Katonga Wildlife Reserve with an area of 207 square kilometers was gazetted in 1964 as a game reserve, to serve as a corridor for migrating wildlife from Western Uganda to Tanzania and Sudan. It became a Wildlife Reserve in 1996 when the former Game Department and Uganda National Parks merged to form Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Currently, the reserve is managed by UWA under the Kibale Conservation Area administration with a Warden In-Charge based at the Reserve Head Office at Kikorogoto.
The 207sq.km Katonga Wildlife Reserve is a savannah grassland ecosystem located within Kyenjojo and Kamwenge Districts. The journey into the Reserve is a three-hour drive from Kampala to Kyegegwa Town Council. At Kyegegwa, detour southwards for 42 km following well visible signposts.
The Reserve’s terrain is predominantly undulating in nature with distinct vegetation types. Vegetation includes grasslands, wooded grasslands, woodlands, riverine woodlands, swamp, riverine grasslands, papyrus. Most of the area is mixed savannah with acacia or woodland. However, large portions of the reserve are either permanent or seasonal wetlands. The reserve also contains various pockets of riverine and tropical forests. Its unique geographical location between forests, swamps and savannah vegetation gives the reserve a diverse ecosystem that favours the existence of a variety of animal species. The most dominant plant species include Sporobolus festivus and Chloris gayana. These species exist with associate species like Setaria species, Hyparrhenia species and occasional Panicum maximum. The Katonga wetland system is interlinked with the Nile system forming an important wetland system for human survival. The variety of different vegetation types, particularly the wetlands, provides a range of habitats, which enhances the faunal diversity of the reserve.
Katonga Wildlife Reserve has a viable Sitatunga population inhabiting the Katonga Wetland System. The reserve also habours high population of waterbucks. The population of Hippos and birds is also growing in addition to primates.
In the 1960s, the reserve was home to a variety of animals including the zebra, topi and eland, which are no longer seen in the reserve. Elephant, buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck, reedbuck and sitatunga still occur in the reserve. Between 1971 and 1985, most of the wildlife was killed through commercial and subsistence poaching. The reserve was also heavily encroached by cultivators and cattle grazing. In 2014 however, all the encroachers in the park were evicted.
In 2015 60 Impalas and 5 Zebras were successfully translocated to the reserve in order to restock and boost animal populations for tourism. The population of impalas now stands at 300 individuals The current bird checklist is over 150 including species specific to wetlands, savannah and forests. Other mammals include Black and White Colobus Monkey, the River Otter, and Olive Baboon, Uganda Kob, Waterbuck, Leopard, Buffalo, reedbuck, bushbuck and duiker and chevrotain. The reserve is also home to various reptiles, amphibians and butterflies. The table below shows the 2004 animal population census results for the reserve.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern Uganda on the border with Congo and Rwanda. Covering an area of about 33.7 sq kilometers, the park is a habitat for man's closest, the mountain gorillas which roam about the whole forest in search for food. This park is one of the few places in the world where the endangered mountain gorillas live and it attracts people from different countries to come on Uganda Gorilla Safari. There is no doubt that Mgahinga Gorilla national park is one of the leading tourism sites in Uganda since it harbors these rare primates.
One may wonder why gorilla Safari should be done in Mgahinga and not other places but the secret behind it is that this park has a thick rain forest with a wide variety of tree species and gorillas are known to be vegetarians. There is enough food for them in the park and this is the reason why some even migrate from Congo and Rwanda to this place. Though not in large numbers, gorillas of Mgahinga are easily seen in their natural habitats and this makes tracking more easy compared to other parks.
Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve was established as a game reserve in 1926 and was among the first protected areas to be gazetted. The main reason was to protect the large numbers of Uganda Kobs in the area. It covers an area of 542 km2. It is located in western Uganda, within Ntoroko and Kabarole districts.
Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve enjoys a dramatic rift valley setting between the Rwenzori, kijura escarpment and Lake Albert. The dominant vegetation type is the open acacia-combretum woodland and grassy savannah, interspersed with patches of borassus palm forest, significant belts of riparian woodland along the main water courses, as well as some extensive swamps towards Lake Albert. The reserve itself is topographically unremarkable, set at a relatively low altitude starting from around 700m above sea level, but on a clear day the setting is truly awesome, with the sheer rift valley escarpment rising sharply from the eastern shore of Lake Albert, the 2500m-high Congolese Blue mountains on the western horizon and the mighty glacial peaks of the Rwenzori visible to the south west.
There are four communities living around the reserve.
This community is situated in the south of the reserve, about 18 km from Fort Portal town. The area is mainly inhabited by the Bakonjo who are traditional cultivators. The most important crops grown are maize, cassava, beans,soya beans, rice and bananas some of which is sold in Rwebisengo and Ntoroko markets
This community is located on the west and north western edge of the reserve in the Semliki Flats. The community mainly comprises the Batuku (Batoro-Bahuma), who are predominantly pastoralists. The Batuku are believed to be descendants of the Abarusula who were the royal army of the king Kabalega of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom
Ntoroko fishing community:
This community is situated at the south-eastern tip of Lake Albert between the estuaries of Wasa and Muzizi rivers. The area, covering approximately 4 km2 has now been excised from the reserve and gazetted as a Wildlife Sanctuary to offer protection of any wildlife that interface in this area. The Ntoroko community depends mainly on fishing.
This community is located on the eastern escarpment of the rift valley. The majority of them are the Bakiga migrants who originally came to work in the tea estates in 1960s. During the good economic times, tea
provided stable income. As the prices of tea deteriorated, they resorted to crop cultivation mainly beans, groundnuts, maize and bananas.
Getting to there
Kampala Fort Portal via Mubende is 290 km and Kampala –Fort Portal via Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese is about 465 km. Follow the route to Semuliki National Park from Fort Portal for the first 28 km before
turning right at Karugutu trading centre. The reserve boundary is 3 km further on and the turn off to
Semliki Safari Lodge is 26 km further on just beyond the bridge over the river wasa. Branch to the right
3km to the Lodge. Lake Albert is further on 25 km ahead at Ntoroko fishing village where UWA manages bandas, a campsite and a canteen.
There is an air field managed by UWA so visitors can charter planes and land at Semliki Safari Lodge where the air field is situated
This walk takes 3 to 4 hours and is conducted near Semliki Safari Lodge where you will meet our experienced ranger guides. Key primate species on
this walk include chimpanzees, Red-tailed, vervet, Black and white colobus monkeys, Baboons.
Angulates encountered are Waterbucks, Warthogs, Bush bucks, Buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, and Elephants.
There are three tracks across the savannah grassland of Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with Buffalo, Waterbucks, Warthog, and Uganda Kob. With luck, you may even see leopard and elusive Bushbabies. Game drives in the wildlife reserve are done in the morning, afternoon, and at night. After dark, visitors may come across curious nocturnal species such as the white tailed mongoose.
This takes 3 hours and it goes through a variety of habitats ranging from savannah woodland to riverine forest. Species encountered on this walk include; Ground Hornbills, Warthogs, Uganda Kobs, baboons, Black and White Colobus and Vervet Monkeys.
The Karugutu Community Conservation Association (KCCA) is a community based association whose objective is conservation education through Music Dance and Drama (MDD). They organize traditional dances for the visitors and they have a shop for handcrafts at the entrance of the reserve which they sell to visitors. Members of the KCCA perform for visitors
This is conducted on Lake Albert and the main attractions are Shoebills, African Pygmy Goose, Blue-breasted and Blue-Cheeked Bee-eaters and Blue-headed Coucal.
Hike to Nyaburogo Gorge:
This is an ideal walk for birders that starts right at the Reserve Head quarters. It is a 7 km hike that goes through a diversity of habitats including savanna, woodland and a forest in the gorge. Common birds sighted include: Arrow marked Babbler, Tropical Boubal, Black-headed Bushrike, Luhdrers Bushrike and primates including Black and White Colobus, Baboons, vervets and occasionary the Chimpanzees.
The Toro Semliki plain is predominantly grassy savanna and acacia-combretum woodland echoeing Murchison Falls National Park at the northern end of Lake Albert. Stands of borassus palms,lake shore marshland and broad river valleys filled with beautiful galley forest all add variety. Lake Albert lies outside the reserve but can be visited for canoing and bird watching.
Wildlife in Toro Semliki
Toro semliki contains the same key species as Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks; Elephant, Buffalo, Uganda Kob, Waterbuck, Warthog, Giant Forest Hog, Hippopotamus. Primates include Chimpanzees, Baboons and Monkeys including Vervet, Red-tailed and Black and White Colobus. Uniquely, the 200 strong Elephant population includes savanah and forest Elephant plus a hybrid form from inter-breeding. Researchers from the University of Indiana have been studying chimpanzees in the reverine forest at Mugiri close to Semliki Safari Lodge.
There are chances of encountering the chimpanzees when you take a primate walk.
The reserve boosts of 440 bird species including Red-necked falcon, Black-billed Barbet and the turkey like Abyssinian Ground-hornbill. The Shoebill is usually sighted in the marshes of Lake Albert.
There is a campsite and budget bandas run by UWA on the shores of Lake Albert at Ntoroko, these have to be booked in advance. Meals are prepared at the canteen at the campsite.
Another campsite is at the reserve headquarters in Karugutu.
Semliki Safari Lodge run by a private concessionaire The Uganda Safari Company offers upmarket tented camp.
Ntoroko Game Lodge offers luxury tented camps and a campsite at Ntoroko Landing site.
Your ballooning adventure begins early in the morning when you leave your camp or lodge to get to the meeting point at the Kasenyi gate of Queen Elizabeth NP for 5:30am. This early drive in the dark is a chance to see nocturnal animals that live in and around the park. On arrival to the Kasenyi gate, you will follow the ground crew to the site that has been chosen for lift off. The specific location changes daily based on current wind and weather conditions.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has partnered with local lodges, operators (Friends of Queen Elizabeth National Park) and the USAID-STAR program to promote an innovative new traveler experience, The Hippo Census, which took place in February and March. The idea originated with QENP park wardens who suggested a program where visitors can be involved in real conservation efforts by helping count hippo populations alongside the rangers and research/monitoring wardens. 28 seats were available and all the fees collected directly supported the hippo census activity.
In other places this activity is called “citizen science”, but in QENP they refer to it as “experiential tourism”. These activities give visitors a behind the scenes look at how research is helping conserve biodiversity and monitor ecosystem health in QENP.
Video is courtesy of Jennier Krauser, a destination development and community tourism specialist working with the USAID-STAR program in Uganda.
The UWA asked USAID-STAR to help their team develop a product around the Hippo Census and a marketing strategy that UWA could use as a guide for this and future Hippo Census’, as well as other experiential tourism activities like lion and mongoose tracking. UWA and USAID-STAR also developed a short film that generated further interest about the activity.
Uganda, the Pearl of Africa is rich in all the African species you have ever dreamed and of many you have never heard of. This East African nation is home to the highest concentrations of primates and birds in the continent with safaris and other nature experiences that will live in your memories for life.
The wildlife sightings blog will inspire you to explore the 10 national parks of Uganda and take you to some of the most unique wildlife encounters. Enjoy exploring and we hope to see you in Uganda’s National Parks very soon!
A new Board of Trustees for Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) comprising nine eminent Ugandans with proven managerial and professional background, has been inaugurated by the minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, Professor Ephraim Kamuntu.
The new board to serve for the next three years is headed by Mr. Benjamin Otto, a former permanent secretary in the ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry. The other members include Dr. Gladys Kalema Zikusooka, the chief executive officer of Conservation Through Public Health and former veterinary officer at UWA, Mr. Mani Khan the director of operations at MARASDA Group of companies which manages a chain of lodges in various national parks and Captain John Emily Otekat a former deputy director of operations at UWA and an honorary Wildlife officer .
Others are Mr. Boniface Byamukama, the chairman of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) and executive director of Lake Kitandara Tour and Travel company, Mrs Grace Aulo Mbabazi, the commissioner for Tourism in the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage,Hon. Janat Akorimoe Akech a former member of Parliament who will represent the communities neighboring protected areas.
Mr. Michael Aliyo, a senior economist in the ministry of Finance is the new representative of the ministry of on the board while Dr. Andrew Ggunga Seguya who is the acting Executive Director UWA, will by the virtue of his position sever as the board secretary.
He stressed that Wildlife is a major component of the sprawling Tourism industry and charged the new board to promote the sector for the general good. He cautioned the new members to distinguish between the areas of management that generate conflict. He said the technical operations of the organisation are vested in UWA as a designated implementation agency while the board is to provide guidance.
The minister challenged the new board to restore confidence in the organisation among the staff and partners which had been eroded by various previous inquiries, urgently address the challenge of human resource gaps by filling vacant posts and regularizing several in acting positions as well as considering a proposal to improve staff remuneration in line with the rising cost of living.
He also implored the new board to address the issue of finance integrity of UWA and the Human-Wildlife conflict.
In his acceptance speech, the chairman of the new board Mr. Otto assured the minister of the total commitment to serve the authority to the best of the members’ abilities. He pledged that the board will operate effectively and efficiently.”The board comprises of people who are tried and tested with long experience who need no long period of induction before serious work. We shall hit the ground on day one and our operations will be guided by the UWA act and relevant laws which I will strictly follow as a civil servant” said Mr. Otto.
The acting Executive Director UWA, Dr. Andrew Seguya praised the staff for having kept the fire burning during the board absence adding that the authority had registered a positive revenue growth trends.
The Batwa’s hunter-gatherer lifestyle means they have always been dependent on Semuliki forest for food, shelter, medicine and tools, though this is beginning to change as a result of interaction with other local communities.
Hike through the monkey-filled forest to these boiling, gushing springs, and cook your eggs and plantain in the bubbling waters!