Bokora Wildlife Reserve is found in the North-eastern part of Uganda. The reserve was earmarked as a wildlife reserve in 1964 and occupies an area covering 794 square miles. Bokora Corridor Game Reserve is the second largest wildlife reserve in Uganda and part of the wider semi-arid Karamoja wildlife conservation region that includes the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve and Matheniko Game Reserve. The three-game reserves are named after the four ethnic divisions of the Karamojong tribe – the Upe, Pian, Matheniko, and Bokora. Each ethnic group lives close to the wildlife reserve named after them. The Upe and Pian live near Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, the Matheniko live near Matheniko Wildlife Reserve, and the Bokora live near Bokora Corridor Wildlife Reserve.
Bokora Wildlife Reserve consists of mostly dry plains with Mount Kadam and Mount Napaka the most prominent features. The plains consist of mainly savanna grasslands, shrubs, short trees, and bushes. Bokora Wildlife Reserve has incredible scenery and wildlife but the poor road conditions within the reserve make it hard to access during the rainy season. Solve the road issue, build hotels, and merge the three reserves in Karamoja with Kidepo Valley National Park to create a national park that rivals the very best in Kenya and Tanzania.
One of the challenges faced by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in managing the wildlife reserves in Uganda is encroachment and outright occupation by local communities living close to the reserves. This problem can also be seen in the Bokora game reserve. The communities close to the reserve complain of animals like buffaloes destroying or feeding on their crops as they cross to other parts of the reserve. They also complain that even when this happens, the government rarely compensates them.
The Karamoja region had for long been unstable because of tribal wars and cattle rustling. Many lost their animals and had to resort to other means of survival. Despite the return of peace and the disarming of most Karamojong warriors, many families remain abjectly poor. With few options for survival, the communities found the resources within the reserve very attractive. Some have been tempted to cultivate food or use the reserve for grazing during heavy droughts. Though the Uganda Wildlife Authority evicts them from time to time, the problem of encroachment remains.
In the middle of all the above challenges, the Uganda Wildlife Authority has embarked on various community sensitization efforts to educate the communities about wildlife conservation and how they could benefit from the booming tourism industry like their fellow pastoralists in Kenya. Some of the Karamojong have gone ahead to set up small hotel facilities for those seeking accommodation while visiting the park.
Bokora Corridor Wildlife Reserve is home to plants and animals that have adapted to the semi-arid conditions of the reserve. For wildlife to survive in this part of Uganda, it requires the ability to endure long dry spells. While visiting the reserve, one should expect to spot Cheetahs, Bright’s gazelles, Buffaloes, Elands, Hartebeests, Leopards, Lesser kudu, Lions, Oribis, Oryx, Reedbucks, Roan antelopes, Rothschild’s Giraffes, Spotted hyenas, Striped hyenas, Topis, Uganda Kobs and Zebras. Buffaloes and Elephants have been crossing the Bokora Corridor game reserve for thousands of years, migrating from Sudan to Kidepo and other neighboring wildlife reserves.
Birders should see Ostriches, the African Hill Babbler, the Alpine Chat, the Black-throated Wattle-eye, Dusky Turtle Doves, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeons, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, the Hartlaub’s Turaco, Jackson’s Hornbills, the Lemon Dove, the Thick-billed Honey guide and the White-headed Buffalo-weaver. Most of these species live in only semi-arid areas and are difficult to spot in other parts of Uganda. The best place to spot birds is at the Loporokocho swamp.
As already noted earlier, the road network within the Bokora game reserve is poor and there are no standard accommodation facilities within the reserve. Camping is the best option in the reserve and is extremely rewarding for those who love adventure and living out in the wild. You get to spend time in a true African wilderness with a beautiful night sky and a spectacular Milky Way. Moreover, the tents are set so close to the wildlife giving you a feel of being close to the herds of animals. Those who require more comfort shouldn’t worry because the Uganda Wildlife Authority is planning to build some lodges within the reserve soon. Alternatively, one can spend the night in one of the hotels in the towns of Moroto and Kotido and then go for activities in the reserve early morning.
The reserve is open for visitors throughout the year but the dry season is ideal for visiting. The dry season falls between June – September and December – February. During the rainy months of November, May, and April, the roads become almost impassable in some sections even for the hardest four-wheel drive cars. Those who want to experience all that the reserve has to offer with fewer crowds can visit during the wet (rainy) season. Bokora Corridor Wildlife Reserve comes to life after the rains have come with beautiful scenery and green vegetation everywhere. Temperatures are not very high and dust is eliminated. The heat during the driest part of the year can be hard to contain.
Visiting the Karamojong people
Bokora Wildlife Reserve is home to the Karamojong people. The Bokora are the predominant sub-group living close to the reserve. While on a tour of the reserve, one can go for a cultural tour of this unique tribe to discover true African natives. The Karamojong are nomadic pastoralists and rely on their cattle for almost everything. The cattle provide meat, manure, hides, and milk. The Karamojong drink cow blood during the hottest months of the year. The tribe’s resistance to modern ways of living makes them a great choice for visitors interested in a truly indigenous African experience. While with the Karamojong, visitors can go with them out to graze cattle, learn how to milk cows manually, or take part in the evening traditional dances.
Bokora Game Reserve is located in a semi-arid area with remarkable wildlife. If you visit the reserve for at least three days, expect to spot countless antelopes, lions, buffaloes, giraffes, hyenas, cheetahs, and even elephants during certain periods.
Although Bokora Corridor game reserve experiences long dry spells, it has a remarkable collection of birds. It is one of the places to go birding in Uganda. The dry plains support the world’s largest bird – the ostrich. Wild Ostrich thrive in dry conditions and plains because they can spot approaching predators or smaller animals interested in their eggs. The vast plans allow them to run if the need arises.
Note: For an even more complete and memorable safari, one can combine a visit to Bokora game reserve with a safari to Matheniko game reserve, Pian Upe Wildlife reserve, and the great Kidepo Valley National Park.
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