Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve, Uganda

Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve, situated in Uganda’s northeastern region, is a captivating haven for nature enthusiasts and conservationists alike. Spanning across vast savannahs and lush woodlands, this protected area showcases an incredible diversity of wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, lions, and countless bird species. The reserve’s commitment to preserving Uganda’s natural heritage is evident in its pristine landscapes and the remarkable opportunity it offers for wildlife observation and adventure.

About Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve

The history of Pian Upe Game Reserve

Pian Upe has a notable history marked by its transformation into a protected area dedicated to wildlife conservation. Prior to its establishment as a protected reserve, the land was inhabited by the Karimojong people, who practiced traditional cattle herding while coexisting with the local wildlife.

In 1958, Pian Upe took its first step toward formal conservation as it was designated as a game reserve, with the primary objective of safeguarding its diverse wildlife population. This marked the inception of its role in the broader conservation efforts of Uganda.

In 1964, it was elevated to national park status and became known as ‘Pian Upe Game Reserve’.

In 2002, recognizing the need for a balanced approach to conservation, the reserve underwent a reclassification, becoming ‘Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve’. This shift allowed for the incorporation of sustainable tourism practices and community engagement into its management strategy. Throughout its history, Pian Upe has been a stronghold for conservation in Uganda. It has been at the forefront of anti-poaching initiatives, the promotion of sustainable tourism, and programs that foster collaboration with local communities, particularly the Karimojong people who share the land with its diverse wildlife.

Today, Pian Upe continues to play a vital role in Uganda’s national conservation efforts.

Safaris in Africa in October

Where is Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve located?

Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve is situated in the northeastern region of Uganda, near the border with Kenya. Its close proximity to Kenya enhances its significance as a conservation area, contributing to the preservation of the region’s biodiversity across both countries.

What is the size of Pian Upe Reserve?

Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve sprawls across an expansive territory, encompassing approximately 2,788 square kilometers, which is equivalent to about 1,075 square miles. To put this into perspective, it’s a larger area than the entire city of Los Angeles and almost twice the size of Rhode Island!

What wildlife can I see in Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve?

Pian Upe is home to a diverse range of wildlife species. Visitors can expect to encounter elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards, hyenas, zebras, and various antelope species within the reserve’s boundaries.

Additionally, the reserve boasts an impressive bird population, with over 300 different bird species documented, making it an ideal destination for birdwatchers.

tailor-made holiday & tour - Giraffe

What conservation efforts are in place to protect the wildlife in Pian Upe?

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) works closely with various groups to protect the reserve’s unique wildlife and ecosystems. They have a strong anti-poaching program staffed by well-trained rangers who patrol the reserve’s borders to stop illegal hunting.

The reserve also promotes sustainable tourism to strike a balance between allowing visitors to enjoy Pian Upe’s natural beauty and preserving the environment in the process. This includes the need for compulsory guided tours, strict visitor rules, and responsible campsite management.

Is there an entrance fee for Pian Upe?

Yes. Like many wildlife reserves and national parks in Uganda, typically charges an entrance fee for visitors.

Currently, the fee for international visitors is approximately $35 USD. However, please keep in mind that entrance fees can change over time, so it’s advisable to verify the current fees with by visiting the official website of the reserve before planning your visit.

How many days do I need for a visit to Pian Upe?

The duration of time you plan to spend at Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve varies depending on your interests and the number of activities on your itinerary, however, to explore the key highlights, 2-3 days is recommended.

This time frame allows you to spend quality time on game drives and nature walks to encounter a variety of wildlife and enhance your chance of sightings, as many animals have different patterns during the day.

You’ll also have the time to partake in multiple activities, as well as some well-deserved relaxation time to enjoy your surroundings.

What other attractions are near Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve?

Aside from the enchanting landscapes and wildlife of Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve, there are other nearby attractions that add to the charm of the region, offering diverse experiences to enrich your journey:

Mount Elgon National Park

Pian Upe hike routs

Just a stone’s throw away, Mount Elgon National Park invites you to explore its ancient volcanic mountain, adorned with lush forests, unique plant life, and cascading waterfalls. Hiking trails crisscross the park, leading to the summit where awe-inspiring vistas await. Encounter diverse wildlife, from playful primates to graceful antelope, and delight in the melodies of countless bird species.

Sipi Falls


A short drive from Pian Upe, Sipi Falls is a trio of picturesque waterfalls nestled in the foothills of Mount Elgon. Whether you’re hiking to the upper falls, enjoying a peaceful picnic by the lower falls, or simply basking in the tranquil atmosphere, Sipi Falls promises a rejuvenating escape into nature’s embrace.

Getting There

Getting to Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve in Uganda typically involves a combination of road and sometimes air travel. Here are the general steps to reach Pian Upe:

1. Travel to Uganda

If you are traveling from abroad, you will first need to reach Uganda. Most international travelers arrive at Entebbe International Airport near the capital city, Kampala.

2. Kampala to Mbale

From Kampala, the nearest major city to Pian Upe is Mbale, which is located in the eastern region of Uganda. You can travel to Mbale by road, which is the most common mode of transportation.

The journey from Kampala to Mbale takes approximately 4 to 6 hours by car, depending on traffic and road conditions.

3. Mbale to Pian Upe

Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve is situated to the northeast of Mbale. You will need to continue your journey from Mbale to reach the reserve.

You can hire a local guide or driver who is familiar with the area to take you to Pian Upe. The journey from Mbale to the reserve may take several hours, depending on the specific location within the reserve you wish to visit.

Birdwatching Pian Upe

Things to do

Visiting Pian Upe presents an array of captivating activities for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Here are just some ideas you may like to include in your itinerary:

Game drives

Embark on thrilling game drives guided by experienced rangers in Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve. These safaris take you through diverse ecosystems, including savannahs, woodlands, and hills. Seek out iconic African wildlife such as elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, and various antelope species.


Birdwatching enthusiasts will revel in Pian Upe’s avian abundance. Here, you’ll discover over 300 bird species, including vibrant sunbirds, raptors, and unique African species. Bring your binoculars and camera to capture these feathered wonders in their natural habitat.


While visiting the Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve, you may decide to pay a visit to Napedet Cave via a guided walk or hiking tour. This ancient cave, once cherished by early inhabitants, is a window into the region’s rich history and artistic heritage.

The cave’s walls are adorned with intricate paintings that depict scenes from the daily lives of the people who once resided here, as well as wildlife such as baboons, giraffes, hartebeest, and roan antelopes.

Exploring Napedet Cave provides a profound connection with the region’s heritage, It’s an enriching and thought-provoking sightseeing adventure that’s sure to add depth to your Pian Upe experience.

Nature walks

Join guided nature walks in Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve to intimately connect with its ecosystem. Accompanied by knowledgeable guides, these walks reveal the subtler aspects of the reserve’s ecology. You’ll learn about indigenous flora, track wildlife, and gain insights into their behavior.

Cultural encounters

Exploring Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve offers a unique chance to engage with the indigenous Karimojong people and understand their traditional lifestyle. This cultural exchange includes traditional dances, craft demonstrations, and storytelling. Traditional dances convey history and community bonds, craft demonstrations showcase artisan skills, and storytelling reveals their worldview. Engaging with the Karimojong fosters cultural awareness and a deeper appreciation for Uganda’s cultural diversity.


With its minimal light pollution, Pian Upe provides outstanding stargazing opportunities. On clear nights, the sky unveils a celestial canvas adorned with stars and constellations, creating a perfect setting for a romantic evening with your partner.

Guided tour

Maximize your understanding of the reserve’s ecology, wildlife behavior, and conservation efforts by joining guided tours led by experienced naturalists and park rangers.

customized Uganda tour package - Leopard

When to visit

The optimal time to visit Pian Upe Reserve in Uganda largely hinges on your preferences and the experiences you seek during your trip. Primarily, there are two distinct seasons to consider when planning your visit.

Dry Season (December to March and June to September)

During the dry seasons, Pian Upe typically enjoys higher tourist footfall for several reasons.

Wildlife enthusiasts find this period particularly enticing as it offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. The reduced availability of water sources prompts animals to congregate around the remaining ones, making them more accessible for observation.

Additionally, the weather is generally pleasant, with lower chances of rainfall, ensuring comfortable conditions for outdoor activities like game drives and nature walks. Birdwatchers will also find the dry season beneficial, as it often coincides with the presence of migratory bird species.

Wet Season (April to May and October to November):

Conversely, the wet seasons, corresponding to the rainy periods in Uganda, transform Pian Upe into a lush and vibrant landscape. This time of year can be a boon for photographers as the scenery bursts with greenery and vivid colors.

However, these periods do come with challenges.

The heavy rainfall can result in muddy and less accessible roads, potentially impacting the feasibility of game drives and other outdoor activities. Wildlife may also be more dispersed during this time as they have access to water sources throughout the reserve.


Accommodation options near Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve are limited but there are options to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are some options on where to stay:

  • Lodges and camps within the reserve: There are a few lodges and campsites within the park’s boundaries. These options offer the advantage of being close to the reserve’s wildlife and activities.
  • Mbale: Mbale is approximately 190 kilometers (about 118 miles) from Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve. The drive typically takes around 4-5 hours, depending on road conditions and traffic.
  • Sipi Falls: Sipi Falls, located near Mbale, is a popular destination known for its picturesque waterfalls and stunning scenery. It offers a range of accommodation options, including lodges and campsites.
  • Kapchorwa: Another nearby town to consider for accommodation is Kapchorwa. It offers guesthouses and small hotels where you can stay while exploring Pian Upe and the surrounding area.
  • Local homestays: In some cases, local communities may offer homestay experiences, providing an opportunity to stay with a host family and learn about their way of life.

Book your visit to Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve today

Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve invites you to explore its remarkable landscapes and diverse wildlife. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast or nature lover, Pian Upe promises a memorable experience. Plan your visit to this unique destination today to witness the richness of Uganda’s biodiversity and immerse yourself in its natural beauty.

Start your journey to Pian Upe Wildlife Game Reserve and discover the wonders of African wildlife and pristine landscapes.


Customize your safari

Create your own safari experience with a bespoke itinerary.

Talk to us