Murchison Falls Conservation Area is the biggest protected area in Uganda covering about 5,025 kilometres which comprise of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserves and in the Southern part, Budongo Forest. For excellent wildlife safaris in Uganda, Murchison Falls National Park is a must go.
The Murchison Falls National park is named after the amazing ‘falls’ on River Nile, which meets a gap in the Rift Valley Escarpment, then it changes into bubbles of noisy white water, a rare site in East Africa. At this point, it is where River Nile explodes down to become a composed river whose banks are thronged with buffaloes, hippos, waterbucks and crocodiles. The park vegetation is defined by nice-looking savanna, riverine forest and woodland. Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of Albertine rift valley, where the large Bunyoro escarpment joins together with the vast plains of Acholi region.
Mammals & Bird Species
The park mammals figure to more than 76 species, which include giraffes, elephants, hartebeests, lions, leopards, chimpanzees, spotted hyenas, kobs, bushbuck, waterbuck, oribis, jackal and many others. There are over 450 bird species.
Tourist Activities in Murchison Falls National Park
At Murchison Falls National Park, the 3-hour launch cruise and back begin from Paraa by the Nile up to the Murchison Falls (17 km), in a move to spot elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks, bee-eaters, hippos, crocodiles, water birds related cormorants, pelicans, Kingfishers, herons, Ducks, fish eagle, shoebill stork. Trek to “top of the falls”, to see closer from the top the charging and stunning Murchison Falls. Game drives north of river Nile and at Lake Albert Delta’s Buligi, Albert and Queen’s tracks. Sport fishing (Nile Perch and tiger fish) in river Nile above and down the falls, chimpanzee trekking and birding in Budongo Forest and Kanyiyo Pabidi Forest Reserve are done.
The park has blue-napped mousebird, Spotted Mourning Thrush, Silver Bird, Bluff-bellied Warbler, Black-headed Batis, Black-headed Gonolek, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Vitelline Masked Weaver plus the Green-winged Ptyilia are amongst the many bird species seen between Paraa Rest Camp and during the ferry crossing. This is also the most excellent place to see the local white-rumped seed-eater. By and large, the Spotted and Verreaux’s Owls and an excess of impressive Nightjars, like the Long-tailed and Pennat-winged Nightjar (Especially between March-September) and predominantly the night-time species commonly seen in this area. A number of bird species like Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, Grey-crowned Crane, Long-toed Plover, whilst African Fish Eagle and African Skimmer are also common in this area. The Fox’s Weaver Uganda’s only common bird is also there. The amazing Standard-winged Nightjar (November-February) and with a portable spotlight, one could organize a night boat trip on the Nile river in search for White-backed Night Heron and Pel’s Fishing Owl.
In the blowy early morning on the Buligi, Albert and Queen’s tracks north of the river Nile before the sun ascend too high, you will notice an abundance of animals. Picnicking, good charming view of elephants and other game watching on the green hillsides and the sand river are among activities at Nyamusika Cliffs. You get set for a four hour drive with the help of an experienced guide.
Launch Cruise on the Nile
One of the most amazing highlights of a trip to Murchison Falls Conservation Area is the launch trip from Paraa to the bottom of Murchison Falls. There are many Hippos and crocodiles, elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks and birds like; Herons, Cormorants, Ducks, Bee-eaters, Fish Eagles, Kingfishers, and the dazzling Shoebill. The trip from Paraa to the falls and back takes about three hours. A boat trip to the Delta where the Victoria Nile engorges into Lake Albert leads through papyrus swamps. The trip takes about four to five hours and you will see a similar diversity of animals and birds.
Sport Fishing is largely done at the base of the falls. The fish is either from the rocks on the banks of the river or somewhat lower downstream in the water. Access to the fishing spots is either by boat from a point downstream or by walking down the gorge to the river from the top of the falls. It is a long sharp climb back up for about 45 minutes for a persuasively strong person and hence most people tend to go fishing equipped for the day to avoid climbing up in the heat of the day. Baits can used to catch fish like Nile perch and various species of cat fish. We recommend a rod between 11feet (3 metres) and 8 feet (2.4 metres) together with a fixed spool or multiplier roll.
Murchison Falls Conservation Area gives one an opportunity to discover and press forward to the wild nature even as on foot. Paraa trailing goes via riverine forest, gullies and short hills. Scores of fauna and flora species are closely, directly and mutely seen along the way. Nature walks are provided at Rabongo Forest, top of the falls and Kaniyo Pabidi.
Top of the Falls
Travelers trail walk to the falls and right up to the water’s edge. There is a chance to trek to the top of the falls from the boat landing and come closer to the narrow gap via which the river pushes through.
Kaniyo Pabidi is exceptional for nature walks and hikes for chimpanzee tracking as the fundamentally done activity. Kaniyo Pabidi is on the Masindi – Paraa road, 8 kilometers from Kichumbanyobo gate. It is an area of natural forest within Budongo Forest Reserve, perfect for walking under mature mahogany and flatten wood trees. Besides chimps, one can watch many forest birds like the chocolate backed Kingfisher, Hornbill with white thighs and Puvell’s Illadopsis found nowhere else in the East African region apart from here. Kaniyo Pabidi has a campsite with water and firewood for use as one may desire and the place is clandestinely run by the Forestry Department.
Rabongo Forest is admirable for nature walking and primate tracking. It is a place of moist riverine forest in the south-east of the conservation area. It is encircled by savanna plains, an hour and a half drive from Paraa. A nature march in the forest on foot facilitates one spot primates like the black and white Colobus monkeys, the red-tailed monkeys, baboons and chimpanzees plus birds, medicinal plants and trees. At the River Wairingo is a picnic site with a campsite where one can also reside at the well-equipped Ecotourism centre forest cottages.
Murchison Falls NP Accommodation
Murchison Falls National Park offers accommodation at the camp sites on top of the falls plus the traditional and self-contained bandas are made available. Toilets or pit latrines/showers or bathing shelters are also at these sites. Accommodation facilities are of various kinds, like the luxury safari lodges and the basic campsites.
· Paraa Safari Lodge
· Sambiya River Lodge
· Nile Safari Camp
· Paraa Rest Camp (has nice self-contained bandas).
· Rabongo Eco-Tourism Centre (good cottages)
· Red Chilli Rest Camp
· Kaniyo Padibi Camp
NOTE: Tourists can also sleep in Masindi Town and connect to the park the next morning.
Access to Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Fall National Park can be reached by air or by road covering about 305 km from Kampala spending 5hours on the way. Charter flights can land at airstrips north of the Nile at Pakuba (19kms from Paraa) and south at Bugungu (13kms from Paraa). Paara covers a distance of about 85km from Masindi town by the shortest route. A longer route will cover an area of about 135km. You can also access Paara from the north through Chobe Gate, Karuma Falls along with Tangi. The Gate, close to Pakwach covers an area of about 25km to Paara in addition to Wankwar Gate close by Purongo.
Whereas Queen Elizabeth national park has almost all mammals that exist in Murchison Falls national park, the latter boasts of the giraffes and the spectacular falls.