Friday, 2 May 2014

The stopover amongst the Ankole

At 260 square kilometres Lake Mburo National Park is a decent slice of wilderness in Uganda, located roughly half way between the capital and parks to the west such as Bwindi. Making it an ideal stopover for tourists taking the scenic route, either on their way to the rainforests that hide the critically endangered mountain gorillas or on route back from Bwindi.

Lake Mburo National Park by Corne Schalkwyk 

The park could be called one of the quirky examples of how to approach conservation as we noticed a state owned cattle farming business on the one side and lots of community cattle farming encroaching on the park itself. Historically the park was much larger but lost the battle for land as pieces of the park was given back to the community, as the lion numbers dwindled to zero.

Ankole long horned cattle of Uganda by Corne Schalkwyk

It wasn't all bad news as I had an interest in the local cattle breed that has a very Ugandan legacy in its own right. In a way it reminded me of the Masai Mara, as these cattle ranchers also sneak their cattle into the park at night. It was a great opportunity to get a closer look at the Ankole long horned cattle of Uganda.  The Ankole Long-Horned Cow is less productive in meat and milk if compared to some of the new exotic (non- indigenous) breeds, but better adapted to semi-arid conditions. The breed can endure seasonal movement and does not require expensive investments in water points and veterinary care – making it the mainstay of the pastoral economy in this area of Uganda.
Ankole cow in Lake Mburo by Corne Schalkwyk 

Hyena in Lake Mburo 
When the lions disappeared due to human animal conflict it however did lead to an interesting phenomenon, proving once again that nature finds a way. The hyena in a very short space of time took advantage of this loss. It was great to see that this park has a very active and even growing Hyena population.

 They took over the gap that was created when the lions were killed and became the apex hunters in the park, leading to a growth in numbers that is a very rare thing for predators in Uganda. Havening noticed the alarming decline in hyena numbers in Queen Elizabeth National park, this made for a welcome change. The very healthy hyena populations were a great plus and sure to attack visitors to the park.

 Fables persist amongst the locals, that one lone male lion still roams the park. But I think it’s just that, a story told to guests to give them hope that lions will return to this little piece of wilderness.

The park is named after the lake “Lake Mburo” that it infolds and has numerous birding and game viewing opportunities. It’s notable that it also hosts some of the species that is normally associated with Southern Africa, such as Impala.

New born Impala by Corne Schalkwyk  

It lies about 3.5 hours’ drive from Kampala making it easily accessible for a weekend break.
Although the habitat is amazing it can be challenging for game viewing but it’s the only place in Uganda where you are able to see large herds of impala, zebra and eland.

Zebra in Lake Mburo by Corne Schalkwyk

You will encounter dry hillside, rocky outcrops, bushes, thickets, open and wooded savannahs, forests, lakes and swamps as part of this little hidden gem in Uganda that provides a home to a surprising diversity of plants and animals in this hideaway.

After some game drives to explore the park we dosed off with the sounds of Hyena and awoke much the same way.

Views over the national park from the lodge is spectacular - Photo by Corne Schalkwyk

We stayed Mburo Safari Lodge, situated on the edge of Lake Mburo national park in Kiruhura District, a mid-range property that offers good value for money. They have private bungalows tucked into the bush, each with its own viewing deck. One of the best features of the lodge is its impressive views over the park from its vantage point high up a hill.

I found the staff friendly and helpful, and the food was of a good quality and well presented. Nothing beats the fresh locally sourced fruits presented for breakfast. Uganda definitely has the best pineapples in Africa.
It provides an isolated peaceful feel with great food and a good selection of decently priced wines for the all-important sundowner. The lodge also offers a pool next to the dining area with Wifi access to upload the sightings of the day from the comfort of one of the great viewing decks.

The viewing decks at the lodge by Corne Schalkwyk

It’s a great stopover or weekend break that provides African hospitality that echoes through the style and design of the lodge.

Each self-contained thatched cottage is aptly named after animals, and I’m sure you will easily find your own match.
Bushbuck by Corne Schalkwyk
Credits : Photos and content Corne Schalkwyk.  

For full package tours to Uganda including Lake Mburo National Park visit Premier Safaris at or contact the office at