LAKE MBURO, THE WORLD’S GREATEST WILDLIFE EXPERIENCES
In the middle of an extensive rich acacia woodland lies one of Uganda’s most spectacular and breathtaking game parks in Uganda; Lake Mburo National Park. 20% of the park’s entrance fee is used to fund local community projects such as building clinics and schools.
Lake Mburo is a very special place with a medley of habitats ranging from dry hillsides, rocky outcrops, bushy thickets, open and wooded savannas to forest, lakes and swamps. Its sculptured landscape, rolling hills and idyllic lake shores, forest galleries, seasonal and permanent swamps and grassy valleys all support a wealth of wildlife in a tropical setting.
At only 370sq km, Lake Mburo National Park is small in comparison with many other East African Parks, but is home to a surprising diversity of plants and animals and harbors several species of mammals and birds found nowhere else in Uganda. These varied habitats support an impressive variety of wildlife including 68 mammal species. Lake Mburo is the only park in Uganda that habits Impalas and the only one in the rift region with Burchellis Zebras and the Eland. In Uganda, Topi are only found in Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. Common mammal species include Warthogs, Buffalos, Oribi, Defassa, Water bucks, reed bucks and the eland antelopes. Leopards and Hyenas are also present and Lions have also returned to the park after years of poaching and near extinction.
The five lakes within the park attract hippos and crocodiles while fringing swamps hide secretive papyrus specialists such as the sitatunga antelope and red, black and yellow papyrus gonalek. The park also has an impressive bird list with 332 species recorded including Shoebill, Papyrus, Yellow warbler, African fin foot, Saddle billed stork, Brown chested wattled plover, Carrutter’s cisticola, Tabora cisticola, Great snipe, Abyssinian ground horn bill and white winged warbler. Acacia woodland bird species are especially well represented.
In 1983, the government gazetted Lake Mburo as a National Park, establishing the boundaries along with those of the original reserve. The park was finally opened to the public in 1984.
Although the park area is sparsely settled, overall, population density and intensity of cultivation increases around the southern boundary. The Banyankole still form the dominant ethnic group of the park area with Bairu cultivators and Bahima herders together accounting for over two thirds of the total park-adjacent population. The remainder is made up of other groups, including Bakooki, Baganda agriculturalists, Bakiga and Banyarwanda immigrants from south-western Uganda and Rwanda.
HOW TO GET THERE
Lake Mburo National Park lies between the towns of Masaka and Mbarara, south western Uganda and is a three hours drive (228kms) from Kampala. Two gates enter the park; from Kampala past Lyatonde to the Nshara gate is 13kms, while the junction for Sanga gate is located at Sanga trading centre, 27kms past Lyantonde. Both junctions have clear signposts.
The park is conveniently located close to the western high way that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. It is also the closest park to Kampala and offers a refreshing stop over when travelling to or from the western parks and reserves.
Scheduled and chartered flights land at Nyakisharara airstrip from which connections can be made via Mbarara bypass connecting to Lake Mburo National Parks. Pre bookings are key
Lake Mburo National Park lies in a rain shadow between Lake Victoria and the Rwenzori Mountains and receives an average of 800 mm of rain a year. Being near the equator, the rainfall pattern is bimodal, with the long rains occurring from February to June, and the short rains from September to December. The rains are rather erratic and unpredictable, but most rain tends to fall in April and November.
The average recorded temperature is 27.5°C with daily variations ranging from 21.5°C to 34.0°C. July and August are the hottest months. The park lies between, 1,219metres and 1,828 meters above sea level between rolling hills and open grass valleys.
WHEN TO VISIT
Anytime of the year
Rwonyo Rest Camp
Rwonyo is the center of tourism activities in the park. The rest camp is the starting point for nature walks and game drives.
The eastern shores of Lake Mburo can be explored by boat, departing from a Jetty at the Lakeside campsite near Rwonyo. Watch out for crocodiles and hippopotamus during the two hour voyage. You can also sight a variety of birds including Pelicans, Heron, the Cormorant, fish eagle and perhaps the rare Fin foot and Shoe bill storks. Fishermen with their own equipment may fish in the Lake from the campsite by arrangement.
Guided walks explore the park around Rwonyo, culminating in a visit to a natural salt lick frequented by the wildlife. Viewing is facilitated by a timber observation plat form.
The eastern hinterland of Lake Mburo is served by a network of game tracks along which a variety of savannah animals and birds can be sighted. Impalas are the most commonly seen along the Impala track while Zebras frequent the grassy valley floors traversed by the Zebra track. This connects to the Ruroko track which passes rock kopjes, home to the elusive Klip Springer.
In the south of the park, the lakeside track passes through dense woodland that is home to bushbuck and bush duiker, to Kigarama hill which provides a panoramic view of Lake Mburo. This lake and seven more can also be seen from the Kazuma lookout, close to Kazuma track.
Though small, this tract of forest on the western side of Lake Mburo provides a taste of the tropical high forest with closed canopy and is home to a variety of forest bird species. Rubanga can be explored with a ranger guide.
Conservation education centre
The park has a Conservation Education Center, 1km west of Sanga gate. This provides accommodation and an education hall for school groups, visitors, seminars and workshops.
There are several breathtaking activities at Mburo National Park including:
These are conducted on foot with the help of an armed guide
Bird watching looking out for both savanna and water birds
Boat cruise where visitors get a chance to see a variety of lake wildlife like Crocodiles and hippos
Game drives traversing different game tracks where sightings of different wildlife can be done
Horse riding is conducted by Mihingo Lodge inside the park while quad bike riding gives one a spectacular view of the park’s terrain and wildlife.
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) provides a range of budget accommodation for visitors in the park. Permanent luxury tented camps and the UWA rest camp tents are available at the Buffalo tented camp, while a beautiful camp site is positioned on the Lake shore. Up market accommodation can be found at Arcadia Cottages, 1km to the south or at Mantana tented camp which enjoys a hill top location 3.5kms north of Rwonyo. You could also stay at Mihingo Lodge which stands on a rocky Kopje just outside the eastern boundary of the park.