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Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park

‘Uganda’s smallest national park – a haven of wonders’

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park is located in Kiruhura district in the western part of Uganda spanning over 260square km of game land. This alone makes it Uganda’s smallest Savannah grassland national Parks. The park is just 30 km from Mbarara town, the biggest town in the sub region and overall about 240km from Kampala city.

Standing at an altitude of 1,220m – 1,828m above sea level, Lake Mburo National Park is placed on ancient Precambrian rocks which go way back to more than 500 million years. Lake Mburo, from which the park gets its name, is part of the 14 Lakes that make up part of a 50km long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these Lakes lie within the borders of Lake Mburo National Park.

Lake Mburo National Park is mainly covered with woodland, highlighted by savannah and rocky ridges. The lakes are mainly fenced with patches of papyrus swamp narrow strips of riparian woodland. The wetland system provides water for animals and pastures for herds. It is also a fishing site and a source of raw materials for thatching and craft making. The park is covered in sandy loam soils with wetter areas having sandy clay loams.

In 1933, Lake Mburo National Park was gazetted as a controlled hunting area and later upgraded to a game reserve in 1963.  The locals however continued to graze their animals from the park.  After being upgraded to National Park status in 1983 by Milton Obote, many of the locals were left without grazing land and this greatly angered them. When Obote’s regime eventually fell, they retaliated attacking the park staff and killing a lot of wildlife.

Apart from being considered one of the major Lion conservation units in Uganda, Lake Mburo National Park is rich as well in plenty of wildlife. The park has an immense variety of animals. These animals include; Zebras, Hippos, Impala, Warthog, Common Eland, African Buffalo, Defassa Waterbuck, Oribis, Jackal, and African Leopard among other animals.  

Lake Mburo National Park is a great birding destination for a bird lover. It has over 350 bird species including many endangered bird and African tropical migrant birds. Some of the birds you should expect to see here include; Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard and Brown-chested Lapwing among other birds.

Apart from game drives, there are various attractions and activities that you can undertake in the park. Ranging from birding safaris, cultural experience, boat launching, quad biking sport fishing to unique activities like horseback riding safaris. Visiting Lake Mburo National Park is an experience that you are bound to find thrilling.

Location and how to get there:

Lake Mburo National Park is located in western Uganda in Kiruhura district covering about 260square km. It lies 30 km by road from Mbarara which is the largest district in the sub regiion. It is about 4 hours from Kampala district by road and you would have to cover about 240km.

The Park can be accessed by road from Kampala via the Masaka- Mbarara highway. There are two roads that branch off this highway one leading to the Sanga gate 37km east of Mbarara and the other leading to the Nshara gate which is 50km from Mbarara.

Attractions in Lake Mburo National Park:

  • Birding:

Lake Mburo National Park is a birding paradise waiting to be ventured into. If you are a bird lover, this is the perfect destination for you. This is owing to the fact that the park has about 350 bird species. The birding experience in this beautiful park is one to reckon with. Some of the best areas to view birdlife are the swampy valleys of Miriti and Warukiri. They host therein some beautiful bird species.

Some of the birds that  you might see here include; Coqui Francolin, Emerald-spotted Wood,      Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Brown Chested Lapwing, Grey Crowned Crane, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Red-faced Barbet, Green Wood-hoopoe, Red-headed Lovebird, Cuckoo-shrike, African Fin foot, Ross’ Turaco, Black-bellied Bustard and Nubian Woodpecker among other birds.

The salt Lake in Rubanga Forest is also a great place to watch birds. One can easily see the birds as they fly from tree to tree and hang around in branches. Here you can watch birds like the Red-faced Barbet, Long-tailed Cisticola, White-winged Tit, and Brown Parrot among other birds. Lake Mburo is famous for its enchanting wild display of flamingos.

  • Game drives:

A game drive is one of the most exciting things you will do while you are in Lake Mburo National Park. The park is crawling with countless animals including over 100 herds of elands that you can easily spot. The game tracks take you through beautiful landscape of acacia woodland, soggy wetlands, grassy hillsides, rocky outcrops and seasonally flooded valley floors.

Game drives are best done early in the morning when tracks are still fresh and late in the afternoon. This time gives a clearer and a better up close view of the animals. You can be sure to spot some Zebras, Buffalos, Impalas, Warthogs, Waterbucks, Elands, Giraffes, Oribis, Jackals and Impala among other animals. However, there are prominent tracks that might be followed on a game drive.

The Zebra track is one of the usually undertaken trails. It connects to Ruroko junction through wetland and thick acacia woodland highlighted by olive trees and Euphoria trees.  It continues through rocky outcrops where you can even see a Klipspringer. While on this track, you are very likely to spot Burchell’s Zebra, bushbucks, Oribi and reedbucks.

The Kazuma track passes through savanna grasslands prominent with wood trees.  The Black-bellied bustards are common in these woods. The trail continues further up the Kazuma hill from where you can see Lake Mburo National Park, its 5 Lakes and the endless horizons. On some occasions, you would spot some animals grazing at the bottom of the hill.

The Kigambira loop trail leads through wild woodland and spaced thickets. It further proceeds to the Kigambira loop that you will find fascinating. On this trail, you are most likely to see some animals like bush duikers and bushbucks especially in the wild woodland.

The Lakeside track follows the shores of Lake Mburo along with the soggy wetlands and surrounding areas. You will see a lot of water and non-water animals and birds like Crocodiles, hippos, eland, buffalos, Shoebill stork and Pelicans. The swampy area is home to the wetland dwelling Statunga.  

Night game drives can also be conducted in the Park. This is mainly done to give you the opportunity to see animals that you would rather not have spotted during the day. The night drives start between 6.30pm- 7.00pm and usually lasts about 2 – 3 hours. This game drive must be done strictly with a ranger. Nocturnal animals like Bush-babys, Pottos and sometimes even Leopards.

  • Igongo cultural centre:

The Igongo cultural centre lies just 4km from the Sanga gate of Lake Mburo National Park. This centre is a historical preservation area of the western culture of the Banyankole. There is a well maintained museum of the Ankole heritage. You will be able to visit this museum, look at local paintings, artifacts and listen to stories that tell the history of this tribe.

You will be treated to some local entertainment with traditional ankole music and dances. You might also get to learn about various traditional instruments and their history. There is a book store with plenty of local and modern books that one could read. The centre also has a restaurant, bar and luxurious hotel on the premises.

  • The salt lick:

The salt lick is best viewed when on a nature guided walk in Lake Mburo National Park. You will have a ranger accompany you as you go to explore this area. There is a wooden platform that has been placed where you can stand and properly view the animals as they come to drink the salty water.  Common animals at this site are Zebras, Eland and Antelopes.

  • Cultural experience:

9 out of 13 groups have been rained and accessed to provide the best cultural experience. When you visit Lake Mburo National Park, you can also visit these groups to enrich yourself with information about the culture of these local communities.

The Rwajeru campsite has been accorded the right to provide a cultural experience of traditional cattle watering, processing organic foods and juices. The Ankole cultural community on the other hand will show you the process of milk chumming, ghee making, local handcrafts and village walks. Here you will also be taken through the process of tree planting you might even get to participate in the tree planting yourself.

The Igongo cultural community provides a cultural museum safari experience. When you visit this museum, you will be able to learn about the culture of the western people of Uganda through paintings, stories and music. You will be taken through the process of cooking traditional millet bread, local mayonnaise and milk chumming preparation.

The Rwabarata drama group is famous for its display of the Ankole traditional dance called Ekitaguriro which is usually presented during traditional festivals. The Rwammuhuka handcraft makers take care of creating beautiful hand crafts like stools and necklaces that you can even purchase as souvenirs and carry home with you.

The Nshara community is famous for their elusive hand craft shop, nature walks, camping site and cultural walks while the Ssana Community Lodge deals with providing comfortable basic accommodation facilities and a camping site.

Fishing is the main trade of the Rubale fishing community. They provide the best fishing experiences and you will also get a tour of the fish processing activity. The Masha community wildlife forum gives tours of their bee keeping project and also provides nature walks.

  • Rwonyo Camp:

Rwonyo Camp is the hub of tourism in Lake Mburo National Park. It is located just 30m from the Nshara gate of Lake Mburo National Park. You can get a meal and drinks at the camp from the onsite fully stocked restaurant and bar.

Apart from having comfortable budget accommodation facilities, the tourism centre is the start of many activities in the park. The centre is where most nature hikes and forest walks start. Also, quad bikes and some game drives have starting points in this centre. The Rwonyo Rest Camp is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority along with the maintenance of the tourism centre.

  • Lake Mburo:

Lake Mburo, from which the park derives its name, is a fresh water lake in western Uganda. The Lake along with 13 other Lakes form part of a 50 km stretch of wetland in this region. This wetland system is essential in keeping the eco-system well balanced. While on a safari in Lake Mburo National Park, you will be able to visit this beautiful lake that is swarming with wildlife. Many animals come to the shores of this lake to drink water. Animals like hippos and crocodiles are very common.

 Lake Mburo is most famous for its flamboyant display of Flamingos. A bird lover will find the trip to this lake very satisfying as you can easily spot birds like Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Rufous Long-tailed Starlings, Blue-headed Weavers, Green-necked Doves, Hammerkops, Pelicans, Herons, Cormorants and the rare Shoebill among other birds. You can also see varied species of fish while on a launch on this Lake.

  • Boat launch trips:

During your safari adventure in Lake Mburo National Park you can experience a thrilling boat launch on Lake Mburo. This enchanting ride usually lasts about two hours and it is a perfect opportunity to view plenty of water animals like Crocodiles and Hippos. The shores of Lake Mburo are also rich with animals like Buffalos, monitor lizards and antelopes among others that come to drink water.

The trip is a perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the birdlife on the shores and in the swampy area. You can easily see birds like; Flamingos, Eagles, Kingfishers, Blue-headed weavers, Herons, Hammer kops and Pelicans among others. The swampy area of the Lake is covered in Papyrus that is used in local crafts making. The locals use this papyrus to make things like mats, baskets and bowls.   

  • Fishing at Lake Mburo National Park:

Sport fishing is an exciting activity that you should not miss when you visit Lake Mburo National Park. Since the fishing spots are few, you should book in advance if you intend to go sport fishing in this park.  

The designated fishing spot is at Mazinga on Lake Mburo. The Lake has about 6 fish species and the commonest you can catch is the Tilapia fish.  The other species include; lung fish, mud fish and Haplochromes. The fishing is usually done using hooks under a shade to protect from strong sunshine.

You are reminded to carry your own fishing equipment if you intend to go sport fishing. Also, if you are not an expert, you are advised to seek assistance from the park’s fishing guides as the process can be quite dangerous. Watch out for crocodiles and hippos.   

  • Rubanga Forest:

Rubanga Forest is located on the western side of Lake Mburo. It is a small patch of forest covered in tropical vegetation and a closed canopy with a wildlife viewing platform. The forest is a great bird viewing destination with a variety of bird species. Some of the birds you will see here include; Harrier Hawk, Green Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Grey-backed Cameroptera and Double-toothed Barbet among other birds.

  • Hiking and Nature walks:

Hiking and nature walking in Lake Mburo National Park is open to tourists with the guidance of a trained game ranger. There are various nature trails in the park one starting at Rwonyo leading to the salty lick that is a huge attraction point for the animals. These large herds of animals come here because of the salty rocks.

Another nature walk starts at the western part of Lake Mburo at 7am. This walk often takes about two hours of wading through the sands on the shores of the Lake. It is a great place to view beautiful birdlife like Pelicans and Eagles. At this time of the day you might have the chance to see hyenas returning to their dens and Hippos retreating to the water.

Hikes in the woodland part of Lake Mburo National Park are very adventurous as well. The hiking might be a bit tasky but it will be worth your while. With plenty of forest animals and birds to see, this is an activity that you should not miss out on. If you hike up higher to the hill, you can see 9 out of 14 regional lakes that make up part of the 50km stretch of swamp.

The Rubanga Forest is also another nature walk trail. This trail however is strictly done with guidance of a park ranger since it is easy to get lost therein. The forest is rich in animals and birdlife like Green Pigeon, Harrier Hawk and Double- toothed Barbet among other birds. Visitors to the park should note that nature walks as well as all other activities should be booked for prior to your safari.  

  • Horseback riding safaris:

The horseback safaris are a must do when you visit Lake Mburo National Park. You will take a horse ride through the bare wild watching plenty of wildlife. The safari takes about 4 hours to the hilltop view points. You can even choose to have bush breakfasts or sundowners. Horseback safaris are arranged at Mihingo lodge.

Some of the animals that you are likely to see while on a horseback riding safari are; Eland, Buffalos, Warthogs, Topis, Impala, Duiker, Bushbucks, Waterbucks and Zebras among other animals. You can also see birds like Harrier Hawks, Double-toothed Barter and Herons among others.

  • Quad biking:

Quad biking is yet another thrilling activity that you can do while at Lake Mburo National Park. This activity is managed by Mantana Tented Camp that is found just within the park .This thrilling activity takes you through rough yet manageable terrain that is both meant to challenge you and give you a memorable adventure.

This activity is totally safe and the bikes are constantly checked to ensure that they are in good working condition. The activity takes about 5 people per group through naked wilderness. You might even spot some animals like Eland and Impalas while biking.

  • The Equator:

The Equator crosses through Lake Mburo National Park on your way to Lake Mburo. You will stop at this spot and take pictures of yourself and of the monuments that have been built here. There is a restaurant with snacks, coffee, and soft drinks. You will also find a souvenir shop where you can purchase some artifacts that you can take home with you. 

Where to stay:

  • Arcadia Cottages:

These cottages are located inside Lake Mburo National Park overlooking Lake Mburo. They offer midrange accommodations and are just 2km from Rwonyo Tourism Centre. There is a well stocked bar and restaurant, free wifi and TV. The rooms are designed as double cottages with double beds and ensuite bathrooms.  Family cottages are also available.

  • Rwonyo Rest Camp:

This rest camp is located in Lake Mburo National Park with budget accommodations. The camp is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority with bandas and well tented rooms that are well furnished. The rooms are built using local materials like straw, wood and thatched grass that gives them a real African appearance. Some animals occasionally show up at the camp. There are private as well as shared showers plus space where you can put up your own tent.

  • Lake Mburo Safari Lodge:

This lodge provides midrange accommodations and is set on elevated ground overlooking Lake Mburo National Park. The lodge has a well stocked bar and restaurant plus decks where you can sit and take in the beauty of African wilderness. The lodge has private thatched cottages with ensuite bath tubs and showers. There is also a honeymoon cottage with a fridge, kitchen and coffee maker.

  • Mantana Tented Camp:

This is a camp located in Lake Mburo National Park. It has 9 classic tents set on wooden platforms with a great view of the park. There are ensuite bathrooms with a provision for hot water. The camp uses solar lighting and its main lodge has a well stocked bar and restaurant. There are decks where you can sit and relax while having your drinks after a long day.

  • Eagle’s Nest Lodge:

Eagle’s Nest Lodge is located near Lake Mburo National Park. This lodge is located on a hill that borders the park and it provides a great view of the wild landscape. The lodge offers 10 tents with private bathrooms, eco-toilets and bush showers. The lodge has solar lighting, as well as a fully stocked bar and restaurant. You can view the animals in the park right from the comfort of your veranda.

  • Mihingo lodge:

Mihingo lodge is located near Lake Mburo in Lake Mburo National Park. This lodge has 10 luxury tented rooms over wooden platform covered by thatched roof. The rooms have ensuite bathrooms with both hot and cold water, a veranda and toilet. Mihingo lodge has a wide dining area, a swimming pool, a tennis court and babysitting services.

  • Rwakobo Rock:

The Rwakobo Rock is and eco-friendly accommodation facility that is located on the edge of Lake Mburo National Park. It has 9 cottages with solar lighting, toilets and heated showers. There is a restaurant and bar overlooking Lake Mburo. It is easy to spot animals at the watering hall from Rwakobo rock. There is free wifi at the Rock as well.

 Best time to visit:

Lake Mburo National Park can be visited anytime of the year since it has fairly good weather. During the dry season, this is within the months of September – December- February, animals are easier to locate since they gather around water sources like the Lakes, swamps and water holes near some lodges. This makes it possible for you to watch them even from the comfort of your lodge.

During the wet season, this is mainly in the months of November – December and March – May; animals are highly concentrated in the open valleys. Large herds can be found in the grazing fields where fresh pastures grow. However, during heavy rains animals may move to higher drier grounds and some roads in the park may become muddy and very slippery impairing movement.

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