Uganda Travel Series Part 7
Lake Mburo National Park
But No Lions, Giraffe or Elephants
First a “factual little” history of the area…..
Lake Mburo National Park is only a 3 hour drive from Kampal, which is one of the main reasons the wildlife populations are not as dense as other parks in Uganda. There are lots of Zebra in Lake Mburo, so you may see it listed in tourist magazines as” the home for zebras”. It is a well developed national park full of stands of Acacia trees and grassy lands that surround Lake Mburo. Lake Mburo is the largest of five lakes in the area, and is very common to view antelopes, eland, zebra, buffalo, topi, heartbeests, hippo, and impala on game drives. It is sad, but there are no lions, elephant or giraffe as they are extinct here.
One draw to this area for those not interested in big game, is the birds. The lakes and wet lands attract many birding enthusiast. Here is a very small list of the birds that can found: the maribou stork, cheeky bronze-tailed starlings, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Brown Parrot, Uganda’s crested crane, and bee-eaters, Crested Francolin, Barefaced Go-away bird, Greenwood Hoopoe, Blue-napped Mousebird, Rednecked Spur, common Quails, Black-billed Barbet, Lilac-breasted Roller, Trilling Cisticola. African-grey Hornbill, Nubian Woodpecker, Coqui Francolin, Rednecked spurfowl, Rufous napped and Flappet larks, Rufuos chested Swallow, Black Bellied Bustard, Temminck’s Courser, African-wattled Plover, Yellow-throated Long claw and the Southern Red Bisho. There are over 300 species of birds, so birders bring your binoculars.
How Lake Mburo Got It’s Name
The story goes that two brothers named Kigarama and Mburo lived in a large valley. Kigarama dreamt that the two brothers were in danger one night. The next morning, Kigarama told his brother Mburo about his dream, and told him that should move. Mburo ignored this brothers advice, but Kigarama decided to move up to the hills. Shortly after there was a great flood, and it formed a lake. The lake was given the name of the bother who drowned, Mburo. The hills surrounding the lake are named after Kigarama his wiser brother.
Traveling to Lake Mburo National Park
We were up early for the drive to Lake Mburo National Park. We left Bwindi and the gorillas behind. I was exhausted, and still reeling from the very emotional and physical draining day I had experienced the day before. The dreaded dirt and dust were back as we bumped along the rutted, bumpy roadways. However, the scenery was quite lovely as we drove past the green terraced, and rolling hills of Kigezi. The area is called “the Switzerland” of Uganda. This is where we got our first glimps of the Ankole cattle with their spectacularly long horns. The extraordinaryly long horns look too heavy for the cattle to even hold up-right, but they are actually hollow. The horns are massive, and you cannot miss them as you drive along the Mbarara – Masaka high way. We saw most of them as we entered, and left the national park. The herd was walking in very calm and orderly fashion down the dirt roadway. We also viewed them from a distance drinking at the watering hole in the National Park near the lodge.
Disappointing Game Drives
I was not all that impressed with this national park compared to others we had visited. May be I was exhausted from traveling, but the lack of big game was a big drawback. The landscape is so beautiful, I could picture giraffe and elephants chowing down on the stands of Acacia trees. They would be very happy here, but due to the close proximity of villages, they will probably never be reintroduced.
After 19 days in Uganda we had already seen most of the wildlife anyway, so I was not be overly disappointed. The park just had an overly empty feel to it. Such a beautiful place that could be so much more. I did see some birds that I had not found in other parks, so my guide and I started concentrating more on birding than game viewing. It was still hard going out everyday on a game drive, I missed seeing elephants, and lions.
I would not go back here again, but for those visiting Kamapla and want a quick trip for game viewing, I would recommend it.
Lake Mbruo National Park Lodge Views
The saving grace of our stay was the lodge. We stayed in Mihingo Lodge. It sits in a rock outcropping similar to our first stay in Kidepo national park. However, this outcropping is quite large, and steep. The individual cabanas are spread out amongst the large boulders, and if you have mobility problems it can be challenging. Once you make it up the top of the rocks however, the view looking over the savannah from Mihingo Lodge is amazing. The staff, service, and accommodation were all top notch. The food was good, not the best on our trip, but surely palpable even for a vegetarian. It was served buffet style, and it was not the largest spread like others we found at the bigger lodges. I would recommend sending a note ahead if you need certain dietary requirements.
The staff went out of their way to help us, and after I hurt my knee, and my husband has bad knees they did their best to get us a cabana as close to the main lodge as possible. It was still a little bit of a climb, and if you have mobility problems then this lodge will not work for you. The cabanas are set very far apart, with stone steps going up to the main lodge, and more as you go higher up to your own individual cabana.
The cabanas are very large and spacious. The sleeping area is separate from the sink, shower, and toilet. You have to walk down a hallway to get to the bathing area & toilette. The bath room is a quite a walk to use the facilities, just putting that out there if you have mobility problems or get up frequently during the night. The beds, and bathrooms in the cabanas are very comfortable, and perfect for our stay. It however was the bar, dining area, and pool that are show stoppers. You can find wifi in ther bar area for catching up, and then head down to the pool built into the rocks. The views from the pool at sunset are just visually stunning. The pool is a great place to hang out, as the watering hole is just below it. You can view zebras, warthogs, and more enjoying a cool drink. We saw cattle at the waterhole as well, which was strange because domestic animals are not suppose to be in the national park…which leads to my title….Lake Mburo National Park’s Wildlife A Casualty of Africa’s Growing Population
The Wildlife A Casualties of Africa’s Growing Population
The towns and villages surrounding this little national park have played havoc on the wild animal populations. Zebras are very abundant here, but truthfully there was not a lot to see. There seemed to be more long horned ankole cattle, than other wild life roaming around the outside of the park. The locals have killed off all the big and small cats because they eat the cattle. There is a lot of conflict between the natural wildlife and the native people bordering the National Park. Pastoralists, fishers, and farmers seem at constant odds in terms of property damage, loss of livestock, crop damage, and threat to human welfare. The rural poverty of the people needs to be addressed as well as educating them about their stewardship of the land and wild animals that clash due to the burgeoning population bordering the park.
The park is semi arid so it does get pretty warm, we did not take a boat ride. I wish I had, as I think that might have improved my overall view of the national park.
I did enjoy our hotel, and sitting up on the rock outcropping looking over the lake and savannahs, but otherwise I could have skipped this national park all together.
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