Lake Mburo national park

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo national park is situated in Nyabushozi County, Kiruhura District, 230 km(4 hrs 30 min drive) west of Kampala capital city, and 29 km (50 mins drive) east of Mbarara city. It stands as the smallest national park in Uganda, covering an area of 260 square kilometers. Originally designated as a hunting area in 1933, it was later upgraded to a game reserve in 1963. The land was initially inhabited by the Banyankole-Bahima pastoralists, who were known for rearing Ankole cattle, a tradition that persists to this day. However, in 1983, they were expelled from the gazetted area, leading to the park’s subsequent upgrade to a national park.

During the Uganda bush wars, the park faced significant challenges. People were massacred, and rangeland outside the park was subdivided into smaller ranges, resulting in the reoccupation of the park land and the killing of wildlife. Eventually, in 1986, the park was re-gazetted to restore its status.

Lake Mburo National Park preserves culturally significant sites, including Ruroko, where semi-mythical Bachwezi are believed to have lived, Kigarama, which served as the residence for the king’s servants, and Rubanga, a site for making sacrifices to the gods. 

Vegetation in Lake Mburo national park

Lake Mburo national park is characterized by its hilly terrain, underlain by pre-Cambrian granitic rocks and sandy soils. Despite the park experiencing relatively low average annual rainfall, its landscape comprises diverse wetland habitats. The focal point of these habitats is Lake Mburo, spanning an extensive 13 square kilometers and surrounded by lush riparian woodland and papyrus swamp.

As the largest of the five lakes within the park’s boundaries, Lake Mburo holds a significant place in a chain of 16 lakes and connecting swamps fed by the Rwizi River on its journey from Mbarara to Lake Victoria. The remaining area of Lake Mburo National Park features an open savanna and woodland, predominantly marked by thorny acacia trees such as Vachellia gerrardii, Vachellia sieberianna, Vachellia hockii, and Senegalia polacantha.

The western savannah of the park is adorned with rocky ridges and forested gorges, adding to the diverse and picturesque landscape. Explore the unique blend of hills, wetlands, and savannas that make Lake Mburo National Park a captivating destination, offering a glimpse into the beauty of Uganda’s natural heritage.

Wildlife in Lake Mburo national park

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park is home to a variety of mammal species. Notably, it hosts Uganda’s only remaining population of impala, the animal after which Kampala, the capital city, was named. Additionally, it is one of only two parks in Uganda where Burchell’s zebras can be found. Antelope species that you might spot include topi, oribi, common duiker, Bohor reedbuck, defassa, and bushbuck. Sitatunga antelopes are found in swamps, while klipspringers inhabit the hills. Herds of errands move seasonally through the park.

The lake and its lush fringing vegetation provide a habitat for buffalo, bushpig, warthog, and hippopotamus. Rothschild’s giraffes roam the savannah northeast of Lake Mburo. The park is also home to two diurnal primate species, vervet monkeys, and olive baboons. Interestingly, Lake Mburo is one of the few places in Uganda where the galago has been recorded.

In terms of predators, lions were once locally extinct due to hunting by the late 1970s. However, a solitary male was first spotted in 2008, and now the park boasts more than three female lions. Leopards are abundant and commonly seen, especially during night game drives, particularly in the northeast of the park. Explore the diverse wildlife of Lake Mburo National Park, where nature thrives and unique animal encounters await.

The park is home to 315 bird species, making it an ideal destination for bird enthusiasts. Notably, it is the best place to observe acacia-associated birds, boasting sightings of the mosque swallow, black-bellied bustard, Ruppell’s starling, and bare-faced go-away bird.

Lake Mburo National Park is renowned for hosting southern bird species at the northern limit of their range. Among these are the black-collared and black-throated barbets, southern ground hornbill, and green-capped eremomela, frequently recorded within the park.

In the swamps, birders have the opportunity to spot six papyrus endemics, including the brilliantly colored papyrus gonolek, white-winged warbler, striking blue-headed coucal, and papyrus yellow warbler. Lake Mburo offers many activities like  4×4 day and night game drives, horse riding, and hiking, provided by the lodge’s forest walks, cultural interactions with Banyankole and Bahima pastoralists, sport fishing, birding,boat trips.

What to do and see in Lake Mburo nationals park

Horseback riding

Lake Mburo National Park

This activity takes place at Mihingo Lodge, situated in the east of the park, the first protected area in Uganda. It presents a unique opportunity to closely encounter animals like zebras and buffaloes, which tend to be more at ease around horses. The horse rides are customized to cater to individual experiences and preferences.

These horse rides are also tailored for children, offering them the chance to be led on gentle ponies in a safe and enjoyable environment. For more experienced riders, the option to assist retired racehorses in burning off some calories is available.

The day rate for this unforgettable experience ranges from $40 to $60 per person for 30-60 minutes, and for those seeking a full-day adventure, the rate is $300. 

Game drives

Lake Mburo National Park offers 4×4 game drives in the morning, evening, and night, providing visitors with diverse opportunities to witness the park’s rich wildlife. However, the success of game viewing is influenced by seasonal variations and changes in vegetation.

For optimal game drives, explore the savannah areas located in the north and east of Rwonyo, particularly along the Research, Zebra, Impala, and Warukiri tracks. These regions boast significant concentrations of impala, topis, waterbucks, zebras, and buffaloes. The Ruroko and Kazuma tracks also present chances to spot klipspringers on rocky hills.

During dry seasons, focus on swamps and lakes, as these areas attract a congregation of animals. Morning game drives commence early, between 6:00 am to 6:30 am, allowing for breathtaking views of the sunrise and sightings of herbivores such as giraffes, buffaloes, impalas, and zebras.

For those seeking a nocturnal adventure, night game drives start between 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm, offering opportunities to spot elusive creatures like leopards and nocturnal birds like owls. It’s crucial for tourists participating in night game drives to be accompanied by game rangers for safety.

To maximize your wildlife viewing experience, explore different game tracks and visit waterholes like Lake Mburo. 

Boat trips

Lake Mburo National Park

Motorboat trips on Lake Mburo depart from the main campsite, offering excursions that last for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Departures occur every 2 hours, starting from 8 am and continuing until 16 pm, with an additional trip at 17:30 pm. These boat excursions provide excellent opportunities to observe buffaloes, hippos, waterbucks, crocodiles, bushbucks, and the three species of resident otters.

Tourists on these trips also have the chance to spot a variety of waterbird species, including the marabou stork, the impressive African fish eagle, the pied kingfisher, the elusive African finfoot, various herons, and a selection of eaglets. The lakeside of Lake Mburo is home to the Narina trojan and Ross’s turaco, offering bird enthusiasts a unique and rewarding bird-watching experience.

Nature walks 

Tourists are permitted to explore any part of the park, accompanied by an armed ranger for safety. These guided nature walks present visitors with unique opportunities to spot a diverse array of wildlife, including birds in the enchanting Rubanga forest, as well as hippos and various other animals.

Entrance fee at lake Mburo national park

Entrance to Lake Mburo National Park is priced at $40 for foreign non-residents and $30 for foreign residents per day. Additionally, standard vehicle fees apply, but they are a one-time charge per entry. These fees can be conveniently settled at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) reservation center in Kampala or at the Sanga entrance gate. To further enhance your experience, activities within the park can be paid for in cash at the offices in Rwonyo.

Tourists have the option to stay at Rwakobo Lodge, which offers a stunning panoramic view of the park. Alternatively, Mihingo Lodge is available for those who have entered through Sanga Gate, providing excellent accommodation for guests. Both lodges not only enhance the overall experience of the visit but also ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay amidst the natural beauty of Lake Mburo National Park.