THE WORLD’S GREATEST WATERFALL.
Murchision falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift valley where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment merges into a vast, palm-dotted savannah. Gazetted as a game reserve in 1926 and elevated to park status in 1952, it is one of Uganda’s oldest protected areas. It is also the largest. Combined with the contiguous Karuma and Bugungu wildlife reserves it covers 3840km2, home to 76 species of mammals and over 451 bird species. The Victoria Nile bisects the national park, racing westwards for 80km over a series of rapids before exploding through a narrow (6m) gap in the remnant rift valley cliffs. This 45m plunge drains the last of the river’s energy transforming the torrent into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor towards Lake Albert.
The river below the Falls provides one of the Uganda’s finest wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbank include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
Roads: A number of routes can be used to reach the Nile at Paraa, the parks’ main tourism hub, where a vehicle ferry crosses the river at roughly hourly intervals throughout the day.
Southern Entrance Gates
Two routes lead to Paraa lead from Masindi town, which is 305km from Kampala (a 4 hour drive). The most direct is the 86km approach which enters the park through Kichumbanyobo Gate, 16km from Masindi. Diversions along the way include the KaniyoPabidi section of Budongo Forest, the Heart of Murchision game viewing area and Murchision Falls. A longer but more scenic alternative route from Masindi runs to Paraa via Bulisa (136km). The route passes through Budongo Forest before a memorable descent of the rift valley escarpment with views across Lake Albert towards the Blue Mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park can be entered through Bugungu or Mubako gates.
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Northern Entrance Gates
Murchision Falls National Park can also be reached on the north side of the Nile via the Chobe, Wankwar and Tangi gates. These are all accessed from the Kampala-Pakwach road which crosses the Nile at Karuma Falls in the north-eastern corner of the park, 260kms from Kampala.
Pakuba Airfield, 19km from North Paraa, can be reached using chartered aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield near Kampala. Other airfields in the park include Chobe to the east and Bugungu to the South of Paraa.
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ACTIVITIES AND ATTRACTIONS.
Paraa is the starting point for boat trips to the Falls and the delta and the site of the vehicle ferry crossing. Consequently, most of the tourist accommodation serving MFNP is also located in the vicinity, much of it on the riverbank just outside the park, 5km to the west.
THE NILE AND MURCHISION FALLS
Murchision Falls boat cruise
The launch voyage upriver from Paraa to see the Murchision Falls exploding through the cliffs at the head of Fajao Gorge is the park’s oldest and most popular excursion. The 3 hour return trip passes a wealth of riverside wildlife on the way, including resident hippos and crocodiles and visiting elephants, buffalo, etc.
Top of the Falls
Visitors should be sure to visit the Top of the Falls view point to see hear, and feel the Nile thunder through a 6m-wide gorge. The site can be reached by vehicle but it id more rewarding to disembark from the launch to climb up to the Top of the Falls through Fajao Gorge.
Delta boat cruises
Boats also run downriver from Paraa to the Nile Delta where a mosaic of papyrus islands chokes the river’s entrance into Lake Albert. These are rich in waterbirds, most notably the shoebill.
The river below Murchision Falls provides an exciting challenge for anglers with the record for Nile perch landed with rod and line standing at a hefty 108kg.
The park’s prime game viewing arealies on the Buligi Peninsula, a triangle of grassland bounded by the Victoria Nile entering Lake Albert, and the Albert Nile flowing out of it.Expect to see elephant, buffalo, antelopes and giraffe and keep your fingers crossed for lion and leopard.
Visitors can also take to the air to explore the plains north and west of Paraa in a hot air balloon. Contact the Jobihani Dream Balloons office at Paraa Safari Lodge.
Heart of Murchision
While much of the Southern part of MFNP is covered by bush and forest, the heart of the park is covered by a delightful tract of savanna. Vehicle tracks have recently been opened in this area, which thanks to substantial herds of Uganda Kob, is becoming known as a prime location for lions.
FOREST WALKS AND CHIMPANZEE TRACKING
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
This forest in the South of Murchision Falls Conservation Area is home to a habituated chimp group that can be tracked with experienced forest guides. KaniyoPabidi is also an essential birding site due to the presence of Albertine Rift endemics and other ‘restricted range’ species including the chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel’silladopsis.
Birding activities overlap with the wildlife viewing locations described above. Highlights include easy sightings of resident and waterbirds on the cruise to the Falls, thrilling shoebill sightings in the Nile delta and careful searches for rare and restricted range forest species in KaniyoPabidi Forest.
Energetic dancers from Mubako perform around lodge campfires, making for a magical for a magical African experience at dusk. Boomu Women’s Group offers accommodation, a craft shop and village tours, revealing the realities of the life in this rural community.
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