Find more at: www.mulenisafaris.com

LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK

 Lake Mburo National Park is a compact gem, located conveniently close to the highway that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. It is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and 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 contains 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.

 History

Lake Mburo was originally gazetted in 1933 as a Controlled Hunting Area and upgraded to a Game Reserve in 1963. The Banyankole Bahima residents continued to graze their cattle in the Reserve until it was upgraded to National Park status in 1983. The Obote government's decision to upgrade the Park was reportedly in part intended to weaken the Banyankole, who supported anti-Obote rebels. As the evicted pastoralists were not compensated for lost grazing land or assisted with resettling, many remained hostile to the Park's formation. The rangeland outside the park was subsequently subdivided into small ranges and subsistence farming plots.

In 1985 the second Obote regime fell and the previous residents of Lake Mburo re-occupied the Park's land, expelling park staff, destroying infrastructure and annihilating wildlife. Less than half of the Park's original land area was eventually re-gazetted by the NRM government in 1986.
Lake Mburo National Park 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 contains 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.

Lake Mburo National Park supports globally threatened species of birds, including two of the endangered cichlid fish species which have gone extinct in the main lakes and it is the only area in Uganda in which the Impala is found. The park also provides refuge to 22 species of Palaearctic and Afro-tropical migrant birds during adverse conditions, within the wooded Savanna with Acacia/Commiphora thicket and grasslands.

The Flora is Acacia hockii which is one of the dominant tree species. Fivespecies of wetland dependent plants belonging to 5 genera have been recorded in the Lake Mburo area. -
Pre-Cambrian rocks underlie Lake Mburo area, with the rocks comprising of a mixture of Cenozoic Pleistocene to Recent rocks, wholly granitized–Granitoid and highly granitized rocks, and Karagwe – Ankolean system. Argillite rocks predominate but are more arenites and silty rocks, which are regularly, distributed as thin bands throughout the area. The area is predominated by ferrallitic soils which are mainly sandy loams and sandy clay loams.

Lake Mburo National park contains a wide variety of habitat types, which gives it a surprisingly high diversity of animals and plants for its size. The system is a unique habitat, which lies at the convergence zone of two biological zones. It supports globally threatened species of birds, supports two of the endangered cichlid fish species which have gone extinct in the main lakes and it is the only system in Uganda in which the Impala is found. The system also provides refuge to 22 species of Palaearctic and Afro-tropical migrant birds during adverse conditions.

The Lake Mburo wetland system is of immense socio-economic value. It is a source of water for domestic use, livestock and wildlife. The system is source of pasture for the local herds during droughts, a source of fish and source of materials for crafts and thatching. The park's location near the Masaka-Mbarara highway makes it easily accessible from Kampala.

Lake Mburo National Park has a tropical climate found in the Ankole-Southern climatic zone. Lake Mburo National Park lies in a rain shadow area between Lake Victoria and the Rwenzori Mountains. The park has two marked seasons, the rain and dry seasons and receives a bi-modal low rainfall ranging between 500 and 1000 mm. But the rainfall tends to be erratic and unreliable, causing shortage of pastures and thus affecting the behaviour of wildlife, including birds, and creating demands on the park by local Pastoralists. Temperature ranges between 23 – 25 degrees Celsius. Evapotranspiration of areas northwest, north, and north east to east, ranges between 1450 – 1600 mm. However, areas south and south west of the park experience a much lower evapotranspiration ranging between 1300 – 1450 mm - See more at: 
Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season. Available tourist accommodation includes lodges notably Mihingo Lodge, Mantana Tented Camp, Arcadia Cottages, Rwakobo Rock, Mburo Safari Lodge, Mpogo Lodge, Eagle’s Nest Lodge, Rwonyo Camp Site, and many other options in the nearby towns of Mbarara and Lyantonde. The Park is well situated on the Kampala – Mbarara highway and is a great stop over while connecting to the attractions of the further western part of Uganda.

 
Areas of Interest

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

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, Hammerkops, Pelicans, Herons, Cormorants and even rare Shoebills.

Rubanga Forest

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.

Game Tracks

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

Wildlife and Birding Summery

Wildlife

The park's varied habitats support 68 mammal species. Rarities include impala, which, in Uganda, only lives in Lake Mburo, and Burchell’s zebra and eland which are found only here and in Kidepo.
Other species include warthog, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck and reedbuck. Leopard and hyena are also present while crocodile and over 300 hippos are found in the lake. Previously extinct in the park, lions have recently been sighted again.

Birds

Around 350 bird species have been recorded to date. These include the Red-faced Barbet, only seen in Lake Mburo, the endemic African Finfoot and the rare Shoebill. Other key species are the Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Saddle-billed Stork, Brown-chested Lapwing, African-wattled Lapwing, Carruther’s Cisticola, Tabora (Long-tailed) Cisticola, African Scops Owl, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and White-winged Warbler.

Acacia woodland bird species are especially well represented, while forest species may be found in Rubanga forest. These include Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Hairy-breasted Barbet and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, among others.
 
ACTIVITIES

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 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 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.

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, Hammerkops and their enormous nests and even the prehistoric-looking Shoebill. Voyages depart from Rwonyo jetty every two hours (subject to demand) starting at 8am.

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