Parting With Pian Upe …

Pian Upe

I think the future for Pian Upe is bright. Continued recovery of the wildlife, some minor upgrades to accommodation and roads could see this become a major tourist destination. The landscape is utterly beautiful. For the moment though this is not the place for close approach to hordes of large mammals.

But it certainly has its charm …


If any one can identify these skinks please drop me a comment …

Update … I am advised that both these photos are of the same species, the African Five-lined Skink aka Rainbow Skink, Trachylepis quinquetaeniata. The one with the yellow lips is the male the more drab one is the female. My thanks to Moreen Uwimbabazi for tracking them down.


Pian Upe …

This is the second largest wildlife protected area in Uganda after Murchison Falls National Park. It is a game reserve but we were told of plans to raise its status to National Park in the future.

It covers 2,788 square kilometers of savanna and includes some very impressive hills. Like all of Uganda’s parks and forests it suffered greatly during the lawless times of civil war. The Uganda Parks Travel Guide would have you believe that lions, elephants, black rhinos and giraffes are all to be found here but in truth they were locally extinguished years ago. The reintroduction of some of these may be on the cards.

On the positive side though this is the only place in Uganda where Roan Antelope have survived and it’s a great spot for the bird watcher.

We had two nights in Pian Upe in very comfortable safari tent style accommodation and were magnificently fed by the most obliging chef in Africa. The first night brought a thunder-storm and torrential rain, the tent, I am pleased to say, was waterproof. The light before dawn was superb …

Day break at Pian Upe

Game drives were the order of the day made all the more exciting by the effect of the rain on the black soil tracks.

The birding was a great success. Our quest for game less so. Distant views of Roan were had but all the game animals were extremely shy presumably because of far lower visitor numbers when compared to Murchison Falls where the animals are habituated to vehicular traffic. Additionally, the grassland seems less vigorously managed at Pian Upe, the grass was very long and there was no evidence of any recent burning.

Bronze-tailed Starling
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver
African Fish Eagle
Dark Chanting-Goshawk

Wet black soil is a test for the four-wheel driver and his vehicle. Our driver Tony just happened to be a keen birder. This was a real bonus because, although Prossy the professional had to correct his diagnoses on the odd occasion, his extra pair of eyes meant that birds had little chance of going undetected.

His greatest coup was the Karamoja Apalis. This is a bird that has broken many a heart. Tony bogged the car. Just metres from a solid road next to a small Vachellia tree. It would move a little backwards, it would move a little forward, it could slowly be turned a few degrees, there was hope that it would gain sufficient traction to ride over a small mound onto the road, there was the fear that it might get inextricably bogged before that was achieved. Meanwhile his passengers had nothing better to do than watch the little bird in the little tree. We let him have a look too. It was a tick for him. Even the vehicle was inspired. It rode triumphantly onto the road.

There was more rain in store for us and proceedings for the day were curtailed …


Why the long face? Because we’re soaking wet, you fool.

The red spots on my left forearm had grown bigger and painful. They were surrounded by hard red swelling and the centres showed signs of pus formation. Something would soon need to be done about these.

A Distrurbance in the Force …

There ensued two days of road travel. So much of Ugandan life plays out beside the roads that this provides remarkable insight. The locals I’m sure are as fond of having cameras waved in their faces as I would be – the result is a contest between any sensitivity one has and the temptation to capture the rich and exotic otherness of Africa. The unease created probably explains why I don’t go in for street photography in Oz either.

Our destination on day one was Kampala and the perfectly international Metropole Hotel. No distrurbances tolerated here.

A Nile Special, some freshly roasted ground-nuts lightly flavoured with garlic and a wide choice of cuisine, very gracious service. I recommend it highly.

The following morning we caught up with our favorite bird guide Prossy Nanyombi. She had shown us the Shoebill and Papyrus Gonolek the previous year and left us with a lasting impression of a somewhat stern but capable professionalism. We’d contacted Prossy first when we were planning the trip and she’d put us in contact with Avian Safaris, one of several companies that she does some work for. We were soon on the road, Tony at the wheel.

Kampala is simply krazy. And in the rain even more so. Its population is somewhere in the vicinity 2 million. The road rules are as much a puzzle to me as Australian Rules Football would be to a Boda Boda rider although the results are very similar …

Kampala has been declared the most fun, friendly, and affordable capital in East Africa. If you are going to spend any time there you should probably¬† learn why not to wear yellow or light blue (especially at election time). Yes there are elections, it’s just not how they choose their presidents. These and other important facts can be found <HERE>.

The traffic is, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Meditate. And eventually it goes away, left behind, waiting for your return!

The city gives way to towns and then villages …

Towards sun down and under a threatening sky we arrived at Pian Upe. It’s a game reserve rather than a National Park. It’s in the north-east of Uganda not far from the Kenya Border. It’s beautiful and it’s nothing like Budongo.