Lake Mburo situated in the western hemisphere of Uganda along Masaka-Mbarara road is one of the ten popular national parks in Uganda. Mburo is the second smallest of the ten amazing national reserves but cannot be underestimated in terms of thrilling a visitor. Lake Mburo national park is nestled in a perfect place, it is the nearest national park to the capital of Uganda, Kampala where almost all Uganda safari trips begin. The compact eco spot is also a stop-by point to connect to other national parks in the western like Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mount Rwenzori National Park and Mgahinga National Park.
Lake Mburo national park was first gazetted as a hunting area in 1933 by colonialists and later turned into a game reserve in 1963. Mburo went through a troubled time as some part of it was originally occupied by the Banyankole pastoralists and Bahima. The government of Obote forced them out to turn it into a national park in 1983 but the move was mainly to subdue these people who supported the then rebels of National Resistance Army. In the middle of the civil war while Obote was weakened, the pastoralist reoccupied the park, they displaced and killed some animals, destroyed the park facilities and also chased away the supporting stuff. In 1986, when the National Resistance Movement of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni came to power, Mburo was reinstated as a national park and the pastoralists were resettled somewhere else up-to-date. Some pastoralists remained and herds of animals are seen in the park but these live amicably with the wildlife.
Mburo lies on a total surface area of about 260km2 comprising of different vegetation and natural physical features that make it a perfect abode of different wildlife species. Among its natural features, it has 12 lakes and the most popular one is Lake Mburo where the park’s name was derived. There is also a presence of rocks and rolling hilling within its landscape. The vegetation cover consists of short savannah grasslands, swamp grasslands, woodlands, bush thickets and minimal forests. Lake Mburo national park is a renowned natural habitat for some unique wild species that are remotely found in other national parks. This is a home to impalas, zebras, giant rats, giraffes and greatest spot to encounter the elusive leopards.
The Main Activities in Lake Mburo National Park
With loads of wildlife species and natural geographical features, Lake Mburo national park has lots of activities to offer to its visitors. It does have some much of unique attractions since what is offered is also found in other popular game parks but it is different proposition due to its calmness and compactness. The main activities offered are game drives, nature walks, boat rides, horse ride, cultural tours and sport fishing. Spending three days experiencing this exciting natural habitat enables the tourists to engage in most of the park activities. Below are the main activities in lake Mburo national park in details;
Birdwatching: With the water bodies and bushes around, birds are a sure thing to find in Lake Mburo national park. Lake Mburo national park is one of the places in Uganda, a visitor engages in a bird watching expedition hassle free due to the relentless availability of bird species. The main birding areas in park are Lake Mburo and the swamps of Miriti and Warukiri. Bird species like the rare shoebill, African finfoot, African wattled lapwing, saddle-billed stork, brown chested lapwing, Tabora, Abyssinian gorund Hornbill and many more are sighted in the aforementioned areas. More birds are found in acacia woodland and forests like Rubanga.
Nature guided walks: there are different nature walks trails to take in Lake Mburo national park. This is the only savannah park in Uganda where nature guided walks are conducted. It is a park with very minimal predators hence making the nature walk possible but this has to be guided by an armed park ranger. Remember, you are dealing with wild animals though they are not carnivorous, they can be aggressive when intruded. Therefore, a call for a professional like a park range to guide you on the walk. Animals like zebras, elands, antelopes, giraffes, buffaloes, impala are seen feeding in the graze. Birds are also spotted around.
The Lakeside Track: On the lakeside trail walk, a visitor climbs onto Kigarama hill which offers a wide range view of Lake Mburo and other seven water bodies. Thicket duikers are also seen while on this expedition. The lakeside track is more or less like any other nature walk though peculiar in such a way that it takes you to the view point to have a panoramic view of almost the whole park.
Sport Fishing: Lake Mburo national park is majorly dominated by different water bodies hence making it haven for fishing expeditions. The most notable water area for fishing is Mazinga at lake Mburo. This area is endowed with fish species like mud fish, lung fish, tilapia, haplochromes and the good part of it, there are no predators like crocodiles and hippos hence being danger free. Take on the expedition to have a chance of hooking a tilapia which can be fired and cooked for you right away after catching it.
Game drive session: Lake Mburo national park being a short grassland area, is one of those places in Africa with great game drive experiences. It is a very small park with clearly ploughed gravel track to lead the tourists to game view points. The tracks were smartly created within areas where the wild animals are densely populated. On the game drive different animal species are seen for example the zebras, buffaloes, giraffes, impalas, elands, antelopes and hyenas to mention but a few. Lake Mburo national park is the habitat in Uganda to easily encounter the leopards, there is even a leopard spot area in the park. T Both day and night game drives are conducted at the park. The day game drives are the most common ones, usually carried out in the eastern part of the park. The night game drive enables one to encounter nocturnal animals like bushbabies, pottos and even the leopards. The night game drives are strictly guided by the park ranger. The day game drives are open to everyone.
Boat ride experience: the boat rides are carried out lake Mburo, the centre piece of the park. Lake Mburo is a spectacle marvel to sail and tour. It has a wealth of interesting living species to sight and wonder about for example the hippos, crocs and bird species like king fishers, herons, pelicans, doves, cormorants, fish eagles and many more. Mainly in the dry season, land animals are always seen on the edges of the lake, getting rid of their thirst. A boat ride on Lake Mburo is such an epic experience!
Rubanga Forest Trail experience: On the western margins of Lake Mburo, there lies an eco forest in Ruhanga. It’s a natural place with lots of forest species for example birds like harrier hawk, double toothed barbet, pigeons, reptiles are also available, butterflies and intriguing tree species like Platycaluz, palm, acacia trees, Markhamia and fig are present. A three hour walk around this forest makes visitors come close to nature and appreciate its existence. This green forest is refreshing and soothing, it has the highest quality of air to breath in.
The Salt Lick: This is part of the nature walk, the guide takes the visitors around Rwonyo. There is a salt lake where the different animals species come to lick the salty substance to get some calcium. The animals that normally lick the salt are the zebras and antelopes. The guide usually carries out the nature walk to the salt lick area in the morning hours because it is the prime time when the animals come to get the salt.
Horseback Riding: Lake Mburo National Park having minimal predators, leisurely activities like horse riding are viable. It is the only national park that offers horse riding experience to its visitors. There are specific areas where these riding experiences are carried out to avoid any danger. In the horse riding experience, the visitor gets at the back of the horse and then follows the park ranger who also rides by his own horse. On the horse ride expedition, the tourist visits plains where there are grazers like elands, antelopes and zebras.
Visiting the Igongo Cultural Center: This is an outside the park activity done by the tourists. Eco tourist is normally accompanied by cultural tourism. Without the local culture, there would never been nature. It is best for a visitor to engage in something cultural related when he/she visits a natural place like Lake Mburo national park. The visitors of Lake Mburo normally visit Igongo cultural centre which is situated 4 kilometres away from Sanga entrance. This cultural site depicts the heritage, norms and traditions of most the western tribes like Banyankole, Bakiga, Batooro and Banyoro. There are lots of remains of the past kingdoms of the aforementioned tribes to sight in the centre. Crafts to act as souvenirs are also available within the cultural site.
Mountain Biking: this is another casual tourism activity carried out in Lake Mburo National park. The Biking safaris are managed and operated by Rwakobo rock and Leopard Trail Rest Camp at Nshara gate. The biking is done through the national park especially in the short savannah plains where the zebras and long horned cattle are found. The bikes are always in very good condition and safe for the riders. Biking is one of the most adventurous activities carried out in the park.
NB: Lake Mburo national park can be visited through the year. it is always open to the visitors. Though it is best visited in the dry season, this is the time when the roads are very passable.
Accessibility of Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National park is located in between Masaka and Mbarara along the main asphalt road that comes from Kampala up to the Rwanda border. It only takes about 4 hours from Kampala the capital of Uganda to Lake Mburo national park by road. It is about 228kms in between the two points. The park can also be reached from Kibale Forest national park through Ibanda and Rushere and from Queen Elizabeth national park via Ishaka and Mbarara. The park has three entrances, the grand entrance being the Kyanyashara gate near Mihingo lodge, Nshara gate in the south of the main road, 500m West of Akagate trading centre and the last one is Sanga Gate at the side of Sanga trading centre, 13km from Akagate and 27kms from Lyantonde.