Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) is a national park in Uganda managed by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. It is in north-western Uganda, spreading inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile, up to the Karuma Falls.
Together with the adjacent 748 square kilometres (289 sq mi) Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and the 720 square kilometres (280 sq mi) Karuma Wildlife Reserve, the park forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA). As of 2022, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline being built includes the construction of 10 oil well pads, a feeder pipeline, and a refinery in and around the Murchison Falls national park.
The park straddles the Ugandan districts of Buliisa, Nwoya, Kiryandongo, and Masindi. The driving distance from Masindi, the nearest large town, to the Kibanda area of the national park is about 72 kilometres (45 mi). This area is about 283 kilometres (176 mi), by road, north-west of Kampala, the capital and largest city of Uganda. The coordinates of the park near the Kibanda area are 02°11’15.0″N, 31°46’53.0″E (Latitude:2.187499; Longitude:31.781400).
The explorers John Speke and James Grant were the first Europeans to visit the present day MFCA in 1862. It was more thoroughly explored by Samuel and Florence Baker in 1863–4. Baker named the falls Murchison Falls after the geologist Roderick Murchison, then the president of the Royal Geographical Society.
Between 1907 and 1912, the inhabitants of an area of about 13,000 square kilometres (5,000 sq mi) were evacuated due to sleeping sickness spread by tsetse flies. In 1910, the Bunyoro Game Reserve was created south of the River Nile. That area roughly corresponds to the part of the MFNP that is in the districts of Buliisa, Masindi, and Kiryandongo. In 1928, the boundaries were extended north of the river into the modern-day Nwoya District.
In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. The area described above became Murchison Falls National Park.
Murchison Falls became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952
At Murchison Falls, the Nile squeezes through an 8m wide gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the “Devil’s Cauldron”, creating a trademark rainbow
The northern section of the park contains savanna and Borassus palms, acacia trees, and riverine woodland. The south is dominated by woodland and forest patches
The 1951 film “The African Queen” starring Humphrey Bogart was filmed on Lake Albert and the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area.
The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids. The mighty cascade drains the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes, and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles, and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
Murchison Falls is notably blessed with over 144 mammals,556 bird species,51 reptiles, and 51 Amphibians. With a great number of African elephants, Murchison falls is impressive all year round. The aerial survey noted over 900 individuals and 1,330 and is at an increase. Historically Giraffes exclusively inhabit the northern sector of the park. Buffalo populations have spiked to over 10,000 while Uganda kobs have leaped to more than 35,000.
The bird checklist with the shoebill as the most common along the river stretch approaching the Albert delta and many profolic bird species occupy the park.The white crested turaco,red winged grey warbler,all asociated with woodland in the southern bank.
Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, and several British royals
MFNP is Uganda’s largest national park. It measures approximately 3,893 square kilometres (1,503 sq mi). The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile from east to west for a distance of about 115 kilometres (71 mi).
The park is the location of the Murchison Falls, where the waters of the Nile flow through a narrow gorge only 7 metres (23 ft) wide before plunging 43 metres (141 ft).
Also in the park, adjacent to the Masindi-Gulu Highway, are the Karuma Falls, the location of the 600 megawatt Karuma Power Station, which will be Uganda’s largest power station when it comes online circa 2022.
MFCA and the adjacent Bugondo Forest Reserve have 76 species of mammals as well as Uganda’s largest population of Nile crocodiles. There are 450 known bird species in the park, including the rare shoe-billed stork, dwarf kingfisher, Goliath heron, white-thighed hornbill and great blue turaco.
Since 2005, the protected area is considered a Lion Conservation Unit. In 2010, it was estimated that only 250 giraffes were in the park. A population of 37 Rothschild’s giraffes was transferred from the north side of the Nile River to the south side in 2016 and 2017, when population was around 1,500.
Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s most popular national park, receiving the highest annual number of visitors of any park in the country. Popular visitor activities include game drives, night drives, boat cruises to the delta and Murchison Falls waterfall, nature walks, bird watching and chimp tracking. Tourists visiting Murchison Falls National Park make a 5 hours 40 minutes drive from Kampala to reach the park. The park is also connected by daily domestic flights from Entebbe International Airport, to Kidepo Valley National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park, which land at Pakuba Airstrip and Bugungu Airstrip. The park offers a range of tented camps and safari lodges to accommodate visitors.
HOW TO GET TO THE PARK?
Murchison Falls National Park is located 305km/190mi north of Kampala. The drive to the southern entrance gate takes 4 to 5 hours. Coming from the southwest, the 280km/170mi drive from Fort Portal takes at least 6 hours. Allow another hour or 2 from the entrance gate to most of the lodges.
It is also possible to fly to the park by chartered or scheduled aircraft service from Entebbe International Airport (EBB) or Kajjansi Airfield near Kampala. Pakuba Airfield is the most convenient point of arrival for the main cluster of camps and lodges around the park headquarters at Paraa. Other options are Chobe or Bugundu.
When flying from abroad, you’ll arrive at Entebbe International Airport (EBB). It is located 46km/29mi from the capital (Kampala). Your local tour operator will usually arrange for you to be picked up at the airport and will take care of all further transportation as part of your safari package.
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