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Things To Do & See In 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 savanna. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, Murchison falls is Uganda‘s largest and oldest conservation area, hosting over 76 mammal species and 451 bird species.

The park is bisected by the Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park, and the calm stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert.

The park gets its name from these magnificent falls that are the major attraction to this park. Regular visitors to the park get their eyes on different wildlife at the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes, and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles, and aquatic birds are permanent residents.

Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, and several British royals.

How to get there
you may be wondering how to get to Murchison falls National Park, but by means of road, it will take you around 5hours with about 305 km from Kampala. Paara covers a distance of about 85km from Masindi town by the shortest route.

A direct or longer route will cover an area of about 135km. Alternatively one may decide to take on the Budongo forest route that will provide magnificent views of Lake Albert from the direct position of the rift valley escarpment over Butiaba.

You can still access Paara from the north through Chobe Gate, Karuma Falls along with Tangi. The Gate that is close to Pakwach covers an area of about 25km to Paara in addition to Wankwar Gate close to Purongo.

People with Vehicles or public means will definitely go through the Nile at Paara. It has a fixed time from 07.00 and 19.00. Besides road, Murchison can be accessed by air at the Pakuba landing site for the charter flights and this takes about 19kms from Paraa and Bugungu covers an area of 13kms from Paraa.

ACTIVITIES IN MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK

Murchison Falls

This is the main attraction of the park from which its names after as well as river Nile with crocodiles and hippos at the river banks. The most magnificent view of the waterfalls is on the top of where the sight and sound of the Nile roaring through a wide. The site can be reached either by car and a 30 minutes climb or leaving the Paraa launch boat cruise.

Game Drives

The park is also composed of woodland, wetland, savannah as well as the tropical forest that is well known to be a habitat for different bird species and mammals. Among the mammals, many can be spotted including the lions, hippopotamuses, Rothschild’s giraffe, warthog, Cape buffalo, Uganda kob, Jackson’s-hartebeest, and elephants.

Game drives take place early in the morning and a tourist is able to see plenty of games. At Nyamsika Cliffs is where one can enjoy a picnic, the view, and gaze at elephants and other wildlife on the green grassy hillsides and river below. Game drives are exquisite when accompanied by a tour guide. The best time for the game drive is during the dry season.

Boat cruise

The Launch trip begins at the Paraa landing area at the point where the river Nile enters into Lake Albert and takes you to the bottom of the falls. While on the cruise you will sight hippos, waterbucks, crocodiles, buffaloes, and elephants. You will also see water birds such as cormorants, Fish eagles, ducks, Kingfishers, bee-eaters, and the shoebill.

The cruise is between 9 am and 2 pm daily however exceptional schedules can be arranged with the park management. The cruise takes you for 17Km from the bottom of the falls at Paraa for 3hours. The cruise from Paraa to River Delta is 28km and takes about 4-5hours. Fishing is available in the river above and below the fall. Do bring your own fishing equipment if you’re interested in finishing. Examples of fish available in the river to catch are Nile perch, tiger fish, and more

Bird watching

Bird Species commonly seen between Paraa Rest Camp and Ferry crossing are; Spotted Mourning Thrush, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Silver Bird, Bluff-bellied Warbler, Blue-napped Mousebird, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaverBlack-headed Gonolek, Green-winged Ptyilia, and Black-headed Batis, this is the best site for the localised White-rumped Seed-eater.

Common Nocturnal Species in the area include Verreaux’s owls, Nightjars such as long-tailed and Pennant-winged nightjar which usually is watched between the months of March – September. Also available is the amazing standard-winged nightjar watched from November to February. Other bird species include: African Skimmer, White African fish eagle, long-toed plover, Gray Crowned crane, Goliath Heron, and more

Nature walks

Tourists get to explore the wild on foot while in the Murchison Falls Conservation area. There is a trail at Paraa winds throughout low hills, gullies, and forest around the river. Nature walks happen at top of the falls, KaniyoPabidi, and Rabongo Forest.

The Rabongo Forest Ecotourism Centre is located on an island of tropical river forests in the southeast of the conservation area. Savannah grasslands surround the forest. With a tour guide, one can explore primates like the Red-tailed monkeys, Black & white colored monkeys, Chimpanzees, birds, trees, and medicinal plants.

Kanio Pabidi is a serene area of natural forest within Budongo Forest Reserve, where you can walk beneath mature mahogany and ironwood trees. Chimpanzee tracking is the most famous activity. You certainly see many forest birds, including the Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, the White-thighed Hornbill, and Puvell’s Illadopsis found nowhere else in East Africa! Kaniyo Pabidi is on the Masindi – Paraa road, 8 kms from Kichumbanyobo gate.

Conclusion; Are you planning to a wildlife safari to Uganda, Murchison fall national park with all it has to offer should be listed first on places you should visit.

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What are the Best Parks for Gorilla Trekking in Africa?

There are only two populations of mountain gorillas left in the world. Mountain gorillas are found on two separate locations, the first one lives in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, with groups scattered between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The second population lives deep in the thick Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. As of September 2016, the estimated number of mountain gorillas remaining is about 880.

The distribution of mountain gorillas is entirely within national parks, but despite their protected status, all three countries inhabit similar rugged terrain and have similar habits. Individual mountain gorilla groups vary in their accessibility. The regulations and quality of local gorilla guides and trackers is similar in Rwanda and Uganda.

It’s important to know what you’re getting into before setting out for budget gorilla trek in Africa. The hike through the forest is challenging and tough-going (your guides will often have to machete a path through the ferns that clog the undergrowth), but it’s within reach for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. You will get muddy though and sweaty. Beneath the forest canopy the humidity is very high, and it’s a good idea to bring a canteen of fresh water to hydrate as you go.

Uganda has two places where these Mountain Gorillas may be seen, one is Mgahinga Gorilla Park; a stunning park and a component of the Virunga chain of towering volcanoes that extend into the DRC and Rwanda, and then in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Bwindi forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has more than half of the rare estimated population of 480 mountain gorillas. The park is situated in the south western park of Uganda on the edge of the Albertine Rift montane forests. Trekking mountain gorillas in Uganda is a truly unforgettable experience that offers a great privilege for the rest of your life time. No safari to Uganda would be complete without experiencing this particular wonder at least once.

The must see life experience is the first single hour you can spend in the wild with our so close related gorillas. As the venture is starting with a good hike to the last know where about of the family, it takes you through beautiful scenery. The clear cutting line of trees and farmland shows so clearly the pressure of humans on the wildlife.

Back in the nature, in Bwindi you will have looked like over a century ago. Marvelous and impressive you have to find the gorillas here deep in the jungle with some less restraining hike, they are just across the farmland and showing their gentle nature close by. You can take videos and pictures of them playing, sleeping, swinging from trees, and many others, the guides visit the gorillas every day, for over many years before they may host the guest from all over the world. The relatively high price to pay for the 1 hour visit is worthy every drive and some is used to protect the species and land for future generations.

In Rwanda, gorilla trekking takes places in Volcanoes National Park lying north western Rwanda bordering Virunga national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park. Virunga National Park is known for its haven for the rare and endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest. The park is home to five of eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains including Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo and span 160km covered in rain forest and bamboo.

The park was the base for the zoologist Dian Fossey.  Of all attractions in Rwanda, the one that really draws people to visit Volcanoes National Park, are the rare mountain gorillas. A thrilling trek through the cultivated foothills of the Virunga’s offers stirring views in all directions entering the national park with armed guides and trekkers leading you in the mysterious intimacy of the rain forest jungle alive with the calls of colourful birds and hooting of the rare golden monkeys.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, gorilla trekking takes place in Virunga National Park. Trekking mountain gorillas on foot starts early in the morning and after border formalities you are transferred to a ranger’s station where the trek commences. Your rangers will lead you through the cultivated lands and then into the dense rain forest and as close as is allowed to a gorilla family. The rangers monitor the gorillas on a daily basis and have a fairly good idea of where they are. However, they are free roaming animals, and their sighting cannot be guaranteed. Trekking can take anywhere from 1 hour to 8 hours and it can be quite tiresome, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. No camera flashes and you avoid sustained eye contact or finger pointing. If a gorilla moves toward you, step calmly out of the way. If one charges, follow the guide’s instruction to drop to the ground in submission.

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5 Top Birding Sites in Uganda

Some of the travelers who annually visit Uganda are more interested in doing the birding activity. For every traveler wishing to go on a birding safari, this article unveils the best birding sites in Uganda that you should consider most:

Semuliki National Park & Reserve

Semuliki, in western Uganda, is arguably the best birding site in Uganda, and it the main reason as to why the Park is referred to as a ‘’True Birders’ Haven’’ – as the Park comprises of almost every unique African bird species. Though the Park’s main attraction is the pair of hot springs – male and female, found near the Park office at Sempaya, it is a unique destination for all birders and the birding highlights include Albertine Rift Endemics such as; the dwarf honey guide and purple-breasted sunbirds; 35 Congo-Guinea biome species found nowhere else in East Africa, including black dwarf hornbill, Congo serpent eagle, Nkulengu rail, Gabon woodpecker; and other species with very limited ranges such as; white-tailed hornbill, capuchin babbler, blue-headed crested flycatcher and the orange weaver.

The other amazing thing in this Park, besides unique bird watching, is the pair of hot springs of which the female hot spring called ‘’Nyansimbi’’, which means; the female ancestors, is a boiling geyser that spurts bubbling water and steam up to two meters high. Visitors can therefore cook eggs and plantains in the boiling pools that surround the central spout.

Kidepo Valley National Park

Nestled in Uganda’s distant north-eastern corner, Kidepo is also referred to as the ‘’True African Wilderness’’ due to its scenic landscape and varied wildlife, and arguably the Park is one of Uganda’s best and mostly explored protected areas. The Park is best known for its natural unrivalled beauty and protecting a varied wildlife, but more fascinating is that the Park is a home to almost 500 bird species, thus making it the second place to hold the largest number of bird species in Uganda, only next to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The experienced and professional ranger guides are available at Apoka to assist you to locate and identify birdlife in the Park’s various habitats. On addition to bird watching, you will also be in a perfect place to enjoy the game viewing activity as the Park inhabits almost every African wildlife species, such as; African lions, Cape buffaloes, African leopards, African elephants, Rothschild’s giraffes, Zebras, Elands, Cheetahs, wild dogs, Jackson’s hartebeest, spotted and stripped hyenas, bat-eared foxes, Oribi, Okapis, Topis, Gazelles, and many others.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Perched in the western parts of Uganda spanning the districts of; Kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi, and Rukungiri, the Park is definitely among the heavily visited ones in Uganda, of which; it is mostly renowned for its amazing tree climbing lions and the spectacular Kazinga channel – home to an abundance of wildlife. The birding activities overlap with the wildlife viewing locations in the Park and the highlights include; easy sightings of resident and migratory water birds on the Kazinga channel; spectacular seasonal congregations of flamingoes on the Kyambura and Katwe soda lakes; careful searches for rare and restricted range forest species in Maramagambo forest; plus the memorable shoebill sightings on the remote Lake Edward flats in Ishasha sector – residence to the tree climbing lions. The Park inhabits the largest population of bird species in Uganda, with over 600 bird species.

Murchison Falls National Park

Residing at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment merges into a vast, palm-dotted savanna, Murchison Falls National Park is the largest national park in Uganda and its existence is basically determined by the majestic Murchison Falls. The Park conducts a variety of activities such as; game viewing, boat cruises, sport fishing, cultural encounters, hot air balloon safaris, chimpanzee tracking, and bird watching. It is an ideal destination for birders – protecting over 451 bird species, hence making it one of the destinations in Uganda with the largest number of bird species, including the water birds such as; the rare shoe-billed stork, dwarf kingfisher, Goliath heron, white-thighed hornbill and great blue turaco. A journey to or from the MFNP is very scenic and there is an optional visit to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – the only home to the wild rhinos in Uganda, thus being able to view all the Arica’s big five (Lions, Elephants, Leopards, Rhinos, and Buffaloes), whereby the others will all be spotted from Murchison Falls National Park. For birders to view the many bird species should involve in game drives, launch trips/boat cruises and forest walks to encounter various bird species in abundance – as everything in the Park is there in abundance, especially wildlife species and bird species.

Mabamba Bay Wetland

The wetland is nestled on the edge of Lake Victoria – northwest of the Entebbe peninsular, and it is one of Uganda’s most important birding areas. The major bird species here include; shoebills, the blue swallow and the papyrus gonoleks. More special with bird watching activities at Mabamba is that; a birder can spot 60% of the total population of the bird species there, just within a single day thus being one of the most ideal destinations for bird watching activities in Africa. It is also the only destination in Africa where at any time of the day; a birder can spot the elusive shoebills.

The wetland comprises of a total of 260 bird species and a birder can be able to spot almost 157 bird species within just a single day. Mabamba is definitely one of the strong holds for the migrant Blue Swallow – with over 100 individuals recorded every year. The amazing birding experience in Mabamba in not only at the swamp, but along the way, there are other birding spots with a variety of habitats, and after birding, one can opt to follow a woodland and savanna trail up to the sand mining quarry to increase on chances of other species apart from the wetland birds. The birding excursions in Mabamba are basically done on canoes through the small channels of marsh-filled water and lagoons – birds are best spotted in the morning hours though; they can be spotted throughout the entire day at any hours convenient for you.

Other most recommendable important birding sites;

The other popular birding sites in Uganda include; Budongo forest, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Kibale Forest National Park, Entebbe Botanical Gardens, and Mabira forest, among others.