Expert Reviews – Lake Mburo NP
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
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Hilly gateway to the western safari circuit
Lake Mburo’s billing as the last Ugandan stronghold for the impala – an abundant antelope elsewhere in southern Africa – smacks slightly of desperation. But while, this low-key national park doesn’t really bear comparison to the likes of Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls further west it is the ideal place to break up the otherwise long drive from the capital Kampala to the key reserves of the western safari circuit. Once there, it has plenty to commend it. I always enjoy the boat trips on the eponymous lake, which is teeming with hippos and water-associated birds, notably the localised African finfoot. Back on terra firma, the wildlife densities are surprisingly high, perhaps due to the absence of lions, and it is the only place in south-central Uganda where you’re likely to see zebra, the immense eland antelope,and giraffes, which were recently translocated from Murchison Falls. Also present are a host of colourful acacia woodland birds more normally associated with Tanzania – and birding in the open savanna makes a welcome change from craning necks toward the forest canopy. In recent years, it has also developed a good reputation to see leopards, especially on night drives, while recently added activities include horseback and walking safaris. Overall, this isn’t a park I’d go out of my way to visit, but equally I always look forward to, and enjoy, my stop there en route to Bwindi Impenetrable or Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.
An Oasis Amongst Farmland
This park is actually a series of lakes, a wetland area surrounded by grassy savannah peppered with thickets of woodland. For sweeping views of the magnificent landscape, scale Kazuma Lookout. The park is hemmed in by surrounding farmland and livestock often encroach the park’s boundaries. Lake Mburo has several species that are difficult to track down in other Ugandan parks, including Rothschild’s giraffe and Burchells’ zebra.
The park isn’t really big enough for elephants, hence their absence. With regard to predators, you’re a good chance of spotting a leopard once the sun goes down, but don’t hold your breath for a lion sighting – there was only one male left in the park when I visited. There are plenty of hippo in the lakes and a boat trip is a relaxing way to spot them.
Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
A neat small park good for a stopover on the way to primate country
One of Uganda’s few savannah parks, Lake Mburo is easily accessible thanks to its central location off the main road that crosses between Kampala and the forested reserves and parks in the west. You can even reach it by public transport – combined with a boda-boda (motorbike), taxi or lodge pick-up for the last several kilometres to the gate. Numbers of game are not in the high concentrations found at Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls, but nonetheless I’ve always found it a pleasant overnight stop midway between the capital and the gorillas. The peaceful afternoon boat cruise from Rwonyo on Lake Mburo is excellent for bird and hippo-watching and seeing buffalo in the marshes. I’ve enjoyed the early morning walks from the lodges too - a good chance to see the likes of warthog and impala close up and to stretch the legs before climbing back into the vehicle and travelling on. A striking feature of this park is the amount of zebra, often seen on the approach roads grazing alongside Ankole cattle with their enormous heavy white horns.
Tim is a travel writer who has covered 10 African countries for Lonely Planet's Africa, East Africa and West Africa guidebooks.
The place for zebra
Lake Mburo’s popularity has more to do with its location, conveniently situated between Kampala and several other national parks, than it does with its wildlife since many signature species, like elephants and lions, are missing. On the other hand, I still highly recommend a stop because it’s the only place south of the Nile River with zebra and it’s a good place to see some of the more beautiful but less common antelope like impala, klipspringer, topi, and roan antelope. The real appeal of the park, however, is how you see the wildlife rather than what you see because there are plenty of opportunities to get out of your 4x4. Most tempting are the horseback safaris, but there are also boat trips and bush walks. Night drives are allowed too.
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
Lake Mburo – a true oasis for plains creatures
This little park is pretty enough, but for me, it lacks any real WOW factor. A game drive will give you good sightings of the usual plains animals like zebras, giraffes and interestingly enough, impalas, which are absent from other parks in Uganda. Maybe unfairly, I find it hard to get very excited about these gracious antelopes, which are so abundant in my part of the world (South Africa). One of the more exciting animals I saw is bushpigs. Apparently they are quite often seen here in broad daylight. Despite their wide distribution throughout Africa they are rarely spotted in other places which makes them a real special for this park. Another treat to see was the greater galago, which is a regular visitor at night at Mihingo Lodge. A highlight on my last visit was a horseback safari. We managed to get pretty close to a herd of buffalo this way. Walking safaris and biking on the park boundary is also offered.