Lake Mburo National park.
Traditionally, two brothers settled on the land that the park currently occupies. These were Mburo and Kigarama. One night, Kigarama dreamt of an area flooding and cautioned his intimate brother to relocate from the area. His brother (Mburo) disregarded the dream and refused to relocate to the adjacent hills like what Kigarama had done. Unfortunately, the dream came true and Mburo was drowned by mass floods the filled the valley to form the lake that was later named Lake Mburo while the adjacent hill was named Kigarama in reference to these two brothers. Before the gazettion of Lake Mburo as National park, the place acted as royal grazing area for king of Ankole vis-à-vis other Bahima pastoralists who refer the area to “Nshara – ensinungyi erikwera”. Lake Mburo National Park is located in Kiruhura District in Western Uganda. The park is situated about 30 kilometers, by road, east of Mbarara, the largest city in the sub-region. This location is approximately 240 kilometers, by road, west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city. At 260 square kilometers, the park is the smallest of Uganda’s Savannah national parks underlain by ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back more than 500 million years. It is home to 350 bird species as well as zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck. Together with 13 other lakes in the area, Lake Mburo forms part of a 50km-long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these lakes lie within the park’s borders. Once covered by open savanna, Lake Mburo National Park now holds much woodland as there are no elephants to tame the vegetation. In the western part of the park, the savanna is interspersed with rocky ridges and forested gorges while patches of papyrus swamp and narrow bands of lush riparian woodland line many lakes.
How to get there.
The park can be accessed by road and it’s a 3 hour drive from Kampala and then branch off from the main Mbarara road at Sanga town and then drive on a rough murram to enter the park at Sanga gate. Nshara gate can also be used to access the park only 13 kilometers past Lyantonde town.
Lake Mburo being a savannah park is gifted with a range of wildlife that have inhabited the area for centuries past. It is well known for its highest number of Burchells’ zebra in Uganda. Other species include; Eland, impala, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck. Though the vegetation is now getting dense, the park still has large open spaces that present opportunity for clear game viewing.
Lake Mburo National park contains both acacia dweller birds and forest birds making it a unique place for birding. Having 20% of its area covered by wetland and the existence of Rubanga forest renders this park habitat to a variety of bird species that a visitor on Ugandan safari would not postpone to encounter. Various bird species in Lake Mburo include; the rare Red faced Barbet which is endemic to this park, Brown-chested lapwing, Grey Crowned Crane, Black bellied Bustard, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Rufous-bellied Heron, Brown Parrot, Red-headed Lovebird, Ross’s Turaco, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Green Wood-hoopoe, White-headed Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Long-tailed Cisticola, Common Scimitarbill, Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-winged Tit, Finfoot among others.
Lake Mburo: The beautiful land of ‘beautiful cows’ is located in south western Uganda, within the traditional rangelands of the Bahima pastoralists. They call the land Kaaro Karungi, the Beautiful Land. The Bahima valued the landscape for raising long-horned Ankole cows, their own unique breed. Any other uses, especially farming, were prevented. The Lake Mburo area was of particular significance as the King, the Omugabe, kept specially selected herds of Enyembwa, or ‘beautiful cows’ there. Bahima have bred Ankole cows for centuries to mirror the beauty of the cows bequeathed to them by their mythical god-like ancestors. Owning Ankole cows, which are not highly productive, and breeding them for beauty, is central to Bahima identity. These people surround the park with their unique values which a traveler on this Ugandan tour should not attempt to miss.
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.
- Game drives. The game drive in Lake Mburo is an exciting opportunity to encounter a variety of game on various park tracks.
Zebra tracks leads to harems of Burchell’s zebra alongside other species like bushbucks, oribi and reedbucks. The Zebra Track tips to the junction of Ruroko Track, a drive through a wetland basin and thick acacia shrub and woodland, with olive trees and eurphorbia species. Kopjes (rock outcrops) found along the Ruroko track, are home to elusive klipspringers to which the rock is the best habitat.
The Kazuma track trails through wooded grassland where black-bellied bustards often patrol the area. Climb Kazuma hill to experience a real exposure of Lake Mburo National Park, because of its great altitude. The five lakes within the park and the rolling hills become more noticeable and striking.
Kigambira Loop trails through a wooded wilderness with scattered thicket and easy to spot bushbucks and bush duikers.
The Lakeside Track is particularly intended to enable viewing of water plants and animals. The park has a diversity of water birds and woodland birds, which can be sighted along these tracks.
Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to roam the park in search of wildlife. These start between 6.30-7pm and last two to three hours. Game Drives can be taken along numerous different paths, the best choice dependent upon weather and seasonality. During the dry periods, animals tend to assemble around the swamps and lakes; presenting an extraordinary photo occasion featuring a herd of wild animals on the shores of scenic water bodies.
- Horse riding. Mihingo lodge provides a horse back safari in Lake Mburo National Park which helps the visitors to get closer to wildlife than when in a van. It’s exciting and memorable. The four-hour hacks take visitors up to hilltop viewpoints with the option of bush breakfasts or sundowners.
- Nature walks. With the company of a ranger guide, a visitor can take a walk to the salt lick where animals gather to the salty rocks. Walks on the western side of the lake begin at 7am and take two hours. On this walk one may meet hyenas coming back to their dens and hippos receding to the lake. Hikes through the woodland act as a chance to view forest birds and mammals, while the walk to the top of the hill offers the visitors with an impressive view of 9 of the region’s 14 lakes. Rubanga Forest is of interest to certain walkers and birders and may be visited by prior arrangement and in the company of a ranger.
- Boat cruise. A two hour boat cruise presents an opportunity to explore the wildlife rich eastern bank of Lake Mburo. Magnificent birds like African fish eagle, colorful kingfishers, Hammerkops and their interesting nests, crocodiles, Hippos and other wildlife like Buffalos and elands taking water on the lake shores can be encountered on this single activity that starts at Rwonyo center. Voyages depart from Rwonyo jetty every two hours (subject to demand) starting at 8am.
- Sport fishing. At Mazinga, visitors can experience memorable sport fishing and get themselves the common Tilapia species among other six fish species. Carrying own fishing equipment and authorization from Uganda Wildlife Authority is advisable for his activity.
- Cultural encounters. Encounter the Bahima pastoral community around this park and have a chance to view the famous Ankole long horned cattle, Hima art and craft where one can get him/herself a souvenir to take home plus their general traditions. Ankole Cow Conservation Association (ACCA) site which is few kilometers outside park boarders is the home to this cultural experience.
Rwonyo Rest Camp.
Rwonyo Rest Camp is a budget accommodation is found in Lake Mburo National Park. Rwonyo is under the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The place offers chances for game viewing with in the environs. The camp consists of bandas and tented rooms that are well furnished. The bandas are designed in form of wooden hats with shared showers. The amazing thing about this budget camp is a free camp ground where you can pitch your tent in the true wilderness of Lake Mburo. Rwonyo Rest camp is the perfect place for budget travelers and it’s advisable to come with your tent if you are to camp.
Conservation Education Centre (Sanga).
This is a conservation education center located at about 1 Km. from Sanga gate. It has a good accommodation and a 40 people capacity hall which caters for school groups, visitors, seminars or workshops.
Mantana Tented Camp.
This tented camp has nine well-spaced rooms set in open woodland near the summit of a hill about 4 km from Lake Mburo. The rooms present a clear view of acacia woodland and part of the lake below. The large ‘Larsen-style’ tents are set on wooden platforms, with verandahs overlooking the park. Though tents are simple, they are comfortably furnished with twin beds and an en suite bathroom. The bathrooms have flush toilets, flasks of hot and cold water are provided next to the wash-basins and hot water is always available for a bucket shower. There is a lovely stone and thatch dining and bar area overlooking the lake with comfortable sofas and a little open fire, ideal enjoying your pre- or post-dinner drinks.
Arcadia Cottages is situated in the Lake Mburo National Park, very close to the water’s edge. This is an ideal destination for nature lovers and it offers a variety of simple, yet comfortable rooms. The categories of rooms include;
These cottages have a double bed each, as well as en-suite bathrooms.
Mihingo Lodge is a peaceful and exclusive retreat adjacent to Lake Mburo National Park. It has ten rooms set up on wooden platforms with stilts, covered by a thatched roof. Suspended under the thatched roof is a spacious and comfortable tent equipped with en-suite bathrooms with stunning views, including hot and cold running water, showers, and flush loos. Placed in varied settings, some rooms are situated in a forest, some with a lake view, and some on rocky outcrops. The main dining area is a large thatched structure built of rocks, the wood of dead weathered olive trees found on the land, and native grasses. Below the dining area, an infinity swimming pool stretches out from the rocks and seems to disappear into the vast landscape beyond. From the dining and pool area, guests can enjoy the view of a westward oriented valley and its stunning evening sunsets over Lake Mburo National Park. On top of these facilities and services, Mihingo lodge also operates horseback safaris and offers body massage.
Lake Mburo Safari Lodge.
Mburo Safari Lodge boasts of its excellent accommodation which comprises the main Lodge, cottages and honey moon house all raised on a wooden platform and covered by a grass-thatched roof, perfectly blending with the natural environment, stylishly and thoughtfully designed for your absolute comfort, convenience, and pleasure. Each is equipped with Clean private bathroom tubs, showers and toilets, private balconies, handcrafted wooden furniture, comfortable king-sized beds, mosquito nets and wardrobes all opening out to their private balconies. Some cottages have a full kitchen. All rooms are privately situated, making it an ideal place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds you. All cottages enjoy glass doors leading to a screened in porch and magnificent views of the national park.
Set on a massive granite outcrop, just beside Lake Mburo National Park, the accommodation at Rwakobo is a variety of thatched cottages, with solar lights, flush toilets, solar heated showers and filtered drinking water, which blend into the natural landscape. The rooms are dotted around the hill taking advantage of rocky ledges and private corners. Charging facilities and slow Wi-Fi are available at the main area.
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