Things to do in Pian Upe Game Reserve : Pian Upe game reserve does not get the same attention like the other more known national parks in Uganda, however, discovering this park is very rewarding. The game reserve allows for privacy and an opportunity to explore a true pristine African wilderness, away from the crowds. These are some of the things to expect to do when you visit Pian Upe Game reserve
A guided game drive along the vast plains of the Pian Upe game reserve presents opportunities to spot rare animals like cheetahs, ostriches and the Roan antelope. This is the only place where you can see the roan antelope in Uganda. Game drives in Pian Upe Wildlife reserve are great during the dry season but can get nasty during the rainy season as already noted earlier. You need a good 4 Wheel drive vehicle to maneuver through the muddy roads during the rainy season or one with good air-conditioning during the dusty/dry season. Roads within the reserve are not well-maintained and you often have to create your own if you want to reach certain areas of the reserve.
When it comes to birds, Pian Upe wildlife reserve comes toe to toe with the largest national parks. In terms of bird density, it ranks as the second only to Queen Elizabeth national park. The most attractive bird species here is the giant ostrich. Ostriches find the vast dry plains ideal for running away from predators and taking care of their young. There are fewer large trees and vegetation enabling them to have a clear view of their surroundings and any approaching danger. Apart from ostriches, over 240 bird species can be sighted here. They include the African eagles, cormorants, cranes, darters, egrets, grass birds, hawks, herons, hornbills, jacanas, lapwings, owls, pelicans, plovers, turacos, vultures and weaver birds. The reserve has not been studied extensively by bird researchers and It is believed that there are other species yet to be discovered. The best place for birding is at the Cheposukunya hot springs.
Mountain and rock climbing
One of the most striking features of the Pian Upe Wildlife reserve is its vast plains, rocks and mountains. Those who love exploring rocks or climbing less demanding mountains can try Mount Kadam. If Mount Kadam is too challenging, then one can start with one of the numerous large rocks.
Nature walks can be arranged with a guide from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The nature walks provide arguably the best way to explore the reserve. The walks will live give you that great feeling of being in true African wilderness because there are very few humans to be seen. This is something that cannot be said for the major national parks like Murchison Falls. As you walk, you are bound to encounter various reptiles, birds, primates and herds of antelopes.
As already mentioned earlier, the tribes living close to Pian Upe game reserve are the Karamajong and Kalenjin. These nomadic pastoralists how depend on their cattle for survival in this semi-arid region. Their culture is unique and kept intact despite continued exposure to modernization. While on a guided community walk, you can learn about how the locals go about their daily lives. You can go and watch evening traditional Karamajong dances/drama and marriage ceremonies if you are lucky. The best place to learn about the culture of the people in the area is the new Karamoja cultural museum located at the foothills of Mount Moroto. The museum holds a large collection of items/artifacts that describe the culture of the Karamajong.
Some of the rocks found within the game reserve hide ancient rock paintings. One such rock is the Napendio cave. This cave is considered sacred by the local people but hides amazing paintings of wild animals like baboons and antelopes. These paintings date back to thousands of years ago when the first humans settled in the area. Another interesting cave is the Napedet cave. The Napedet cave is located at a former key hunting area for the Pokwot and Karamajong people. It is here that meat was roasted and shared among hunters. Cooking stones dating back to over 500 years can still be seen here. The walls of the cave are decorated with ancient art showing animals like elands, warthogs, roan antelopes and giraffes. Apart from the paintings you can have a clear view of the vast wilderness and amazing wildlife from these caves. Bush camping is arranged close to the caves at a fee of 15,000 shillings.
The best time to go to Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve
Pian Upe game reserve, receives two dry seasons and one rainy season. January to March is the driest part of the year. November to December is also dry but the vegetation is still green after the rains between April and October.
Most tourist prefer visiting during the dry season (January – March). The dry season allows for a clearer view of the animals as they gather around the few remaining water holes. The rainy season (April to October) is not ideal for visiting because of the poor conditions of the park roads. The roads become very muddy and difficult to navigate through even with the hardest of four-wheel drive vehicles. Some sections of the roads even get flooded as the rivers get filled with rainwater. The animals have plenty of food and water at this time of the year and tend to move in small scattered groups making them difficult to spot them. The best time to visit in our opinion is during the months of November and December. This is still the dry season but the park is still green with less heat.