can be carried out at Pian Upe wildlife reserve are guided game drives, bird watching, nature walks, mountain climbing and hiking, visit to napendio cave which was long time used for arts and paintings, cultural community visits to learn the way of living of the pastoralists that occupy this reserve.
Accommodation at Pian Upe wildlife reserve is provided by Uganda Wildlife Authority with in the self-contained and non-self-contained tents and cottages with in the reserve. Other adventurous visitors can choose to do camping in the reserve.
Ajai Wildlife Reserve
Ajai Wildlife reserve is located on the western bank of Albertine Nile in Arua district in Northern Uganda. It was established as a game reserve in 1965 but was called the white Rhino Sanctuary back in 1962. Ajai is a small reserve that receives two seasons in a year and has Ajai Island surrounded by swamps fed with water from rivers Acha and Ala.
The island is always flooded during the rainy season and animals keep migrating from it. Ajai wildlife used to be a home to both black and white rhinos but with continued encroachment by poachers, the population dramatically reduced until there no more.
Despite all the efforts by the government and the World Wildlife Fund to protect the reserve, poaching has been difficult to control due to large population of people living close to the reserve. On 11th December, 2008 Uganda Wildlife Authority had authorized Uganda Wildlife Safaris to manage, protect and grow Ajai Wildlife reserve but because of failure to implement the activities in their Agreement (MOU). Uganda Wildlife Authority decided to terminate the 20 years memorandum of Understaanding (MOU) with immediete effect on 31st, March, 2023.
This company was tasked to protect animals in the reserve and reintroduce more but they did not excute the MOU. Uganda Wildlife Safaris Ltd is a private company that offer sport hunting, photography tours and bird watching trips.
Way back, Ajai Wildlife was managed by a local chief called “Ajai” who led till to 1930’s and the name of this reserve derives from him. Currently Ajai Wildlife reserve which covers a land area of 166 square kilometers is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The Uganda Wildlife Authority is a Uganda government agency and has the plan of re-locating more Wildlife and reintroducing the rhinos to Ajai reserve.
Activities to do at Ajai Wildlife reserve include; Game drive Safari to see animals like hippos, Crocodiles, Sitatunga, Uganda kob, warthogs, buffaloes, leopards, baboons to mention but a few. Bird watching is also one of the activitis to do at Ajai wildlife reserve and see different bird species like Marabou stocks, weaver birds, grey crowned cranes and African fish eagles.
Ajai Wildlife reserve can be visited all through the year but the most ideal time is the dry season when the Ajai Island isn’t flooded that’s in the months between November and March. Accommodation can be got in the nearby towns of Arua and Gulu. Ajai can be accessed by road or by air. It takes about 7 hours by road and by air which lands at Arua airport.
Katonga Wildlife Reserve
The Katonga Wildlife reserve is located on the shores of River Katonga in Kyenjojo and Kamwenge districts. It was gazetted in 1964 as a game reserve for migrating animals but became a Wildlife reserve in 1998. Katonga Wildlife reserve covers an area of 207 square kilometers. Katonga Wildlife reserve is managed by Uganda wildlife Authority under Kibale conservation area. The vegetation in reserve is of mixed savanna with acacia shrub land or woodland. It has both seasonal and permanent wetlands.
Katonga wildlife reserve is a home to many animals and bird species. These include waterbuck, sitatunga antelopes, bushbucks, colobus monkeys, warthogs and so many more. Zebras and Impalas have also been reintroduced in the reserve from Lake Mburo national park by Uganda wildlife Authority. The reserve can be toured on foot given that it doesn’t have designated roads to allow driving the park or using canoes on the swampy river.
Activities that can be carried out here include game viewing, guided nature walks, canoe trips in the narrow channel between swampy areas, community visits. Katonga reserve can be visited any time of the year but the best time would be in the dry sea when the grass is short and vegetation is not thick.
Kyambura Game Reserve
Kyambura game reserve is located in Queen Elizabeth national park on the north eastern side of the park. It is comprised of an underground forest called Kyambura gorge well known for chimpanzee tracking which is boarded by Kichwamba escarpment. The reserve acts as a water source for the animals in Queen Elizabeth national park and is drained by river kyambura that connects to kazinga channel.
Kyambura Wildlife reserve is dotted with beautiful vegetation, has a great scenic landscape of steep slopes, rift valley escarpment and a deep valley. It also harbors a lot of wildlife with primates like chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, red tailed monkeys and baboons. There is also a lot of birdlife for example white napped pigeons, shoebill, African skimmer, African broadbill, blue headed bee eaters and many more.
Activities that can be done in Kyambura wildlife reserve include chimpanzee tracking, bird watching, forest and nature walks to mention but a few.
Kyambura Wildlife reserve is a few kilometers from Queen Elizabeth park headquarters and so it can be easily accessed. Visiting Kyambura reserve can be added on your safari adventure to Queen Elizabeth national park. It can be visited preferably in the dry season when the area is not muddy and slippery. Animals also move to Kyambura River to drink water so they can easily be spotted there. Accommodation can be got within the park ranging from budget to luxury depending on your choice.
Kigezi Wildlife Reserve
Kigezi Wildlife reserve was established in 1952 and is located in Rukungiri district in south western Uganda. The reserve covers an area of 265 square kilometers. Kigezi wildlife reserve is a home to different Wildlife including bushbucks, Uganda kobs, forest hogs, topis buffaloes and elephants. These elephants seasonally migrate from Rwindi plains in Congo and South of Queen Elizabeth national park.
Kigezi Wildlife reserve share borders with Maramagambo forest and Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth national park, the famous place for tree climbing lions. It also acts as a buffer of Rwenzori national park. Kigezi wildlife reserve also has a range of bird species that call it a home and some of these are red faced barbet, the peregrine falcon, grey crowned cranes and many more.
Kigezi Wildlife reserve can be visited anytime of the year both in the dry and wet seasons. Elephants usually migrate in the rainy season and so can be easily seen in those months October, November, March and April. Accommodation can be got in Rukungiri town because there are no facilities in the reserve.
Matheniko Wildlife Reserve
Matheniko Wildlife reserve is found in Moroto district in northeastern Uganda in the Karamoja wildlife conservation area that stretches from Kidepo national park to Pian Upe wildlife reserve. Matheniko has beautiful landscape and vegetation. The area is still remote with poor road access and so it’s not so much visited by tourists.
The reserve covers an area of 1520 square km and is the 5th threatened protected area in Uganda. Matheniko wildlife reserve receives little rainfall and therefore has a semi-arid climate. The occupants in this reserve have adapted to these harsh weather conditions with little rainfall and a lot of sunshine, high temperatures leading to little grass to feed on and water to drink.
The available wildlife is always seen scattered in the vegetation of this reserve. The animals here include cheetahs, waterbucks, duikers, stripped hyenas, Uganda kob, baboons, vervet monkeys and leopards. Matheniko wildlife reserve also is a home to different birds like ostriches, Black headed plover, black throated wattle eye, mountain yellow warbler, bronze napped pigeon and many more.
The activities that can be done in Matheniko wildlife reserve are cultural tours, guided nature walks, bird watching, sports hunting, mountain and rock climbing, community visits, rock painting and many more.
Matheniko game reserve is open the whole year but the ideal time is in the dry months of December to February and June to September though it also gets annoyingly dusty.
Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve
Kabwoya wildlife reserve is one of the new protected areas in Uganda gazzeted in 1980 and was made a wildlife reserve in 2002 and located in western Uganda within the Albertine rift valley. It covers an area of 87 miles of protected land and is a home to over 460 bird species and a lot of animals that have been reintroduced by Uganda wildlife authority. Kabwoya has great scenic views of Lake Albert and the blue mountains of Congo.
Kabwoya wildlife reserve was once a poaching and hunting area that left most of the animals extinct but with the conservation by Uganda wildlife Authority some animals that once called it a home have been re-introduced such as hartebeests, bushbucks, impalas, antelopes, warthogs, Uganda kobs and hippos along the shores of Lake Albert. Kabwoya wildlife reserve has also primates like chimpanzees, baboons, white and black colobus monkeys and vervet monkeys.
Activities that that can be done at Kabwoya reserve include Birding, game drives, horse riding, nature walks, fishing on lake Albert, fossil hunting a unique activity that is not done anywhere else in Uganda, Mountain bike riding, quad biking being one of the few places where it’s done, and hiking. Accommodation can be got at Lake Albert safari lodge when on a visit to Kabwoya wildlife reserve.
Toro Semuliki Wildlife Reserve
Toro Semliki wildlife reserve is located in Ntoroko and Kabarole districts in western Uganda. It was established in 1926 to protect wildlife in the area including the large number of Uganda kobs.
Toro Semliki wildlife reserve is one of the oldest game reserves in Uganda and considered among the first protected areas to be gazetted in Uganda. Semliki wildlife reserve formally the Toro Smliki wildlife reserve covers an area of 542 Square Kilometers. The reserve has a dramatic setting within a rift valley between the Rwenzori Mountains, Kijura escarpment and Lake Albert.
Toro Semliki wildlife reserve is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority as a consolidated part of Kibale conservation area. The local people live in 4 neighboring communities to Toro Semliki wildlife reserve include the Kasesenge-kyakabaseke community, Karugutu-Kyabandara community, Ntoroko fishing community and Rwebisingo community.
The Vegetation of Semliki wildlife reserve is comprised of Savanna grassland dotted with acacia woodland and palm trees especially in swampy areas. Activities in Toro Semliki wildlife reserve include Game drive where variety of wildlife can be seen such as Uganda Kobs, Savanna Elephants, Waterbucks, buffaloes crocodile and warthogs with chance to see leopard and bush babies. Primate walk, Nature walk which can be done along the riverine forest and in savanna grassland. Community tour to meet the local people, Join the Karugutu community conservation Association (KCCA) to enjoy music dance and drama. Boat ride can also be done on lake Albert with chances to see the Shoebill stork as the main attraction, Hiking can also be done especially for travelers interested in birding tours.
East Madi Wildlife Reserve
The East Madi wildlife reserve is found in the northwestern Uganda as one moves further north of Murchison falls national park in Adjumani district. The East Madi wildlife reserve covers an area of 831 square Kilometers and is rich in flora and fauna which include 50 mammal species, 181 bird species and an impressive 374 plant species.
The wildlife is very scenic with diversity of vegetation ranging from medium altitude mosaic deciduous trees to forest and Savanna. Due to the availability of huge number of wildlife species such as primates (colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and red tailed monkey), hyena, lions, leopard and plant life, East Madi remains a high potential for tourism development in Uganda. The activities to do at East Madi wildlife reserve are nature walking Safari, Game drive and bird watching to see the rare shoebill stork.