Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park
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Considered as the largest Uganda’s national park, Murchison Falls was established in 1952 at the extreme end of the western arm of the east African rift valley also referred to as the Albertine rift. It is 80km in the north of Masindi town and 350kms from the Kampala the Uganda’s capital city. The protected area extends for 3,840 Km2 and when it is adjoined with the adjacent Karuma and Bugungu wildlife reserves to form the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area, it covers 5, 308 Km2.
Murchison Falls National Park is traversed by the world’s longest river – the Nile River for about 115km bisecting it into the northern and the southern sectors leaving the magnificent natural landmark that has been listed as the greatest natural feature to ever happen on the Nile course and that is nothing other than the world’s powerful Murchison falls. The first European to discover these falls was Sir Samuel Baker on his Nile Expedition and he named it after the President of the Royal Geographical Society – Sir Roderick Murchison on 14th March, 1864.
The Murchison Falls are very amazing as water of the flowing Nile River At the falls, it’s where the waters of the majestic Nile River squeeze through a narrow gorge, only 8 meters wide, before which is the only outlet of Lake victoria squeezes its self to pass through an 8m gorge before falling 43m below to what has been termed as the Devils Cauldron forming a plume of spray marked by a thunderous roar and a trade mark rainbow. Murchison Falls National Park is a home of the four of the big five land animals including elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards. The Rhinos thrive in the adjacent Ziwa Rhino sanctuary where they were re-introduced in 2005 after getting extinct in 1983.
Murchison Falls National Park is regarded to be on low altitude on the geographical standards of Uganda falling in between 619m and 1,292m and is currently the second most visited park in Uganda by travellers on Uganda safaris after Queen Elizabeth National Park. Its average rainfall stands at 1,085mm and is amount is regarded as a bit low in comparison to the south western tropical forests of Uganda though it is considered to be of the same range with other savannah environments of East Africa. The vegetation comprises of green tall savannah grass land dotted by borasuss palm trees and marked by river line vegetation along the banks of the Nile not forgetting the dense wood and forested landscapes of the southern sector.
Regarding Wildlife, Murchison Falls National Park is a home to 76 mammal species, 460 species of birds with 19 that are not yet confirmed, 53 species of raptors which amalgamate to make your safari in Uganda memorable. The animal species include among others; defassa buck, bushbuck, bohor reedbuck, warthog, side-striped jackal and oribis, olive baboon and vervet monkeys, leopard, spotted hyena and the localized patas monkey. The dense tracts of Rabongo Forest contain black and white colobus, chimpanzees and other forest primates. Rare bird species like the shoe bill stork thrive in the park
Map of Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison fallsThe Murchison Falls are considered as the greatest natural landmark to ever happen on the course of the world’s longest River – River Nile. The Nile River which traverses the Murchison Falls National Park bisecting it into two parts leaves this natural land mark with in the park boundaries. Occurring on the Victoria part of the Nile, River Nile which is the only outlet of Lake Victoria squeezes its self to pass through an 8m ravine plunging for 43m while hitting on hard rocks producing a thunderous roar before falling into the Devils Cauldron forming a trade mark rainbow. It is an amazing feature as the 300 cubic meters of water pumped by Lake Victoria every second is pressed to way its way out of a gorge that is below ten meter width. The falls have got a historical encounter dating back to the era of exploration when the European Sir Samuel Baker discovered it on 14th March 1864 and called it Murchison Falls after his boss Sir Roderick Murchison who was the president of the Royal Geographical Society. Though its name was altered to Kabalega falls during the Amin’s era to commemorate the famous King (Omukama) of Bunyoro Kabalega who is known for having resisted against the British rule, it was later transferred to its original name. It is such amazing encounter to ever have while on safaris in Uganda.
Murchison Falls National Park contains 76 mammal species including four of the big five land animals. These include herds of elephants, buffaloes, lions and leopards. The Park also has giraffes which can only be traced in Murchison and Kidepo in Uganda. The counts of Uganda Kob, Oribis, Jackson’s hartebeest, waterbucks, bushbucks, warthogs, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, blue and red tailed monkeys, white and black colobus monkeys patas monkeys and counts of Chimpanzees in the adjacent Budongo forest and white rhinos in the adjacent Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
Murchison Falls National Park has varied eco systems settings ranging from forested to water and savannah which shelters counts of birds. The park has 451 bird species and other 19 species that are not yet confirmed which can be encountered while on birding safari in Uganda. The birds that can be seen in Murchison Falls National Park include among others; the Goliath heron which is the largest in Uganda, Shoebill Stork which is considered rare and endangered and grey crowned crane which is the Uganda’s national bird. Other bird species in the park include; Swamp Flycatcher, Blue-headed Coucal, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Sandpipers, Denham’s Bustard, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Black-billed Barbet, Black-headed Gonolek, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Pied Kingfisher, Piapiac, Weaver Birds, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Silver bird, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, African Quail-Finch, Speckle-fronted Weaver and Red-throated Bee-eater.
The ranges of game that thrive in Murchison Falls National Park pose a rich ground for game drive activity. Wildlife in Murchison includes; elephants, lions, buffalos, Jackson’s hartebeests, Rothschild giraffes which thrive in the northern sector of the park explaining the reason why game drives are conducted in the northern bank while on Uganda safari. The various tracks are designed to enable travelers to explore the wildlife in various parts of the park including the Buligi, Albert and Victoria tracks. The area between Paraa – Pakwach road and the Victoria Nile delta has great concentrations of wildlife thus forming a rich ground for wild game viewing. The left turn at the cross roads to enter the Buligi area 7km from Paraa while a right turn takes you to Wankwar gate and finally Chobe. The Nyamsika gorge which is positioned a few Kilometers from the junction offers drinking point for animals including buffaloes and lions tend to dwell with in while the Nyamsika cliffs provide shelter to seasonal colonies of bee-eater bird species while the shallows provide an ideal ground for spotting Egyptian plover. The dense wood in the southern sector offer less counts of wildlife hence limited game viewing encounter. However, the open landscape along Sambiya Karuma road offers sights of Jackson hartebeest, Uganda Kob, waterbuck, oribi and baboon. Rarely encountered are elephants and lions. The game drives in Murchison Falls National Park are ideally done in the morning at 6:30am and in the evening at 4:00pm lasting 3 – 4 hours.
The birding encounter can be carried out as part of the game drive or the launch cruise but can also be carried out as a single activity. The banks of the Nile offer sights of the rare and endangered shoebill stork which is easily seen in months of January – March. The plains offer sights of Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Marabou Stork, Secretary Birds, , Widow Bird, Open-billed Storks and Black-bellied Bustards. Others species include; grey crowned crane, White headed vulture, Black headed lapwing, Senegal thick- knee among others. Birding in Murchison is mostly done in Rabongo and Kaniyo – Pabidi forests, along the riverine vegetation that follow the Nile River, Nyamsika cliffs with sights of Swallow-tailed and Red-throated Bee-eaters. The amalgamation of these derives a complete birding experience while on safari in Uganda.
The Murchison Falls National Park offers relaxing boat trip along the River Nile. Starting at Paraa, the Nile launch trip stretches up to the bottom of the falls. The water shores are marked by acacia woodland, borassus palm and mahogany stands. Inaugurated by the Queen of England in 1959, the Nile launch cruise offers impressive sights of the counts of Hippos, Nile crocodiles which is the second largest reptile in the world after the Salty water crocodile, wildlife drinking on the river side including elephants and buffaloes and amazing scenic encounter of the Murchison falls. The counts of birds thrive along the river ecosystem including the shoe bill, saddle billed stork, Goliath heron, pied and malachite kingfishers, African fish eagle, African jacana, piacpiac, African skimmer among others. The activity is best done in the afternoon with the UWA launch departing at 2pm local time lasting for 3 hours.
Top of the falls
The powerful Murchison Falls form the ground for the naming of the Murchison Falls National Park thus encountering it is one those rewarding endeavors to ever have while on Uganda safari. The top of the falls can reached to by taking 15km road that branches from the main Paraa – Masindi road close to Sambiya River Lodge which is a bit rough with steep sections that require careful navigation. The top of the falls is marked by a foot path that trails down to the bottom of the falls following the staggering Nile crushing its self on these strong impermeable rocks to make its way out with great thunderous roar. The view point also offers another 20 minute stretch to a saddle with sights of Murchison falls and large Uhuru falls to the north. Another foot path runs downhill from the saddle to the gorge base below the main waterfall. Exploring the top of the falls requires two (2) hours and ideally in the afternoon offering opportunity for photography.
Murchison Falls National Park is surrounded with a range of tribal groups including the northern Nilotic groups and the southern Bantu groups. The Mubako energetic dancers offer you a highlight of local tradition embedded in music dance and drama and handicrafts. The village tour also exposes you to the setting of the local community.
The waters of the Nile offer opportunity for sport fishing encounters. The waters are rich in counts of fish including the heavy Nile Perch. The rocks positioned at the bottom of the falls and boats moored close to favorable pools and eddy further downstream. Sport fishing featuring the Nile perch and large catfish can be done all year round and all day. The local fisher men point out that the fishing results are great in the early and late hours of the day which is a bit valid for predator species. However, Arthur de Mello an experienced fisherman points out that fish can be got at any time of the day or night provided the weather and water are clear and warm. The Murchison fishing encounter is ideal when the water is low and clear which is between Mid-Januarys to Early April.
Hiking and nature walks
Murchison Falls National Park offers opportunities for nature walks. The walks can be arranged traversing the Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo forests with sights of primates and birds. Other walks can be arranged along the Victoria Nile delta stretching for 2 – 4 hours with likely views of shoebill. The hike to the top of the falls takes 45m starting at the bottom of the falls where the boat stops offering the views of the Nile up stream to the top of the falls. The short treks are arranged from Sambiya River Lodge ideal for birders and those who love nature. The stretch in the southern section and tend to last 1 ½ – 2 hours.
How to Get to Murchison Falls National ParkMurchison Falls National Park can be connected to from these originating areas;
- There are two routes that can used to reach Murchison Falls National Park from Masindi. One is via Kichumbanyobo gate Masindi 85km about 2 – 3 hours’ drive while the other is via the Albertine rift 135km about 5 hours’ drive with impressive scenic views.
- Murchison Falls National Park can also be connected to via the northern side through Karuma – Pakwach road after branching off from the Kampala – Gulu road few kilometers from Karuma Bridge. By using this route, the Murchison falls National Park can thus be penetrated through any of these gates;• Chobe gate 2km north of the Karuma Bridge.
- Tangi gate 110km west of the bridge of Karuma.
- Wankwar gate which is 10 km off the main highway and several Kilometers from Purongo.
- Murchison Falls National park can also be connected to using public transport. The buses connect from Kampala to Masindi on a daily basis after which you can pick a private taxi to connect to the park for the remaining distance at a lesser cost compared to if you were to get it from Kampala.
- Murchison Falls National Park can also be accessed by Air travel. Aero link operates scheduled flights to Pakuba Airfield and Bugungu Airstrip from Entebbe International Airport. Other Charter airline carriers operate charter services from either Kajjansi Airfield or Entebbe Airport to Bugungu and Pakuba Airfields upon demand.
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