Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park, formerly referred to as Kabalega National Park is the largest game park in Uganda covering approximately 3,893 square kilometers. It is located in the northwestern part of the country spreading from the shores of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile up to Karuma falls. The park sits in up to 4 Ugandan districts, namely Buliisa, Nwoya, Kiryandongo and Masindi. Murchison Falls National Park is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, consisting of Bugungu wildlife reserve and Karuma Wildlife Reserve.
Murchison Falls National Park is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Murchison falls conservation Area falls under the National Forestry Authority. Murchison Falls National Park is located 305km from the capital, Kampala and can be accessed by a road via Masindi or Packwach, one can also use a scheduled flight to Pakuba airstrip. Murchison falls National Park is named after the raging Murchison falls, by the explorers Samuel and Florence Baker in 1863 after the geologist Roderick Murchison who was the then president of Royal Geographical Society. John Speke and James Grant were the first Europeans to visit Murchison Falls conservation area, and then it was thoroughly explored by Samuel and Florence Baker.
Between 1907 and 1912, there was an outbreak of sleeping sickness that was being spread by tsetse flies and so human population in the area that covered about 13,000 square kilometers had to be evacuated, this was followed by the creation of Bunyoro Game reserve south of River Nile in 1910 and this area corresponds as part of the Murchison Falls National Park in the districts of Buliisa, Masindi and Kiryandongo. In 1928, boundaries of this park were extended to the north of river Nile, modern-day Nwoya District and this became Bunyoro-Gulu game reserve.
The national park was gazetted in 1952 after the British administration had established National Parks Act of Uganda. After reduced hunting and poaching, animal population increased hence upgrading it from Bunyoro-Gulu game reserve to Murchison Falls National Park.
Murchison Falls National Park is well known for receiving some of the prominent international visitors because of its uniqueness and magnificent high-altitude Murchison falls that are 50m high. Some of the prominent visitors include Winston Churchill, Prince of Wales Edward VII in 1930 and Queen Mother in 1951 and recently American Rapper and his family – Kanye West. Many movies have been filmed in the park including the African Queen and Humphrey Bogart in John Houston’s prominent movie.
The park is bisected into two parts by Victoria Nile, northern section of the park is filled with savanna, Borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland while the southern part of the park is dominated by woodland and forest patches. In Murchison Falls national park, the Nile is channeled through a narrow gorge within the Rift Valley descending 50 meters below creating a stretch of rapids with acontinuous roar and permanent rainbow. From this point, it’s a broad stream of the river flowing through the park into Lake Albert. This stretch of river is a habitat for several wildlife that live in water like Hippos, crocodiles, and aquatic birds. It has at least four of the African big five mammals (Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo). The park was previously a home for rhinos, but due to poaching they had become extinct by 1983 and so these were relocated to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary located along Kampala-Gulu Highway and easily accessible for any tourists who would like to have a view.
Murchison Falls national park has got key point attractions inclusive of the Murchison falls, which is arguably the most powerful in the world. There is River Nile which gives a rewarding experience on a boat cruise to the foot of Murchison falls. The river Nile stretch is habitat to several animals and offers a spectacular view of the natural surroundings for nature lovers who can also enjoy nature walks along its banks. Bird watching is also another activity that can be done in the park, specifically along Nile-Lake Albert Delta. This is the point where the Nile flows into Lake Albert and is a key area for bird watchers because of its papyrus-lined banks that burst into birdlife including African fish eagles, Goliath Herons and great egrets among others. Game drives along Buligi game tracks are spectacular. These pass through the savanna, Borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodlands and most of the park’s game can be viewed here. They are most suitable for morning and evening hours to catch up with the early morning grazers and evening hunters.
Other areas of interest include Paraa where most of the lodges are located, it also has a mini museum that has got crafts and it’s also strategic as most of the park access roads are connected by the ferry. There is also the Karuma Falls in northeastern part of the park in Chobe area suitable for sport fishing and rafting experiences.
The park as well has a forested region and some of these include Budongo Forest, Rabongo, and Kaniyo Papidi, these are habitats to variety of flora and fauna and can be used for other activities like picnics, forest walks and eco-tourism.
When to visit Murchison Falls National Park?
The best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park is during the dry season which is December to February and June to August. For photographers who would love to capture incredible photos of green landscapes, then the wet season would be ideal.