Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is one of Uganda’s smallest national parks, but it is also the closest to the capital city of Kampala, located about halfway en route from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. About a fifth of the park is covered by wetlands and swamps, and the rest includes a striking range of habitats, from tall ridges and rocky outcrops to riparian woodlands and flat savannah plains. All of this makes for fantastic birdwatching and rewarding wildlife experiences, including interactive activities such as horseback safaris, boat cruises, fishing and nature walks.
Halfway between Bwindi Inpenetrable Forest and Kampala/Entebbe – and the closest park to Uganda’s capital city – Lake Mburo National Park is a compact gem with a rich mosaic of habitats. Although the park covers just 370km2, its terrain ranges from rocky ridges with forested gorges, lush riparian woodland and both permanent and seasonal wetlands and swamps. These unspoilt habitats support a wealth of wildlife, including 68 mammal and over 350 bird species. Birders delight in regular sightings of rare birds like the African finfoot, shoebill storks and white-backed heron, as well as acacia-dwelling birds.
Together with another 14 lakes, Lake Mburo forms part of a wetland system some 50 kilometres long, fed by the Ruizi River (that lies along part of the park’s western border), which ultimately drains into Lake Victoria. Five of these lakes fall within the national park’s boundaries, which explains why up to 20% of the ground surface is covered by wetlands. The various types of swamps are home to a wide variety of wetland birds, as well as the shy sitatunga antelope – always a delightful sighting. Boat trips on Lake Mburo, at the heart of the park, are the best way to view many of the water birds that live here, as well as hippos and crocodiles along the fringes of the lake.
Look out for klipspringers atop the high, rocky ridges and outcrops that rise out of steep forested slopes in the west of the Park. In the eastern part, the rolling, wooded hills are intersected by wide, flat-bottomed valleys that flood seasonally and drain into the swamps and lakes.
Guided walking safaris are very rewarding here – with no resident lions and elephants, you can explore on foot to discover zebras (the park has an estimated population of 5 000, the largest in Uganda), reedbuck, oribi, eland, impala, klipspringers, buffalo, waterbuck, topi, warthog and the relatively recently introduced population of Rothschild’s giraffes. It is one of the few parks in Uganda that offers guided night drives. These reward sharp-eyed travellers with sightings of the often elusive leopard (Lake Mburo is said to have the highest concentration of leopards in Uganda), as well as hyenas, genets, bush pigs and white-tailed mongooses.
Despite its small size, Lake Mburo National Park offers a wide variety of activities that are perfect for travellers who want to engage more closely with nature or who have lots of energy. Nature walks, horseback-riding safaris, cycling safaris and fishing adventures on the lake give you opportunities to interact with the environment.
As the park is in the heart of the Ankole region, where humans have settled adjacent to wildlife for generations, you can experience insightful community and cultural tours. Visit the famous Igongo cultural centre, or witness life on an Banyankole farm including traditional hand milking of the famous Ankole long-horned cattle.