Murchison Falls National Park

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Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP), the largest protected area situated in north western part of Uganda covering 3840 sq km. It covers Bugungu, Karuma wildlife reserves and the Budongo Forest and derives its name from the Murchison Falls where the mighty River Nile explodes through a narrow gorge in the Rift Valley Escarpment and flows down to become a placid river.

Victoria Nile flows in the western direction between Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert and dissects the park into the north and south protecting a large section of untamed African savanna divided by the mighty Nile. The park supports Elephants, Buffaloes, Lions, Giraffes and a variety of antelopes. The Mighty Nile is home to crocodiles and hippo’s populations as well as water birds, including the rare shoebill storks. Murchison Falls safari park is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority

The 1951 film “The African Queen” starring Humphrey Bogart was filmed on Lake Albert and the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park.

In the south-east of the park lies the Budongo Forest Reserve protected within the Budongo and Kanyiyo Pabidi reserves, an extension of the park covering 790 sq kms comprising of the largest mahogany forest in East Africa! This reserve supports 465 different plant species and about 800 chimpanzees. The Royal Mile located 14kms from Busingiro is one of the best birding areas in Uganda. The reserve is famous for birding excursions where 366 different species have been recorded. The park has 76 mammal species, 460 bird species.

The View of Murchison Falls from Bellow, Murchison Falls National Park

The View of Murchison Falls from Bellow

Murchison Falls Area Activities:

The park has been picked as one of the best places to visit in 2020. Below are some of the activities that can be done.

Nile Launch Cruises – a 3-hour launch trip from Paraa to the base of the falls offers amazing views of wildlife and the frontal part of the water falls. The Delta Cruise down Lake Albert is a rewarding experience for the bird watchers and offers a chance to view the rare shoe bill stork. The sundowner cruise offers magnificient views of the equatorial sunset reflected on the river.

Birdwatching – This can be done during the game drives, nature walks and launch trips along the Nile and Lake Albert Delta. Over 451 bird species are recorded in the park and they include albertine rift endemic birds, water birds, and savannah birds.

Top of the falls – The hike involves boarding off the boat cruise at the bottom of the falls hiking to the top within 45 minutes as you get refreshed by the mist from the waterfall.  The hike starts at ‘Bakers’ point, from where Sir Samuel Baker is believed to have stood admiring the beauty of Murchison falls national park in 1864.

The hike is one of the greatest historical trails in the world – Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail. It follows the shoreline of Lake Albert northwards to the Victoria Nile and the mighty Murchison Falls and up the river to the Karuma Falls.

Winston Churchill in 1907 also took that same trail, he is famed for naming Uganda – the Pearl of Africa. Look out for the Uhuru falls (freedom falls) that was formed as massive floods created a second channel 200m north of the falls.

Sport Fishing –Fishing expeditions from the shore or boats is also done along the mighty Nile River upon acquiring a fishing permit. Murchison Falls turbulent waters are famed for its large Nile Perch as well as several species of catfish and tiger fish. A catch and release method is used with the help of experienced guides for a day or multi-day excursions. The recommended months are from December to March and June to October.

Game viewing / Wildlife Drives in Buligi area and between Lake Albert and Victoria Nile tracks is worthwhile. Expect to see elephant, buffalo, antelopes and giraffes,  lions and leopards. The game track network converges at Delta Point where the Nile flows north out of Lake Albert; this is a convenient place to stop for refreshments and view waterbirds offshore and distant hippos.

Hot Air Ballon Safaris –  This activity starts at 05:00 am with pick up places at Paraa entrances in the north and the south using UWA speed boats to transfer guests to the northern bank where they are picked at the river where they are taken to the takeoff position. The 1-hour balloon safaris accommodate 8 passengers and can fly up to 10,000 ft. above sea level. Bush breakfast may be provided at the end of the trip thereafter guests are transferred back to their pick up locations.

Cultural Encounters – Boomu Women’s Group was formed in 1999, in the village of Kihaguzi, to fight poverty in the area by creating economic and social development. This was done by starting a community tourism project through the help of the Uganda Community Tourism Association that involves; handcraft production, cultural performances, accommodation and guided walks that are showcased to visitors.

Budongo Forest Reserve is a 793 sq km classified as a medium-altitude semi-deciduous tropical rainforest in the southern part of Murchison Falls National Park. The reserve has a high biodiversity with 24 species of small mammals; nine being primates; 465 species of trees and shrubs; 359 species of birds; 289 species of butterflies; and 130 species of moths.

Chimpanzee Tracking, Chimp habituation, Forest walks and Bird watching in Budongo Forest Reserve.

Chimpanzee Tracking – These hikes take about 2 to 4 hours daily on both morning and afternoon sessions depending on the movement of the chimpanzees. You get to spend one hour with the chimps upon sighting them.

Chimpanzee Habituation – Get to spend the entire day with the chimpanzees from nesting to de-nesting. You get to learn how to identify the chimps as individuals by their markings, sometimes scars and other unique features that make them stand apart from rest. The best months for the habituation are March, April, May, and November (low season) when there is less tourist congestion.

Nature walk/forest walks – The reserve has well-developed forest trails offering chances of exploring the tropical rainforest. Learn more about the eco-system, the large Mahogany trees and different bird species, about 359 bird species are recorded in the reserve on half or full-day excursions guided by keen birding guides.

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Best Time to Visit Murchison Falls

Best time to go:December to February (Easier to spot animals)
High Season:June to September (The peak time for gorilla tracking, more people visit Uganda and Murchison Falls NP)
Low Season:March, April, May, October and November (High rainfall could lead to accommodations closing in other parks)
Best Weather:June, July (Few rains and lower temperatures)
Worst Weather:April, May and August to October (Higher rainfall, but seldom enough to really interfere with your safari)

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Top Experiences in Uganda

For a relatively small country, there’s a lot that’s big about the place. It’s home to the tallest mountain range in Africa (Rwenzori Mountains), the source that feeds the world’s longest river and the continent’s largest lake. And with half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas residing here, as well as the Big Five to be ticked off, wildlife watching is huge.
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