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