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Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park

Description

MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK.

 

The Murchison falls National Park is part of the greater Murchison falls conservation area which lies in the northern part of Uganda divided by the longest River in the world, the River Nile. The Murchison falls National Park owes its name to the first safaris and expeditions in Africa. The first explorers retracing the source of the Nile stumbled across the falls in 1863 when Florence Baker became the first European explorer to spot the Murchison falls. The falls were later named after the head of the Royal Geographic Society head at the time. Other notable safari expeditions into the Murchison falls area were conducted by the president of the USA, Theodore Roosevelt who was on assignment to supply specimens to the Smithsonian Museum. In the 1950’s, another notable adventure traveler and writer Ernest Hemingway way, through his travels into the park, crash landed his aircraft at the top of the Murchison falls when his plane hit a telegraph line near the Fajao rapids. The later visits were by the Emperor Haile Selassie and the Queen Elizabeth in 1959.

Vegetation of the southern bank at Murchison falls National park.

The vegetation of the park is comprised of the Borassus Palms that can be seen across the Nile on the northern bank. These usually attract hordes of the marauding elephants that come to feed on the succulent and sweet smelling fruits. The trees are in turn propagated from elephant droppings as the herds move in columns. The Terminalia remnants of the forest shrubs can be seen at different parts of the National park which trees have been destroyed by the over grazing elephants. You may also see some acacia trees in some regions which attract herds of the Rothschild giraffes and the harte-beests.

The southern forested area in the Budongo region is comprised of a tropical rain forest of hardwood forests and swampland. This region extends from the environs of the Masindi town and stetch through the busingiro, pabidi chimpanzee trekking tourist sites, all the way into the Rabongo forests up to the top of the falls. Most common trees in this part of the park include the acacia seberiana, scattered thickets of acacia hockii, large buttress trees which include the over 100 year old hardwood mahogany and the strangler figs with their long root systems which grow through the treetops downwards as they kill off some of the other trees. The morning guided walking safaris by a local resident safari guide will point out the medicinal properties of the Dombeya tree from which the bark and the roots are used to treat indigestion, chest pain, flu as well as acting as an anti fungal agent.

 

The Ugandan Iron wood is one of the trees in the Budongo forests at Murchison falls and this particular tree is a favorite for the chimpanzee colonies that inhabit this part of the park. They prefer making their nests for the night in the Iron wood due to its strength and bending capabilities. Meanwhile, the Baboons spend most of their time feeding through the swamplands and feeding on the Amaranths and the roots of the Ficus trees. Tourists on the chimpanzee safaris at this location will most likely spot large troops of the chimps feeding at the treetops of the Ficus mucuso and Ficus variifolia. Other species of trees on the nature walk trails include the Croton Africana, Annona Senegalensis as well as the grewia mollis shrubs that provide food for the primates of the forest.

Wildlife Safari options:

Fishing safaris are conducted at the bottom of the Murchison falls which are accessible via a walking trail near the bat caves at the falls. The devils’ cauldron at the base of the falls provide some of the best one day fishing safari experiences on the course of the mighty river Nile. Fishing guides are always on hand to advise on the day’s activities. AT the moment, fishing is possible either by boat at the landing site at the base of the Murchison falls or fishing along the banks with a line and tackle. Another fishing site is near the Karuma falls at the Chobe safari lodge where the large white water rapids along the Nile provide some good fishing.

The types of Fish caught at Murchison falls include the monster sized Nile perch which was introduced in Lake Victoria in the early 1960s. This spot fish has been known to grow up to 200 pounds and preys on other small fish. The Electric cat fish which is mostly concentrated at the Nile Delta towards Lake Albert can also be caught on the Victoria Nile waters while the huge cat fish and tiger fish is always present at the rocks in the western arm of the East African rift valley at the base of the falls. The closest safari lodge for the fishing trips is the Sambiya River lodge. However, it is also possible to stay at a Luxury mobile camp should one wish to enjoy the sights and sounds of the roaring falls of the Nile.

Game viewing on night game drives in the park with spotlights and an armed ranger guide will introduce a new experience of looking at Uganda’s wildlife in the dark. Shy species of animals like the hedge hog, Leopard, African Civet, Bush babies, hyraxes, African rock pythons, spotted hyena and night jar birds are likely to be spotted.

The other safari drives in the park are usually concentrated in the delta area on the northern banks of the Nile and it is possible to have a ranger guide take you on a walking safari to get close up views of the Rothschild giraffe, Lowell’s Hartebeest, Oribi, and Elephants at the water source, Uganda Kobs and other wildlife. These river excursions will get one as close as 5 feet from schools of Hippo, crocodiles, African Elephants and breeding colonies of Kingfishers, red throated bee eaters, African Fish Eagles and the most sought after bird, the shoe billed stork sometimes referred to as the Whale headed stork.

The boat cruises on the Nile are conducted by the large flat bottomed 40+ seater excursion boats with twin engines, large viewing windows, a viewing deck and a bar for refreshments. A resident guide on board will be happy to provide information about birds, crocodiles, Hippos, vegetation and the history of the Murchison falls national park through the years. Two trips are available daily with the first morning trip being popular with the bird watchers while the afternoon trip being favored by the big game safari enthusiasts.

Primate walks and chimpanzee safaris are conducted at two locations in the Murchison falls conservation area. Morning and afternoon guided walking treks are conducted at the Busingiro Tourist site and the Budongo site. Usually, guides go out in the forest looking for signs of the habituated chimpanzee families which are usually feeding on the ficus tree fruits depending on the season. It may also be possible to find the chimpanzee family grooming, hunting, or simply resting in the trees or on the ground. Usually, an hour of viewing a chimpanzee family is allowed for a visiting group of visitors at a distance of about 10 metres. This is to minimize the exposure of the chimpanzee family to human borne diseases and viruses.

Bird watching tours in the Murchison Falls National park are mostly done aboard the open topped safari vehicles with a private bird guide. From the game viewing tracks, it is also possible to bird watch along the different river systems of the Wairingo, Joliya and Sambiya River beds for the malachite, giant, chocolate backed or Shinning blue kingfishers. It is also possible to spot the African fin foot on one of these seasonal rivers.

Nocturnal bird watching is mostly along the main tourist tracks in search of the pennant winged nightjars and the Pell’s fishing owl or the Bat Hawk at dusk at the top of the falls. Other special birds that make the checklist of the Murchison falls National Park include: Forest species like Afep Pigeon, Ituri Batis , Jameson’s Wattle-eye, White-spotted Flufftail, Chocolate-backed Kingfishers, Nahan’s Francolin, Blue-breasted Kingfisher and the Heuglin’s Francolin among the special birds to see. The savannah birds on the northern bank of the Nile include: Rock Pratincole, Standard-winged Nightjars, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, White-crested Turaco, Piac piacs, Martial Eagle, Batelur, Silver bird, Shoe billed stork, Pied Kingfisher and the Goliath Herons. Bird guides are always available for hire at the Budongo’s Busingiro sites, as well and the Kaniyo Pabidi tourist site. The other point would be on the game drives and the Nile cruise to the base of the falls or the private trips to the Nile Delta.

Murchison falls accommodations:

Chobe Lodge:    This was built in the 1950s and was one of the top hotels under the Uganda Hotels before being destroyed in the late 1970s political wars. The lodge has since been refurbished and restored to a 4 star rating with top class facilities. The lodge comprises of over 36 lodge rooms in doubles, singles or suites. There is also a presidential cottage that caters for the Vip or celebrity Ugandan luxury safari options. There is also a section of Safari Tents on stilts that are perfectly positioned on the River with ensuite facilities and air-conditioning.

The lodge facilities include a large swimming pool with a backdrop of the River Nile rapids in the back ground and an outdoor bar, A health club and spa, indoor games, a conference hall for the business traveler and a gift shop for an authentic Ugandan souvenir.

Baker’s Lodge:   This is a rustic lodge with a touch of class, built from local materials sourced locally around the Murchison falls National Park. The lodge was opened in the 2014 and is one of the newer lodges on the banks of the Victoria Nile on the southern bank.

The Baker’s has been constructed on a site of large trees and some open meadows where wildlife like Elephants and Hippos come out to feed on the sprouting grass next to the guest rooms and main public areas. You are also likely to enjoy the prolific birdlife that is seen in the nearby thickets and at the banks of the river as they fish for insects and small tadpoles.

The lodge offers boat cruises on the Nile to the bottom of the falls, ferry crossing area at Paraa rest Camp and also the private game watching safaris to the Delta. Guided tours of the park are conducted in the Baker’s Lodge safari land cruisers that come with knowledgeable guides with field guides and a pair of binoculars.

Open air bush meals which may feature dinners or breakfasts are prepared in the wilderness and guests would have the experience of the having their meals in the African Savannah either at dawn or under the starry skies with the sounds of the wildlife.

The straw thatched lappa at Baker’s Lodge comprises of a fully stocked bar, serving premium beers, sodas, wines and hard drinks. While one section features a dining area and a lounge with comfortable sofas and a fire place and an extensive wooden deck with great views of the Nile.

The cottages are thatched by the local grass sourced locally to provide cooling, while the entrances and the windows are screened against mosquitoes and the other insects. The rooms have comfy beds, luggage racks, wooden racks for storage and private washrooms with showers provided by solar panels. All rooms are on stone pillars overlooking the Nile and the balconies all open out to the wildlife that frequent the water hole at the edge of the Nile.

Meals are freshly made and are sourced directly from the local communities.

Electricity is supplied through an inverter system using the solar panels and there is a communal charging area for the cameras, laptops and batteries. The system used is the standard British/European 3 pin plug system on the 240 volts. There is Wi-Fi internet available as well as security deposit boxes in each room.

Nile Safari Lodge:            Is an Intimate luxury log cabin camp located on the banks of the River Nile close to the Murchison Falls National Park headquarters at Paraa. The lodge offers un interrupted views of the larger section of the river where migrating elephants can be observed from the comfort of one’s balcony or room. Nile crocodiles and Hippos are mostly seen in at the river while the Hyenas are attracted to the Safari Lodge by the food from the Kitchen.

The rooms are built on raised stilts out of the privacy of the surrounding thickets of Lantana Camara and the acacia shrubs. The rooms come complete with private viewing decks from which private meals can be enjoyed while looking at the panoramic views of the Murchison falls National park and the placid river. Rustic log beds and unique furniture in the rooms provides some lovely decor, while the private washrooms with hot and cold running water keeps you as close to nature without compromising the safety while in the national park.

The hot days at the Nile Safari Lodge are spent by the beautiful swimming pool with sets of private spaces for the honeymoon safari visitors or in the soothing hammocks.

Electricity is provided by solar power.

The lodge coordinates boat trips on the Nile to find the rare shoe billed storks in the swampy vegetation at the delta area near Lake Albert. Other trips to the fishing Villages of Wanseko and the local cultural interactions with the local tribes people can be organized to include local music, dances and craft sales by the local communities.

Fort Murchison Lodge:   This is one of the mid range safari lodges at Murchison falls National park which is located on the banks of the River. The lodge is built out of simple materials from the nearby areas and accommodations are based on permanent walled cottages, as well as the straw thatched tents set along the banks of the Nile. The rooms provided here vary with the price level of every individual guest staying either at basic accommodations, mid range or more pricey accommodations.

Meals and drinks are served from the fully stocked bar and the main restaurant where mouth watering meals are provided by the local Ugandan chefs.

For the affordable accommodation levels, communal, detached bathrooms with running water are used while for the more upscale accommodations, one has the luxury of a private bath and hot and cold showers.

All Rooms have beds and bedding as well as nets to keep the bugs away.

Red Chilli Hideaway Rest Camp near Paraa Lodge:            The camp is located on the southern bank of the Murchison falls national park river crossing at Paraa where the ferry connects tourists to the northern bank. Budget accommodations are provided to the visitors to the park based on bandas or roundavels and tents with either ensuite facilities or the shared washrooms.

The Red chilli has a straw thatched bar with a full stock of chilled drinks for the residents. Meals are provided from the main restaurant under the shade of the large main building and they do offer A’lacarte meals where guests are welcome to order from the menu. The camp offers picnic breakfasts or lunch depending on the safari requirements of the guests.

After the game viewing or trekking activity in the park, guests are entertained at the evening bonfire where experiences of the day are shared.