• buffalo
  • leopard
  • lions
  • lizard
  • masai
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1 Day Kampala City Tour
Kampala is the capital city of Uganda and Uganda is known to many as the ‘Pearl of Africa’. Formerly known as the city of seven hills, Kampala now encompasses over 20 glorious beautiful hills. Kampala is a city of lovely people with genuine smiles as

11 Days Tanzania - Uganda Adventure
Head to Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable forest, where half the world's population of mountain Gorillas is resident for Mountain Gorilla trekking. In Tanzania for the Big five and at the right time, the dramatic Wildebeest migration.

3 Days Gorilla Safari
The drive to the enchanting and thickly dense forest of Bwindi will take us a pleasant 10 hours. This is where the largest population of the endangered mountain Gorillas in the world is resident. Don't worry, the journey to Bwindi is all part of the fun

6 Days African Big Five Safari
Destinations: Ziwa Rhino sanctuary, Murchison falls’ National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park.

 

Lake Mburo: a park for domestic tourist

    Lake Mburo: a park for domestic tourist
    In June, 15 Rothschild giraffes made a journey from Murchison Falls National Park in Nwoya District, to Lake Mburo National Park in Kiruhura District, in western Uganda. The journey has changed the fortunes of the park, writes Mike Ssegawa

    Lake Mburo: a park for domestic tourist

    In June, 15 Rothschild giraffes made a journey from Murchison Falls National Park in Nwoya District, to Lake Mburo National Park in Kiruhura District, in western Uganda. The journey has changed the fortunes of the park, writes Mike Ssegawa

    Not until mid-2015, Lake Mburo National Game Park was one of Uganda’s best hidden ‘animal planet’. But for a park that is closest to Kampala, the capital city, between Masaka and Mbarara districts, Lake Mburo should have been one of the most celebrated.
    Unfortunately, it is the fourth most visited national park, after Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls and Bwindi national parks respectively. Of the four parks, Lake Mburo in Kiruhura District – also known as the “Whispers of the Wild” - is nearest to Kampala; only 253km. Queen Elizabeth is 389km, Murchison falls (305km) and Bwindi 512km.

    It is the biggest home for zebra in Uganda together with impressive populations of impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyenas, topi and redbuck.
    The well documented journey of 15 Rothschild giraffes in June from Murchison Falls National park in Nwoya District, northern Uganda changed the fortunes of the park. All of a sudden it has opened its beauty to the world.

    Dr Andrew Sseguya, the executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority said the relocation would shoot three birds with one stone; decongest Murchison Falls, where giraffes compete for food, add diversify to the Lake Mburo, and lastly to have animals feed on the outgrowing acacia trees in this park which are now scaring away some animal species from the park.
    When animals leave the park because they do not like dark places, they instead go to people’s ranches creating conflicts between animals and people in the area.

    “Acacia is good for giraffes, as well as elephants,” he said.
    Upon arrival in the park, a boma was created for the giraffes to ensure they adjusted well in the park. Surprisingly, like my guide Moses Matsiko, who met me at Sanga Township would later say, the giraffes have never returned to the boma where they were held before they were released to the wild.

    “They regard it as a prison,” he adds.
    The moment the long necked animal entered Lake Mburo, even locals got excited.
    “Locals have started streaming into the park to catch a glimpse of the majestic walking animal,” said Christine Lynn Nakayenze, the warden in-charge of tourism at Lake Mburo National Park. Nakayanze who started her career in wildlife 15 years ago at Kidepo National Park has been at Lake Mburo for the last three years.

    Sanga is one of the three routes into the park. The other routes are through Nshara Gate, which is 29km to the park and a new one at Igongo Cultural Centre in Mbarara. Sanga is the shortest, only 23km from the Masaka-Mbarara highway. It is also a fast growing township, possibly benefitting from the ripple effects of tourism.
    Sanga Township also makes Lake Mburo accessible with its easy means of transport (special hire and boda bodas) for those using public means. It is a blossoming trading centre waking up to the opportunities tourism brings to the area.

    The Night drive
    At Lake Mburo, Matsiko advised that we first check in at the UWA old headquarters at Rwonyo (UWA is building brand new offices in the park), and have dinner a kilometre away from the UWA’s 15 tents and 10 bandas on the shores of Lake Mburo.

    After dinner at the UWA-run restaurant overlooking the lake, with hippos wandering freely, my colleague and I jumped on a truck for the night drive.
    “Get yourself a jacket,” Matsiko advised, “the night drive can be cold.”

    The night game drive, one of the products the park offers, is one of the most interesting activities you can do while in this animal haven. The other activities are nature walks, camping, sport hunting and boat rides.
    Matsiko, a good conversationalist, had already mapped out what exactly to do in the night. He has been in this park for about 15 years and therefore knows where to find which animal and what time.
    “Be ready for surprises,” he says. “We don’t direct animals where to be, but, they have their preferred places. Maybe we can see them tonight.”

    He did not talk about giraffes, much as it was all I wanted to see. I had seen many other animals even before stepping into the gate, but, giraffes were not anywhere in sight.
    Lake Mburo is famously called the “Whispers of the Wild”. It is indeed at night the name becomes prophesy.
    Deep inside the park, Matsiko tells stories about the animals.

    “The group of hippos is called a school. The head of a school is a bull”, he says.
    Matsiko who carried a spotlight also said it is very easy to spot animals in the night with a flashlight.
    “When light flashes into an animal’s eye, it bounces back.
    When you flash into a group of animals in the night, you might think you are looking at stars on the dark sky. You can also tell herbivorous from carnivorous.

    “Grass eaters have green eyes, and meat eaters have red eyes.” The antelopes, zebras and warthogs are common sight, they gather in herds where they find safety in numbers.
    Birds flew past us. Lake Mburo is home to several bird species.
    “The big prize of the night is the lone lion,” Matsiko said.
    We could, however, not see the lion even as we drove for two and half hours into the dead end of the park.

    After all, it could be anywhere on the 371 square kilometers the park occupies - anywhere between rivers Akagera in the south and Katonga in the north.
    “They were two lions, but, the locals killed the lioness, leaving the male alone. Occasionally, it appears. But, it goes about the park as it pleases,” he says as we drive past a herd of buffalos.

    “The park was much bigger than this,” he says, “It now occupies only 40 per cent of its original size.”
    Pastoralists in Kiruhura District with flourishing cattle ranches wanted more land to graze so they took the 60 per cent.
    The animals, however, do not know boundaries, they still go to private ranches, some of them, and particularly dangerous ones like the female lioness which lost its life.

    “Some locals appreciate the game park, and don’t mind the animals. They call us when dangerous ones evade them,” he offers, before narrating how he found a python eating an impala and recorded the entire process on camera.
    The night drive ended without the sight of a leopard, lion or any of the four male and 11 female giraffes.

    THE MORNING AFTER
    The next day’s drive started at 7.30am. My mission was to see enough game before I caught a bus back to Kampala.
    It is in the morning that one will appreciate the geography of Lake Mburo area.
    The park occupies several rolling hills, grassy valleys, acacia forest and surrounded by lakes. At the heart of the park is Lake Mburo which forms part of the wetland systems together with 13 other lakes. Five are within the park, the rest are outside. The famous River Rwizi that is said to be drying up is part of this ecosystem which drain into Lake Victoria.

    The park also neighbours Lyantonde, Mbarara, Isingiro, Ibanda and Rakai districts.
    The high populations surrounding the park, according to Matsiko, prevented some animals species such as elephants from returning to the park. Elephants are stuck in northern Tanzania and cannot return to the park due to people living in between.

    “Even giraffes, were once here. That is why we brought them back. With the return of the giraffe, I am hopeful other animals will one day come back,” he says.
    On top of Kazuma hill, we could see most of the park. You can see Nakivale in Isingiro District where refugees from DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi have settled. You can see lakes Mburo, Kigambira, Kibikwa, Kazuma and Bwara.
    From the hills, we drive towards the eland track, the shy antelope.

    It is the track the giraffes have been most sighted. It is almost 3pm, however and getting late. I have seen many animals, but, no giraffe.
    We continue on the eland track.
    “The giraffes have been here several times. They are still accustoming with the park, and learning new places. All are in good shape. Actually, they look healthier than they came,” he says as we drive on. “Two of them are pregnant and they will deliver early next year.”
    All of a sudden, the driver stops.

    “Look on your left,” Matsiko says.
    My eyes glance at a small head in the air.
    “Giraffes,” I announce as if I saw them first.
    I counted. One, two, three …up to nine. They are supposed to be 15. I did not; however care if I had not seen the six. The nine were enough.

    Matsiko was right. The giraffes looked well fed. Yet the acacia trees are as if they are still untouched. They crossed the road gracefully, staring at us, wondering what had taken us into their territory.
    I was relieved that I had achieved my goal. Robert the driver would tell us that we had done only 50kms in the park since morning. That was the cost of the December date with the giraffes.

     Daily Monitor.

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