“Africa condensed in one country,” or “The Pearl of Africa” are some of the expressions used to describe Uganda because of nature’s gifts to her. There are various game reserves in Uganda that offer amazing experiences to the people who visit. You can include some of these when on your Uganda safari. Uganda’s wildlife population has continued to thrive because of the commitment to conservation from the government and the local communities. Each reserve is home to different wildlife; from mammals like the African elephant and vast primate species to the smallest of rodents. Their views are picturesque with undulating terrains, diverse vegetation coupled with abundant activities to indulge in when you visit the wildlife reserves on a safari to Uganda. Here are some of the reserves to visit while in Uganda.
1. Ajai Wildlife Reserve
Situated on the west bank of the Albertine Nile in north western Uganda – Arua District the Reserve sits on 166 square kilometers of land. Grass plains, sparse savannah woodland and swamps would best describe the reserves topography. Some of the birds in this reserve include; Marabou stocks, African Fish eagles and Grey-crowned cranes, white browed council, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black headed weaver. It is great destination to be included on your Uganda birding safari. Other activities in this area include; nature walks and game drives to sight Uganda Kobs, Hartebeests, Warthogs, Hippopotamuses, Leopards, Oribis, Crocodiles, Snakes, Waterbucks, Sitatunga, Buffalo, Common Duiker, Olive Baboons, Black and White Colobus monkeys, and Vervet Monkey. Plans are underway to reintroduce rhinos and the Nile buffalo given that the reserve was originally home to white rhinos.
2. Bokora Corridor Wildlife Reserve
The Bokora Corrridor Wildlife Reserve is located in North-Eastern Uganda in the Karamoja sub region and derives its name from the ethnic group of the Bokora people. It sits on acreage of 2056 square kilometres with amazing landscape. It is a great birding destinations for species that are unique to the north eastern region. There is birding at the Loporokocho swamp, hikes to Mount Kadam and nature walks and great community experiences visiting the cattle kraals of the Bokora people. The most sought after animals in the reserve include the Rothschild’s Giraffe, Spotted Hyenas, Leopards, The Topis, Oryx, Oribis, Cheetahs, Reedbucks, Striped Hyenas, The Uganda Kobs, The Lesser Kudu, Roan Antelopes and Elands. Birds in Bokora reserve include; Ostrich, Dusky Turtle Dove, Eastern Bronze-Napped Pigeon, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, The Hartlaub’s Turaco, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Jackson’s Hornbill, Mountain Yellow-Warbler, Black-Throated Wattle-Eye, Lemon Dove, White-Headed Buffalo-Weaver and Thick-Billed Honey Guide etc. This makes for a rich birding experience in this area.
3. Bugungu Wildlife Reserve
Bugungu wildlife reserve is nestled between the Bulisa and Masindi districts at the base of the rift valley escarpment to the western side of Murchison Falls National Park. It covers 473 square kilometers which are home to 600 Uganda Kobs, 1200 Oribis among other animals and 240 bird species. The well maintained trails at the reserve allow tourists the chance to enjoy a game drive, nature walks and other activities such as community visits to experience the cultures of the people living near the reserve, camping, picnics and bird watching. You can visit Bugungu wildlife reserve as an add on to the Murchison falls national park or on its own with amazing time engaging with the community for beautiful cultural experiences.
4. Kabwoya wildlife reserve
Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve is found along the western rift valley trail between Murchison Falls Park and Kibale National Park and covers 87 square miles. Given that the reserve is in the Albertine rift valley region close to Lake Albert, fishing is one of the main activities done by communities living near the reserve. The ideal catch would be the Nile Perch although there are many fish species to choose from. The absence of predators has made guided hikes and nature walks a safe and fun activity to add to your to-do list when in Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve. The reserve’s topography allows mountain bike safaris as well as ATV Quad biking. A particularly rare activity in Uganda is Fossil finding but it can be done at the Kabwoya Wildlife reserve and is quite engaging for those on safari with children. The avid birder on a bird walk will find Kabwoya wildlife reserve a birding delight with over 460 bird species to see which include; Western Nicator, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Black headed weavers, Grey Parrot, Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Stripe breasted-tit, dwarf honey guide, Bare faced Go-away bird etc.
5. Karuma wildlife reserve
Like the name suggests, Karuma Wildlife reserve is known for its greatest feature; the Karuma water falls on the River Nile. This wildlife reserve is next to Murchison falls national park making it easy for one to combine the two in one visit. Unfortunately the falls have quite a number of stones and therefore not suited for water rafting. It is abundant in primate life like the Olive Baboons, Black And White Colobus Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys and L’Hoest Monkeys. The reserve is also home to Buffaloes, Leopards, Rothschild Giraffe, Elephants, Lions, and Antelopes like The Uganda Kobs, Oribis and Topis. For those interested in birding safaris, there are several bird species which include; Swamp flycather, yellow-throated leaf, Grey-crowned cranes, pied kingfisher, Abdmin’s stork, Rock pranticole, Giant heron, Senegal think-nee, red-throated bee-eater, Giant kingfisher etc.
6. Katonga wildlife reserve
Located on the banks of Katonga River, Katonga Wildlife Reserve supports about 40 mammal species. These mammals include the shy Sitatunga Antelope, African Elephants, Reedbuck, Uganda Kob, River Otter and Waterbucks. Guided nature walks, hikes and canoe safaris are the only possible activities in Katonga Wildlife Reserve. This is due to the absence of developed road networks making Katonga Wildlife Reserve a sanctuary best explored on foot and canoe. The reserve is home to about 150 bird species which include; Rufous-bellied Heron, cattle Egret, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Madagascar Pond-Heron, Squacco Heron,
7. Kigezi wildlife reserve
Kigezi Wildlife reserve is located in Rukungiri District in Western Uganda and covers 265 square kilometers. If your goal is to set your eyes on the African elephant, Kigezi Wildlife reserve is the place for you. It is the sanctuary to elephants moving from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Other animals that can be viewed include Kobs, Buffaloes Giant Forest Hogs, Bushbucks and Topis as well as multiple Bird Species. Some of the bird species in Kigezi wildlife reserve include; Hammerkop, Grey-crowned cranes, Verreaux’s Eagle, Saddle-billed stork, Red-faced barbets, Peregrine Falcon, etc.
8. Kyambura wildlife reserve
Kyambura Wildlife Reserve is near the Queen Elizabeth National park and is best known for its chimpanzee population making chimp trekking with the guidance of experienced guides the chief activity of this site. The reserve is a water source to the animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park which makes it a hotspot for wildlife viewing. The birder is not at a loss when visiting Kyambura because it is home to bountiful bird species including; Falcons, African Skimmer, African Broad Bill, Pink Backed Pelicans and the White Tailed Lark among others. A guided nature or forest walk should be added to your bucket-list on things to do while at Kyambura. It would be a rewarding walk given the location of the reserve; north east of Queen Elizabeth National Park and close to the Kazinga Channel.
9. East Madi wildlife reserve
In Northern Western Uganda, north of Murchison Falls-Amuru District is where the East-Madi Wildlife reserve can be found. The reserve rests on 831 square kilometers of land that houses 50 mammals, 181 bird species and 374 plant species making nature walks, wildlife viewing and birding some of the activities to do while at the reserve. There are a number of primates that can be seen including the Blue Monkeys, Colobus Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys and Red-tail Monkeys.
10. Matheniko wildlife reserve
Matheniko wildlife reserve is found in the Karamoja sub-region North East of Uganda. It is home to the Lesser Kudu, Roan Antelopes, Bright’s Gazelle and Ostriches (which are otherwise easily seen in Pian Upe and Kidepo Valley National Park) as well as bird species including the Alpine Chat, Grey-Cuckoo Shrike, and Thick Billed Honey Guide can be seen while touring the reserve. Matheniko Wildlife Reserve also has some ancient rock paintings said to date back to 3000 years ago. Birding, nature walks, community and cultural visits are some of the activities to do while at Matheniko wildlife reserve.
11. Pian Upe wildlife reserve
Pian Upe wildlife reserve is the second largest conservation area after Murchison Falls National Park which is the largest. It is situated in Nakapiriprit District in North Eastern Uganda and can be reached by driving from Kampala to Mbale to Pian UPe. This reserve is home to several mammals including Roan antelopes, cheetahs, Serval cats, Elands, Zebras, Rock hyrax, waterbucks, common duiker etc. Some primates like vervet monkeys, patas monkeys and olive baboons. The bird species in Pian Use wildlife reserve include; Fox’s weaver, Abyssinian ground hornbill, Superb sterling, Ostrich, Karamoja Apalis, Great Hartlaub’s bustard, Jackson’s hornbill etc. There are opportunities of Mountain climbing at Mt. Kadam, guided nature walks and wildlife safaris, cultural community visits are some of the activities to do while at Pian Upe wildlife reserve.
12. Toro-Semiliki wildlife reserve
The Toro-Semiliki wildlife reserve gazetted in 1926 is among Uganda’s best wildlife reserves. It is located between the Kabarole and Ntoroko Districts in western Uganda in the same region as Semliki national park. While on a safari in Toro-Semiliki Wildlife Reserve you can take a boat ride on Lake Albert where you will have sightings of the rare shoebill and other water birds like the African open bill, Great while pelican, Pied kingfisher. The reserve is said to be home to over 400 bird species. More bird species in Toro-Semliki wildlife reserve include the Abyssinian ground hornbill, Malachite kingfisher, African open bill, Luhdrers Bushrike, Tropical Boubal, Black-billed Barbet, Arrow market Babbler, Red necked Falcon etc.
The animals in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve include; Buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, Hyena, Elephants etc. The primates found along the forest trail include; De Brazza’s monkey, Grey cheeked mangabey, Vervet monkey, Central African red colobus, Baboon, Blue monkey monkey, red-tailed monkey, Dent’s mona monkey etc. Visit the local community and watch them perform a traditional dance or make handcrafts.