Lake Mburo National Park is a very special place; every part of it is alive with variety, interest and colour. Lake Mburo National Park contains an extensive area of wetland and harbours several species of mammals including zebras, impalas, elands, topi and buffaloes. The bird population includes the rare Shoebill stork. Its sculptured landscape with rolling grassy hills and idyllic lakeshores has a varied mosaic of habitats: forest galleries, rich acacia tree valleys, seasonal and permanent swamps which all support a wealth of wildlife. The park is only 370sq km and the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks. Its mosaic habitat: dry hillside, rocky outcrops, bushes, thickets, open and wooded savannahs, forests, lakes and swamps are home to a surprising diversity of plants and animals.
How to go there
The park is accessed from the Masaka-Mbarara road; turn left to Nshara gate (13kms past Lyantonde) or alternatively turn left at Sanga trading centre (27kms past Lyantonde) which brings you through Sanga gate. Both junctions have clearly marked signposts. It is about13 km from Sanga trading centre to Sanga gate and 8 km from the main road to Nshara gate. It is about 20 minutes drive from either gate to Rwonyo park headquarters.
Lake Mburo has convenient accommodation and Uganda Wildlife Authority offers a range of budget accommodation in the park. Furthermore, on the eastern side of Lake Mburo, permanent tents are accessible at Rwonyo Rest Camp as Beautiful campsite is positioned on the lakeshore, just 1km to the south. Lakeside chalets will soon be available nearby at Arcadia cottages.
For those interested in up market accommodation, it’s found at the mantana Tented Camp. Which takes pleasure in a hilltop location just about 3.5km north of Rwonyo, as well as at mihingo lodge which stands on a rocky kopje outside the eastern boundary of the park?
ATTRACTIONS IN LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK
Flora and fauna
The scenery of Lake Mburo has a variety of vegetative habitats surrounded by the open water. The lake’s western side is dominated by a grassy escarpment rising above a shoreline fringed with acacia forest as well as the closed canopy Rubanga forest. To the north and east, grassy valley floors, made seasonally lush and soggy by rain drain between undulating hills. These seep through expanses of wetland into the lake. Rock kopjes are found along the eastern margins of the park.
These varied habitats tend to support an impressive variety of wildlife including 68 mammal species. Among which include some rarities. Lake Mburo is the only park in Uganda to contain impala as well as the only one in the rift region to host
Burch ell’s zebra and eland. Furthermore In Uganda, topi are only found in Lake Mburo in addition to Queen Elizabeth National Parks. Commoner species include warthog, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck and reedbuck. Leopard along with hyena are also present while hippo as well as crocodile are also found in the lake.
The park has several tourist attractions and among which include the very respectable bird list with around 315 species recorded to date including the shoebill, papyrus yellow warbler, African fin foot, saddle billed stork, brown chested wattled plover, carruther’s cisticola, Tabora cisticola,great snip, Abyssinian ground horn bill as well as white winged warbler. Acacia woodland bird species are particularly well represented while forest species may well be found in Rubanga forest
Even though small, this tract of forest on the western side of Mburo gives a taste of a tropical high forest with canopy as well as a home to a variety of forest bird species. Rut may well be explored with a ranger guide.
Rwonyo Rest Camp
Rwonyo is the centre as well as the most exciting for tourism activities in the park. The Rest Camp is the starting point for nature walks and also an interpretation centre on the hilltop behind the rest camp describes the park’s history in addition to its biodiversity.
Conservation Education Centre
Due to the many activities, the park has a conservation education centre, just about 1km sanga gate. This offers accommodation as well as an education hall for school groups, visitor’s seminars as well as workshops
The eastern shores of Lake Mburo may well be explored by boat, departing from a jetty at the lakeside campsite near Rwonyo.
Watch out for crocodile as well as hippopotamus during the 2-hour voyage, in addition to birds including pelicans, heron, cormorant along with fish eagle and perhaps even the rare shoebill stork
As a result of guided walks, one explores the park around Rwonyo, culminating in a visit to a natural salt lick surrounded by wildlife. Furthermore Viewing is facilitated by a timber observation platform.
The eastern hinterland of Lake Mburo is served by a network of game tracks along with a variety of savanna animals as well as birds that may perhaps be sighted. Among the common animals include the impala which is along the impala Track as the zebra frequent the grassy valley floors traversed by the zebra Track. This connects to the Rukoro Track which runs through rock kopjes that are home to the elusive klipspringer.
In the south of the park, the Lakeside Track passes through dense woodland – home to bush buck as well as bush duiker – to Kigambira Hill which gives a panoramic view of lake mburo.This lake, in addition to seven more, may possibly still be seen from the kazuma Hill lookout close to the kazuma Track.
ACTIVITIES IN LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK
Lake Mburo National Park has a number of tourist tracks that are used for game drives.
Impala track exposes the visitor to a diverse species of animals. Impala is the most common species viewed along this track although one may sight a number of waterbucks, warthogs, topis and zebras.
Zebra track leads to harems of Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli) with other species like bushbucks, oribi and reedbucks. The zebra track leads to the junction of Ruroko track, a drive through a wetland basin and thick acacia shrub and woodland, with olive trees and euphorbia species. Kopjes (rock outcrops) found along the Ruroko track, are home to elusive klipspringers to which the rock is the best habitat.
Kazuma track passes through wooded grassland where black-bellied bustards often patrol the area. For visitors to experience a real exposure of Lake Mburo National Park, they should climb Kazuma hill, which is high enough to enable them to see what they could have missed. The five lakes within the park and the rolling hills become more visible and attractive. Its better seen than read or heard!
Kigambira loop takes you through a wooded wilderness with scattered thicket and while you are here, look out for bushbucks and bush duikers.
The Lakeside track is specially designed to facilitate viewing of water plants and animals. The park has a diversity of water birds and woodland birds which can be sighted along these tracks.
This forest offers a variety of habitats, conducive for birds thereby making it a very attractive place for bird watchers. There are over 40 species of birds recorded in Rubanga forest, five of which are forest “specialists”. Some of the common species are the Harrier hawk, Green pigeon, Narina trogn, Grey-backed cameroptera and Double-toothed barbet. The forest, though small, is a real high forest with closed canopy. Some common trees are markhamia platy calyx, sapium, erythriana and acacia.
The presence of Lake Mburo within the park is a blessing. The lake is rich with a diversity of animal and plant species, which can only be viewed clearly while on a boat trip. These include crocodiles, hippopotami and birds like Pelicans, Black crake, Heron, Cormorant and Fish eagle but you may also see the rare Shoebill stork, all of which will furnish your visit with pride. The duration of each boat ride is 2 hours maximum, but arrangements for extra time can be made with management at an extra fee.
Lake Mburo is one of the parks in Uganda where nature walks can freely be done anywhere in the park in the company of armed game rangers. A better target is the viewing platform that overlooks a salt lick about 2km from Rwonyo Camp. It is the best place to see a wide variety of animals as they are attracted to this place to lick the salty soil. Off Rwizi track is the Rubanga forest which is of great interest to walkers and birders. This place can only be visited in the company of an armed ranger.
The nature trail offers the visitor a chance to admire nature incite. Visitors have the opportunity to walk in the circuit at their own pace in company of an armed guide. Information on trails is also available
A walk to the nearby salt lick is a climax of it all. A strategically located wooden platform (Observation point) offers a chance to see at least four different species of animals at any one time while they lick the salty soil. The observation point is strategically located in such a way that close observation can be done without distracting the animals from their salt licking.
Lake Mburo has about 6 species of fish, the common one being tilapia (Oreochromis leucostictes). Visitors planning to enjoy sport fishing on Lake Mburo should carry their own fishing gear and fish at the designated point at Mazinga. A restaurant is available at Campsite 2 to ensure maximum relaxation for visitors while at the lake.