Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area which is the largest protected area in Uganda. The conservation area covers around 5025 square kilometres comprising of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Wildlife Reserve, Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserves and Budongo Forest Reserve in the Southern section. The park is named after the dramatic Murchison Falls, where the world’s longest river explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge into a frothing pool 43m below to become a placid river whose banks are thronged with buffaloes, hippos, waterbucks and crocodiles. The game park is identified after the miraculous falls on the river, which meets a constringe cleft in the Rift Valley Escarpment, then it changes into a froth of thunderous white water, a rare site in East Africa. The area flora is defined by nice-looking savanna, riverine forest and woodland. A Uganda safari to Murchison falls National Park would be enough to cover the major tourist activities at the gigantic wildlife reserve. The major tour activities include game drive, boat cruise on the Nile, chimpanzee trekking plus hiking to the Top of the Falls among others.
Mammals total to over 76 species and they include giraffes, elephants, hartebeests, lions, leopards, chimpanzees, spotted hyenas, kobs, bushbuck, waterbuck, oribis, jackal and many others. There are over 450 bird species recorded.
The start on 3-hour trip and back begins from Paraa by the Nile up to the Murchison Falls (17 km), in a move to see elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks, bee-eaters, hippos, crocodiles, water birds similar cormorants, pelicans, Kingfishers, herons, Ducks, fish eagle, shoebill stork. Hike to “top of the falls”, to see closer from the top the changing and spectacular 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 the river Uganda National Parks Nile above and down the falls. “Chimpanzee trekking” and birding in Budongo Forest and Kanyiyo Pabidi Forest Reserve.
For birders, there are 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 among the many bird species seen between Paraa Rest Camp and Ferry crossing. This is also the best spot for the localized white-rumped seed-eater. Usually the Spotted and Verreaux’s Owls and a plethora of spectacular Nightjars, such as Long-tailed and Pennat-winged Nightjar (Especially between March-September) and mainly the nocturnal species common seen in this area. Bird species like Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, Grey-crowned Crane, Long-toed Plover, whilst African Fish Eagle and African Skimmer are also familiar in this area. The Fox’s Weaver Uganda’s only endemic bird is also there. The mind-blowing Standard-winged Nightjar (November-February) and with a portable spotlight, one could organise a nocturnal boat trip on the Nile in search for White-backed Night Heron and Pel’s Fishing Owl.
In the cool early morning on the Buligi, Albert and Queen’s tracks north of the river Nile before the sun climbs too high, you will see plenty of game. Picnicking, good scenic view and elephant and other game watching on the grassy hillsides and the sand river are some of the activities at Nyamsika Cliffs. Just be ready for a four hour drive directed by a professional guide.
Boat Cruise on the Nile
Launch trip from Paraa to the foot of Murchison Falls is among the interesting highlights of a visit to Murchison Conservation Area. There are many Hippos and crocodiles, elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks and birds like; Herons, Cormorants, Ducks, Bee-eaters, Fish Eagles, Kingfishers, and the rare 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 the Lake Albert leads through papyrus swamps. The trip takes about four to five hours and you will see a similar variety of animals and birds.
Tiger-fish and Nile Perch endow with an exciting challenge to those fishing with a hooks, lines and rod anglers. Fishing is done in the river above and below the falls and better one carries his own fishing items.
Murchison Falls Conservation Area presents one with an opportunity to explore and expedite the wild nature while on foot. Paraa trailing goes through riverine forest, gullies and low hills. Many fauna and flora species are closely, openly and silently seen along the way. Nature walks are provided at Rabongo Forest, top of the falls and Kaniyo Pabidi.
Top of the Falls
Tourists’ trail is near the falls and right up to the water edge. There is a chance to hike the top of the falls from the boat landing and come closer to the thin gorge through which, the river forces itself, which gives a nice tour experience.
Kanio Pabidi is perfect for nature walks and hikes with chimpanzee tracking as the most done. Kaniyo Pabidi is on the Masindi – Paraa road, 8 kilometers from Kichumbanyobo gate. It’s an area of natural forest within Budongo Forest Reserve, ideal for walking beneath mature mahogany and ironwood trees. Besides chimps, one is entertained to watching many forest birds like the chocolate backed Kingfisher, Hornbill with white thighs and Puvell’s Illadopsis found nowhere else in the East African region except here. Kaniyo Pabidi has a campsite with water and firewood for use as one may wish and the palce is privately managed and run by the Forestry Department.
Rabongo Forest, ideal for walking, hiking and primates tracking is an island of tropical riverine forest in the south-east of the conservation area. It’s encircled by savanna grassland, an hour and a half drive from Paraa. A nature walk in the forest on foot help 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 stay at the well-equipped Ecotourism centre forest cottages.
Access from Kampala
By Road: From Kampala by road through Masindi, Paraa is a four and ahalf hours drive. A four-wheel drive is much ideal for the trip. The ferry at Paraa operates on scheduled time between the southern and northern bank of River Nile.
By Air: Charter services are available from Kampala/Entebbe to all-weather aerodromes at Pakuba about 19kms northwest of Paraa and Bugungu 13kms from Paraa.
The Park also offers accommodation/campsites at the camp sites on top of the falls as well as traditional and self-contained bandas. Toilets or pit latrines/showers or bathing shelters are also at these sites. Accommodation facilities are of various categories, that is luxury safari lodges and basic campsites and these include:
1. Nile Safari Camp
2. Paraa Safari Lodge
3. Sambiya River Lodge
4. Paraa Rest Camp which has nice self-contained bandas.
5. Rabongo Eco-Tourism Centre (good cottages)
6. Tourists can also stay at, Masindi Hotel and Red Chilli Hideaway.