Uganda Travel Series Part 3
Murchison Falls National Park Game Drives
Animal Viewing On The Nile River
Last Post Days 3-6-Kidepo National Park- Solitude, Beauty, and Lion Country
(I apologize upfront for the over abundance of photos I am sharing below, but the photography was really fun this leg of the trip)
Murchison Falls National Park is one of Uganda’s most established game reserves, developed as a land conservatory in the 1920’s, it consists of protected savannahs & grasslands. Lake Victoria, Kagera river and its tributaries provides a year round water sources for fish and wild life, before the water forces it way through the rock gap know as Murchison Falls, where it flows out of the falls creating the mouth of the Nile River. The park covers an area of about 3,1068 sq miles or 5,072km with the falls and rivers include, and had much to offer its visitors in the way of wildlife and fauna.
Murchison Falls or Kabarega Falls is not only beautiful to see, but has seen its fair share of famous visitors.
- Ernest Hemingway and his wife were involved in a chartered plane crash in the upper Nile river portion at the base of the falls.
- It was the back drop of a 1951 movie starring Humphrey Bogart, along with another famous movie the African Queen shotin the vicinity of the Murchison Nile.
- Other noteworthy visitors include; Winston Churchill, the Prince of Wales, Edward VII, the Queen Mother, and the British royal.
First Impression of Murchison Falls National Park
We found on our visit that the wildlife was very abundant in and out of the water. We saw schools of hippopotamus, massive crocodiles the size of small cars along the shoreline, as well as herds of elephants, captivating waterbuck, stout water buffalo, plus many more animals that come down to drink & bathe. We also saw a few giraffes, and a pride of four lions on a hunt inland, but never saw them come along the shoreline.
We arrived in the dry season, and driving around the vast park it quickly became very hot, even in the morning. I quickly grew tired of seeing and smelling the blackened earth from all the man-made fires used for burning the dry grasses.
In contrast we took two boat tours on the Nile River, which were absolutely the highlights of my trip for animal viewing, birdwatching, and photography. I am not a morning person, but when traveling I become one. I recommend the early boat tour, where you can watch the sun rise reflecting amazing light on to the water, and the lighting is the best for photography. I would also recommend getting a tour on as small a boat as you can. This will allow you to really get close into the shore, you can get some amazing photographs, and not be prisoner to other people’s whims. I was a little afraid of hippos turning us over in a really small boat, but they stayed away from the boats, and we had a wonderful tour.
Visiting Murchison Falls National Park
Day 6-9 Murchison Falls
From Kidepo National Park we continued our journey in Uganda, heading to Murchison Falls National Park. The drive was a long 9 hours on the dusty, bumpy, rural roads. Again we witness the wave of Uganda Children going to and from school as we travel across the interior of the country. It is quite an overwhelming site.
I was very happy to get out of the hot vehicle, when we pulled into Paraa Safari Lodge. Sitting high up on a bluff overlooking the Nile River, we had a comfortable room with a en-suite bath. (I recommend you get a room with a/c we did, and other who did not complain of not sleep well in the heat.) The views from the room were nothing to write home about as we were on the lower floor. There is a walk out balcony and the upper rooms probably have better views. The lodge has a nice large man-made pools with a swim up bar. It was just what we needed after the long hot, dusty, bumpy ride, and I wasted no time getting suited up. I enjoyed a nice long soak in the cool water, and then proceeded to grab a lounge chair to catch a few ZZZZZ’s. I awoke just in time to enjoy my “sun-downer cocktail” that my husband had graciously delivered.
Meals are served buffet style in a lovely restaurant upstairs, and were truthfully some of the my LEAST favorite of the trip were served at Paraa Safari Lodge. They did however, have the most amazing chocolate covered brownie balls at dinner, that I scarfed down more than I should have…even carried a few back to the room for pre-early morning game drive….better than dry muffins & coffee early in the morning 🙂
Memorable Game Drives and Boat Tours
Game drives in Murchison Falls in the dry season can be very hot, and they are pretty much the same park to park. At Murchison Falls National Park, as with other parks we found that by late morning it was difficult to spot animals, as most of the wildlife was hiding or at a water source.
One particular morning game drive was one of the most memorable…
We found a pride of four female lionesses hunting. There was already a caravan of 4 x 4’s lining the dirt road watching them hunting on the charred hills. It was pretty spectacular to watch them stalk in unison a small oribi. We watched for over an hour as they hunted together silently communicating exactly what need to be done. It was magical to watch, but I was silently praying the little Oribi would live to see another day.
As luck would have it for the little oribi….a very obnoxious group talking very loudly from a vehicle, caused a big distraction to the lions. The pride finally got tired of all the people and cars, crossed the road, headed into the tall grass to hide until they could hunt in peace. It was one of my favorite lion moments during our time in Uganda. It is important to remember when you are out on Safari keep your voice down, as not to disturb people and animals.
Poaching & Oil Drilling
Poaching happens…. Sadly, we saw evidence of elephant poaching from another tourist, who showed us pictures of three elephants killed that day with their tusks cut off. I cried.
The other problem with Murchison Falls is the oil drilling. The park is full of vehicles, and it makes it easy for the poaches to get game, and bush meat out of the park. Everyone can be paid off, and it was very evident that rangers and guides will turn a blind eye for the right price!
We also enjoyed an afternoon boat tour to the base of the falls. We happily gazed upon herds of elephant, buffalo, waterbuck and hippos that were abundant for viewing. It was on a larger boat with a big group so we could not get too close for photographs. We did encounter some tesie flies on this boat ride, that bit a couple of people, so it might be advisable to wear long pants.
The next day I had a better boat ride, when I took an early morning tour with only two other women. We were in a small boat and our driver took us up to the shore line to see; elephants, crocodile the size of automobiles, waterbuck, hippos, monkeys, and color birds of all shapes & sizes. It was really an amazing tour, and I would highly recommend a smaller boat, rather than a large tour boat if you can plan ahead for it. I took some really lovely photographs only having a few people who enjoyed taking photographs along with me. It made all the difference in the enjoyment of the morning.
Driving To the Top of Murchison Falls
The last day before we left we took a long drive to visit the top of Murchison Falls up close and personal. The ride was uneventful not much game viewing except for baboons, velvet monkeys, and Ugandan Kob. The falls are pretty impressive, and resemble a boiling caldron of water with the mist it gives off.
There are only few guard rails to in strategic places keep people from getting close to the falls. It it up to each person visiting to use common sense, and not get too close to the edge.
I enticed a couple from France to let me take their picture, and in exchange they took mine. I didn’t get dangerously close to the edge, but it was close enough. Again there is no security or guard rails to keep stupid people from getting to close to the edge, but there is a little sign warning of the danger and marks on the rocks.
I think the best way to see the falls is to hike up. There is a hike if you take the boat tour in the morning to the falls, that will allow people to hike up to the falls. My husbands knees are bad so we did not do it, but I wish I had.
We get up very early to be first in line to catch the ferry across the Nile River, and on to our next destination…
Day 9 We travel from Murchison Falls National Park to Fort Portal to stay at one on the most amazing lodges over looking two lake filled volcanic craters. We are to overnight at Kyaninga Lodge which was one of the most beautiful lush areas of Uganda.
Next post….. Fort Portal Uganda
Previous Post- Kidepo National Park- Solitude, Beauty, and Lion Country