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Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls Conservation Area is one of the oldest, and is the largest, protected area (PA) in Uganda. It is comprised of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Wildlife Refuge and Karuma Wildlife Refuge. Currently, the national park itself encompasses 3,893 sq.km. Bugungu Wildlife Refuge (501 sq.km) and Karuma Wildlife Refuge (678 sq.km) are adjacent and act as buffer zones for the park. In addition is Budongo Forest Reserve which overlaps parts of both wildlife reserves, and covers an additional 591 sq.km. This makes a total of 5,663 sq.km of space that is under some level of protection through controlled use. The national park and the two wildlife reserves are managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) and the Budongo Forest Reserve is managed by the National Forestry Association except where it overlaps with UWA-managed lands. Between the years of 1907 and 1912, the inhabitants of an area of about 13,000 sq.km were evacuated due to sleeping sickness spread by tse-tse flies. This paved the way for the establishment of the Bunyoro Game Reserve in 1910, which encompassed roughly the area south of the Nile River that is now part of the National Park in Masindi District. In 1928 the boundaries were extended into Gulu District north of the river, and the resulting protected area (PA) became known as the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve. As the human population had already been evacuated due to sleeping sickness, it was possible to establish this game reserve without displacing any of the local people for the sake of the park. In 1932, the Budongo Forest Reserve was established. This became the first commercial logging concession in Uganda, and to date is one of the most intensively studied “working” forests in the world. The boundaries of this forest continued to expand over the next thirty years until they reached the current size of 825 sq.km. Much animosity was created by this process as locals lost land and never quite knew where the boundaries were due to the frequent changes. In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. After forty years of reduced hunting in the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve, the animal populations had expanded to an extent that justified upgrading the reserve, which became Murchison Falls National Park, one of the first two national parks, along with Queen Elizabeth NP. By the mid-1960’s, Murchison Falls had become the premier safari destination in all of East Africa, with over 60,000 visitors per year.
ACCESSIBILITY
By means of road, it will take you around 5hours from Kampala with about 305 km. Paara covers a distance of about 85km from Masindi town by the shortest route. A direct or longer route will cover an area of about 135km. Alternatively one may decide to take on the Budongo forest route that will provide magnificent views overlooking Lake Albert from the direct position of the rift valley escarpment over Butiaba. You can also access Paara from the north through Chobe Gate, Karuma Falls along with Tangi. The Gate that is close to Pakwach covers an area of about 25km2 to Paara in addition to Wankwar Gate close to Purongo. People with Vehicles or public means will definitely go through the Nile at Paara. It has a fixed time from 07.00 and 19.00.Besides road, Murchison can be accessed by air. Pakuba is the landing site for the charter flights and this takes about 19kms from Paraa and Bugungu covers an area of 13kms from Paraa.

ACCOMMODATION IN MURCHISON FALLS N.P
Accommodation ranges from campsites, lodges, hotels and guesthouse. Some of these are built on top of the falls. They have better facilities that are eco-friendly. Budget accommodation is also available for the budget travelers and the most suitable places include Kaniyo Pabidi Camp and Red Chilli Rest Camp. Tourists that love up market accommodation include Nile safari camp, Paraa safari lodges, CHOBE Safari lodge as well as Sambiya River. In case you want to stop in Masindi, there is luxury accommodation such as Masindi Hotel along with Court view hotels that have excellent services.
The park is dominated by rivers, woodland, savanna, wetlands and tropical forest habitats that provide homes for 76 different mammal species and 450 different bird species. Large mammals consist of leopard, elephant, lion, hippopotamus, Rothschild’s giraffe, hartebeest, oribi, warthog, Cape buffalo and Uganda kobo. The Nile corridor offers permanent water for these animals and lots of waterbirds which include the rare shoebill stork as well as Uganda’s biggest population of Nile crocodile. Kaniyo Pabidi forest also provides sanctuaries for chimpanzee and different primates along with an amazing 360 species of bird.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES IN MURCHISON FALLS N.P
A). Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls is characterized by eternal war between rock and water. The waters violently compress through a narrow gorge, spraying misty droplets along their wake over a 50m radius. This creates a permanent rainbow over the battlefield and causes a continuous roar. From Baker Point on the southern side, you can also view the Nile splitting into the smaller Uhuru Falls, created in 1962 when the river burst its banks.

B). River Nile
A boat ride along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls is a rewarding experience for nature lovers, as the northern bank teems with a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles. Guided nature walks along both the north and south banks are another refreshing activity, and sport fishing is also possible here. Rafting will be available starting in 2012.
C). Nile-Lake Albert Delta
This wide, calm stretch of water, where the tranquil Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert, is a key area for bird watchers. Its papyrus-lined banks are bursting with birdlife, including Goliath Herons, Great Egrets, and African Fish Eagles. The most sought-after species here is the rare Shoebill.
D). Buligi Game Tracks
The Buligi game tracks, stretching between the Victoria and Albert Niles, are the Murchison Falls National Park’s most popular safari destination. At around 120-170km in length, they pass through open savannah grassland, woodland, acacia and riverine vegetation. Most of the park’s game can be viewed here, especially during early morning and early evening tours.
E). Paraa
Paraa, meaning home of the hippo in the local Luo language, is the park’s tourism hub. All the park’s access roads converge here as the northern and southern banks are linked by a passenger ferry, and several accommodations are located nearby. Additionally, a museum and gift shop can be found on the north bank, and most game drives, launch trips and nature walks

Karuma Falls
The Karuma Falls are located in Chobe, in the northeastern sector of the park. These roaring waterfalls on the Victoria Nile are made up of a series of natural rock formations which cause the waters to ripple and give them a white, foamy appearance. It is an ideal area for sport fishing.

Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
In the south of Murchison Falls Conservation Area, this forest ecosystem contains black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys, olive baboons, and a habituated chimp group which can be tracked. Elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards are also frequent visitors. Many forest birds can be viewed here, including the chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel’s illadopsis which is found nowhere else in East Africa. Kaniyo Pabidi has a campsite, cottage accommodation, forest walks and excellent bird watching.

Rabongo Forest
Surrounded by savanna and covering just 4km2, Rabongo Forest is considered a birders’ paradise because of the endangered species found here. Rabongo is ideal for educational tours as it provides opportunities to identify animals, birds, medicinal plants and trees. For relaxation, visitors can camp and enjoy picnics by the Wairingo River.
Budongo Forest
Budongo Forest, which is contiguous with the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest, lies south west of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Budongo is astonishingly biodiverse, with 24 mammal species, over 360 birds, 289 butterflies and 465 plants. All the forest’s tree species are on display along the “Royal Mile”, a beautiful stretch of road highly regarded for its bird watching. Budongo is also known for its primate population, which includes around 800 chimpanzees. Forest walks are possible at Busingiro Ecotourism Site on the Masindi-Bugungu route to Murchison Falls National Park.

ACCOMMODATION IN MURCHISON FALLS N.P
Accommodation ranges from campsites, lodges, hotels and guesthouse. Some of these are built on top of the falls. They have better facilities that are eco-friendly. Budget accommodation is also available for the budget travelers and the most suitable places include Kaniyo Pabidi Camp and Red Chilli Rest Camp. Tourists that love up market accommodation include Nile safari camp, Paraa safari lodges, CHOBE Safari lodge as well as Sambiya River. In case you want to stop in Masindi, there is luxury accommodation such as Masindi Hotel along with Court view hotels that have excellent services.