Lake Mburo NP is only 370sq kms and the smallest of Uganda's savannah parks, but what a great little park it is. If you are looking for the 'big 5' then you won't find them here, but if you are really lucky you may see 3 out of 5. Leopards and buffalo can often be seen and apparently in 2008 one lone lion suddenly appeared at the park and decided not to leave. No one has a clue where he came from but he has been occasionally spotted on a night game drive.
Apart from 3 of the big 5 Lake Mburo also has crocs, hippos, zebra, Defassa waterbuck, hyena, topi, bushbuck and an abundance of impala. 350 different species of birds can be found in the park including Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Hammerkops, herons, and the African Fish Eagle.
And the absence of major predators make this the ideal park for boat trips as well as walking, horse riding & biking safaris. With all the different activities to do it is easy to spend a few days here and its relatively close proximity to Kampala make it a great weekend getaway.
I woke early in the morning to the sounds of wildlife and in particularly hyenas calling. I decided to spend the morning around Mihingo Lodge, enjoy the environment and catch up on my posts. Unfortunately the internet connection was not available but I did manage to get some of the 7,000 plus pictures sorted.
Mihingo Lodge is situated just outside the park on a hill overlooking a waterhole. The owners certainly put a lot of time and thought into the design of the lodge, particularly as it is built on mostly rock. The rooms or tents are all in their own secluded little area. The basis of the room is a very large safari tent mounted on a wooden platform with a large wooden balcony.
The bathroom is the only solid structure and this is built into and in some cases inclusive of the natural rock. The structure is at least 50% flyscreen but privacy is not a problem as the dense foliage surrounding each room ensures seclusion. Not being one to take a magazine or book to the toilet, I did particularly like the 'loo with a view', it made the whole experience of going to the toilet that much more enjoyable.
At some point in the morning Iddy, the manager of Mihingo wandered up from below the pool carrying a rock python. Apparently it has decided that behind the pool pump was a nice place to have a snooze, Iddy on the other hand disagreed and after a period of struggle she eventually won the argument. And I thought getting a 40kg dog out of the back of a beetle was a big thing !! Iddy, with the help of some staff took the python to the other side of the hill and released it.
It was time for Percy and I to go back down the hill and head for the lake itself - a boat ride was booked for 16:00. Two hours was plenty of time but I needed to check in with the parks office first. We spotted a bit of game on the way there but not much which is reasonable to expect at that time of the day. All clear with the parks office we headed to the lake and parked up next to the big boys.
The boat trip itself is about 1½ hours duration with departures every two hours. Our guide and boat driver Moses, has worked for the UWA for 14 years, most of them being in Lake Mburo NP. Now my eyes are not great by any means but he had the ability to spot just about anything including a baby bird falling in the water - definitely a credit to the UWA. We saw quite a few hippos, a Defassa Waterbuck, a bushbuck, a baby croc and a variety of birds.
Heading back from the boat ride we saw quite a bit more game as it was now quite a bit cooler, unfortunately though, as i found out later, I had not turned the Go-pro on properly. Rule No. 2: make sure the Gopro is on and taking photos before you mount it to the roof rack - you can always delete the close-ups of your face and hands later.
Back at the lodge ready for a hot shower and a cold 'Club' but I could not decide which to have first - problem solved - be ambidextrous and have both at once !!
That evening I got the chance to talk to Iddy about Mihingo Conservation & Community Development Foundation(MCCDF). In 2008 the owners of the lodge established MCCDF as a separate entity, with the aim to improve the living conditions of the surrounding communities and improve conservation efforts on the eastern side of Lake Mburo NP where the lodge is located.
Having grown up in Uganda and with a passion for wildlife and conservation it is not surprising to find out that Iddy studied Ecology & Conservation in the UK. In 2001 she joined MCCDF to lead the projects on the ground and it is through this that she also became involved in the day to day running of the lodge.
The primary focus of MCCDF is the Mihingo Leopard and Hyena Conservation Project (MLHCP). The aim of MLHCP is to conserve all predators in and around Lake Mburo NP education and compensating farmers.
Lake Mburo NP is located in a very densely populated and extensively pastoral area of an its establishment in 1983 was marred by a forceful displacement of pastoral families without appropriate compensation or collaboration. Initially the total area of the park was over 647 km² but in 1987 more than 60% of the park was de-gazetted to offer some redress to the evicted families and worsening relationships between Park authorities and adjacent communities.
Wild animals do not know boundaries and it is common to see zebra, water buffalo and antelope grazing outside the park in traditional grazing areas for livestock. It is therefore reasonable to expect that the predators of these animals will also follow and that on occasion livestock will also be attacked by hyena or leopard. The main reaction of farmers in the area is to then poison the carcass resulting in the death of the predator species as well as many non-target species such as jennet cats, civit, serval, honey badger, banded mongoose and vultures.
MCCDF addresses this problem by compensating affected farmers. Through the project farmers are informed about the compensation scheme and report livestock killed by predators. Iddy or another member of staff will go to confirm whether the livestock was killed by a predator. If this is verified the farmer is compensated and the carcass is confiscated to prevent it from being poisoned at a later stage. The farmers benefit through compensation and support the project and it prevents predators from being killed. MCCDF staff also advise farmers how to protect their livestock from predator attacks to reduce the human wildlife conflict.
Generally the local population is very positive about the project as this is the only support they get when facing problems with wildlife. The project has had a very positive effect on the leopard and especially the hyena population. One of the success stories since the project started is a female leopard which has twice managed to raise two cubs around Mihingo Lodge. I am sure without compensated dozens of her kills this female would have been poisoned. Generally the hyena population is growing and without the compensation scheme the numbers would have further declined.
Through MCCDF Iddy has also recently written a proposal to introduce Rothschild Giraffe into the park, a very ambitious project it would first seem but one that is being seriously considered by the Uganda Wildlife Authority- I do hope your dream is fulfilled .
Although MCCDF is an separate entity to the lodge the majority of its funding is actually directly from the lodge, so if you do stay at Mihingo take the time to talk to Iddy about MCCDF and if you like what you hear make a contribution, every penny helps.