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Lake Mburo National park

Lake Mburo National park is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks, and it used to cover an area of 370 square kilometers. However, it now covers an approximate size of 260 square kilometers due to encroachment.

The vegetation cover comprises of open and wooden savannah, seasonal and permanent wetlands as well as thickets. Lake Mburo park was initially gazetted in 1933 as a controlled hunting ground and later as a game reserve in 1963, the status it maintained until 1983 when it was declared a national park. This park was disrupted by president Obote II regime and later gazetted by the NRM government in 1986 after National Resistance Army captured power under the leadership of President Museveni.

Lake Mburo national park is located in western Uganda, sharing in Mbarara, Isingiro, and Kiruhura; it is the nearest park to the capital Kampala.  The park is home to a diversity of wildlife, including; zebras, impalas, elands, cape buffalos, oribi, deffassa waterbucks, hippopotamus, topis, reedbucks. And the recently introduced giraffes, leopards, lions, and hyenas are some of the cats you can spot on a lucky day and over 350 species.

Lake Mburo national park is famous for harboring 14 lakes, including Lake Mburo after which the park derives its name. These lakes form part of the 50 kilometers long wetland ecosystem interconnected by swamps, five of these lakes are within the park boundaries.

Once covered by open savannah, Lake Mburo now contains more woodlands advancing against the savanna grasslands. The western part of the park, covered with savannah, are scattered rocky ridges and forested gorges with papyrus swamps close to the lakes.

Activities in Lake Mburo National Park

Boat Safari Cruise

Since the park is overwhelmed by lakes, particularly Lake Mburo, it is hard to do without a boat safari cruise in such an area. Lake Mburo national park is outstanding compared to other national parks due to the diversity of animals and aquatic bird species spotted while on the boat cruise. It’s an excellent opportunity to see hippos, crocodiles, marine birds like the Kingfisher, and many others that come to quench themselves.

The exciting wildlife encounters and the spectacular scenery, panoramic landscape views make Lake Mburo National Park Unique to the tourists and holidaymakers.

Safari Game Drives

Lake Mburo National park has a network of game tracks in the east of the park running around the savannah grassland with various landscapes comprising acacia woodland, wetlands, lush hillsides, rock outcrops, and seasonally flooded valley surfaces. The best way to explore Lake Mburo National Park’s significant endowments is by enjoying a game drive where you will see the two animal species that define lake Mburo; the impalas and the zebras.

Game drives in this park take different paths depending on the season when you visit. Since it lies in the shadow area between Lake Victoria and the Rwenzoris, it receives ample rainfall. During the wet season, it is advisable to avoid wetland tracks. However, during the dry season, animals usually converge around the swamps and lakes for water, giving a perfect photo of the wildlife in their natural habitats.

Night Game Drive

Night game drive is an alternative way to view the park with a different experience than what the day offers. Rare species like nocturnal animals are sighted, which you can hardly see during the day. Most nocturnal animals such as bushbabies, leopards, lions can be spotted while hunting.

Nature Walks and Hikes:

Lake Mburo National park is entirely open to trekkers and hikers, provided a ranger guide accompanies them. Nature walks, commonly known as walking safaris, usually take place on the Rwonyo side leading to the salt lick, where the majority of the animals congregate around the salty rocks.

The nature walks on the western side of Lake Mburo begin at 7 am, lasting for 2 hours. This early adventure is an opportunity to encounter the hippopotamus returning to the lake or the hyenas as they return to their dens and, at the same time, other animals beginning to graze.

Horseback Safaris

Exploring the park for 2-5 hours across the savannah grasslands on horseback is very exciting because you sight the wildlife species without any fumes and engine sounds; this makes you feel part of the wilderness. There are also higher chances to see the more nervous animals like the Elands simultaneously during the ride; zebras get closer to you to check out the strange family member without strips.

In the horse riding system, weighing people is mandatory as per the laws concerning animals to minimize the rapid death of horses caused by carrying excess weights. Safety equipment is available in case of an accident. Of all the Ten National parks in Uganda, this activity occurs only in Lake Mburo national park by Mihingo Lodge.

Birding

The park has recorded 350 bird species, some of which you spot in the Waarukiri and Miriti swamps, along the routes between Jetty and Rwonyo camp, and in the Rubanga forest.  Species detected in these sites comprise of the Brown Parrot, Grey Crowned Crane White-headed Barbet, Red-headed Lovebird, Ross’s Turaco, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Green Wood-hoopoe, Common Scimitar bill, Red-faced Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Black-bellied Bustard, Brown-chested Lapwing, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-winged Tit and Finfoot among others. All this makes birding in Lake Mburo an exciting adventure.

Sportfishing

In Lake Mburo, sportfishing at Mazinga area, the waters of the lakes within this park contain around six fish species, with tilapia being the most caught species, lungfish, mudfish, and many more.

Permits for sport fishing are obtained at Uganda Wildlife Authority at USD 15 for one day and 25 for four days as per UWA 2020-2022 Tariff, and the permit excludes park entrance fees.

Community Walks

The Park with pastoral communities surrounding it and concentrating it on the rare, long-horned Ankole cattle with unique traditions centering them. A visit to the cultural center near the Sanga gate, taking community walks, attending the cultural performances, which involve traditional storytelling, create lasting memories of a safari in Lake Mburo national park.

When to visit the park

The park receives ample rainfall because it lies in the rain shadow between Lake Victoria and the Rwenzoris. Its average recorded temperatures range from 14-32Oc at night on a hot day. The dry season includes July – August, and January-February can also be very hot. During these months, also known as the high season, animals gather around the lakes and swamps for water. Usually an opportunity to spot even the rear species that have a hiding lifestyle.

The wet season is usually March-May, and November-December which is a low season. During this season, most animals are scattering; it is advisable to avoid wetland tracks because more significant numbers are in open valleys and grazing fields.

The park is visited all year round with the choice depending on one’s interest, with the low season with fewer visitors.

Getting There

Lake Mburo National Park is accessible by both road and or  air;

By road, this is the nearest national park to the capital city. Lake Mburo national park lies between Masaka and Mbarara in western Uganda, approximately 250 km and 5 hours’ drive from Kampala.

By air, this is the fastest option for those who love short-distance travel. Do you hate long drives? No worries, relax, we’ve got a solution for you; board a flight from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Mbarara airstrip for only 45 minutes and then transfer by road to Lake Mburo National park. Aerolink Uganda has daily scheduled flights from Entebbe twice, in the morning, departing at 10:15 am and at 12:45 pm.

The park is accessible either via the Nshara gate, 13km past Lyatonde, or via Sanga gate, 27 km past Lyatonde. Both of these gates have labels with signage for direction.

Accommodation at Lake Mburo

Are you planning for a tour to Lake Mburo National Park? The park has a variety of accommodations ranging from luxury to budget facilities.

  • Mburo Safari Lodge is a mid-range and eco-friendly lodge in the park in Kiruhuru district. It has luxurious cottages that perfectly blend with the natural environment designed for absolute comfort, convenience, and pleasure.
    All cottages are spacious, very comfortable, and equipped with a clean private bathroom with hot showers and flushing toilets, comfortable king-sized beds with mosquito nets for uninterruptible sleep. In addition, a private balcony with great views of the wilderness and chances to see the often visitors like impalas, zebras, cape buffalos, and leopards.
  • Mihingo Lodge is a renowned luxury lodge sitting deep within the park. The establishment sits atop a hill, perched on a Rocky kopje and built with local materials to blend with the surrounding environment. Mihingo lodge boasts of an expensive swimming pool that overlooks a drinking hole nearby. Animals often come to drink at this pool, especially during hours of the day. The lodge also offers many activities, including a nature walk to the communities outside the park borders. You learn a lot about the Ankole culture and interact with the locals. Bush biking adventures, horse riding with excellent guides viewing wildlife more closely on the back of a horse is a lifetime adventure experience.
  • Mantana Tented Camp, also known as Lake Mburo Camp, offers luxury tented accommodation inside Lake Mburo National Park and is located on the side of Rwamahungu hill. Its tents are on raised wooden decks with large bedrooms, en-suite facilities, and verandahs overlooking Lake Mburo and the valley. The resident is zebras, impalas, warthogs, waterbucks, cape buffaloes, civet cats, and prolific birdlife. The tents make it a perfect place to relax with a cold drink after a hot and dusty afternoon within the park. It’s a peaceful area with great views of the lake and the surrounding countryside.
  • Kigambira Lodge is another bled of the luxurious style in Lake Mburo National Park. Kigambira Lodge is in the southern section of the park between lake Kigambira and Rubanga Forest. The lodge features 12 en-suite bandas, including nine deluxe bandas, one honeymoon suite for the newlyweds, and two-family bandas. All the rooms’ furnishing has a touch that gives you the comfort you seek for your adventure.
  • Rwakobo Rock Lodge; is a mid-range facility located 1 kilometer out of Nshara gate of Lake Mburo National park. The lodge has nine cottages occupied as single, double/twin, or triple, part of which is a family unit. In addition are five rooms in the hornbill house and three tents. Visitors staying at Rwakobo Rock can enjoy various activities, including biking, walking safaris, and a campfire to enjoy their evening. Nearer to the restaurant is a waterhole where animals often come to drink and a hammock where you’ll unwind with incredible views of the expansive plains.
  • Arcadia Cottages is located 2 kilometers from Rwonyo Park headquarters on the brink of the Lake. It is thus an excellent place to lodge and explore the park on game drives and encounter hippos and crocodiles on a boat ride or get close and private to nature on a guided nature/safari walk.
    The lodge has eight self-contained cottages set around the central lodge building, where visitors can enjoy the tasty dishes in the restaurant or relax and enjoy the stunning view from the raised deck as the sun goes down.
  • Eagle’s Nest Lodge; for those looking for an authentic African experience on a budget, Eagle’s nest lodge is a perfect choice. Situated on a hill bordering Lake Mburo National Park, the lodge has one of the best views in the park. With immaculate and comfortable safari tents, each with a veranda overlooking the park, bathrooms are an authentic bush experience, while toilets are an eco-friendly invention! Hot showers filling is upon the visitors’ request.
  • Leopard Rest Camp is another budget camp in Lake Mburo National Park. It is a perfect budget camp with several options from camping tents, safari tents, and more luxuries excluded tents with en-suite facilities. Enjoy a camping experience on budget while in Lake Mburo at Leopard Rest Camp.
  • Rwonyo Rest Camp: The camp is under the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) management and offers tents and bandas alongside camping at Mazinga Campsite.
    The recent addition is a more upgrade of the Guesthouse, with ten self-contained rooms and enjoying meals from the lakeside restaurant.

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