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Uganda National Reserves

Uganda National Reserves

Uganda National Reserves,  “The Pearl of Africa” is one of the expressions used to describe Uganda because of Nature’s gifts to her. It is a country in East Africa that is blessed with a diverse array of wildlife and natural habitats. Uganda has a rich cultural heritage with over 56 ethnic groups each with its unique customs, beliefs and practices. Uganda is a top destination for tourists who want to experience African wildlife, culture, and adventure.

One of the most popular attractions in Uganda is its game reserves, which are home to a variety of wildlife species. Uganda’s wildlife population has continued to thrive because of the government and the local communities’ commitment to conservation. There are several game reserves in Uganda that offer amazing experiences to the people who visit. And each reserve is home to different wildlife from mammals like African elephants and various primate species to the smallest of rodents. Their views are picturesque with undulating terrains and diverse vegetation coupled. With several activities to engage in while on a safari to Uganda.

Here are the reserves to visit while in Uganda.


Ajai Wildlife Reserve

Nestled on the western banks of the Albertine Nile in north western Uganda, Ajai wildlife Reserve sits on an area approximately 166sqkm. It was named after the Ajai River which flows through it.  The reserves’ topography is filled with Grass plains, sparse savannah woodland and swamps. Ajai wildlife reserve was established in 1963 and was originally intended to protect the Rothschild’s giraffe which is an endangered species, today, the reserve has a variety of bird species including; the Grey-crowned cranes, Marabou stocks, African Fish eagles, white browed council, Helmeted Guineafowl and Black headed weavers among others.

Activities here include; nature walks, cultural experiences, birding and game drives to sight Uganda Kobs, Warthogs, Hippopotamuses, Hartebeests, Leopards, Sitatunga, Oribis, Crocodiles, Snakes, Common Duiker, Waterbucks, Buffalo, Olive Baboons, Black and White Colobus monkeys and Vervet Monkeys among others. Plans are ongoing to re-introduce rhinos and the Nile buffalos given the fact that the reserve was originally home to white rhinos.

One of the unique features of Ajai Wildlife Reserve is its conservation programs. The reserve is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which is responsible for protecting and conserving wildlife in Uganda. The authority works with local communities to promote sustainable tourism and conservation practices.

To reach the reserve, visitors can fly into Gulu Airport which is located about 45km from the reserve, it can also be accessible by road from Kampala.

Ajai wildlife reserve is open throughout the year but the best time to visit is during the dry season which runs from December to February and also from June to September. During this time, the weather is favorable, and wildlife is easier to spot as they gather around water sources.


Bokora Corridor Wildlife Reserve

The Bokora Corridor Wildlife Reserve is located in North-Eastern Uganda in the Karamoja sub region. The reserve is bordered by Matheniko Wildlife Reserve to the west and Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve to the east. Bokora Corridor is a vital migration route for wildlife particularly the elephants that move between Uganda and Kenya. It sits on an area of 2,056sqkm with amazing landscape. It is a great birding spot for species that are unique to the north eastern region. There are activities such as birding which is done at the Loporokocho swamp, hikes to Mount Kadam, nature walks and great community experiences with the cattle kraals of the Bokora people.

The most sought after animals in the reserve include the Rothschild’s Giraffe, Spotted Hyenas, Topis, Oryx, Cheetahs, Roan Antelopes, Reedbucks, Striped Hyenas, Leopards, Oribis, Uganda Kobs, the Lesser Kudu, and Elands. Among the Birds include; Ostrich, Eastern Bronze-Napped Pigeon, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Dusky Turtle Dove, Black-Throated Wattle-Eye, the Hartlaub’s Turaco, Alpine Chat, Jackson’s Hornbill, African Hill Babbler, Mountain Yellow-Warbler, Lemon Dove, White-Headed Buffalo-Weaver and Thick-Billed Honey Guide among others, making for a rich birding experience in the area.

The reserve has a varied landscape that includes vast savannah plains, rocky outcrops and wooded areas, its vegetation consists of acacia woodlands, grasslands and riverine forests.


Bugungu Wildlife Reserve

Bugungu wildlife reserve is located between Masindi and Bulisa districts at the base of the rift valley escarpment to the western side of Murchison Falls National Park. The reserve covers 473sqkm and it was established in 1964 with the aim of protecting the wildlife and ecosystem in the area. It is home to a wide range of wildlife species including; elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, lions, hippos, crocodiles, leopards and several species of antelopes. Bugungu wildlife reserve is also a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 350 species of birds recorded in the area. The well maintained trails at the reserve provides tourists with good opportunities to enjoy game drives, nature walks, camping, picnics, bird watching and also community visits to experience unique cultures of the people living near the reserve.

One of the unique features of Bugungu Wildlife Reserve is the Albert Nile that runs through the reserve. The river provides a habitat for a variety of aquatic life including; tilapia, Nile perch and catfish.

Visitors to Bugungu Wildlife Reserve can engage in a range of activities like game drives, birding, and boat safaris. It is also an ideal destination for nature walks and hiking since it offers breathtaking views of the Albertine Rift Valley.


Kabwoya wildlife reserve

Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve is situated along the western rift valley trail between Murchison Falls National Park and Kibale Forest National Park, it covers an area of 87 square miles. Given that Kabwoya wildlife reserve lies within the Albertine rift valley region, close to Lake Albert, fishing is one of the main activities done by the communities living around. The absence of predators has made hikes and guided nature walks a safe and fun activity to add on to your “to-do list” when in Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve.

The reserve’s landscape is dominated by savannah grasslands, dotted with acacia trees and occasional rocky outcrops.

Its topography allows mountain bike safaris as well as ATV Quad biking, particularly a rare activity in Uganda is Fossil finding, and this can be done at Kabwoya Wildlife reserve and is quite engaging for those on safaris with children. The avid birder on a bird walk will find the reserve a birding delight with over 460 species, these include; the Western Nicator, Black headed weavers, Grey Parrot, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, dwarf honey guide, Bare faced Go-away bird and Stripe breasted-tit among others.

Accommodation in Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve is limited though visitors can stay in the nearby towns like Hoima and Masindi. There are also several lodges and campsites in the area including the Kabwoya Wildlife Lodge, this offers comfortable accommodation and stunning views of the reserve.

Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve is not as famous as some of the other game parks in Uganda such as Murchison Falls or Queen Elizabeth National Parks. However, this makes it a great destination for those who want to enjoy the beauty of Uganda without the crowds.


Karuma wildlife reserve

Karuma Wildlife Reserve was established as a Wildlife Reserve in 1964 and it covers an area of 820sqkm. The Reserve is located in a territory of conservation areas consisting of Murchison Falls National Park, Budongo Forest Reserve, Kaniyo Pabidi and also Bugungu Wildlife Reserve, it is within the districts of Kiryandongo and Nwoya. The reserve was named after the Karuma Falls, a magnificent natural wonder that forms part of the Nile River, these falls are a popular tourist attraction and are located on the southern boundary of the reserve. Karuma has abundant primate species including; the Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys, Olive Baboons and L’Hoest Monkeys.

The reserve is also home to a number of Buffaloes, Rothschild Giraffe, Leopards, Elephants, Lions and also Antelopes like the Uganda Kobs, Topis and Oribis. For those interested in birding safaris, there are several bird species which include; the Swamp flycatcher, Grey-crowned cranes, yellow-throated leaf, Abdmin’s stork, pied kingfisher, Rock pranticole, Giant heron, Senegal think-nee, red-throated bee-eater and Giant kingfisher among others.

One of the best ways to explore the reserve is by taking guided game drives. Visitors can take either morning or evening game drives depending on their preferences. Karuma wildlife reserve has well-maintained tracks that allow visitors to get up close and personal with the wildlife in their natural habitat.

Visitors can also engage in nature walks, these walks provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of the reserve. They are conducted by experienced guides who provide information about these species found in the reserve. Camping can also be done in the reserve allowing visitors to spend a night in the wild. The campsite is located on the banks of the Nile River and it offers stunning views of the Karuma Falls.Visitors can as well take a boat ride on the Nile River providing a unique opportunity to see some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife species from a different perspective.


Katonga wildlife reserve

Katonga Wildlife Reserve is a protected area located in western Uganda with an area of approximately 211sqkm. The reserve forms part of the greater Katonga River valley and is bordered by Katonga River to the east and Kafu River to the west. The reserve was established in 1996 with a primary goal of conserving this natural habitat for various wildlife species.

Katonga Wildlife Reserve hosts about 40 mammal species, these include; African Elephants, the shy Sitatunga Antelope, Uganda Kob, Reedbuck, River Otter and Waterbucks. Guided nature walks, hikes and canoe rides are the only activities in the Reserve. This is due to the absence of developed road networks making Katonga Wildlife Reserve a sanctuary that is best explored on foot and canoe.

It is home to about 150 bird species which include; the Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Goliath Heron, Grey Heron, cattle Egret,  Purple Heron, Madagascar Pond-Heron, the Black-headed Heron, Squacco Heron among others.

The reserve is surrounded by communities that have lived in the area for generations therefore visitors can as well experience the unique culture and traditions of these people including music, traditional dances and storytelling.

The reserve’s landscape comprises of a stunning blend of savannah, wetlands and riverine forests providing visitors with un-matched views. Visitors can enjoy a boat ride along the Katonga River and spot hippos, crocodiles and various bird species.

The adventure activities that can be enjoyed here include; game viewing, guided nature walks and bird watching.

To access the reserve, From Kampala, follow the Masaka-Mbarara road with the nearest town being Kyegegwa and then to the reserve. Katonga wildlife reserve is open throughout the year therefore visitors can enjoy activities available during any season.


Kigezi wildlife reserve

Kigezi Wildlife reserve is situated in Rukungiri District in Western Uganda and it covers an area of 265sqkm. It is a sanctuary to elephants moving from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Other mammals to spot here include; Buffaloes, Kobs, Bushbucks, Topis, Giant Forest Hogs as well as multiple Bird Species. Some of them include; the Grey-crowned cranes, African crowned eagle, Hammerkops, Ruwenzori turaco, Saddle-billed stork, Red-faced barbets, white-tailed blue flycatcher, Verreaux’s Eagle and Peregrine Falcon among others. It is also home to some primates like the black and white colobus monkey and the blue monkey.

One of the unique features of Kigezi Wildlife Reserve is its location, it is nestled in the hilly Kigezi region which offers a stunning backdrop for wildlife viewing. These hills are covered in lush green forests and the valleys are dotted with small farms and villages hence giving visitors a glimpse into rural life in Uganda.

Kigezi Wildlife Reserve offers a variety of activities for visitors with Game drives being the most popular activity. This allows visitors to explore the reserve and observe wildlife in their natural habitat. The reserve also offers guided walks allowing visitors to explore the forest and learn about the different flora and fauna.

Accommodation options within the reserve are limited though there are various lodges and campsites situated outside the reserve that offer comfortable and affordable accommodation.

The best time to visit Kigezi wildlife reserve is during the dry season from June to September and also from December to February. This is the best time to visit since the animals are easier to spot and the weather is pleasant.


Kyambura wildlife reserve

Kyambura Wildlife Reserve is located just near Queen Elizabeth National park. It is best known for its chimpanzee population making chimpanzee trekking the chief activity in the reserve. The reserve is a water source to the animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park and this makes it a hotspot for viewing wildlife like; elephants, lions, leopards and buffaloes. Kyambura wildlife reserve is also home to bountiful bird species including; the African Skimmer, Falcons, Pink Backed Pelicans, African Broad Bill and the White Tailed Lark among others.

A guided forest or nature walk should be added to your bucket-list on things to do while at Kyambura, this would be a rewarding walk given the location of the reserve; north east of Queen Elizabeth National Park and also close to the Kazinga Channel.

The Kyambura Gorge is the most distinctive feature and it’s what makes the wildlife reserve unique. This gorge is a natural wonder and it’s a sanctuary for several primates like chimpanzees, the black and white colobus monkeys and baboons. Visitors can embark on a chimpanzee tracking excursion as they track these amazing primates in their natural habitat. This experience is quite different from the typical wildlife safari since it involves walking through the dense forests in search for these chimpanzees.

In addition to chimpanzee tracking, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve also offers a range of other activities including; game drives, nature walks, birding and cultural visits to the nearby communities. Game drives are the best way to explore this reserve and see the diverse wildlife.


East Madi wildlife reserve

East Madi wildlife reserve is located in Northwestern Uganda, north of Murchison Falls in the districts of Amuru and Adjumani. The reserve sits on an area approximately 831sqkm and it hosts about 50 mammals, 181 bird species and also 374 plant species. This makes it possible for wildlife viewing, nature walks and birding. It has a wide range of bird species including the rare shoebill stork which is a highly sought-after bird by bird lovers. The best time for birding is in the early morning when the birds are most active.  There are also a number of primates that can be seen and they include; the Colobus Monkeys, Blue Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys as well as the Red-tailed Monkeys.

Uganda is a country endowed with vast natural resources right from the lush green forests to the abundant wildlife. Game drives are one of the most popular activities in the reserve, it has well-maintained tracks that allow visitors to drive through the wilderness and get up close to the wildlife. These game drives can either be in the morning or in the evening.

East Madi wildlife reserve has a number of accommodation facilities that range from basic camping sites to luxury lodges and they offer visitors a comfortable stay in the wilderness.


Matheniko wildlife reserve

Matheniko wildlife reserve is located in the Karamoja sub-region, North East of Uganda. It covers an area approximately 1,620sqkm and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The reserve was named after the Matheniko Mountain Range which dominates the landscape, the range is an important watershed that provides water to Kidepo Valley National Park which is situated north of the reserve.

Matheniko Wildlife Reserve is home to a variety of wildlife including; the elephants, buffaloes, lions, giraffes, leopards, hyenas, zebras and several species of antelopes. The reserve is also home to over 200 bird species including; the Alpine Chat, Ostriches, Grey-Cuckoo Shrike, Kori bustard, Secretary bird, Thick Billed Honey Guide and various species of raptors. Birding, nature walks, community and cultural visits are among the activities that can be done while at Matheniko wildlife reserve.

One of the unique features at Matheniko Wildlife Reserve is its rich cultural heritage, the reserve is home to a number of ethnic communities including; the Karimojong, Pokot and the Tepeth. All these communities have a rich cultural heritage that includes traditional dances, songs and storytelling.


Pian Upe wildlife reserve

Pian Upe wildlife reserve is the second largest conservation area after Murchison Falls National Park with an area of approximately 2,788sqkm. It is located in North Eastern Uganda, in Nakapiriprit District and can be reached by driving from Kampala via Mbale.

The reserve is home to several mammals including; cheetahs, Roan antelopes, Serval cats, Elands, waterbucks, Zebras, Rock hyrax, common duikers and some primates like the vervet monkeys, patas monkeys and olive baboons. The bird species in Pian Use wildlife reserve include; the Abyssinian ground hornbill, Fox’s weaver, Ostrich, superb sterling, Great Hartlaub’s bustard, Karamoja Apalis, Jackson’s hornbill among others.

Activities at Pian Upe Wildlife reserve include; Mountain climbing at Mt. Kadam, guided nature walks, wildlife safaris and cultural community visits. The reserve’s beauty lies in its untouched wilderness which offers a sense of peace and serenity that is difficult to find elsewhere. The reserve’s landscape is breathtaking with rugged hills, expansive savannah plains and rocky outcrops.

Visitors to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve can as well immerse themselves in the local Karamojong culture with their unique and vibrant traditional attire, beadwork and music. Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve should be among the must-visit destinations for anyone looking to experience the thrill of African wildlife in its natural habitat.


Toro-Semiliki wildlife reserve

Toro-Semiliki wildlife reserve is located between Kabarole and Ntoroko Districts in western Uganda and was gazetted in 1926. The reserve is divided into two main sections; Semiliki Valley Wildlife Reserve and the Toro Game Reserve. Semiliki Valley Wildlife Reserve is located in the northwestern corner of the reserve. A home to a wide range of habitats including; the riverine forests, wetlands and also savannas.

Toro Game Reserve on the other hand; is situated in the south-central area of the reserve. Characterized by the rolling hills, grasslands and acacia woodlands. This area is home to some of the largest herds of buffaloes in Uganda. As well as a variety of antelopes and other herbivores.

While at 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, pied kingfisher, Great while pelican, Luhdrers Bushrike, Abyssinian ground hornbill. Black-billed Barbet, Malachite kingfisher, Tropical Boubal, Arrow market Babbler and Red necked Falcon among others.

The mammal species in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve such as the Buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, Hyena, Elephants. And primates along the forest trail include; the Grey cheeked mangabey, De Brazza’s monkey, Central African red colobus, Vervet monkey, Baboon. Blue monkey, red-tailed monkey, Dent’s Mona monkey etc. Visit the local community and watch them perform a traditional dance or make handcrafts.

In conclusion, the Toro-Semiliki Wildlife Reserve is one of the most important game reserves in Uganda. Offering visitors a unique opportunity to see a wide range of wildlife in their natural habitat. Whether you are a birdwatcher, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates natural beauty. A visit to this remarkable reserve is sure to be a highlight of your trip to Uganda.


Whether you are a wildlife enthusiast, birdwatcher or just looking to experience the natural beauty of Uganda. There is a reserve or national park that is right for you. With its diverse ecosystems, friendly people and rich culture. Uganda is a one stop destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. So why not start planning your trip today?!!!