Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National park is Uganda’s largest national park it was first visited by European explorers John Speke and James Grant, in 1862 but it was furthermore explored by Samuel and Florence Baker in the year 1863 to 1864. Baker decided to name the park Murchison after the geologist Roderick Murchison who was the president of the Royal Geographical Society, the park had inhabitants by then but evacuated due to sleeping sickness that was spread by tsetse flies.
Bunyoro game reserve was created in the south of the river Nile in the districts of Bulisa, Masindi, and Kiryandongo in the year 1910 the park was extended to the present day Nwoya district. Then in 1952, the park was established the national park and the area became Murchison Falls National Park which makes it first Uganda’s national park.
The park is located in the northwestern part of Uganda in the districts of Bulisa, Nwoya, Kirayandongo, and Masindi and the largest nearest town are Masindi, the park is about 305km by road North West of Kampala the capital city of Uganda. Murchison Falls measures approximately 3,840km2 bisected into by the Victoria Nile from the east and west.
Adjacent to the Masindi Gulu highway are the Karuma falls the park’s climate is tropical and hot due to the fact that it is close to the equator and the temperatures uniformity is quite the same throughout the year and it has two rainy seasons. The park lies in the northern end of the Albertine rift valley into the Bunyoro escarpment with the palm-dotted savanna, the vegetation of the park is comprised of woodland, savanna grasslands, and riverine forests.
Popular Safari Itineraries to Murchison Falls
The park’s security is very high and the park is safe for both citizens and the foreigners the Uganda wildlife Authority has put in place the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces(UPDF). Together with tourism police to ensure that there is a high degree of safety and security of the protected areas.
For example last year, the president of the Republic of Uganda passed out 488 well-trained game rangers who go with tourists to do their different touristic activities like game drives, nature walks, bird watching to mention but a few. The rangers, the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces and tourism police not only protect tourists from aggressive wild animals but also against park entrants who enter the park illegally.
Touristic Attractions Murchison Falls
The park has very many touristic attractions that are eye-catching and will make your trip a success and worth taking these are listed below;
- The falls, visitors are encouraged to visit the falls in order to see, hear and feel the thunderous mighty roars of the waterfalls through a 6m wide gorge. A boat trip is more rewarding because you get to experience the war between the rocks and water which always leaves a mark of a rainbow in the sky and then take a walk through the baker trail up to the top although vehicles can also go there but it is more exciting to embark on the climb as you also view different birds, trees and so many other things.
- Nile – Lake Albert delta, a boat trip from Paraa to the Nile- Lake Albert delta where a maze of channels threads between the wetland islands that choke the rivers to the exit into the Lake Albert. This is a trip rewarding because you get to enjoy the birds that prefer wetlands like the shoebill which is a rare species.
- Animals, the park hosts over 76 mammal species and among these there are the four big five like the elephants, lions, buffaloes, and leopards. Other wildlife found in the park includes the antelope family, like Uganda kobs, bushbucks, waterbucks, oribis, Jackson’s hartebeests to mention but a few, hippopotamuses, among other wildlife.
- Budongo forest, this place is excellent for chimpanzee tracking and chimpanzee habituation experience, bird watching can also be done from here for some forest bird species, nature walks, hiking can be done from here too.
- Karuma falls; the roaring waterfalls are found on the Victoria Nile and among the most leading and impressive touristic attraction its name was derived from a spirit which is believed to have positioned the stones which break the waters on the Nile. The waterfall also hosts baboons that welcome visitors on the karma waterfall as tourists enter the Murchison falls national park.
- Rabongo Forest is a purely green tropical rain forest which harbors a good number of wildlife such as primates like chimpanzees, monkeys that is to say blue monkeys, baboons and the bird species and some are endemics and then the nocturnal animals like the Pottos the forest is also a safe place for camping and enjoying the cool fresh air.
- Birds, Murchison falls national park has a variety of birds which would be a good place for birders especially those that to see the shoebill, other birds include; African data, giant kingfisher and pied kingfisher, long-toed lapwing, rock pratincole, long-tailed nightjar, Abyssinian ground hornbill, martial eagle, secretary bird, saddle-billed stork to mention but a few the park has over 451 bird species that are recorded. Park has a variety of touristic attraction and just a few have been listed but there are more touristic attractions in the park that are really exciting and fun to see or visit.
Tourist Activities in Murchison Falls National Park
Apart from the attractions, the park also has a variety of activities that one can look forward to doing that are so interesting, engaging and breathtaking although some activities need you to be healthy and fit. Some of the activities are listed below;
- Chimpanzee tracking and habituation, this activity can be carried out in Budongo Forest, Rabongo forest and in Kanyio Paidi Forest all these support the activity and the activity is usually done in the morning and afternoon and the best time to do chimpanzee tracking is October to January that is when they can be accessed because during this time the grasses are short and the fruits are ripening. The chimpanzee habituation experience is a full day activity which is done from chimpanzee communities and it requires tourist to go very early for the activity.
- Game drives, the park consists of wetlands, savanna, woodland and tropical rainforest which are good and well known and habitats for different bird species and mammals, among the mammals are the lions, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, antelopes like the jack sons hartebeests, Uganda Kobs, hippopotamuses, to mention but a few. This activity is done very in the morning, late afternoon and evening this is because these times are the ones they feed, rest and going back to their respective places for the night. The activity is best done in 4WD which is the best for those roads.
- Boat Cruise, the boat trip starts from the landing area at Paraa where River Nile enters into lake Albert and heads to the bottom of the waterfall while on your boat cruise you will be able to see some wildlife like the elephants, giraffes, waterbucks, herd of buffaloes, the Nile crocodiles at the shores and widely open their mouths, hippopotamuses enjoying the water, while on the trip you can also be able to see some birds like the African Data, Pied kingfisher, cormorants, fish eagles bee-eaters, different tree species can also be seen while on the trip and other different vegetation.
- Bird watching, the park has about 451 recorded bird species and bird watching can be done from the different forests in the park, water, wetlands, woodland, grasslands, and the savanna vegetation are all habitat preferences for different bird species. Some of the birds in the park include; shoebills, open billed stork, African Jacakana, kingfishers, fish eagle, bee-eaters to mention but a few. The best time when bird watching is done is very early morning when the birds are going out to feed and in the evening when they are coming back to their respective places to rest.
- Nature walks, Nature walks happen at the top of the falls, in Budongo forest, Kanyio Paidi forest, and Rabongo forest, Radongo ecotourism center is in an island with tropical river forest, savanna grasslands surround the forest, the place can be walked through with a tour guide and explorer the place where one will be able to come across some primates such as chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, birds, medicinal plants and trees. The nature walks are usually between one hour to three or four hours
- Spot fishing, fishing is done as a sport in the park it involves catching fish on the Nile for fun this activity is among the main activities of the park. This activity is quite rewarding, usually, the methods used to catch fish is by casting lures and this is usually for larger fish, some of the fish caught are the Nile perch, tilapia, tiger fish, electric catfish to mention but a few.
- Hot air balloon safaris, Enjoy an exciting memorable experience of a safari in an air hot balloon that will leave you amazed and want to come back again, one can be able to the following while a hot air balloon safari, a marriage proposals which is so romantic and will leave her with no choice to think but say yes to you, view sunrise and sunset from above, bush breakfast, treetop level flights, watch full herds of animals to mention but a few. There are many more activities that one can do at the park that are worth doing and leave you satisfied with no regrets but make you want to come back again.
Weather and climatic conditions
The weather is tropical climate area for the fact that it is near the equator. Its temperatures are common and uniform throughout the year, during the day time the temperatures are usually higher and they drop at night and become cooler which makes it cold. The park receives rainfall in the wet season which is April to May and August to October.
The best time the park can be visited is from December to February and from June to September, during this time of the year is when animals come together around water bodies which makes it easier for tourists to be able to see and view the animals and the best time for birding in the park is usually January to March.
ACCOMMODATIONS IN MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
The accommodation In Murchison falls national park varies according to class and all of them can be affordable and cater to all tourists’ needs and wants. The park has different accommodation types and these include; lodges, safari camps, among the lodges the park has Paraa Safari Lodge, Chobe Lodge, Red Chill Lodge, Kabalega Wilderness Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge other types include, Bwana Tembo Safari Camp Geo Lodges Shoebill Campsite, Murchison River Lodge to mention but a few.
ACCESSING THE PARK
Murchison falls national park can be accessed through the Nile at Paraa which is the heart of the park, the park can be accessed using a number of routes depending on where you are coming from you can get to the park by using road transport or air transport.
One can enter the park through the northern gate and here you the Kampala- Pakwach road which crosses the Nile at Karuma falls bridge that is approximately 260km from Kampala. It is an advisable route to use for visitors traveling to and from Gulu town and Kidepo Valley National park. Also, tourists can enter the park through the Chobe, Wankwar, and Mubako and Tangi gates which is in the north of the Nile.
The other interesting and rewarding route is through the southern gates and through the Budongo forest which has magnificent views that are overlooking lake Albert and the mountains of Congo. It is also in the position of the Rift Valley Escarpment and has a distance of about 350km from Kampala the capital city of Uganda to Paraa through Masindi. About a 4hour drive and also one can get a chance of exploring the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary on your way to Murchison falls national park.
The park can also be accessed by using air transport from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airfield to Pakuba airfield and this is approximately 19km. Murchison Falls National park can also be accessed using other airfields like Chobe which is in the east of the park and Bugungu found in the south of the park.