Guide to Murchison Falls National Park

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Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s best-known and biggest nature reserve, and its impressive animal populations and superb activities are further augmented by its location, which straddles the Victoria Nile as it makes its way through multiple rapids and waterfalls (including the enormously impressive Murchison Falls) to Lake Albert. This is an exceptional place to see wildlife and a trip along the Nile in order to see the powerful Murchison Falls up close, a simply unforgettable Uganda Safari experience. The Lake Victoria outlet sends about 300 cubic meters per second of water to these falls and all this volumes squeezed through this gorge that is 7 meters wide.These waterfalls are found within the National park which was actually named after these wonderfull waterfalls. The park is located in the northern region of the Albertine Rift Valley.

The park is recognized as one of the best National parks in Uganda. When you are thinking of planning a safari to Uganda, Murchison Falls National Park is a must visit destination.  In 1926, the park was a game reserve established to shelter the savannah grassland which was pointed out by Winston Church chill in the year 1907, as the grand Kew Gardens together with the wildlife combined on an confined land.

There are over 72 Mammals, different Bird species that have been found. These include some of the following; Elephants can be found during the game drives and also as you take the boat launch up to the bottom of the falls. The African Buffalo is quite a large animal and moved about in groups and you will find them mainly on game drives or on boat launch. Lions, Giraffes, Antelopes like Uganda Kob, Hartebeest, Bushbuck, Defassa Waterbuck, Bohor Reedbuck, Oribi. There are also different monkeys like Vervet Monkeys, Baboon, Black and White Colobus, Patas Monkeys, warthogs, Side Striped Jackal, Leopards, Spotted Hyenas. The vegetation is characterised by savannah, riverine forest and woodland.

By road, the Nile river crossing at Paraa, in the centre of the park, is approximately 4 hrs drive from kampala. Paraa is 85km from Masindi town by the direct route. A longer alternative route passes through Budongo forest and enjoys spectacular views across Lake Albert from the rift valley escarpment above Butiaba. Murchison can also be reached by air. Charter flights can land at airstrips north of the Nile at Pakuba and south at Bugungu.

There are a number of attractions and activities that the Park provides to tourists as seen below;

The Nile and Murchison Falls

The main tourist attractions of this park is definitely the unique Murchison Falls as well as the River Nile with its streaming hippo and serried ranges of crocodile along the sandbanks, as well as large numbers of different species getting down to drink & bathe. It is from the falls that the park derived its name from. The most magnificent view of the water falls is on the top of where the sight and sound of the Nile roaring through a wide. The site which can be reached either by car and a 30 minutes climb or leaving the Paraa launch boat cruise.

An expedition to the scenic Murchison Falls involves the launch trip up the stream to observe the Falls and riverbank wildlife. The launch starts at 09.00 and 14.00 every day. The round trip takes 3 hrs. Another boat trip goes downstream from Paraa down to the papyrus delta at the point were the river enters into Lake Albert. This 4-5 hr return adventure provides a good chance of discovering the shoebill stork and different varieties of

The Nile below the Murchison Falls offers exciting challenges to anglers coupled with a chance to land a huge Nile Perch (the record is 108kg). Fishing is prohibited to designated sites & places are limited so advance booking is recommended. A number of boats could be hired for sportfishing by prior booking. Do carry your own fishing equipment.

Flora and fauna

The Murchison Falls National Park is dominated by rivers, woodland,savanna, wetlands and tropical forest habitats that provide homes for 76 different mammal species and 450 different bird species. Large mammals consist of leopard, elephant, lion, hippopotamus, Rothschild’s giraffe, hartebeest, oribi, warthog, Cape buffalo,and Uganda kobo. The Nile corridor offers permanent water for these animals and lots of waterbirds which include the rare shoebill stork as well as Uganda’s biggest population of Nile crocodile. Kaniyo Pabidi forest also provides sanctuaries for chimpanzee and different primates along with an amazing 360 species of bird.

Budongo forest reserve

The Budongo Forest Reserve is a large (825-sq-km) tract of virgin tropical forest on the southern fringes of Murchison Falls National Park. Its main attractions are chimpanzees and birds (366 species), but the huge mahogany trees are also worth a look. It’s a great add-on to your Murchison Falls National Park visit, with your park permit allowing you entry to Budongo too. There are so many activities that will make your tour a memorable one while in Murchison falls National Park. Among these include bird watching and game driving. The Boat trip around Lake Albert will give an opportunity to see all the different types of bird species more particular shoebills. Places such as Rabongo Forest and Budongo Forest are spots for Chimpanzee tracking. Due to the good roads, tourist will enjoy the game drive and this will give you a memorable experience.

Game Drives and Boat cruise

Game drives is so important for game viewing in this park. The main areas are the Delta where there are great chances of seeing the Lions in wait  for prey as they go to drink, the Buligi Peninsula and the southern sector famoulsy known as the heart of Murchison.

The park is also composed of woodland, wetland, savannah as well as the tropical forest that is well known to be a habitant for different bird species and mammals. Among the mammals, many can be spotted including the lions, hippopotamuses, Rothschild’s giraffe, warthog, Cape buffalo, Uganda kob, Jackson’s-hartebeest and elephants. Game drives take place early in the morning and a tourist is able to see plenty of game. At Nyamsika Cliffs is where one can enjoy a picnic, the view and gaze at elephants and other wildlife on the green grassy hillsides and river below. Game drives are exquisite when accompanied by a tour guide. The best time for game drive is during the dry season.

The Launch trip begins at Paraa landing area at the point where river nile enters into Lake albert and takes you to the bottom of the falls. While on the cruise you will sight hippos, waterbucks, crocodiles, buffaloes and elephants. You will also see water birds such as cormorants, Fish eagles, ducks, Kingfishers, bee-eaters and the shoebill. The cruise is between 9am and 2pm daily however exceptional schedules can be arranged with the park management. Cruise takes you for 17Km from the bottom of the falls at Paraa for 3hours. Cruise from Paraa to River Delta is 28km and takes about 4-5hours. Fishing is available in the river above and below the fall. Do bring your own fishing equipment if you’re interested in finishing. Examples of fish available in the river to catch are Nile perch, tiger fish and more

Bird watching

Bird Species commonly seen between Paraa Rest Camp and Ferry crossing are; Spotted Mourning Thrush, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Silver Bird, Bluff-bellied Warbler, Blue-napped Mousebird, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaverBlack-headed Gonolek, Green-winged Ptyilia, and Black-headed Batis, this is the best site for the localised White-rumped Seed-eater. Nocturnal Species in the area include: Verreaux’s owls, Nightjars such as long tailed and Pennat-winged nightjar which usually is watched between the months of March – September. Also available is the amazing standard-winged nightjar watched from November to February. Other bird species include: African Skimmer, White African fish eagle, long-toed plover, Gray Crowned crane, Goliath Heron to mention but a few.

Nature walks

Through nature walks, you are able to explore the wild on foot while in Murchison Falls Conservation area. There is a trail at Paraa winds throughout low hills, gullies and forest around the river. Nature walks happen at top of the falls, KaniyoPabidi and Rabongo Forest. Rabongo Forest Ecotourism Centre is located in an island of tropical river forest in the south-east of the conservation area. Savannah grasslands surround the forest. With a tour guide, one can explore primates like the Red tailed monkeys, Black & white colored monkeys, Chimpanzees, birds, trees and medicinal plants. Kanio Pabidi is an area of natural forest within Budongo Forest Reserve, where you can walk beneath mature Mahogany and ironwood trees. Apart from Chimpanzees in the forest, you can see many forest birds, including the Chocolate backed Kingfisher, the White-thighed Hornbill, and Puvell’s Illadopsis found nowhere else in East Africa! Kaniyo Pabidi is on the Masindi – Paraa road, 8 kms from Kichumbanyobo gate.

Rabongo Forest Walk. This is mainly for birders and a forest walk with ranger can be arranged and it is on the other side of the Nile from Paraa lodge. You can also see various kinds of monkeys on this walk.

Fishing can be arranged with a boat or you can fish from the river bank, many 200 pound Nile Perch has been caught here. It is best to bring your own tackle. you can fish just below the falls either from the shore or by boat in one of the pools.

Accommodation facilities

Accommodation ranges from campsites, lodges, hotels and guesthouse. Some of these are built on top of the falls. They have better facilities that are eco-friendly. Budget accommodation is also available for the budget travelers and the most suitable places include Kaniyo Pabidi Camp and Red Chilli Rest Camp. Tourists that love up market accommodation include Nile safari camp, Paraa safari lodges as well as Sambiya river. In case you want to stop in Masindi, there is luxury accommodation such as Masindi Hotel along with Court view hotels that have excellent services.

Paara Safari Lodge is well known for its luxurious and comfortable accommodation. It has about 54 beautiful rooms with en-suite bathrooms as well as balconies and some number of suits that offer a perfect view of the Nile.

Sambiya Safari Lodge is positioned in the glorious Murchison Falls National Park. It has accommodation that will favor all tourist. The lodge is located within and it takes only 15 minutes to get to Murchison falls.

Nile Safari Lodge is suited on the southern banks of river Nile surrounded by the well-to-do papyrus forest Nile Safari Lodge is designed to with beautiful wooden chalets along with lavishness tents that are located in a perfect area to give an amazing view of the park along with the African wilderness.

Red Chilli Rest Camp is well known to be a financial plan camp, that is located within Murchison falls national park adjacent to the south bank of the River. The camp is mainly for budget travelers.

Other lodges include; GeoLodges Nile Safari Lodge, Sambiya River Lodge, Shoebill Camp Site, Yebo Safari Camp, UWA Campsite, Chobe Safari Lodge, Murchison Safari Lodge, Boomu Women´s Group Bandas, Budongo Ecolodge.

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