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.
Park at a Glance
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
Rwonyo Rest Camp
Rwonyo is the center for tourism activities in the park. It is the starting point for nature hikes, quad biking, game drives and forest walks. There is also a small shop selling handcrafts and books.
Lake Mburo is a natural haven for fauna and flora. The bank teems with animals and birds. Crocodiles and hippopotami are permanent residents, and buffalos come to drink during the dry season. The wide variety of resident birds includes Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, African Fish Eagles, Rufous Long-tailed Starlings, Blue-headed Weavers, Green-necked Doves, Hammerkops, Pelicans, Herons, Cormorants and even rare Shoebills.
Though small, this tract of forest on the western side of Lake Mburo provides a taste of tropical high forest with a closed canopy and a viewing platform for visitors. It is home to a variety of forest birds; commoner species include the Harrier Hawk, Green Pigeon, Narina Trogon, Grey-backed Cameroptera and Double-toothed Barbet. Rubanga can be explored with a ranger guide.
There are several tracks on the eastern hinterland of the park where a variety of animals and birds can be seen. A hilltop viewpoint offers panoramic vistas of the park and its five lakes.
Wildlife and Birding
The park’s varied habitats support 68 mammal species. Rarities include impala, which, in Uganda, only lives in Lake Mburo, and Burchell’s zebra and eland which are found only here and in Kidepo.
Other species include warthog, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck and reedbuck. Leopard and hyena are also present while crocodile and over 300 hippos are found in the lake. Previously extinct in the park, lions have recently been sighted again.
Around 350 bird species have been recorded to date. These include the Red-faced Barbet, only seen in Lake Mburo, the endemic African Finfoot and the rare Shoebill. Other key species are the Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Saddle-billed Stork, Brown-chested Lapwing, African-wattled Lapwing, Carruther’s Cisticola, Tabora (Long-tailed) Cisticola, African Scops Owl, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and White-winged Warbler.
Acacia woodland bird species are especially well represented, while forest species may be found in Rubanga forest. These include Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Hairy-breasted Barbet and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, among others.
Plan Your Trip
Lake Mburo National Park lies between Masaka and Mbarara in western Uganda, 228km (3½ hours) from Kampala.
Two gates enter the park from the Mbarara road: approaching from Kampala, the turning to Nshara Gate is 13kms past Lyantonde while the junction for Sanga Gate is at Sanga trading centre, 27km past Lyantonde. Both junctions are clearly signposted.
It is about a 20-minute drive from either gate to Rwonyo.
The eastern sector of Lake Mburo National Park is explored by a network of motorable tracks. The park can also be experienced on horseback around Mihingo Lodge; on foot with a ranger guide; and by boat on Lake Mburo.
What to Bring
No specialist equipment is needed for visiting Lake Mburo National Park; see our FAQs page for a general packing list.
Accommodation in Lake Mburo link to the accommodation part for
Climate and When to Visit
The park has a semi-arid climate with just one rainy season per year (April-September) and rainfall is light. The valley of the Narus River in the south of the park receives some 890mm of rain/year while just 635mm of rain/year falls in the Kidepo valley to the north. The best time to visit is October to March, when wildlife congregates around the few remaining water holes.
Lake Mburo’s key birding spots include swampy valleys and viewing platforms near the salt licks and in the forest. Species found at these locations include the Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard and Brown-chested Lapwing.
The network of game tracks in the east of the park passes a variety of landscape features including acacia woodland, wetlands, grassy hillsides, rocky outcrops and seasonally flooded valley floors.
Unusually, the whole park is open to walkers as long as they are accompanied by a ranger guide. Locations include the salt lick at Rwonyo, the lake’s banks, Rubanga Forest and a hilltop with gorgeous lake views.
Horseback safaris are an exciting way to view wildlife including eland and buffalo. Also commonly sighted are warthog, topi, impala, duiker, bushbuck, waterbuck and zebra.
The wildlife-rich eastern banks of Lake Mburo can be explored during a tranquil two-hour boat voyage. Keep an eye out for crocodiles, buffalo, and hippos as well as colorful Kingfishers, magnificent Fish Eagles and Hammerkops with their enormous nests.
Lake Mburo contains around six species of fish, with tilapia being the most common. The designated fishing spot is at Mazinga.