Murchison falls is one of the oldest conservation areas in Uganda besides being the largest protected area in the country comprising of Murchison Falls National Park (3893 sq.km), Bugungu Wildlife Refuge (501 sq.km) and Karuma Wildlife refuge (678 sq.km). The British explorers John Speke and James Grant were the first ones to visit this current day conservation area in 1862 and in 1864; they named it Murchison Falls after the then president of the British Royal Geographic Society, Roderick Murchison.
Karuma and Bugungu serve as buffers for the park; in addition there is Budongo forest which covers an addition 591 sq. km after overlapping both reserves. The total protected are is 5,663 sq.km which is under controlled use where the national and the two game reserves also known as The Murchison Falls Conservation area (MFCA) are managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) while Budongo forest reserve is managed by The National Forestry Association except where it overlaps both reserves.
Sleeping sickness epidemic hit this region at the beginning of the 20th century and many people died which oled to the evacuation of the remnants between 1907 and 1912. The inhabitants of the land of about 13,000 sqkm were evacuated hence creating space thus establishing the Bunyoro Game Reserve in 1910 which covered the land south of the Nile that is currently part of the national park in Masindi District. Later on in 1928, the boundaries were extended into Gulu District hence changing the name to Bunyoro- Gulu Game Reserve. The evacuation of the human population had made it possible to establish this game reserve without any conflicts with the local people. In 1932, Budongo Forest Reserve was established become Uganda’s first commercial logging concession and continues to be one of the most studied forests on the planet. The boundaries of the forest reserve continue to grow over the years which brought some conflict as some locals lost land due to the expansion of the reserve.
The National Parks Act of Uganda was enacted in 1952 by the British administration then. Following a reduction in the hunting activities within the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve, the animal population had grown drastically and this led to its upgrading into a National Park along with Queen Elizabeth National Park in South Western Uganda. Murchison Falls National Park became the preferred destination in East Africa and was receiving about 60,000 visitors per year by the mid-1960s and was home to about 75 species of mammals and 450 bird species.
Murchison is located at the end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna.
The northern section of this park contains savanna and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland and the south has the woodland and forest patches. The climate in the areas of Murchison Falls is hot and humid with an average temperature throughout the year between 21 ° C and 29 ° C. With two rainy seasons that go from March to May, and from August to November.
The mammals found here include the elephant hippos, giraffes and buffalos. There are other mammals such as the warthog, oribis, bosbock, reduncas, duiker, potamoqueros, sitatungas, kobs, bubal and aquatic ccobs that can be seen. There are six species of primates among which include the chimpanzee, the vervet monkey and baboon. The large carnivores include the lion, the leopard and the spotted hyena.
Among the reptiles in the Park are the Nile crocodile, the soft-shelled turtle, the Nile monitor lizard and the large black-line armored lizard.
The Top Things to Do and See in Murchison Falls Park
There are many things to do and see in Murchison Falls National Park, most of all you experience the African Wild, the African Bush, Forest, Wildlife, Birds, Primates and the River Nile.
Wildlife Game Drives
Game Drives in Murchison Falls Park are an amazing experience because of the wide variety of game ranging from large herds of buffaloes and elephants , the endangered Rothschild Giraffes in great numbers, to the big cats such as the shy but lethal leopard and the death delivering king lion, there are many antelopes such as Jackson’s hartebeest, Bushbucks, Uganda Kob, Waterbucks, and Warthogs.
Hike to the top of Murchison Falls
This is a very unique and adventurous experience. It takes approximately 2 hours. You will go till the base of the thundering falls and then up to where one can see the wildlife like the crocodiles, different birds vervet monkeys, hippos, elephants, buffaloes and a variety of antelopes as they come to quench their thirst and cool off their body temperatures and occasionally the colobus monkeys.
There are after, there is an option of disembarking and trekking to the top of the falls through a safe and marvelous trail alongside the river Nile. During this trek you will enjoy different views of the falls and also see the second falls; Uhuru which was formed due to the flooding of the river in 1962, the same year Uganda got independence hence the name Uhuru to signify Freedom.
Birding at Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls Park is a must visit for birders. Birders will delight in the wide variety of birds ranging from Savanna Birds to Water Birds and various species of Forest Birds all in one Park and out of these, there are indigenous and migrant birds from Europe.
Murchison Falls Park has been declared one of the best birding locations in all of Africa with 451 recorded species such as the Shoebill Stork, the Goliath Heron – the largest heron in the world and pairs of elegant Grey Crowned Cranes which is Uganda’s national bird.
You will not miss out on the Blue-headed Coucal, Swamp Flycatcher, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Sandpipers, Denham’s Bustard, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Black-billed Barbet, Black-headed Gonolek, Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater, Piapiac, Silverbird, W psites, lodges, hotels and guesthouse. They have better facilities that are eco-friendly.
Budget accommodation is also available for the budget travelers. Tourists that love up market accommodation are also catred for and if one wants to stop in Masindi, we can as well have good accommodation;
- GeoLodges Nile Safari Lodge – Website: www.geolodgesafrica.com
- Paraa Safari Lodge – Website: www.paraalodge.com, www.marasa.net
- Rest Chilli Rest Camp – Website: www.redchillihideaway.com
- Sambiya River Lodge – Website: www.sambiyariverlodge.com, www.afritourstravel.com
- GeoLodgesShoebill Camp Site – Website: www.geolodgesafrica.com
- Yebo Safari Camp – Website: www.traveluganda.co.ug
- Chobe Safari Lodge – Website: www.chobelodgeuganda.com, www.marasa.net
- Murchison Safari Lodge – Website: www.backpackers.co.ug
Located at the top of Murchison Falls; contact UWA for bookings
Weaver Birds, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Red-throated Bee-Eater, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Speckle-fronted Weaver and African Quail-Finch to name a few while on the Nile.
For the sports fishing lovers, Murchison has the best experience in fishing due to the presence of the Nile Perch perhaps the most delicious sweet water fish. This fish was introduced into Lake Victoria in the 1960s from South America and has spread a found in almost all Uganda’s water bodies. The Nile perch can grow very big and weigh up to 200kg given the fact that there is restricted fishing activity in the national park.
Chimpanzee Trekking and birding in Budongo Forest
Budongo Forest is an excellent area for Chimpanzee Tracking, it is a Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Research Station and you have a good opportunity here to track Chimpanzees. There are opportunities for not only tracking the chimpanzees but also participating in the habituation process.
The forest also offers excellent birding opportunities.
Food and accommodation are available in affordable eco-lodges.