Lake Mburo National Park

AT 370 SQ. km, Lake Mburo National Park is the smallest savannah national park; it also doubles as the closest national park to Kampala. With its 37,000 ha, at an elevation varying between 1,220m – 1,828m above sea level, Lake Mburo National Park is situated between Masaka and Mbarara district   taking approximately 4 hours’ drive to arrive.  It is an extremely rich park due to the dry and rocky environment in the west and the wetlands in the eastern part. Some 50 km of creeks and canals, connect 13 lakes in the area, 5 of which lie within the boundaries of the park, with Lake Mburo being the largest.

The park can be accessed through the Nshara gate and the Sanga gate from Mbarara. Through the Nshara gate it is about forty-eight kilometers, when coming from Kampala, the Sanga gate is twelve kilometers. It’s one of the best place in Uganda where one can see animals very closely on nature guided walks and horse riding safaris apart from game viewing in a vehicle.

Lake Mburo National Park has quite a variation in landscapes, like rolling hills, golden Savannah’s, ancient rocks, forests and swamps as well of course 5 lakes, with the largest lake within the park boundaries being Lake Mburo and another 14 lakes surrounding the park. The savannah in the west are traversed by rocky ridges and forested gorges. While the savannahs were much more open in the past, shrubs and low forest cover large parts.

Lake Mburo National Park is a very special place; every part of it is alive with variety, interest and colour. The attractive 158 square miles acacia-dotted savannah of Oleo and Boscia is home to 68 mammal species. The Park contains an extensive area of wetland and harbors several species of mammals not found anywhere else in Uganda, including zebra, impala, topi, bushbuck, buffalo, warthog, jackal, hyenas, leopard and eland. There are no elephants and lions in the park, which makes it an ideal place for walking safaris. The park has more than 315 bird species including the rare Shoebill Stork, African Finfoot, saddle billed stork, brown chested wattled plover, carruther’s cisticola, tabora cisticola, great snipe, Abyssinian ground hornbill, African fish eagle, saddle billed stork and white winged warbler.

The park also has aquatic predators attracting many people such as the African crocodile that are mostly spotted on the shore of the great lakes of Lake Mburo national park.

The park’s famous climate greatly allows the ongoing activities within and outside the park to take place since park is located in a rain shadow area, between the famous lake and mountain Rwenzori. Lake Mburo national park has only two wonderful seasons-wet and dry season and a temperature range of 23 to approximately 25 degrees Celsius receiving a big modal low rainfall ranging between 500 and 1000 millimeters.

What to do in Lake Mburo National Park

Game Drives

For any savannah African safari, it’s considered a rewarding one until game drives are conducted. Lake Mburo national park boats various game drive trails and this guarantees an amazing opportunity to see several wildlife and bird species among which you may lay your eyes on, they include but not limited to Elands, antelopes, buffaloes, giraffes, Topis, warthogs, zebras, water bucks and impalas. Besides that, the park is the only one in Uganda that is a home to the impalas. Other features to look at while at the park are the alluring beautiful sceneries, the parent rocks and savannah. The eastern part of the park possess a variety of landscapes features including the acacia woodland, wetlands, grassy hillside, rock out crops, and seasonally flooded valley floors. All these have imposed a force for the game drives to take place such that visitors get close to the nature of this great park.

Game drives in Lake Mburo national park are always conducted in the morning and evening under close supervision of the UWA rangers who are designated to make sure everything goes smoothly. Game drives in Lake Mburo national park have scheduled time because some animals are too shy and cannot be seen any time. The park also offers night game drive and these starts around 6:30- 7:00 and last two to three hours, under the guidance of a professional ranger guides. The night game drive offers high chances of seeing nocturnal animals such as bushbabys, pottos and perhaps even a leopard. The night game drive is one of the memorable drives in the park and there are high chances of spotting different types of animals like Zebra, warthog, impalas, waterbuck, hippopotamus, hyenas and large herds of over 100 eland. Recently, Lake Mburo national park just introduced giraffes, which are a great achievement to the park.

The best time to conduct game drives in the park is during early morning and late afternoon hours where you can encounter various wildlife. The best time of the year is during the dry season from June to September and December to February when the animals are concentrated on the water sources of the park.

 

Boat Cruise

A boat cruise in Lake Mburo National park is another activity one shouldn’t miss out on their safari to Lake Mburo national park, this activity will get you to come face to face with the flora and fauna of the lake as the activity is an outstanding one as compared to other national parks.

Lake Mburo national is one of the parks with aquatic wildlife and these aquatic animals keep the sights of the visitors shocked and filled with wonders as they traverse the lake on the boat cruise. Some of the animals visitors should expect are hippos, which are mostly seen on the shores of the lakes. They give visitors a great welcome and make the visitors wonder what the lakes hold for, others animals include crocodiles, antelopes and buffaloes among others.

There is also a great opportunity to see numerous species of birds flying in the pure and clear skies that are blue. The environment is filled with the good sounds of the birds filling the all area of Lake Mburo national park. This sound of the bird is healthy and helps the mind of the visitors cool down and free the mind from the noise of the town.  Some of the bird species to look out include red papyrus gonalek, black papyrus gonalek, and yellow papyrus gonalek found in the papyrus swamp areas, Abyssinian ground hornbill, African fishing eagle, saddle billed stork, white winged warbler, papyrus yellow warbler, brown chested wattled plover, African fin foot and the rare shoebill among others.

The best time to conduct the boat cruise in Lake Mburo national park is mid-morning and evening, though the activity cannot be done during the rainy season where the lakes are blown by the strong winds that cannot favour the activity to take place. Boat cruising has made lake Mburo national park a place that is filled with joy and happiness.

 

Guided Nature Walks

Guided nature walks in Lake Mburo national park are increasingly becoming famous in the park; these enable visitors to encounter the hidden treasures of the park on foot under the guidance of a ranger guide. The park is free of predators like lions hence open for nature walks. These are done following the set trails for exploring the wilderness at its closest range. Guided walks at Rwonyo will lead visitors to the salt lick while here, you will find many animals that are attracted to the salty rocks, and how they enjoy the environment of salty rocks.

There are also different parts where guided nature walks in the park can be done. The walks on the western side of this lake usually start at exactly 7:00am and take 2 hours, during the activity; visitors get an opportunity to see many wildlife species that are examined habiting the premises of Lake Mburo national park such as hyenas as they are returning to their dens as well as hippopotamus coming back to the Lake.

The hike will take you through the woodlands and this grantees visitors a great opportunity of seeing the forest birds and mammals that are easy spotted during this walk. You also walk to the top of the hills; this will reward you with a spectacular and clear view of the nine of the regions and the 14 lakes that are found in Lake Mburo national park.

Rubanga forest is also another place in Lake Mburo national park where nature walks can be carried out, and in this forest, walkers are provided with bird sightings and this might be visited by prior arrangements and in company of a ranger. While on this walk, one should expect to spot animals like zebras, impalas, eland, crocodile, hippopotamus, over 350 species of birds, giraffes and many more.

Lake Mburo national park, has got nature walks that can be taken anywhere in the park with an armed guide of Uganda Wildlife Authority, during these nature walks you are able to come across hyenas that are coming from dens after night of being on the prowl. Still you will also see the hippos that are returning from grazing during the night and returning to the lake Mburo in order to keep cool during the day as this protects their delicate skins from the super-hot sun. In these walks, you will also spot zebras, elands, Topis, giraffes, antelopes, birds, buffaloes, as well as butterflies. You will also take a trill on the top of the hills, view Lake Mburo national park beyond, and see the nearby regions that are surrounding Lake Mburo national park.

The nature walks in lake Mburo national park are good and interesting, but above all filled with real and pure nature like the sound of the birds that are make the skies of Lake Mburo national park busy and not polluted with the poisonous fumes but filled with eagles, bee-eaters, falcons, pegons, woodpeckers and many more.

Guided nature walks in the park can be done any time of the year though the best time is during the dry season when the park is out of water source and easy to access it on foot, these include the months of June to September and December to February.

 

Birding

Located in the western part of Uganda and the nearest from Uganda’s capital city, Lake Mburo national park the smallest savannah park boasts over 350 bird species both Migratory and residential birds. Some of the birds found in this national park are; red papyrus gonalek, black papyrus gonalek, and yellow papyrus gonalek found in the papyrus swamp areas, Abyssinian ground hornbill, African fishing eagle, saddle billed stork, white winged warbler, papyrus yellow warbler, brown chested wattled plover, African fin foot, Grey crowned crane, black-billied bustard, among others.

The birds at Lake Mburo National can be categorized into 3 types name:  water birds, (wetland birds) forest birds and Savannah birds. Some of the forest bird species include; Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Common Scimitar bill, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Ross’s Turaco and Green Wood-hoopoe among others, Water bird species include: African fish eagles, king fisher, jacana, cormorants, pelicans, herons and many more. The Savannah birds include, the francolin, the woodpeckers and many more.

The best time for bird watching is in the morning and evenings and the best birding spots in Lake Mburo National Park include the swampy valleys of Warukiri and Miriti, and the roadsides between Rwonyo camp and the jetty. There are also ideally situated viewing platforms at the salt lick, in Miriti Valley, and in Rubanga Forest. Species observed at these locations include the Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard, Brown-chested Lapwing, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Brown Parrot, Red-headed Lovebird, Ross’s Turaco, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Green Wood-hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, White-headed Barbet, Red-faced Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-winged Tit and Finfoot among others.

Rubanga Forest can be visited using a vehicle or on foot. This is a real draw for keen birders, and prior arrangement should be made with the warden. The rare Red-faced Barbet – only seen in Lake Mburo National Park – is one of the of the forest’s featured species.

The best time to go for birding is in April to May and November and October when migratory birds from Europe and North Africa are in the park.

 

Horse Back Riding

Horseback riding in Lake Mburo national park is one exciting safari activity that offers visitors new way of watching wildlife and varying vegetation zones from the back of the horse.

The activity is done in two sessions, the morning session, which starts at 10am and the afternoon session, which starts at 2pm and a maximum of 6 participants can be taken in a single safari under the guidance of a well-experienced staff. Horse riding in Lake Mburo national park does not need one to be experienced because the horse riders are adjusted according to their ability, as beginners and inexperienced riders are advised to walk in order to avoid accident issues though they are being guided by experienced guides’. The experienced riders have stretches like Warukiri valley where they can ride for 2 to 5 hours.

Horse safaris are an awesome way to see the wildlife around Lake Mburo national park. Without the noise of an engine, you can hear so much more and you really feel part of nature. Riding a horse means, you often get the chance to see the more timid animals. If you are very lucky, you may see leopards, eland and buffalo.

You will nearly always see a mixture of warthog, topi, impala, duiker, bushbuck, waterbuck and zebra. Watching animals from a horse is so peaceful and a totally different experience from being on a game drive; zebras come towards you to check out the strange relative without stripes. Even the eland that are usually very shy, look curiously at the horses without running away, but keep their distance.

Horse rides take about 30 minutes to 5 hours or even full day depending on the visitor’s ability and price are based on the time spent riding a horse. Safety equipment’s are provided for those willing to do horse riding to be protected from accidents that might cause damage to a horse rider. Some of these equipment’s include the helmet and riding chaps. Strong shoes with heels are recommended for horse riding. English style saddles are the ones used for riding and this is so due to the landscape nature.

 

Cultural Experience

A safari in Lake Mburo national park can never be entirely amazing without visiting the local communities that live around the park boundaries. The boundaries of Lake Mburo are settlement areas of Banyankole and Bahima communities who used to stay inside the park before they were evicted and most of them settled around its boundaries. Most of their daily routine activities rotate around the cows and though there has been some bit of diversification to tap into the crop farming. Visit the Bahima and Banyankole and enjoy their authentic culture and norms, which they demonstrate through dance and drama with traditional songs, the famous Etitaguriro dance is the most amazing and interesting aspect of visiting the communities.

Uganda wildlife Authority Lake Mburo Sector, in conjunction with UCOTA has recently Identified 13 groups of people living around Lake Mburo national park. These locals were to be trained by African Wildlife Foundation and its sister initiative dubbed Tourism for the Diversity. These groups underwent five top training programs, which include community business tourism planning, community operation tourism planning, community based tourism concept planning, community tourism marketing and sales product development and community tourism planning and interpretive guiding.  Of the 13 groups that entered training, 9 groups emerged successful in completing the training; they were also awarded certificates to verify the success full completion.

A cultural encounter in Lake Mburo national park guarantees a taste of the local cuisines like Eshabwe, steamed matooke, amakamo-local yoghurt, interaction with the local people, see their ways of living, share life stories with them and create a bond unbreakable as well as a land mark social – cultural impact.

 

Salt Licks

Among the highlights of visiting this beautiful small Park, include a nature walk to the photogenic and wildlife-friendly salt lick pond, around shallow water hole situated in the middle of the park, it contains salty soils that the wildlife find very salty licking.   The wildlife at Lake Mburo find this a fascinating place to hang around as they enjoy the salt taste by licking the soils. This also forced the Uganda Wildlife Authority (a governing body of Uganda National Parks) to erect a stone close to the salt lick to offer tourists a beautiful view of the wildlife that always visit this area to lick the salty soils.

Among the wildlife species to spot at the salt lick, include several antelope species like impalas, waterbucks, bushbucks, Uganda Kob, common elands, Topis, along with zebras, hippos, warthogs, the Rothschild’s giraffes and many more. The salt lick visit can be done during an early morning guided nature walk in this extraordinary untouched national park in western Uganda.

 

Bicycle Safaris

Bicycle safaris in Lake Mburo national park is a unique way of exploring the park and its surrounding areas on a bicycle. This is a truly an amazing experience that makes visitors have a glance of the park at their pace as they peddle through the adjacent stony plains which are squeezed with widely spaced acacia woodland through the open canopy tree structures a home of Mburo wildlife, the only place where bicycle safaris can be conducted from.

This adventurous activity takes about 1 to 2 hours under the guidance of game rangers. The guides will help you follow in the safe routes for cyclists in Lake Mburo. The ride rewards you with an opportunity to spot numerous wildlife species like zebras, elands, buffaloes, antelopes, bushbucks, warthogs, impalas and jackals among others. It is also the best way to see numerous bird species along the savannah grasslands. The few challenges encountered while on the bike trail is the nature of the terrain; some areas are hilly while others are sloppy. All in all, the entire bike trails guarantees one quit an amazing experience

Although Lake Mburo national park is open all year round, the best time to go on a bike safari is in the dry season months of June to August and December to February as the bike trails are dry and less taxing to navigate.

 

Exploring Rubanga Forest

Exploring Rubanga forest. Rubanga forest is yet another relevant features and attraction situated with the confines of Lake Mburo national park, as part of the wide network of the ecosystem that the park holds. The forest is located in Lake Mburo national park, the smallest national park in the country. The Rubanga forest is a tropical rainforest that hosts over 40 bird species and it is sometimes refered to as a birders paradise. Birds found in this forest include double-toothed barbet, harrier hawk, green pigeon, narina trong and the shoebill stork among others. Rubanga forest has also got unique and wonderful tree species and some of these that are mostly spotted include mainly fig trees, acacia, palm, markhamia, platycladus and many others species.

The forest also offers guided nature walks and these reward tourists with an opportunity to come across animals like the hyenas that are mostly spotted when returning to their dens from the long day after hunting at night as well as observing hippopotamus returning to the water after a strong and healthy night grazing.

The chattering of birds in the morning guided nature walks and in the evening nature walks, you will get an opportunity to encounter with a lot of zebras and impalas that are only found in this premise of the forest.

Rubanga forest in Lake Mburo national park is also a home of primates like monkeys that are spotted jumping from one tree to another and very many other animals will be encountered with on this unique walk.

 

Fishing

Fishing is yet another tourism activity carried at Lake Mburo national park. This national park has 5 lakes inside and this makes it a total of over 12 lakes in the general area of the park. Lake Mburo is also the largest of all and the fisher men come to this lake to fish as well as the visitors to Lake Mburo can carry out some fishing and then later arrange to have the fish well prepared at the lodge where they are staying. There are also 6 species of fish that are found here and tilapia being the main specie of choice. Other species include catfish, lungfish, tiger fish, Angara fish and barbell

The main designated fishing spot is at Mazinga, visitors that are planning to carry the activity should carry their own equipment and access permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority. It’s safe along Lake Mburo and you do not have to worry about the hippos and crocodiles.

Though spot fishing safari in Lake Mburo national park may not be compared to the one in Murchison falls national park and Lake Victoria, the activity can be combined with other activities like boat cruise, game drives and birding among others.

 

Igongo Cultural Centre

The Igongo cultural center is situated just four kilometers from Sanga gate of Lake Mburo national park in south Western Uganda. The Igongo cultural center is an historical place inhabited by the Banyarakitara of western Uganda compromising of the Bakiga, Batooro, Banyoro and the Banyankole. The cultural center acts as a museum and is locally known as “Eriijukiro”. If you would like to know about the art, history and culture of the Ankole people the Igongo cultural center is the best place for knowing about their culture.

Igongo cultural center is built in African traditional style, local food is also available plus mouth-watering roasted goat meat. The Ankole culture is show cased including the dressing code, their long horned cattle, the Mburo gardens also feature sculptures of people and animals of long ago the center is also set on the former palace of Kings.

This cultural center has many traditional grass huts on the display and the guides will always explain to you about the way of life of these people in the past. You will also enjoy the museum and then learn about the ways of the local cultures.

WhEN TO VISIT Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo national park is open for visitors throughout the year though the best time to visit the park is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. Animals gather around water sources especially lake and swamps so they are easily located and seen in numbers. Many of them also visit the water holes near the various lodges so you see them from everywhere. When it comes to the wet seasons of November to December and March to May, larger numbers can be seen in open valleys and grazing fields as the grass blossoms.

HOW TO GET To Lake Mburo National Park

Located in the western part of Uganda in Mbarara district, Lake Mburo national park is the smallest savannah national park and a home to about 350 bird species as well as other wildlife species such as zebras, impalas, buffalo, leopard, hippo, hyena among others. The park can be accessed by both road and air transportation

 

By Road. The 228-kilometre drive from Kampala to Lake Mburo national park takes about 3½hours. The park can be accessed from either of the three entrance gates of the park- the Sanga gate, Nshara gate and the Kyanyanshara gate.

The Kyanyanshara gate is just 18kilometers south of Akagate trading centre, which is 14 kilometers west of Lyantonde. The gate is close to the famous and luxurious Mihingo lodge.

One can decide to use the 9-kilometre dirt road, which leads to Nshara gate. This road turns south from the main rod, about 500 meters west of Akagate trading centre.

Travelers can also use the sanga gate. Take the 13 kilometre dirt road from the main road to sanga trading centre and then to sanga gate. Sanga trading centre lies 13 kilometers from Akagate trading center and 27 kilometers from Lyantonde

The park can also be accessed from Queen Elizabeth national park via Ishaka and Mbarara taking approximately 2½hours to 3½hours, covering a distance of about 186 kilometers.

Lake Mburo national park can also be accessed by visitors from Kibale national park via Ibanda and Rushere, this can take about 3½hours, covering a distance of about 208 kilometers.

 

By air –there are domestic flights provided by companies such as Aerolink Uganda. There are direct flights offered direct from Entebbe International Airport to Mbarara town.