Murchison Falls National Park is one of Uganda’s best safari parks for game viewing safaris and birding tours. Together with Kaniyo Pabidi and Budongo Forest, Murchison Falls is an important destination for primate safaris most especially chimpanzee tracking safaris.
All travelers heading to Murchison Falls from Kampala must first drive to Masindi which actually takes about 3 hours. This is the only public means of transport from Kampala to Masindi town. They then proceed to Murchison falls National Park for another 3 hours making a total of 6 hours.
A 4WD vehicle is recommended on the Masindi-Paraa section of the road. The park can be reached by air charter services. There are airstrips at Rabongo and Pakuba which can hold up to six seater light aircraft.
The Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the bulky Bunyoro escarpment merges into the vast plains of Acholiland. Murchison Falls is one of Uganda’s oldest conservation areas, it was initially gazetted as a game reserve in 1926 to protect a savanna that Winston Churchill described in 1907 as ‘Kew Gardens and the zoo combined on an unlimited scale’.
During Idi Amin’s 15-year despotic rule of Uganda in the 1970’s, the country’s wildlife was almost wiped out by wayward soldiers using animals as target practice. Now 40 years on and in times of peace, Uganda is once again teeming with wildlife in national parks well worth visiting.
In the north-west of Uganda the Nile River’s rapidly flowing course is rudely interrupted by a narrow fissure, which forces this mighty river through a gap just 24 feet (7 meters) wide. In a furious demonstration of power the water explodes into the deservedly named ‘Boiling Pot’.
Then at the height of its anger, the river corkscrews through another small gap to cascade 120 feet (36½ metres) in a thunderous foaming torrent.
Impressive for power rather than size, the Murchison Falls are a spectacular sight. However, there is much more to the park than a frothing river. There is a diversity of habitats both riverine and on grassy plains and savannah woodlands. Altitudes vary from 1,650-4,240 feet above sea level (500-1,292 meters).
Animals & Birds of Murchison Falls National Park
The Nile River calms itself after the falls into a rather more gentile flow and the best way to experience the abundance of animal and bird life along its banks is on a riverboat from Paara Lodge.
The river is full of unbelievably large Nile crocodiles who sunbathe on rocks and display their entire 15-foot (4½ metre) reptilian bodies.
Occupying the same waterway are thousands of pink-eared hippos who take defending their territories seriously and can startle you with a sudden mock charge.
Buffaloes wade nonchalantly through the prolific floating water hyacinth fringing the banks, and huge herds of over 100 elephants cool themselves in shallow creeks and graze silently on the lush grasses. The park is also home to giraffe, oribi, hartebeest, waterbuck and Uganda kob.
The park is dominated by savanna, woodland, river/ wetland and tropical forest habitats which provide homes for 76 mammal species and 450 bird species. Large mammals include lion, leopard, elephant, hippopotamus, Rothschild’s giraffe; Cape buffalo, hartebeest, oribi, warthog, and Uganda kobo.
The Nile corridor provides year-round water for these animals as well as a plethora of water birds (including the rare shoebill stork) and Uganda’s largest population of Nile crocodile. The Kaniyo Pabidi forest provides refuges for chimpanzee and other primates as well as an impressive 360 species of bird.
During the boat excursion your senses are bombarded with such diversity, it is hard to know where to look. It is a bird spotters paradise and is especially good for seeing the bizarre looking and very rare shoebill (or whale-headed) stork.
It stands alone four-feet high (over 1 meter), with a head like a wobbly wooden mallet and a timid pouting expression. It is almost matched in height by the goliath heron, who appears elegant in comparison.