Katonga Wildlife Reserve was gazette in 1964 as a game reserve covering an area of about 210square kilometers it was created in order to act as a bay for the animals migrating from western Uganda to South Sudan and Tanzania. It became a wild life reserve after the game department merged with the Uganda national parks to form the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Katonga is an un common game reserve managed under the Kibale forest conservation area the region has different types of vegetation ranging from grasslands, woodlands, swamps, riverine grass lands, papyrus, large parts of the reserve are either permanent of seasonal wetlands. This vegetation is amalgamated all over the game reserve. It was named after River Katonga positioned in the south west Uganda the river used to flow westwards towards lake George before uplifting on the Albertine rift valley which actually changed its course to Lake Victoria because of the heights forming one of the Uganda safari attractions.
The reserve is home to 40 species of animals and over 100 bird species are noted to exist and the marshy swamps are a cradle for the sitatunga only found in the east and central Africa. Its strategic location between forests, swamps, and savannah vegetation makes it a perfect location for a diverse ecosystem, the reserve is linked with the Nile system forming a wetland for human survival. It is a habitat to a variety of wild life which include elephants, waterbucks, bushbucks, reedbucks and the sitatunga, elephants are there too but rarely seen, zebra, topi are no longer seen in the game reserve.
Katonga is well known for sitatunga antelopes they are very shy species that can be seen early in the morning before the sun comes out, following the sitatunga trail with an experienced guide will enable you see the sitatunga along the fringes of the swamp, on a hunt of 2days its possible for one to sight 5 or 6 during this nature walk due to their shyness, it’s advisable to wear clothes that blend the bush, long sleeved shirts and trouser, boots for safety measures.
The game reserve was heavily encroached by cultivators and cattle grazers leaving animals with no space, they were killed for commercial and subsistence purposes which lead to a great reduction of the animal population, however the Uganda wildlife authority has tried to protect the area through notify the community, putting signposts and strict rules to out bound the game reserve, in 2014all encroachers had been evicted form the game reserve. Animals were relocated to Katonga in order to boost tourism in the area, which included zebras and impalas such that animal populations would increase, the reserve is also home to various reptiles and amphibians, other animals like the red otter, colobus monkey, Kobs exist. Katonga can be best explored on foot or by a river canoe viewing the beautiful vegetation along the banks of the river and animals that come out to graze.
It is surrounded by the bantu group of people called the Banyakole, who keep herds of the long horned cattle known as Ankole, they share interesting cultural traditional norms and customs a visit to their villages would be organized alongside Katonga game reserve which can be visited all throughout the year but best during the dry seasons of July to September, January and February the climate conditions are favorable however Uganda’s climate is so unpredictable it can rain anytime.
Katonga is lies in Ibanda and Kamwenge district in western Uganda along the banks of river Katonga approximately four hours’ drive from Kampala Uganda’s capital city via Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal road. Accommodation is available in the nearby town of Kamwenge and campsites.