Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve 

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is one of the best wildlife reserves in Uganda situated about 90km from Mbale along Mbale – Moroto road in the northeastern part of Uganda in Karamoja region north of Mount Elgon covering a land area of about 2788 km² making it the second-largest protected area in Uganda the pearl of Africa just after Murchison falls national park the largest protected area in Uganda which covers an area of 3,893 km². 

The name Pian Upe was obtained from a local Karamojong word which is translated as a friendly enemy. This wildlife reserve was gazette in the year 1965 and is currently managed by the Mount Elgon Conservation Area. You could be wondering as to how the reserve obtained its name Pian Up! Well, there were 2 pastoralists groups the Pian and the Upe. Pian are almost similar to the Karamoja whereas the Upe are the Kalenjin speaking people. Thus the best way to name this place was by combining two tribes of Pian and the Upe to make the name Pian Upe.

However much Pian Upe wildlife reserve is less visited by tourists, it is very stunning and thrills with several species of wildlife including the endangered wildlife species. Some of the wildlife species found in Pian Upe range from mammals such as Buffaloes, Zebras, Rothschild’s giraffes, Hartebeests, topis, Dik-dik, elands, antelopes, kudu, Hyenas, cheetahs, Leopards, Lions, primates such as Olive baboons, Patas monkeys, Vervet monkeys and several species of bird species such as Jackson’s Hornbill, Bustard, ostrich and many more. Pian Upe wildlife reserve is a well a habitat to python snakes, puff adders, savanna monitor lizards, geckos, skinks and chameleons and many more.

How to get there,

Pian Upe can be accessed by road depending on the starting point.

  • From Kampala, it takes about 7-8 hours’ drive to get to the headquarters along Moroto – Mbale road. 
  • From Mbale, it takes about 2 hours’ drive to get the Pian Upe headquarters.
  • From Kidepo valley national park, it takes about 5-6 hours’ drive.

Best Time to visit Pian Upe

Just like any other national parks and wildlife reserves, Pian Upe is as well under the same category and with the best climatic conditions in Uganda, Pian Upe can as well be visited at any given period of time depending on what one intends to do and see. However, most people consider the dry months as the best time to visit Uganda thus the months of January, February and March could be the best season for one to explore Pian Upe as the vegetation cover is minimal for easy wildlife viewing as most of animals are spotted along the water sources in the reserve. At this time, the roads are also dry and easily passable making an entire experience rewarding. The months April, May, June, July, August, September and October fall under rainy season thus not favorable for wildlife viewing in Pian Upe as roads tend to be impassable and slippery making the entire experience a hustle and challenging. And finally the months of November and December are as well not easy to spot animals in Pian Upe as they tend to hide with in the lush and up in the tree tops. Thus months of January to march remain the best choice for wildlife viewing in Pian Upe wildlife reserve.

Tourist activities / Things to do and see in Pian Upe game reserve

Pian Upe wildlife reserve is the best destination for travelers who wish to enjoy a wildlife viewing safari at easy with a few people on the adventure since Pian Upe is a secret place visited by few travelers yet very stunning and worth a visit. Some of the major tourist activities done in Pian Upe Wildlife reserve include Guided game drive, guided walking safari, bird watching, Mountain Climbing, cultural tours and many more as seen below,

Guided game drive

Like any other savanna protected area in Uganda, Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve as well conducts game drive safaris with a golden chance of spotting lots of wildlife species that thrill within the plains of Pian Upe wildlife reserve. During the game drive, look out for antelope, cheetahs, Buffaloes, zebras, hartebeests, elands, greater kudu, jackals, dik- dik, lions, leopards and many more. A 4×4 safari vehicle with a top up roof is the most recommended vehicle for game drive in Pian Upe and any other savanna parks and reserves in Uganda since most tracks are not well developed thus need a 4 wheel drive to avoid getting stuck while on a game drive. 

Guided nature walks

Just like game drive, taking on a guided nature walk in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is such a fascinating adventure that enables you to explore different parts of the reserve that aren’t easily accessed during game drive. During the guided walk, look out for olive baboons, antelopes, zebras, elands, buffaloes, cheetahs, Hyenas, Patas monkeys, dik-dik, aardvark, abundant of birdlife and enjoy stunning views of the reserve and the neighborhood. 

Bird watching

Pian Upe wildlife reserve is a home to more than 250 species of birds which make it a true birder’s haven in Uganda the pearl of Africa with some endemic bird species and rare bird species like the ostrich which is only found in Pian Upe wildlife reserve and Kidepo valley national park making it one of the best place to visit for birding adventure while on a Uganda safari.

Cultural and community tour 

Tourists enjoy a breath taking adventure as they visit the local communities that reside near Pan Upe wildlife reserve and get an opportunity to interact with the locals about how they live and learn their different traditional practices like the traditional marriage, traditional dance and drama among others.

Packing list/ what to pack for a safari to Pian Upe wildlife reserve

While planning your adventure to Pian Upe, here is the packing list of things you could need and they include;

Appropriate outfit, Light clothes are the best attire for you to enjoy this secret wildlife reserve since it is situated in a north eastern part of uganda found of experiencing high temperatures thus Pian Upe itself is hot with hot wind as well so short sleeved tops, pair of shorts will work it out for you perfectly. However in the night, it is most likely to get cold thus need some warm clothes as well for the night. 

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve 
Ostricthes in Pian Upe

Insect repellant should as well not miss out in your backpack as you plan your Uganda safari to Pian Upe wildlife reserve. This will help you to repel away insects and other bug that could make you feel uncomfortable at some time.

A hat/ cap: in fact a round hat is the most recommend one as it protects your entire head from hot scotching sun during the day. You can as well add a pair of sun glasses.

Appropriate hiking shoes: these should be very comfortable and light for easy walks during the guided walking safari. 

Where to stay/Accommodation in Pian Upe wildlife reserve

Pian Upe basically doesn’t have developed accommodation facilities thus most of travelers who intend to spend nights reside in the UWA Bandas which include  self-contained cottages, one self-contained tent, and camping sites for those who wish to spend their nights under the moon and stars though for camping, travelers must carry their own camping tents. The meals prepared at the reserve basically include Rice, spaghetti, Rolex, chicken etc. but there is also a possibility of carrying own food and hire a cook to prepare it at the reserve.

Optionally, travelers who do not need to stay in the reserve can as well decide to book their accommodations in Sipi Area as well as in Mbale city.


Let us know when you wish to visit this secretive and beautiful wildlife reserve and here at Achieve Global Safaris we are always available and ready to take you on this fascinating adventure at any given period of time. A travel to Pian Upe can as well be combined with a visit to Kidepo valley national park as well as Sipi falls.