Murchison Falls National park- Rwenzori Mountaineering Service .
As Uganda wildlife safaris are becoming more popular along side the rwenzori climbing tours done by Rwenzori Mountaineering services, among the top destinations to be visited for wildlife viewing is the Murchison falls national park located in the north west part of Uganda and queen elizabeth national park in the south western Uganda are the prominent destinations for Wildlife Safaris.
Murchison Falls National Park Facts and History
The park is situated in northwestern Uganda, 90 kilometers from the town of Masindi. It is the largest national parks in Uganda. The park covers approximately 3,893 square kilometers (1,503 sq. mi) and is divided by the Victoria Nile from east to west for a distance of about 115 kilometers. The vegetation is characterised by savannah, riverine forest and woodland.
It shelters a number of wild African savannah and many tourists that visit the national parks in Uganda have stated that it is the best safari destination in the entire Uganda. The park gets its name from the magnificent Murchison falls that are found within the park. The falls are breathtaking and are at a point where the River Nile (the longest river in the world) explodes through a slim 7 meter gorge and then drops with a thunderous roar to over 40 meters below.
The banks of the river are crowded with hippos, buffaloes, crocodiles plus waterbucks. Its vegetation comprises of Savannah, woodland plus riverine forest. Some of the large mammals within this area are lions, chimpanzees, leopards, elephants, Uganda kobs, giraffes, oribis, cape buffaloes as well as hartebeests. It has about 450 species of birds and 76 species of mammals. Murchison falls National Park along with Bugungu plus Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserves jointly make up the Murchison Falls Protected Area.
Park Location in Uganda & Map
Murchison falls national park is located in north western Uganda, next to Lake Albert and spreading up to Karuma falls. The park is borders by districts like; Kiryandongo, Nwoya, Buliisa, and Masindi. Masindi is the large nearest town to the park. The park is managed by the Uganda wildlife authority.
Tourists Attractions & Things to Do in Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls. These falls are formed at a point where river Nile is compressed to pass through an 8m wide gorge. As the water falls over big rocks it causes a loud roar and sprays misty droplets which form permanent rainbow over the big rafts when the sun is out. The river splits and forms Uhuru falls on the south of Murchison.
Nile-Lake Albert Delta. This is a point where the Nile splits into various streams as it pours its water into river Nile. The area attracts various bird species and some animals. Some commonly spotted birds include; Goliath Herons, Great Egrets, African Fish Eagles among others. The shoe bill is also rarely spotted around.
Buligi Game Tracks. The tracks are found between the Albert and Victoria Nile and pass through open savannah grassland, woodland, riverine and acacia vegetation. The tracks stretch between 120-170 km long distance. This area attracts many animals most especially in the morning and evening time. Kaniyo Pabidi Forest. The forest is located south of the park and is a forest eco system that habours various primates and animals. The forest has a habituated chimpanzee group which is open for tracking. Primates like black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and olive baboons also live in the forest. Animals like buffalos, lions elephants and many others leave the savannah and go to the forest and stay there for some time. It is also a home to various forest birds like; chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel’s illadopsis among many others.
Rabongo Forest. The forest is crossed by waringo river and is a good place to birders to go because it’s a home to various bird species. It is as well good for educational tours where students are able to identify various birds, animals and tree species. Tourists to the park can as well camp or take picnics by river Waringo.
Budongo Forest. The forest is located in the south west of the park and has a diversity of over 350 bird species, 289 butterflies, 24 mammal species and 465 plants. It has various primate species which has about 800 chimpanzee individuals. The forest is an ecotourism site with some habituated groups which are open to visitors for tracking.
Things to Do in Murchison Falls National Park
The boat cruise in Murchison falls national park starts at Paraa jetty. There is the morning that starts at 9am and afternoon which starts at 2pm. The cruise is approximately 2hours or 3hours, all this time you will not know how the time will run so fast because you will be busy lost in the moment of beautiful pictures of Nile crocodiles , Hippos and most common on the shores drinking water , antelopes and at times even elephants. A tour guide will be in the boat telling you about the various animal habits of those that you will spot, how they feed, their weight, gestation period and so much more. You will also expect to see various bird species like African fish eagle, pied kingfishers, African jacana, cormorants, and pelicans among others.
Game drives in Murchison falls can be done in the morning which and in the evening when it’s not hot and animals are out of hiding. The morning dive starts at 6am and the evening starts at 4pm, the game drives take about 4-5 hours. The park has various tracks that you can follow as you look as you drive around; Victoria track, Buligi track and Albert track. Most of the game drives in the park are done around Buligi game tracks which are located on the northern bank. It is a good idea to have a good tour guide with you who knows all the park tracks. As you drive around you will expect to see animals like elephants, buffalos, Jackson’s hartebeests, warthogs, water bucks, dik dik, kobs, lions, hyenas, giraffes.
Hike to the top of the falls
When visiting the park you will take a boat from Paraa jetty and then ride to the bottom of the falls. The boat cruise will give you a chance to see animals like hippos, crocodiles, buffalos, and at times elephants as they quench their thirst at the drinking point as well as various water birds. At the end of the launch trip you will hike to the top of the falls an activity that will take you between 30-40 minutes. Along the trail, UWA put some steps and ladders to ease the hike. While at the top you will have a view of the magnificent Murchison falls where the Nile River squeezes itself to pass through an 8meters wide gorge dropping to 40 meters below making a thunderous sound. When the sun is out you will see a rainbow forming over the falls.
Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda is done in Budongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forests located in the southern regions of Murchison falls national park. These forests are ecotourism sites with habituated groups of chimpanzees that are open for tracking by tourists. the forests have a lot to offer, so, as you track the chimps you will expects to see other primate species in the forests like monkeys, butterflies and bird species.
Sport fishing is one of the activities in Murchison falls national park. The park has a variety of animals which includes all of the big five (lion leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) as well as those that live in water since it’s highly oxygenated. You will expect to catch a massive Nile perch that can weigh up to 108kg. You might as well choose to take your fish with you at the hotel or lodge for a meal.
Hiking and Nature Walks
Nature walks in Murchison falls national park is done in the Kaniyo Pabidi, Rabongo and Budongo forests. These forests have trails that tourists can follow as they move through the forests. As you move, you will expect to see animals like duiker, elephants, buffalos, primates like; monkeys, olive baboons and various birds and tree species.
Birding in Murchison falls
Birds in Murchison falls national park can be spotted while on game drives, boat trips, and nature walks. The main birding attraction is the shoebill which is best sighted in the dry season. Some of birds in the park include; African darter, goliath heron, yellow billed stork, secretary bird, Blue-naped Moosebird, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, throated Bee-eater, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Abyssinian ground hornbill.
Getting around , how to get to Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison falls National Park can be reached through various routes. A few years ago, the government of Uganda put up a good tarmac highway road that passes via Karuma to the northern gate of the park. This made connectivity from Kampala or Gulu to the park much easier and faster. The park is about 5hours drive from Kampala which is around 305 km. Paraa along the Nile River is the center of the park. It is about 85km from Masindi town to Paraa area. Another route by road passes through Budongo forest, this route is longer because the road is not tarmacked but it offers one of the best scenic views in Uganda. It can also be reached from the north through Chobe gate that is near Karuma falls, Tangi gate which is close to Pakwach and Wankwar gate near Purongo.
The park can also be reached by air. Charter flights from Entebbe or Kajjansi land at Murchison falls national park airstrip that is located north of the Nile at Pakuba and in the south at Bugungu.