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. Mbarara is famously known as the land of milk and honey by the local people and by numerous international authors, and is 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 and 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 being followed by Gulu commencing with 2000 modern buildings that have been established including malls, arcades, plazas and hotels. The city covers an area of about 1‚0020 square kilometers and is divided into 6 divisions namely 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.
Are you there wondering about the best the best things to do in Mbarara city? Well, Mbarara city or town is one of the “MUST” visit places while on your safari in Uganda. A number of tourists only get to visit this town while on their way for the Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park or 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 along with a number of interesting tourist’s attractions in and around the town and these include;
The Igongo Cultural Centre
The Igongo cultural centre was built in 2011 along the Mbarara to Masaka road, it was built on the grounds which held the former palace of the king of Ankole. 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 which takes nearly 30 minutes to get there. 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 and a local fireplace made of stones. While at the centre, you can go to the traditional restaurant to try out local Ankole foods including Matooke, millet bread and ghee, you can also try out potent local drinks made from sorghum and maize. Whereas if the drinks are not for you, you can go to the bookshops or craft shops to see more ancient sculptures of the animals and the people of Ankole. However, Igongo cultural centre also has a section of more other tribes like the Batooro and the Bakiga. Furthermore with this arrangement, you can also visit the Biharwe Eclipse monument in Mbarara.
Only by a short 10 minutes’ drive down to the Igongo Cultural Centre will bring you closer to the Ankole cultural experience centre where you can tour the Ankole Museum 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. For that Safari land Park in Mbarara is a good place to start, it has a collection of bars, shops and restaurants and expect to find both of the locals and the tourists. 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 since bodabodas (motorcycles) are not highly recommended 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
If you are more interested in the African cultural experiences, this is also another place one can probably visit after the Igongo Cultural Centre. This village show cases the cultural heritage of the Bahima (a subject of the Ankole tribe). 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 tribe including the roles of women in the household and other ancient traditions as far as you would want to know.
Visiting the Ankole long horned cattle
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; all thanks to the Ankole cows. As you approach the city, you will begin to see countless farms along the road sides with hundreds and thousands of cattle where 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 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 that are away and to Mbarara. These include Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park 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 and 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 a few all in their natural habitats. Lastly is Lake Mburo National Park that 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 for those who visit it and while here you can get to see animals like the zebras, waterbucks, impalas, leopards, mongooses, buffaloes and various other antelopes and 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 including 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 and 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 that 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” is located in southwestern Uganda between kisoro and kabale districts and also boaders 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, it also 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 in the Southwestern area of Uganda in the Bushenyi District and can be accessed by just a 1 hours’ drive from Mbarara. The reserve encompasses 137 km² whereas the Kitomi-kashoha Forest Reserve extends to Kalinzu consequently there’s an addition of 399km². Mammalian inhabitants of this forest such as chimpanzees as the main attraction, 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.
Below are some of our short and long safari packages to different Ugandan parks and other attractive places.
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