Murchison Falls National Park
"the world's strongest waterfalls"
Enthusiasts from across the globe gravitate to this enchanting game park with the captivating Murchison falls having stirred the wanderlust in them. Being at the heart of the park and unquestionably its claim to fame,Murchison falls is sure to fall on the bucket lists of many travel connoisseurs.
Lose yourself as you watch the dauntless white Nile explode through a narrow gorge from an outlet of the Lake Victoria and collapse into a mystifying wall of mist, blushing with the hues of the rainbow and drenching you with awe. The vigorous, rock grinding drop is surely a jaw dropping sight.
Fall in love with these falls as its splendour encloses upon you and renders you speechless. Embrace the unmistakable heartthrob of the landscape and let it calm your qualms with it's mere intensity. Close your eyes and listen to the gurgling of the Nile, with the subtle hissing of its wildlife in the background.
The drive to the National park is about 320Kms and takes about 6 hours to reach from Entebbe. The wait is totally worth it once you see how mesmerizing the falls are. Claim the enticing odds of meeting four out of the big five, which includes the mighty Lions, leopards, elephants and buffaloes. Murchison Falls National Park is brimming with as many as 75 species of mammals and over 451 species of birds. Be it in the winds, the waters or on land, this national park hosts a surprise anywhere you look.
Notable visitors of the park include Sir Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals.
AREAS OF INTEREST WITHIN THE PARK
Murchison Falls is characterized by eternal war between rock and water. The waters violently compress through a narrow gorge, spraying misty droplets along their wake over a 50m radius. This creates a permanent rainbow over the battlefield and causes a continuous roar. From Baker Point on the southern side, you can also view the Nile splitting into the smaller Uhuru Falls, created in 1962 when the river burst its banks.River NileA boat ride along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls is a rewarding experience for nature lovers, as the northern bank teems with a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles. Guided nature walks along both the north and south banks are another refreshing activity, and sport fishing is also possible here. Rafting will be available starting in 2012.
Nile-Lake Albert Delta
This wide, calm stretch of water, where the tranquil Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert, is a key area for bird watchers. Its papyrus-lined banks are bursting with birdlife, including Goliath Herons, Great Egrets, and African Fish Eagles. The most sought-after species here is the rare Shoebill.
Buligi Game Tracks
The Buligi game tracks, stretching between the Victoria and Albert Niles, are the Murchison Falls National Park’s most popular safari destination. At around 120-170km in length, they pass through open savannah grassland, woodland, acacia and riverine vegetation. Most of the park’s game can be viewed here, especially during early morning and early evening tours.
Paraa, meaning home of the hippo in the local Luo language, is the park’s tourism hub. All the park’s access roads converge here as the northern and southern banks are linked by a passenger ferry, and several accommodations are located nearby. Additionally, a museum and gift shop can be found on the north bank, and most game drives, launch trips and nature walks commence here.
The Karuma Falls are located in Chobe, in the northeastern sector of the park. These roaring waterfalls on the Victoria Nile are made up of a series of natural rock formations which cause the waters to ripple and give them a white, foamy appearance. It is an ideal area for sport fishing.
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
In the south of Murchison Falls Conservation Area, this forest ecosystem contains black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys, olive baboons, and a habituated chimp group which can be tracked. Elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards are also frequent visitors. Many forest birds can be viewed here, including the chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel's illadopsis which is found nowhere else in East Africa.Kaniyo Pabidi has a campsite, cottage accommodation, forest walks and excellent bird watching.
Surrounded by savanna and covering just 4km2, Rabongo Forest is considered a birders’ paradise because of the endangered species found here. Rabongo is ideal for educational tours as it provides opportunities to identify animals, birds, medicinal plants and trees. For relaxation, visitors can camp and enjoy picnics by the Wairingo River.
PLACES OF INTEREST OUTSIDE THE PARK
Budongo Forest, which is contiguous with the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest, lies south west of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Budongo is astonishingly biodiverse, with 24 mammal species, over 360 birds, 289 butterflies and 465 plants. All the forest’s tree species are on display along the “Royal Mile”, a beautiful stretch of road highly regarded for its bird watching. Budongo is also known for its primate population, which includes around 800 chimpanzees. Forest walks are possible at Busingiro Ecotourism Site on the Masindi-Bugungu route to Murchison Falls National Park.
What to Bring
This is one of Uganda’s hottest national parks – bring cool clothing, sunglasses, a sun hat and plenty of sunscreen. Light layers are also recommended for the evenings. On launch trips, you should take a waterproof, along with plastic bags for cameras and other equipment in case of a downpour.Insects can be a problem, particularly at dusk and when hiking through vegetation around the river, so bring light, long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and a good insect repellent. Few places have electricity 24 hours, so be sure to bring a flashlight with spare batteries, and spare batteries for your camera.
Climate and when to Visit
During the day, the temperature is around 25-32°C, making this one of the hottest regions in Uganda. Nights are cooler, dropping to around 18°C, and there is little rain – though when it arrives it can be torrential!The best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park is during the dry seasons from December to late February and from June to September, as the animals congregate around water bodies making them easier to observe. The best time for bird watching is January-March which tends to have plenty of bird activity with fewer tourists.
4Days Nature Safari
Day 1: Rhino Sanctuary and sunset views
On your way to Masindi from Kampala, branch off in Nakitoma – Nakasongola for a visit to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for a guided walk to view the rhinos walk followed by a picnic lunch. Continue up to the Park, check in to your accommodation and take a sunset cruise on the River Nile or drive to the top of the falls where you can view both Murchison and the smaller Uhuru falls as the sun slowly descends.
Day 2: Game Drive and Launch Trip
Make the most of the morning by taking the 7am ferry (if staying on the south bank) to begin your game drive in Buligi. The area is home to many lions, as well as elephants, giraffes and other wildlife. After lunch, embark on the three-hour launch trip to the base of the Falls. Cruise past huge hippo pods, crocodiles, bathing buffalo and numerous aquatic birds adorning the north bank on the way to the mighty waterfall.
Day 3: Birding on the Delta and Game Drive to top of Falls
Birders will be in for a thrilling experience during the boat ride to the Nile-Lake Albert Delta, where the River Nile meets Lake Albert. Have your binoculars ready for the rich bird life including the shoebill stork, Goliath heron and grey crowned crane. Alternatively, spend your morning relaxing at your lodge, cooling off in the pool, or taking a cultural walk to Mubako community with a local guide.
After, lunch hop in the car for a game drive along the newly opened Tebito track, finishing with a short walk down to the top of the Falls on the north bank. Spend the night in a lodge in Budongo Forest.
Day 4: Chimp Tracking or Birding in Budongo ForestMeet our distant cousins! Get an early start to catch chimps leaving their nests in the Budongo Forest, looking out for other primates and forest bird species along the way.Alternatively, walk with an experienced guide along the renowned “Royal Mile” for some spectacular birding – over 360 species inhabit this forest.In the afternoon, as you leave the Conservation Area, take a detour to Boomu Women’s Group just outside Kichumbanyobo park gate to discover a little about life in northwestern Uganda, and learn about the local culture, music and crafts.
4Days Birding Safari
Day 1: Bird to Murchison Falls National Park
Departing from Kampala, bird as you head to Murchison Falls National Park with a lunch stop at Masindi. After lunch, bird as you continue to Paraa via the top of Murchison Falls. Stretch your legs with a short walk around the top of the falls before it plunges over 40 meters in a majestic cascade. Look out for birds like raptors, Rock Pratincole, Crested Francolin, White crested Turaco, White-headed Barbet, Narina Trogon, Red-throated Bee-eater, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Silverbird, Red-cheeked Cordon blue, waxbills, finches, sunbirds and canaries, among others. Dinner and overnight at one of the lodges.
Day 2: Bird Murchison Falls National Park
After an early breakfast, take the ferry to the northern bank for a game drive. After lunch at Paraa or a picnic, take the launch trip up to the bottom of the falls, cruising past hundreds of hippos, crocodiles, and birds. Look out for the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Black-headed Plover, Rock Pratincole, Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater, Red-throated Bee-eater, Black-billed Barbet, Spotted Morning Thrush, Speckle fronted Weaver, White-browed Sparrow Weaver and more. You will also pass game such as the graceful Rothschild’s giraffe, Jackson’s hartebeest, Uganda kob, defassa waterbuck, buffalo, elephant, warthog, hippo, oribi and – if lucky – leopard or lion. Dinner and overnight as before.
Day 3: Transfer back to Masindi via the escarpment
After breakfast with your packed lunch, proceed for the drive back to Masindi driving through the rift valley escarpment where you will have good views of Lake Albert. Bird the escarpment before proceeding to Busingiro Forest Centre, time permitting. Bird around the vicinity and the road. Drive through to Malinda where you will spend the night. Look out for birds like African Hawk-Eagle, Booted Eagle, Striped Kingfisher, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Black- billed Barbet, Cliff Chat, Spotted Morning Thrush, Northern Crombec, Red-faced Crombec, Green-backed Eremomela, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Rattling Cisticola, Foxy Cisticola, Red-winged Warbler, Red-winged Grey Warbler, Black-headed Batis, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Red-winged Ptyalin, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Black-faced Waxbill among others. Dinner and overnight at one of the hotels.
Day 4: Bird the Royal Mile
After an early breakfast, take packed lunch to bird Budongo Forest’s Royal Mile. Look out for species like the African Crowned Eagle, Hugli’s Francolin, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Dwarf Kingfisher, White-thighed Hornbill, a Selection of Tinkerbirds and Barbets, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Greenbuls, Fire-crested Alethe, Red-tailed Ant-thrush, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Rufus-crowned Eremomela, Whistling Cisticola, Black-throated Apalis, Black-capped Apalis, Grey-throated Flycatcher, Forest Flycatcher, Ituri Batis, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Western Black-headed Oriole, Purple headed Starling, Brown Twinspot among others. Primates like red-tailed and blue monkeys and the black-and-white colobus can also be observed here. Continue south to Kibale National Park, or return to Kampala.
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