Katonga Wildlife Reserve occupies an area of 211 sq km. and is located in Kyenjojo and Kamwenge districts.
This nature reserve was founded in 1964 as a game reserve serving as a corridor for migrating wildlife from western Uganda to Tanzania and Sudan. It is remarkably one of the most significant tourist sites that are worth exploring while you are on African safari in Uganda. After sometime, its status changed to wildlife reserve in 1996 after the former Game Department and Uganda National Parks merged to make up Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Presently, this nature reserve features among the many protected areas that are run by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and falls under the management of Kibale Conservation Area. It covers an area of about 207 square kilometers making it one of the smallest nature reserves in the pearl of Africa
It is an extensive savanna grassland and it is suitably situated within the district of Kyenjojo and Kamwenge. To get to this reserve, you will spend about 3 hours driving from Kampala to Kyegegwa Town Council. Around Kyegegwa, head off southwards for about 42 kilometers while following the signposts.
The Reserve occupies a tract of gently undulating hill country along the northern side of the Katonga River.
The vegetation of this Reserve is comprised primarily of Combretum-Cymbopogon dry savannas, and dry Acacia savannas. Despite intensive livestock grazing in some areas, the vegetation remains largely intact. There are still some important forest patches along the tributaries of the Katonga River. About 15 sq km of the Reserve is comprised of Papyrus swamp.
In the 1960s this PA supported a significant population of elephant, hippopotamus, zebra, buffalo, topi, waterbuck and eland. The area was ecologically contiguous to the Lake Mburo ecosystem, with some movement of animals between the two areas (particularly of topi and zebra). However, intensive hunting has reduced the large mammal population drastically. Zebra, Topi and Eland are no longer found in the area. A few elephant, hippo, buffalo, waterbuck, reedbuck and warthog remain, and sitatunga are quite common in the swamps. Primates include black and white colobus, and baboon. No comprehensive bird species list has been compiled for the area, but the avifauna is probably similar to that of Lake Mburo NP.
Overall Conservation Importance: This Wildlife Reserve is of supplementary importance for biodiversity conservation.
Things to see while on Uganda safari in Katonga Wildlife Reserve
The floral species within this nature reserve consist of the rare vegetation types that include mainly the grassland, wooded grasslands, woodland, Riverine woodland, papyrus, riverine grassland and swamp. The largest part of this area is mixed savanna featuring the acacia or woodland. The largest area however features permanent as well as seasonal wetlands. As well, it consists of several riverine and tropical forests. Its strategic geographical location comes with magical forests, swamps as well as savanna vegetation where its diverse ecosystem thrives including variety of wildlife species.
Its dominant floral species include sporobolus festivus and chloris gayana. They thrive together with associate species like setaria species, hyparrhenia species and occasional panicum maximum. The Katonga wetland ecosystem is interlinked with the Nile system creating a significant wetland system for human survival. It also comes with distinct vegetation and its wetlands feature variety of habitats where several of its wildlife thrives.
Remarkably, this conservancy area boasts of its significant sitatunga population which thrive in its wetland system. As well, there are also waterbucks, hippos, bird species as well as primates. Around 1960s, this protected area offered refuge to several wildlife species that included the topis, elands, zebras which today do not exist. Buffaloes, waterbucks, bushbucks, reedbucks, elephants, sitatunga are equally found within this nature reserve. Between 1971 and 1985, most of the wildlife species were poached both for commercial and subsistence reasons. It was heavily encroached by farmers and cattle keepers. Around 2014, the encroachers were evicted. In 2015, about 60 impalas and 5 zebras were trans-located to this reserve in a move to restock and boast wildlife population for tourism purposes. Currently, over 300 impalas are confined within this reserve and more than 150 bird species thriving within wetlands, forests and savanna. The other mammal species for you to sight at while on tour in this reserve include leopards, waterbucks, olive baboons, River otter, black and white colobus monkeys, Uganda Kobs, duikers, reedbucks, buffaloes, bushbucks, chevrotain among others. There are also many reptile species, mammal species, amphibians as well as butterflies. The other significant tourist attraction is Katonga River where this reserve derived its name. This river flows from Lake Victoria in the east to Lake George in the west. It also comes with mixed savanna with acacia scrubland/woodland. The biggest part comprises of permanent or seasonal wetlands. Besides, some parts feature riverine and tropical forest.
Things to do in Katonga Wildlife Reserve
Katonga Wildlife Reserve is such an incredible to explore while you are on Uganda safari. The key most exciting experiences to take part in the nature reserve include game viewing and it gets you the best views over diverse wildlife species such as waterbucks, bushbucks, reedbuck, sitatunga, elephants among others, birding which offers you opportunity to sight at some of the birds that make up a total of about 150. Canoe tours-this experiences takes you through a swamp and offers you a chance to spot out different aquatic and papyrus bird species for instance the shoebill storks, sitatunga as well as the river otters. Guided walks-about 3 guided half day walking trails can be planned in this park. The Kisharara trails-leads you to major habitats within the park featuring mainly grassland, savanna and swamp fringes as well as incredible sights at sitatungas, monkeys, birds among others. The Kyeibale trail-this leads you via an area with tall rock formations and forested valleys as well as caves. The Sitatunga trail-this mainly takes you via a mixture of grassland and wetland habitats providing more opportunities for you to catch a glimpse at the sitatunga.
Where to stay in Katonga wildlife reserve
Visitors on Uganda safari in Katonga Wildlife Reserve usually camp and the other option is Katonga View Hotel and Lodge. You may also opt for nearby accommodation options like the Crater Safari Lodge, Reba Akasha establishments, Igogora Country Resort and many others.
Getting to Katonga Wildlife Reserve
Katonga Wildlife Reserve straddles between Ibanda and Kamwenge district in western Uganda. In Kamwenge, it is surrounded by Biguli sub-county and other parts of Mpara sub-county in Kyenjojo district. It is about 200 kilometers by road west of Kampala and this is approximately 4 hours’ drive.