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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.

Geography and Climate

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.

Biodiversity

                                          
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.

Tourism

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.

Activities in Lake Mburo National Park include; Game drives in the rolling hills and open grasslands, Boat trip along Lake Mburo, Nature walk, sport fishing, Forest walk in Rubanga which offers an opportunity to view different bird species, as well as adventure activities like horseback riding and quad biking. Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park and also how best to book a particular activity for some of these activities require prior booking.

Park at a Glance

Size: 370km2

Altitude: 1,220m - 1,828m above sea level

Wetland habitats comprise 20% of the park's surface

The parks' precarious past has seen wildlife virtually eliminated several times: firstly in various attempts to rid the region of tsetse flies, then to make way for ranches, and finally as a result of subsistence poaching.

20% of the park's entrance fee is used to fund local community projects such as building clinics and schools.


Areas of Interest

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    Lake Mburo
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    Rubanga Forest
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    Game Tracks


Wildlife and birding

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Uganda Wildlife Authority
Plot 7 Kira Road, Kamwokya
P.O.Box 3530
Kampala, Uganda

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