Guide to visiting the Lake Mburo National Park
With its 260 square kilometres, Lake Mburo National Park is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks. It is located in Kiruhura District in western Uganda, about 30 kilometres by road, east of Mbarara, the largest city in the sub-region. The Park boasts several wildlife species not observed elsewhere in Uganda, and its vegetation is mainly open savannah of acacia trees, Olea and Boscia. Lake Mburo Park is famous for being the only place in Uganda where you can spot zebras (with Kidepo N.P.) and impala (a significant population). During a safari, can also be seen as eland, topi, bushbuck, common duiker, oribi, waterbuck, reedbuck, vervet monkey and olive baboon, and pitons. At the same time, the lake itself and the lush vegetation along the banks is home to buffalo, warthog, bush-pig and hippopotamus and an incredible variety of bird species. There are no elephants or rhinos either.
The Park should also boast leopard and spotted hyena, but it’s sporadic to spot them. There is a place in the Park locally known as the “leopard rock” where leopards in Lake Mburo are “usually” seen, but the chance is better with a night game drive when the animals are hunting. Giraffes used to be non-existent in Lake Mburo. Still, they were recently introduced by Uganda Wildlife Authority in a small number, transferred from Murchison Falls National Park to ensure the survival of this endangered species. These are Rothschild’s giraffes, an endangered species of which only 1600 remain in the world, and of these, 800 live in Uganda. It is also possible to see this species of giraffe in Kenya, where there is a centre for recovery and conservation – the Giraffe Center – in Nairobi.
What to see and do in Mburo National Park
Mburo Lake is the only Uganda National Park where you can do a “walking safari” through the savannah and get close to the wild animals. Other activities are “horse-riding“, “sport fishing” and the beautiful “Mburo Lake cruise“. During our 2 game drives, we spotted zebras, impalas, warthogs, buffalos, several antelopes, baboons, vervet monkeys, but above all, a huge python that had just eaten a small antelope.
Is it possible to spot Lions in Mburo National Park?
Unfortunately, there are no lions because the Park is also home to the Ankole’s cattle cared for by the traditional Bahima pastoralists, and there are no fences that separate them from the wild animals. The guide told us that time ago, because of the lack of barriers, the lions attacked and killed the cattle (obviously more easy to hunt); Therefore, to sort the problem out, the cattle keepers left dead, poisoned cows to lure and kill the innocent felines with the hope that the Park would be converted into grazing land for their cattle. Unfortunately, that evil technique was largely successful.
Cruise on the Mburo Lake
The activity we liked most was the relaxing cruise on Lake Mburo (about 2 hours – from 4 pm to sunset), where we spotted hippos, crocodiles, a myriad of birds and dozens of fish eagles. The wide variety of resident birds includes finfoots, malachite kingfishers, pied kingfishers, African fish eagles, Rüppell’s long-tailed starlings, blue-headed coucals, tambourine doves, hammerkops, pelicans, herons, cormorants, red-faced barbets, grey crowned cranes, papyrus yellow warblers and even rare shoebills.
In the end, if you have time, maybe on your way back to Kampala/Entebbe or if you are sleeping in the capital city for a couple of days, it’s really worth visiting this National Park and its beautiful lake teeming with wildlife.
Need to know about Mburo Lake National Park
1. How to get there
The Park is 230 km from Kampala (4 hours drive), 260 km from Kisoro (5 hrs drive) and 200 km from Lake Bunyonyi (4 hrs drive). The main city close to the park is Mbarara, 60 km and at least 1 hours and a half drive. We visited the park on our way back to Kampala, coming from Kisoro. Coming from Kampala, the closest gate is “Nshara gate”, from Kisoro it is “Sanga gate”.
2. Where to sleep
In the vicinity of the Park, there are very few accommodations, while the city of Mbarara offers a slightly wider choice. However, the advice is to stay near the Mburo National Park and not in Mbarara.
Near Lake Mburo, you will find Mburo Safari Lodge, a luxurious eco-lodge; The Eagles Nest Camp, a beautiful tented camp located on a high hill bordering the park from which you can also enjoy a wonderful panoramic view (near the Sanga gate and where we slept); The Leopard rest camp, a budget camp located just outside the Nshara gate (they also have tents equipped with beds); Hyena Hill Lodge, excellent accommodation just 5.5 km from the Park.
The accommodations offer the activities in the Park, so you can also book with them.
3. Our activities in Mburo Lake National Park
Coming from Kisoro, we reached the park gate around 3 pm. We went straight to the small dock on the lake for the boat cruise. Here is a small building with a souvenir shop and a ranger to buy your ticket (departure at 4 pm). After the cruise, we had a 1-hour game drive till sunset. The next day, early in the morning, we first did the walking safari with a ranger (2 hours walking) and a 3 hours game drive. We left the park around 1 pm towards Kampala.
4. When to go
Lake Mburo NP is open year-round, but the best moment to visit, it’s during the dry seasons from June to August and December to February. During these months, it’s easier to spot the wildlife as animals gather around the lake and other water sources. From March to May and September to November, you’ll come across high rainfalls, and travelling could be more challenging.
5. Traveller’s safety
The Park lies in a safe area, so as most of the Park in Uganda. About the health situation, malaria is endemic in Uganda; remember to protect yourself, especially at night, by applying a mosquito repellent that contains at least 30% DEET and using long-sleeved clothing. Furthermore, for entry into the country, it is mandatory to be vaccinated against yellow fever.
For more information about safety and the health situation, always check the official website of your Foreign Minister. It is highly recommended to consult a travel medicine specialist to assess travel-related risks and have information to ensure your health and safety.
Don’t forget to take out travel insurance during a trip, even if you’re only going for a few days. Especially to cover the medical expenses because, in case you need, they could be very high. We always do our travel insurance with Worldnomad.com. Remember to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs.