MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK: The stunning of Uganda’s National Parks combined with spectacular landscapes provides the setting for some of the Africa’s most memorable visitor experience. Mountain gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park offers the best viewing opportunity in the world for these rare primates, and is the highlight of any tour to Uganda.
Unforgettable encounters with chimpanzees during walks in the tranquil forests in and around Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kibale National Parks are part of reason why visitors’ numbers to Uganda’s protected areas are once again on the rise. Kidepo’s breathe taking sceneries with huge Buffalo herds and its unique, beautiful and virgin angulated hills offer a wonderful experience while the Rwenzori with their chain canopy of string glacier offers a mystical challenge littered with majestic sceneries across the entire mountain spectrum.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast palm-dotted Savannah. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.
The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 54m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids.
The mighty cascade drains the last of the river’s energy, transformation, transforming it into abroad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert.
At Murchison falls, the Nile squeezes through an 8m wide gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the Devil’s Cauldron”, creating trademark rainbow.
This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodile and aquatic birds are permanent.
A number of routes can be used to reach the Nile at Paraa at the heart of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. The river is crossed here using a vehicle ferry which runs at roughly hourly intervals throughout the day.
Southern entrance gates
Two southerly approaches to the Paraa lead out of Masindi town, which is a 4-hour drive (305km) from capital Kampala. Along the way to Masindi is the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, home to the wild rhinos in Uganda. You can track them on foot and support this important initiative to reintroduce rhinos protected areas.
A longer but more scenic alternatives runs for 135km from Masindi to park’s Bugungu gate, the route includes a passage through Budongo forest and memorable descent of the rift valley escarpment with views across Lake Albert towards the mountain of the Congo.
Northern entrance gates
Murchison Falls National Park can also be entered via Chobe, Wankwar, Mubako and Tangi gates north of the Nile. These are reached from the Kampala-Pakwach Road which crosses the Nile at Karuma Falls Bridge in the northeastern corner of the park, 260km from Kampala. These gates are convenient for visitors traveling to/from Gulu Town and Kidepo valley National Park.
Pakuba airfield, 19km from North Paraa, can be reached using charted aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjannsi airfield near the capital, Kampala. Other airfields in the park include: Chobe to the East and Bugungu near Murchison Falls to the south.
Both the game drive and the launch the launch trips offer an opportunity for one to come across distinct bird life, including Savannah Forest birds, water birds and Albertine Rift endemics. The park’s main birding attraction is the shoe-bill, best in the dry season.
A game drive around the Buligi game tracks on the northern bank with a trained ranger guide is a fantastic watt i see and photograph the wide range of animals in the Nile Valley.
Your guide wills have a good idea where the lions are hiding and you may even spot a leopard at dusk!
Hiking and natural walks
The vast landscapes and varied scenery of Murchison Falls National Park and the surrounding Conservation Area can be explored on foot. Trails through Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo Forest Provides sighting of many primates and birds, while around the Nile Delta 2-4 hour guided swamp walks offer possible shoebill sightings.
The launch trip upstream from Paraa presents an astonishing display of wildlife and culminates with the memorable frontal view of the Falls. Recommended for birders is a morning cruise downstream to the Nile-Lake Albert Delta. Alternative, a tranquil sun downer cruise offers the classic view of an equatorial sunset reflected on the river.
The banks of the Nile below Murchison Falls provide an exciting challenge to the anglers. Living with the strong current and highly oxygenated waters is the Nile perch. There is the chance to land a massive catch – the record is 108kg!
Energetic dancers from Mubako perform around lodge campfires, making for a magical African experiences at dusk. Boomu Women’s Group offers accommodation, craft shop and village tour, revealing the realities of life in the rural communities.
Read our next article in the series. Mt. Elgon National Park: The world largest Mountain Caldera