River Katonga – Katonga Wildlife Reserve
River Katonga is one of the Rivers in the south-west of Uganda with its course being continuous between Lake Victoria and Lake George because it once drained from the former to the latter along its 220 kilometers length in Katonga Wildlife Reserve.
Localized uplifting between Lakes Victoria and George along the Albertine Rift Valley area of the known geologically active East African Rift Valley has largely contributed to the vast swampy area around River Katonga to the southwest of Lake Wamala. This gradually became the new watershed for River Katonga that now largely drains east into Lake Victoria.
The watershed of River Katonga is situated in an area approximately 0°13’N 30°39’E close to the famous Katonga Wildlife Reserve, one of Uganda’s very endowed Reserves. During rainy months (March, April, May, October and November) when water levels at the swampy area increases, some of the water is forced to change course and drain west from the swamp to the western side of River Katonga.
Course of River Katonga
The main mouth of River Katonga before draining into Lake Victoria is near Lukaya (within kalungu district) but its western side usually drains into Lake George near Mpanga (in Kamwenge district). This River flows through a number of districts that include Sembabule, Gomba, Bukomansimbi, Ibanda, Butambala, Mubende, Mityana and Kiruhura hence thousands of lives depend on its water. West of River Katonga’s watershed is fed by a number of tributaries along its course to Lake Edward.
- Flora and Fauna around River Katonga
When it comes to flora, River Katonga’s banks and surrounding areas as well as the nearby Katonga Wildlife Reserve (named after the River) is made up of different species of flora. The area has savannah grassland dotted with acacia scrubland/woodlands. A vast area of the River Katonga banks has permanent and seasonal swamps patched with riverine and tropical forest.
Katonga Wildlife Reserve on the banks of River Katonga was gazetted in 1998 and currently extends for an area of 211 square kilometers. Majority of the wildlife and birds in this Wildlife Reserve are synonymous to the wetland environment. So far over 40 species of wildlife call the Reserve home and these are black and white colobus monkeys, Sitatunga, warthogs, Reedbucks, bushbucks, waterbucks, Otters, Impalas, Zebras, Uganda kobs, elephants and many others.
There are also more than 150 species of birds in River Katonga and the nearby Wildlife Reserve and they are the saddle-billed storks, papyrus gonolek, grey-crowned cranes, and African fish eagles among others.
Tourist activities in and around River Katonga
- Canoe rides
One of the best ways of exploring the Katonga River is through undertaking canoe rides because it’s from these rides that tourists get to spot some of the wildlife species and birds in the River as well as the surrounding wetland vegetation.
- Nature walks
There is no better way to explore the wildlife, birds and extraordinary vegetation of River Katonga than through nature walks. These nature walks stretch as far as the Katonga Wildlife Reserve where the Sitatunga, waterbucks, warthogs, impalas and Uganda kobs are easily sighted.
- Bush Camping
Uganda Wildlife Authority manages and maintains a fully-functional Campsite in the Katonga Wildlife Reserve hence bush Camping is one of the must-do activities when you visit the Reserve.
Birding tour through canoe rides and nature walks introduce tourists to the beautiful sights of the saddle-billed storks, papyrus gonolek, grey-crowned cranes and many other aquatic and wetland bird species.
- Best time to visit Katonga
River Katonga and the nearby Katonga Wildlife Reserve can be visited all year round although the dry Months-January, February, June, July, August, September and December) when animals gather around water drinking points.
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