Mbarara City Tour
Mbarara City Tour: This is an interesting city found in the western part of Uganda that is also the Pearl of Africa. The city is famously known as the land of milk and honey by the local people and by numerous international authors. It is also one of the best unknown tourism destinations in Uganda. The town derives its name from a mispronunciation of one of the local Ankole words by the colonial administrators of the time. The word “Emburara” literally referring to a tall type of green grass that is a favorite of the long horned ankole cattle. It is the second largest city in Uganda after Kampala by importance, industry, infrastructures. Above all, it is the main commercial centre of most of the South Western districts of Uganda, and the site of the district headquarters.
In terms of population, the city is the third largest in Uganda after Kampala and Kira and is also the fastest growing town in Uganda. The city followed by Gulu commencing with 2000 modern buildings that have been established including malls, arcades, plazas and hotels. It covers an area of about 1‚0020 square kilometers and divided into 6 divisions. The include; Biharwe Division, Nyakayojo Division, Kamukuzi Division, Nyamitanga Division, Kakiika Division, and Kakoba Division. The town is also surrounded by a number of districts including Sheema, Kiruhura, Buhweju Rubirizi, Isingiro, Bushenyi, Ntungamo, Ibanda, and Mitooma.
What to do while in Mbarara City
A number of tourists get to visit this place while on their way for Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It can also be added on a safari to either Queen Elizabeth National Park or Lake Bunyonyi. Mbarara town is blessed with cool tropical climate, stunning landscapes and enormous water bodies. Interesting tourist attractions in and around the town include;
The Igongo Cultural Centre
The Igongo cultural centre was built in 2011 along the Mbarara to Masaka road. More so, it was built on the grounds which held the former palace of the king of Ankole. However, the centre is one of the leading cultural sites in Uganda and it showcases the cultural heritage of the people of the south western Uganda.
One of the major key attractions in the centre is the Eriijukiro museum. On the other hand, the Eitaramiro Cultural Village reveals how the typical Kinyankole household looked like hundreds of years ago. You will see traditional household items like the animal skins, calabashes, milk gourds, grinding stones, as well as local fireplace made of stones.
While at the centre, you can go to the traditional restaurant to try out local Ankole foods. These include; Matooke, millet, bread and ghee. You can also try out potent local drinks made from sorghum and maize. However, Igongo cultural centre also has a section of more other groups like the Batooro and the Bakiga. Furthermore with this arrangement, you can also visit the Biharwe Eclipse monument in Mbarara.
This brings you closer to the Ankole cultural experience where you can tour the Ankole Museum. More so, it is filled with lots of artifacts and history with traditional regalia inclusive.
Alternatively a short 20 minutes’ drive to one of the Ankole villages can offer you an original experience of how they live in this part of the world. Local wine tasting and farm experiences are the epitome of this interesting tour.
Mbarara is one of the fast developing cities and you can’t leave without going for a full city tour. For one to experience the kind of life in a city, the first place to go to are the local markets. Visiting local markets exposes you to the culture of the people and gives you an understanding of the kind of life and challenges they face.
Furthermore, you can also observe how the people go about with their business and even listen to the latest gossip. While in the market, you can buy some fresh fruits like the mangoes, papayas, jackfruit and many more. After visiting the local markets, you can then proceed to the larger shopping malls which are usually frequented by mostly the middle and higher class residents. The place is good for a shot Safari since it is good with a collection of bars, shops and restaurants.
Later in the evening, you can opt for a drink at one of the top hangout joints. The best way to tour the city is by using a car. However, if you are interested in the motorcycle, you need to insist that you are given a helmet. Additionally riding on the bikes can be fun even though risky and should obey safety measures.
Sanga Cultural Village
In general, this is also another place one can probably visit after the Igongo Cultural Centre. This village show cases the cultural heritage of the Bahima since it was built close to the junction heading to Lake Mburo National Park. While at this place, you will spot a number of traditional regalia and tools as used by the Bahima tribesmen. You will meet numerous Hima women and you will interact vast information about the group. These may include the roles of women in the household and other ancient traditions.
Visiting the Ankole long horned cattle
Generally, the Ankole cattle is the major reason as to why Mbarara was referred to as the land of milk and honey. They are strong and can survive in harsh conditions. They are known to grow long and striking horns and are generally less susceptible to diseases. Unfortunately, cross breeding with the smaller Zebu cattle is threatening the unique species. The Banyankore have the largest cattle farms in Uganda and Mbarara town is the leading producer of milk and other dairy products in the country. As you approach the city, you will begin to see countless farms along the road sides with hundreds and thousands of cattle. A number of these farms accept visitors and tourists to visit their farms. While at the farm, you might be taught how to milk a cow manually or even learn how to prepare eshabwe (local ghee).
Visiting various interesting parks
There are a quite number of interesting national parks in the western part of Uganda. These include Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park which is one of the parks that can be accessed within reach from Mbarara. The park is well known for its Endangered Mountain Gorillas and within only 4 hours’ drive from Mbarara town, you can get to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is also another park that is famously known for its Tree climbing lions. Besides, it can be reached after just a 2 hours’ drive from Mbarara town. Furthermore you can get to see other animals like buffaloes, elephants, leopards, hippos, chimpanzees, warthogs to mention but a few.
Interestingly, Lake Mburo National Park is only 30 minutes’ drive away from Mbarara by road. It is one of the smallest national parks in Uganda but with amazing activities in store. While here you can get to see animals like the zebras, waterbucks, impalas, leopards, mongooses, buffaloes and various other antelopes. You can opt to enjoy an afternoon canoe ride on Lake Mburo as well.
The park is also a birder’s destination since it hosts a number of bird species. These include; wood doves, red-faced barbets, papyrus yellow warblers, African fin foots to mention a few.
Visiting the various water bodies
Mbarara has got several water bodies passing through its boundaries. The most prominent ones are Lake Nakivale, River Ruizi and Lake Kachera. Lake Nakivale is tucked in the south eastern part of Mbarara city and the distance from the city to the lake is nearly 40 kilometers.
The lake has large open fields around its shores with sandy beaches that are suitable for picnics. River Ruizi on the other hand gets its waters from the highlands in Bushenyi district. The river then flows all the way to Lake Kachera, the river is suitable for canoeing, fishing and spotting small primates.
Furthermore Lake Bunyonyi is claimed to be approximately 900 meters deep thus making it the second deepest lake in Africa. Lake Bunyonyi literally means “the place of many little birds” and located in southwestern Uganda. It also boarders Rwanda just 2 and half hours from Mbarara town.
The lake is said to be Bilharzia free and can safely be accessed for swimming by the guests. Generally, it comprises of 29 islands with terraced hills that create very amazing sceneries. Additionally the Twin lakes in Kichwamba are worth watching en-route and the views of the crater lakes spice it all up.
Kalinzu Forest Reserve
Kalinzu Forest Reserve is a home to the world’s most sought after primates found near Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is located in the Southwestern area of Uganda in the Bushenyi District. However, it can be accessed by just a 1 hours’ drive from Mbarara. Mammalian inhabitants of this forest include; chimpanzees, black and white colobus, baboons, red-tailed monkeys, bushbucks, waterbucks, elephants among others.
Where to stay in Mbarara town?
- Lake View Resort Hotel
- Pinnacle Hotel
- Oxford Royal Hotel
- Meliva Guest House
- Forest Breeze Hotel
- Rubax Motel
- Leisure Park International Hotel
- Tick Emporium Hotel
- Palace Hotel
- Pelican Hotel
- Square Suites
- Palm Heights Hotel
How to get there?
The distance from Kampala to Mbarara is 239km thus the whole journey from Kampala to Mbarara would take approximately 5hours and 16 minutes however accounting for traffic may lead to a delay.
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