Murchison Falls National Park

The Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the bulky Bunyoro escarpment merges into the vast plains of Acholiland. One of Ugandas oldest conservation areas, it was initially gazetted as a game reserve in 1926 to protect a savanna that Winston Churchill described in 1907 as˜Kew Gardens and the zoo combined on an unlimited scale.

Murchison Falls has received many notable foreign visitors. In 1907, Winston Churchill hiked, boated and bicycled up the Nile corridor to the Falls. He was followed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 during a hunting safari that cost, by todays prices, a phenomenal US$1.8m!

In 1951, the Falls provided a backdrop for Humphrey Bogart in John Hustons famous movie, The African Queen which was filmed on location along the Murchison Nile and on Lake Albert. British royals have also visited Murchison, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in 1930 and the Queen Mother in 1959.

MurchisonThe least happy celebrity visitor was Ernest Hemingway in 1954 who literally dropped in. His intention was simply to overfly the waterfall but his plane clipped an old telegraph wire strung across the gorge and cartwheeled into the riverine forest. Hemingway and his wife were rescued and taken to Butiaba where their rescue plane crashed on takeoff.

The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile which first races down 80km of whitewater rapids before plunging 40m over the remnant rift valley wall at Murchison Falls, the centrepiece of the park. This waterfall was named in 1864 by the explorer Samuel Baker who considered it the most important object through the entire course of the river. The Falls drains the last of the rivers energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor for 55km to Lake Albert. This stretch of river provides one of Ugandas most memorable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors include elephant, giraffe and buffalo while hippopotamus and Nile crocodile are permanent residents.

MurchisonThe park is dominated by savanna, woodland, river/wetland and tropical forest habitats which provide homes for 76 mammal species and 450 bird species. Large mammals include lion, leopard, elephant, hippopotamus, Rothschilds giraffe, Cape buffalo, hartebeest, oribi, warthog, and Uganda kob. The Nile corridor provides year-round water for these animals as well as a plethora of waterbirds (including the rare shoebill stork) and Ugandas largest population of Nile crocodile. The Kaniyo Pabidi forest provides refuges for chimpanzee and other primates as well as an impressive 360 species of bird.

MurchisonThe park covers 3,893km2 and is Ugandas largest protected area. Today it is part of the even larger Murchison Falls Protected Area (5,072km2) which includes the adjoining Karuma and Bugungu wildlife reserves.