Lake Mburo National Park lies between the towns of Masaka and Mbarara in western Uganda, 228km from Kampala about 3 ½ hrs drive. Two gates enter the park from the Mbarara road. Approaching from Kampala, the turning to Nshara gate is 13kms past Lyantonde. The junction for Sanga gate is at the Sanga trading centre, 27 kms past Lyantonde. Both junctions are clearly signposted. It is about 20 minutes drive from either gate to Rwonyo.
A variety of vegetative habitats surround the open waer of lake Mburo. The lake’s western side is dominated by a grassy escarpment rising above a shoreline fringed with acacia forest and the closed canopy Rubanga forest. To the north and east, grassy valley floors, made seasonally lush and soggy by rain, drain between undulating hills. These seep through expanses of wetland into the lake. Rock kopjes are found along the eastern margins of the park.
These varied habitants support an impressive variety of wildlife including 68 mammal species. These include some rarities. Lake Mburo is the only park in Uganda to contain impala and the only one in the rift region to host Burchell’s zebra and eland. In Uganda, topi are only found in Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. Commoner species include warthog, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck and reedbuck. Leopard and hyena are also present while hippo and crocodile are found in the lake.
The park also has a very respectable birdlist with around 315 species recorded to date including the shoebill, papyrus yellow warbler, African finfoot, saddle billed stork, brown chested wattled plover, Carruther’s cisticola, Tabora cisticola, great snipe, Abyssinian ground hornbill and white winged warbler. Acacia woodland bird species are especially well represented while forest species may be found in Rubanga Forest.
Rwonyo is the centre for tourism activities in the park. The Rest Camp is the starting point for the nature walks while an interpretation centre on the hilltop behind the rest camp describes the park’s history and biodiversity.
The eastern shores of Lake Mburo can be explored by boat, departing from a jetty at the lakeside campsite near Rwonyo. Watch out for crocodile and hippopotamus during the 2-hour voyage, as well as birds including pelicans, heron, cormorant and fish eagle and perhaps even the rare shoebill stork.
Fishermen with their own equipment may fish in the lake from the campsite by arrangement.
Guided walks explore the park around Rwonyo, culminating in a visit to a natural salt lick frequented by wildlife. Viewing is facilitated by a timber observation platform.
The eastern hinterland of Lake Mburo is served by a network of game tracks along which a variety of savanna animals and birds can be sighted. Impala are most commonly seen along the Impala Track while zebra frequent the grassy valley floors traversed by the Zebra Track. This connects to the Ruroko Track which passes rock kopjes that are home to the elusive klipspringer.
In the south of the park, the Lakeside Track passes through dense woodland – home to bushbuck and bush duiker – to Kigambira Hill which provides a panoramic view of Lake Mburo. This lake, and seven more, can also be seen from the Kazuma Hill lookout close to the Kazuma Track.
Though small, this tract of forest on the western side of Lake Mburo provides a taste of a tropical high forest with closed canopy and is home to a variety of forest bird species. Rubanga can be explored with a ranger guide.
The park has a conservation education centre, 1km west of Sanga gate. This provides accommodation and an education hall for school groups, visitors, seminars and workshop.
UWA provides a range of budget accommodation in the park. On the eastern side of Lake Mburo, permanent tents are available at Rwonyo Rest Camp while a beautiful campsite is positioned on the lakeshore, 1km to the south. Lakeside chalets will soon be available nearby at Arcadia Cottages.
Upmarket accommodation is found at the Mantana Tented Camp, which enjoys a hilltop location 3.5km north of Rwonyo, and at Mihingo Lodge which stands on a rocky kopje just outside the eastern boundary of the park.
Lake Mburo National Park is a gem of a park, conveniently located close to the western highway that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. Though the park is just 370km2 in size, its landscapes are varied and even a short drive is alive with interest and color. You’ll pass gallery forest, open savanna and acacia woodland, rock kopjes, seasonal and permanent swamps, and open water, as you search for the wealth of wildlife they support. This includes species such as impala, Burchell’s zebra, and eland that are not found elsewhere in western Uganda.