Katonga Wildlife Reserve

Ugandan Sunbird

Travel to Katonga Wildlife Reserve – Wetland Trails

Only recently developed for tourism, Katonga Wildlife Reserve protects a network of forest-fringed wetlands along the Katonga River. The reserve covers an area of some 207 sq. km and is comprised of papyrus swamps, woodland, acacia scrub, savannah and tropical forest. Various trails have been developed to allow access to Katonga’s eco-systems.

Katonga Wildlife Reserve was established in 1964 as a game reserve. Before the civil unrest of the 1970’s and 80’s it acted as a corridor for migrating wildlife searching for water. Nowadays much of the land is utilized by the nomadic cattle herders who graze large herds of Ankole cattle there.

Katonga is reputed to have plentiful wildlife with up to 40 species present including elephant, Black and White Colobus monkeys, bushbuck, warthog, waterbuck, river otter, reedbuck and Sitatunga antelope. Bird life is also abundant with at least 150 species spotted – many specific to its wetland habitat.

Katonga is a reserve for exploring on foot as there are no roads or vehicle safaris. The ‘Sitatunga Trail’ traverses savannah and later runs alongside the Katonga river whilst the ‘Kyeibale Trail’ passes rock formations and cave shelters on a circular route. The ‘Kisharara Trail’ probably provides the most variety. The reserve can also be discovered by canal on the 2 km ‘Wetlands Canoe Trail’, whilst more adventurous travellers could organise an overnight hiking trip into the undeveloped wild interior.

Take the ‘Wetlands Canoe Trail’ and unwind on a guided boat trip through Katonga’s reed and papyrus swamp looking out for wetland wildlife and an abundance of birds.

Located 250 km west of Kampala, with a journey time of approximately 3-4 hours, with access off the Kampala to Fort Portal road. After about 48 km from Mubende at Kyegegwa, a track/unmade road leads south. From the turn off it is 42 km to the reserve headquarters close to the Katonga River (beware that this road is usually impassable in heavy rain unless travelling in a 4WD vehicle). The Reserve can also be reached via Kazo, heading north from Nakaiita off the Kampala to Mbarara road. Private transport is essential for getting to Katonga though buses do connect Kampala to Kabagole, a short canoe ride and walk from the entrance gate.

  • This is one of the best places in Africa to look for the elusive sitatunga, a semi-aquatic antelope with webbed hooves that forages almost exclusively in swamps.
  • Best explored on foot and by canoe, Katonga supports some 40 mammal and at least 150 bird species, many specific to wetland habitats.
  • Look out for some of the most visible wildlife including elephant, waterbuck, reedbuck, colobus monkeys and river otter.


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