Lake Mburo is Located in Western Uganda. It is the smallest savannah national park in Uganda. The Park is situated 30kilometres (19mi), by road, east of Mbarara Town.
It covers an area of 370square kilometers with an altitude of 1220 – 1828 meters above sea level. The Park has acacia dotted Savannah landscape spread across the rolling plains intercepted by beautiful hills most of which are underlain by ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back more than 500million years.
Together with 13 other lakes in the area, the Mburo Lake forms part of a 50km – long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these lakes lie within the park’s borders.
The park is accessible from two gates that is; The Nshara gate and Sanga gate. The sanga gate can be accessed from Sanga trading center which is about 14kilometers to the gate. The Nshara gate is 8kms from the main road. Both gates are not far from the Park Headquarters.
Lake Mburo was originally gazette in 1933 as a controlled hunting area and upgraded to a game reserve in 1963. The Banyankore – Bahima residents continued to graze their cattle in the reserve until it was upgraded to National Park status in 1983. The Obote government’s upgrade decision was intended, in part to weaken the Banyankore, who supported anti – Obote rebels. It came at this time of the Operation Bonanza massacre of 300,000people. As the evicted pastoralists were not compensated for lost grazing land or assisted with resettling, many remained hostile to the upgrade. The rangeland outside the park was subsequently subdivided into small ranges and subsistence plots.
In 1985, the second Obote regime fell and the previous residents of the lake Mburo re – occupied the park’s land, expelling park staff, destroying infrastructure, and killing wildlife. Less than half of the park’s original land area was eventually re – gazette by the National Resistance Movement (Current Uganda Government).
Flaura and Fauna
The Park’s varied habitats support 68mammal species and these include Zebras, Impalas, Cape Buffaloes, Hippos, Crocodiles, Warthogs, and Bush-pigs etc. It is one of the three protected areas countrywide where Burchell’s zebras occur, the other two being the far less accessible Kidepo-Valley National Park and Pian – Upe Game reserve.
Lake Mburo National Park crowns its fame with great populations of Impala - Aepyceros Melampus. The Impala has two subspecies including the common Impala and the larger dark black faced Impala. The great counts of Impala with their McDonald sign are viewed throughout the park grazing, playing, mating or even being chased by predators. It is the only Place in Uganda that supports massive herds of Impalas occurring naturally. Part of the park was de-gazetted about three decades ago and taken up by ranchers, who rear cattle. This has put the impalas under threat. It is against this background that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has sought to preserve some of the remaining species (impalas) by relocating some of them to a new home in north-eastern Uganda in a place known Pian Upe, a wildlife reserve. Kampala City Derives its name from here. The impala, belonging to the antelope family, dominated the grassy rolling hills of Kampala many years ago. However, due to the expansive human population, impalas gradually disappeared. Other Antelopes include; The Common Eland- Taurotragus Oryx (World’s second largest Antelope after the Giant Eland), Topi, Bushbuck, Common duiker, Oribi, Defassa waterbuck and Bofo reedbuck.
Only two diurnal primates occur in Mburo i.e. the velvet monkey and Olive Baboon. Nocturnal calls of the spotted Hyena can be heard through the night, Leopard, Side – striped jackal and various smaller predators are also present, most visibly the white – tailed mongoose and three Otter species reside in the lakes. Sitatunga confines itself to the swampy areas of the Park.
In 2015-2016, 15 Rothschild Giraffes (were translocated to the park from Murchison Falls Park in Nwoya District as part of UWA’s Objective to Diversify Wildlife Species and boost Tourism in the Country. The translocation also aimed at controlling the population of Giraffes in Murchison Falls National Park.
On 17th February 2015, a Lion was reported in the outskirts of the National park in Burungamo village Ngarama sub county, Isingiro District however it was killed in Interest of people’s lives. It is said to have come from Kagera Game Reserve in Tanzania. Lions therefore once existed in the National Park and because there are other adjacent Game areas, they could be coming in from those other places. However as of now they are extinct in the Park.
Birding in Lake Mburo
The National Park boosts of around 350Bird Species. Birding spots in the Park include the Swampy Valleys of Warukiri and Miriti and the roadsides between Rwonyo camp and the Jetty. There are ideally – situated viewing platforms at the salt lick, in Miriti Valley, and in Rubanga Forest. Rubanga Forest can be visited using a vehicle or on foot. It’s a real draw for keen birders with over 40bird species 5 of which are Forest specialists and prior arrangement should be made with the warden (UWA) at the park. The rare Red – faced Barbet is only seen in Lake Mburo and is one of the forest’s featured species. Some tree species here include; Marlhamia, Platycaluz, Acacia, Palm, Fig Trees. Species observed and recorded in the National Park include the following;
Rufous Bellied Heron
Grey Crowned Crane
Black bellied Bustard
Brown – Chested Lapwing
Emerald – spotted Wood-dove
Red – headed Lovebird
Bare – Faced Go-away bird
Green wood – hoopoe
Common Scimitar bill
White- headed Barbet
Grey – backed Cameroptera
Double - toothed barbet
Red – faced Barbet
Red-shouldered Cuckoo shrike
Long – tailed Cisticola
Yellow – breasted Apalis
White – winged stilt
African fin foot
African grey hornbill
Red necked spur fowl
Yellow throated long claw
Southern red Bishop
Abyssinian Ground hornbill
Rwonyo Rest Camp
Rwonyo is the center for tourism activities in the park. It is the starting point for nature hikes, quad biking, game drives and forest walks. There is also a small shop selling handcrafts and books.
Lake Mburo is a natural haven for fauna and flora. The bank teems with animals and birds. Crocodiles and hippopotami are permanent residents, and buffalos come to drink during the dry season. The wide variety of resident birds includes Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Rufous Long-tailed Starlings, Blue-headed Weavers, Green-necked Doves, Hamerkop, Pelicans, Herons, Cormorants and even rare Shoebills.
Though small, this tract of forest on the western side of Lake Mburo provides a taste of tropical high forest with a closed canopy and a viewing platform for visitors. It is home to a variety of forest birds; commoner species include the Harrier Hawk, Green Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Grey-backed Cameroptera and Double-toothed Barbet. Rubanga can be explored with a ranger guide.
There are several tracks on the eastern hinterland of the park where a variety of animals and birds can be seen. A hilltop viewpoint offers panoramic vistas of the park and its five lakes.
BIRDING IN LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK
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 Scimitar bill, White-headed Barbet, Red-faced Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-winged Tit and Fin foot 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.
LAUNCH TRIPS IN LAKE MBURO
The wildlife-rich eastern banks of Lake Mburo can be explored during a tranquil two-hour boat voyage. Keep an eye out for crocodiles, buffaloes and hippos as well as colorful Kingfishers, magnificent Fish Eagles, Hamerkop and their enormous nests and even the prehistoric-looking Shoebill. Voyages depart from Rwonyo jetty every two hours (subject to demand) starting at 8am.
GAME DRIVES IN LAKE MBURO
The network of game tracks in the east of the park passes a variety of landscape features; acacia woodland, wetlands, grassy hillsides, rock outcrops and seasonally flooded valley floors. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to roam the park in search of wildlife. An alternative view of the park, hopefully including sightings of animals rarely seen during the day, is provided by guided night drives. These start between 6.30-7pm and last two to three hours.
HIKING AND NATURE WALKS IN LAKE MBURO
Unusually, the whole park is open to walkers as long as they are accompanied by a ranger guide. At Rwonyo, a guided walk leads to a salt lick where many animals are attracted to the salty rocks.
Walks on the western side of the lake begin at 7am and take two hours. At this time of day, you may encounter hyenas returning to their dens and hippos retreating to the lake. Hikes through the woodland provide an opportunity to sight forest birds and mammals, while the walk to the top of the hill rewards visitors with a spectacular view of 9 of the region’s 14 lakes.
Of particular interest to walkers and birders is Rubanga Forest, which may be visited by prior arrangement and in the company of a ranger. All walks should be booked in advance.
HORSEBACK SAFARIS IN LAKE MBURO
Horseback safaris are an exciting way to view wildlife, including eland and buffalo. Also commonly sighted are warthog, topi, impala, duiker, bushbuck, waterbuck and zebra. The four-hour hacks take visitors up to hilltop viewpoints with the option of bush breakfasts or sundowners. This activity is arranged at Mihingo Lodge.
SPORT FISHING IN LAKE MBURO
Lake Mburo contains around six species of fish, with tilapia being the most common. The designated fishing spot is at Mazinga; visitors planning to fish here should carry their own equipment and obtain a permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority.
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