Lake Mburo National Park is a prize above its peers for one reason. It was a game reserve long before Uganda was born. In the days when Nkore kings ruled the hills and plains of this region before Europe made contact with this part of Africa, the lands around Lake Mburo were protected as royal hunting grounds and no one was allowed to enter them without the Omugabe’s (king) permission. Even then, it was a legendary character in the myths of the Nkore people.
A story is told of two brothers, Mburo and Kagarama, who lived in the basin occupied by Lake Mburo today. One day Kagarama had a dream that the land would be flooded, but when he invited his brother Mburo to leave with him for higher ground, the latter declined. Soon enough a great flood came that filled the valley with water and buried Mburo within it. And that is the story of how this water body came to be known as Lake Mburo, and why the escarpment surrounding it is called Kagarama.
Lake Mburo (LMNP) is as ideal as a getaway can get. The accommodations are a blend of modern and rustic influences, there are options for all price ranges, and the park offers exclusive experiences like horseback and mountain bike safaris. Imagine riding a mountain bike past a herd of zappy zebra or watching a buffalo herd graze on horseback! It’s an experience no other park in Uganda offers.
The park’s wildlife list may not be the longest or the most diverse, but the one advantage this 370km2 park has over its peers is that visitors have better chances of spotting many of the animals in the park than elsewhere. The wildlife ranges from bats, primates, pangolins, rodents, and hares, to ungulates, carnivores, and aardvarks. Commonly sighted species include Zebra, Buffalo, Hippo, Warthog, Eland, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Impala, Crocodile, Baboon, and Monkey. The only lion in the park is elusive and it takes really good sight to see the leopard lounging in the tree, camouflaged by the mottled light of the tree canopy.
There are over 315 bird species recorded in LMNP, and the park is classified as one an Important Birding Areas. The parks mixed vegetation —forestland, wetland, acacia, and grassland— attracts so wide a diversity of birds that birders will do well to carry a guidebook to keep up. Bird species in LMNP include Pelican, Cormorant, Stork, Ibis and Spoonbill, Falcon, Crowned Crane, Vulture, Quail, Shoebill, Cuckoo, Swallow, etc.
The accommodations in the park are top of the range. There are Campsites, Lodges, Cottages, Bandas, for all price ranges. And the park is a short drive from the capital Kampala (220km) and Mbarara (36km). It is accessible by road and air.
ACTIVITIES IN THE PARK
Lake Mburo NP’s varied eco-systems supply some of the most scenic drives you will find in Africa. Ranging from savannah grasslands to acacia woodland and swamps, LMNP’s generally flat terrains make for excellent game drives and bird watching, the most popular activities for visitors to the park. But there is so much more.
Night Game Drive: These offer the best opportunity to see leopards as these crafty carnivores are renowned night prowlers, preferring to hunt in the dark when there’s less competition from bigger predators. Hyenas, Owls, Nightjars, and other nocturnal creatures can also be spotted on night drives.
Game Drives: This is the most popular activity in the park. Lake Mburo game drives promise good sightings. The tracks are many and well maintained because the park is small, and since most of the wildlife is concentrated around the lake, the animals in the park are easier to spot.
Birding/Nature Walks: Lake Mburo has four well-maintained walking trails (Lakeside, Rubanga, Rwonyo, Kigarama). Birding is done along these trails, and if you’re not into birds you may simply relish in the joy of walking in the wild.
Horseback Safaris: Imagine trekking the wild on horseback! It’s an amazing way to get close to wildlife without the polluting noises of car engines. Early rides can be arranged with bush breakfast, evening rides with sundowners, but the horses are few so booking is best done in advance.
Mountain Bike Safaris: They’re not just great for photos, they are a real deal bucket list experience. There is an armed escort of course so there are no chances of being eaten up by a wild animal, and that’s what makes these biking safaris greats—you are right there with the animals, not hiding in a metal cage hundreds of feet away.
Launch Trips: The park organizes daily boat rides on the lake. It’s a relaxing way to spot birds and in the afternoon you can spot animals watering at the shores of the lake.
Cultural Encounters: Community tourism has been part of this park longer than most parks in Uganda, and there are many options to interact with the local people and culture. For one, the nearby Igongo Cultural Centre is a gem of information on the region’s history and heritage, and you can meet the famous Ankore Long Horned Cattle in all communities near the park.