MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Murchison Falls National Park is a wildlife conservation center in north-western Uganda, spreading inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile, up to the Karuma Falls.
The park straddles the Ugandan districts of Buliisa, Nwoya, Kiryandongo, and Masindi. The driving distance from Masindi, the nearest large town, to the Kibanda area of the national park is about 72 kilometres (45 mi). This area is about 283 kilometres (176 mi), by road, north-west of Kampala, the capital and largest city of Uganda.
Together with the adjacent 748 square kilometres (289 sq mi) Budongo Wildlife Reserve and the 720 square kilometres (280 sq mi) Karuma Wildlife Reserve, the park forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA)
MFCA and the adjacent Bugondo Forest Reserve have 76 species of mammals as well as Uganda's largest population of crocodiles. 450 bird species are present ranging from easy variety of waterbirds, including the rare shoe-billed stork, Bugondo's 59 "restricted range" species, dwarf kingfisher, Goliath heron, white-thighed hornbill and great blue turaco.
Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals.
Attractions in and Outside the Park
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary proudly harbors Uganda’s wild endangered rhinos. It is situated in Nakasongola District, near Nakitoma Village, in the north of Kampala along Kampala – Gulu highway approximately 180km by road; it covers around 7,000ha (70 sq km). It takes about 3 hours to drive there; this is about half way of the journey to Murchison Falls National Park.
Uganda used to have a big number of Rhinos in the 90’s but during the massive wars in the 1970s, there were serious killings, poaching and hunting and by 1983 there was extinction of Rhinos in Uganda. In 2005 the sanctuary was established and rhinos were re-introduced by the Rhino Fund Uganda. Ziwa is the only place where you can track rhinos on foot; it is really great and exciting as you watch the white rhinoceros! This place has a tight 24-hour security, after the actions done in the 90’s.
This is an awesomely unique activity which grants you chance to see rhinos on foot; this involves watching them up close and at a safer distance. With the guidance of skilled ranger guides, you can get closer to them about 6 to 7m, you can take as many photos as you want and observe these endangered rhinos feed in their habitat.
Chimpanzee Tracking at Budongo Forest
Tracking Chimpanzees is a thrilling experience where one gets to meet his/her closest cousins have 98% DNA close to that of human beings. Budongo Forest is among the best chimpanzee habitats in Uganda with 600 individuals and about 100 are habituated for tracking at Kaniyo Pabidi. In fact only habituated groups of chimpanzees can be tracked in Budongo forest. It is the largest natural mahogany forest in East Africa covering an area of 825 sq km, located in the northwest of Kampala.
It takes 3 hours to drive to the home of chimps. It is home to over 95 mammals and 360 bird species and various activities are done here but majorly Chimpanzee tracking. This activity is mainly done at Kaniyo Pabidi which borders Murchison Falls at the southern edge hence about a 30 minute drive from Kichumbanyobo gate
All the forest’s tree species are on display along the “Royal Mile”, a beautiful stretch of road highly regarded for its bird watching. Olive baboons are common along the roadsides – be sure to keep car windows and doors shut if you don’t want to lose your lunch!
Murchison Falls is characterized by eternal war between rock and water. The waters violently compress through a narrow gorge, spraying misty droplets along their wake over a 50m radius. This creates a permanent rainbow over the battlefield and causes a continuous roar. From Baker Point on the southern side, you can also view the Nile splitting into the smaller Uhuru Falls, created in 1962 when the river burst its banks.
A boat ride along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls is a rewarding experience for nature lovers, as the northern bank teems with a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles. Guided nature walks along both the north and south banks are another refreshing activity, and sport fishing is also possible here. Rafting will be available starting in 2012.
Nile-Lake Albert Delta
This wide, calm stretch of water, where the tranquil Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert, is a key area for bird watchers. Its papyrus-lined banks are bursting with birdlife, including Goliath Herons, Great Egrets, and African Fish Eagles. The most sought-after species here is the rare Shoebill.
Buligi Game Tracks
The Buligi game tracks, stretching between the Victoria and Albert Niles, are the Murchison Falls National Park’s most popular safari destination. At around 120-170km in length, they pass through open savannah grassland, woodland, acacia and riverine vegetation. Most of the park’s game can be viewed here, especially during early morning and early evening tours.
Paraa, meaning home of the hippo in the local Luo language, is the park’s tourism hub. All the park’s access roads converge here as the northern and southern banks are linked by a passenger ferry, and several accommodations are located nearby. Additionally, a museum and gift shop can be found on the north bank, and most game drives, launch trips and nature walks commence here.
The Karuma Falls are located in Chobe, in the northeastern sector of the park. These roaring waterfalls on the Victoria Nile are made up of a series of natural rock formations which cause the waters to ripple and give them a white, foamy appearance. It is an ideal area for sport fishing.
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
In the south of Murchison Falls Conservation Area, this forest ecosystem contains black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys, olive baboons, and a habituated chimp group which can be tracked. Elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards are also frequent visitors. Many forest birds can be viewed here, including the chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel's illadopsis which is found nowhere else in East Africa.
Kaniyo Pabidi has a campsite, cottage accommodation, forest walks and excellent bird watching.
Surrounded by savanna and covering just 4km2, Rabongo Forest is considered a birders’ paradise because of the endangered species found here. Rabongo is ideal for educational tours as it provides opportunities to identify animals, birds, medicinal plants and trees. For relaxation, visitors can camp and enjoy picnics by the Wairingo River.