Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
Murchison Falls National Park is located in northwestern Uganda, extending inland from the shores of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile. It is named after Murchison Falls (now Cabarega), which in turn is named after the president of the Royal Geographical Society. The park is known for its wildlife, which has partially recovered from the massacre of poachers and “shooting practice” of troops under the rule of Idi Amin. Murchison Falls is the largest national park in Uganda, and together with neighboring 748 sq. km of Bugungu Reserve and 720 sq. km of the Karuma Reserve, the park forms the protected area of Murchison Falls.
In northwestern Uganda, the fast flow of the Nile River is rudely interrupted by a narrow gorge that forces this mighty river to burst through a gap only 7m wide. With furious force, water bursts into the so-called “boiling cauldron” (which received such a name is quite deserved). Then, in the midst of its rage, the river squeezes through another small gap to a 36.5 m cascade in a thunderous foaming rush.
Murchison Falls, impressive more for its power than size, is an incredible sight. However, there are many other objects of interest in the park. The park has a wide variety of habitats, both coastal and grassy plains and forested savannahs. Altitudes vary from 500 to 1292 meters.
Also in the park, next to the Masindi-Gulu Highway, is the Karuma Falls with the 600 kW Karuma Power Plant, Uganda’s largest hydroelectric power plant, currently under construction. It is expected to be operational by 2018.
Nowadays, the focus of everyone visiting the park has become rafting down the creek to watch the falls and coastal wildlife. This tour takes place at 9:00 and 14:00 every day and takes 3 hours. Another boat trip goes downstream from Paraa to the delta where the river flows into Lake Albert. This 4-5 hour adventure gives you the opportunity to observe the shoebill and other different species of birds and animals.
The Nile below Murchison Falls is of great interest to anglers due to the chance to catch the huge Nile perch (the record is 108 kg) and tigerfish. But catching them is not easy. At the Karuma drops, the river develops tremendous speed, nearby rocks tremble from its jumps from low drops, and this place is considered the most powerful natural flow of water on Earth. Fish that live in the most turbulent areas and can withstand all this power of the river will not let themselves be caught so easily. Fishing is prohibited in specially protected areas, therefore the number of places is limited, and it is highly recommended to book such events in advance. By booking in advance, several boats can be rented for sport fishing. Take your personal fishing equipment with you.
ANIMALS AND BIRDS
During Idi Amin’s despotic 15-year rule in the 1970s, Uganda’s wilderness was nearly destroyed by wayward soldiers who used the animals as targets for shooting. Now, more than 30 years later, in times of peace, Uganda is once again teeming with wildlife, with national parks so beautiful and wild that they are a must-visit.
The park is home to large wild African animals, including elephants, African buffaloes, lions, leopards, hippos, giraffes, crocodiles, antelopes, Ugandan kobs, kongoni (cow antelope), oribi and others. Thus, there are four members of the Big Five in the park. Buffaloes, elephants, lions and leopards are best observed from the northern part (above the Nile). Due to over-hunting and poaching, the rhinoceros died out by 1983, but reappeared in Uganda in 2005 with great help from the Uganda Rhino Foundation. White rhinos are now breeding again in the 7,000 ha Ziva Rhino Sanctuary, which is located 70 km south of the park. The main task of the reserve is to reappear small herds of rhinos (about five at a time), but at the same time the core of the breeding herd is preserved in the reserve.
The River Nile calms down after entering a much calmer stream, and the best way to experience the abundance of wildlife and birds on its banks is by river boat from Paara Lodge. The river is teeming with impossibly large Nile crocodiles sunbathing on the rocks, showing off their 4.5m bodies. Thousands of pink-eared hippos live in the same reservoir, they are serious about protecting their territories, therefore they sometimes have a rather strict appearance.
Buffaloes carelessly make their way through the locally abundant floating hyacinths that fringe the shores, while huge herds of elephants, numbering more than 100 individuals, cool off in shallow coves and silently graze among lush grasses. The park is also home to giraffes, oribi, kongoni (cow antelopes), waterbucks and Ugandan kobs.
While rafting, your senses are bombarded with such a variety of sights, sounds and smells that it’s hard to know where to look. It is a paradise for bird watchers and is especially good for spotting the odd looking and very rare shoebill. It stands alone, more than 1 m in height, with a head like a wobbly wooden mallet and a timid pout. His height is almost the same as that of a gigantic heron, which looks very elegant in comparison.
Dry season: The period from June to September is the driest time when most animals stay near the water, but be prepared for afternoon showers at any moment. The hot dry season is from January to February and is a good time to visit. Average dry season temperatures are 25°C.
Rainy Season: From October to December and from March to May it can rain at any time, many roads become impassable during these periods.
The national park covers an area of 3480 sq. km.
The flow of the Nile is regulated by a dam, so the water levels remain more or less constant throughout the year.
The park can be reached via a paved road from the capital of Uganda, Kampala. This journey takes about 6 hours.
The park is located in a malaria zone.