Uganda is a beautiful country - lush and green (which means it gets its fair share of rain). Uganda has a variety of wildlife and birdlife that is unmatched by almost any other country, with the big draw being the mountain gorilla. But there are lots of other things to see along the way. We planned a 12-day tour which covered most of the south-western part of Uganda. For Uganda, we decided to use a tour company, who provided a car and driver for our 12-day itinerary. We decided to not self-drive in Uganda to give us some time to adjust to what being on the road in Africa might be like. It turned out to be a good decision!
Lake Mburo is the smallest National Park, but as it is only a few hours from Kampala and Entebbe it is a popular stop-off at the beginning or end of a tour of Uganda. For us, it was our last stop in Uganda.
One of the best ways of exploring the park is a walking safari. There are no elephants, rhinos or big cats here so it is perfectly safe to spend a few hours walking around, accompanied by a Park Ranger.
We had an early start. The rain of the last few days had increased the humidity and the coldness of the morning caused a dense fog to form. I was concerned about how much we’d see. When we reached the park gates our guide Ranger jumped into our car and off, we went. We had not gone far when we saw the first zebras of our trip to Africa. It was so exciting – Mugabe and the Ranger seemed less excited for some reason. We later found out that there were over 20000 zebras in the park.
Much to our relief, the fog had lifted a bit, and out of the mist appeared a lot of giraffes. These were Rothschild giraffes. A small number had been introduced from the Murchison Falls herd, and they had been thriving with their numbers growing fast. This tour was on foot, which was possible as there are no predators in Lake Mburo. It was wonderful to walk among the giraffes, which are very gentle creatures – although they pack a kick, so it is not wise to get too close. In this herd, we saw about 20 giraffes, including several babies.
As we walked around following in a line behind the Ranger we spotted other animals in the mist, including impala and topi. And of course, in the distance, more zebra. Despite the recent rains, everything was dry, and the water holes looked very dry. We came across a large burrow dug by a warthog. The Ranger said it was dangerous to stand in front of the burrow for two reasons. Firstly, the warthogs reverse in so when they come out it would be a full charge which would not work out well for you. Secondly, and the most worrisome was the fact that spitting cobras like to hang out in the openings of the warthog holes. After a couple of hours of gentle walking, we met back up with our driver. On the way out of the park, we met a few zebras and just had to stop for a photo or two.
About Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is a very special place; every part of it is alive with variety, interest and colour. It contains an extensive area of wetland and also harbours several species of mammals and birds found nowhere else in Uganda. Its sculptured landscape, with rolling hills and idyllic lake shores has a varied mosaic of habitats; forest galleries, seasonal and permanent swamps, rich acacia-woodland and grassy valleys which all support a wealth of wildlife.
At 370 square km, Lake Mburo National Park is small in comparison with many other East African parks, but with its rich variety of habitats; dry hillsides, rocky outcrops, bushy thickets, open and wooded savannah, forest, lakes and swamps, it is home to a surprising diversity of plants and animals.
Lake Mburo is the only park in Uganda with eland, impala and klipspringer. It is also home to the largest population of zebra in Uganda estimated at about 5,000 and probably contains the highest concentration of leopard found anywhere in Uganda. Buffalo, waterbuck, topi and warthog are also very common. Reedbuck and oribi can also be spotted in the open valleys. Hyena, genet, bush pigs and white tailed mongoose are often seen on night game drives.
At the centre of the Park is Lake Mburo, which together with 14 other lakes in the area, forms part of a wetland system. This system is linked by a swamp some 50 km long, fed by the Ruizi River on the western side. Five lakes, of which the largest is Lake Mburo, occur within the Park’s boundary.
Almost a fifth of the Park’s area consists of wetlands – both seasonally flooded and permanent swamps. The various types of swamps are home to a wide variety of wetland birds, as well as the shy, rare sitatunga antelope.
Planning your visit to Mburo
Lake Mburo National Park is handily located between Kampala and Mbarara, the major stopover between the capital and the parks in the west of the country.
The distance from Kampala to Lake Mburo is about 228km and will likely take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours depending on the road conditions. There are two gates, Sanga and Nshara, and from these, it is about 2km along a bumpy dirt road to Rwonyo where the entrance is found.
Scheduled flights to Mbarara can be booked through Fly Uganda.
Using a tour company
The easiest way of touring Uganda is with a tour company, which will provide a car and driver. We travelled with Matoke Tours, a local company. There are plenty of others who will help you plan your trip.
Driving in Uganda is not for the faint-hearted. The roads are not in good condition and can be treacherous when it rains and there are plenty of other dangers, mostly from other drivers of cars, motorcycles and carts – and you will come across plenty of domestic animals who think they own the roads
Best time to visit Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is open year-round, but the Dry seasons from June to August and December to February are the best times for general wildlife viewing as animals gather around the swamp, lake and other water holes.
There are a few lodges and places to stay around Lake Mburo National Park. We were booked into the Rwakaobo Rock. The lodge is located just outside the National Park and is perched, as the name suggests, on a rocky outcrop. From here you are treated to stunning views across the surrounding farmland and savannahs. If you are lucky you will get to see the most amazing sunsets!
The lodge building and accommodations are set on the west side of the Rwakaobo Rock, but there is an easy trail that takes you to the very top and from here the views are even better.
The main building of Rwakaobo Rock is a large open-plan space, which includes a bar, a lounge area and a restaurant. The views from here are magnificent, which makes it a nice place to enjoy a sundowner and your meals. The food was good – they had a vegetarian option with each meal, which was very tasty. Like all the places we stayed in Uganda the cost of alcoholic drinks was surprisingly reasonable – even for imported brands.
There is Wi-Fi, which is only available in the main building. Of course, it is not great and you might only be able to pick up emails and not much more. But this is the bush!
Outside the main building, there is a deck with seating, where you get the best views of the sun setting. There is also a small pool – again with a view.
The accommodation at Rwakaobo Rock is made up of thatched cottages. We stay at the ‘monkey’ chalet which was one of the furthest away from the main building and down the hill. It was only a five-minute walk back to the lodge.
The chalets are basic with a small bedroom and an ensuite bathroom. The rooms are basic, even rustic, but comfortable for a stay of a day or two. There is no air conditioning so it might be a little sticky during hot weather.