Launch trips on the Nile
A highlight of any visit to Murchison Falls conservation Area is the launch trip to view the magnificent Murchison Falls. Trip normally depart at 9:00am and 2:00pm. Hippos and crocodiles are abundant and you will see plenty of game and bird life. The voyage takes about three hours
Hike to the top of the Falls
Guests who enjoy rigorous exercise may disembark from the launch in the Fajao gorge for the 45-60 minute climb to the Top of the Falls. One can then walk back to the boat (by prior arrangement) or be collected by a vehicle at the top. A.U.W.A ranger guide is required for this activity.
Top of the Falls
Murchison Falls is 15km (30minutes drive)off the main Masindi – Paraa road and 39km from Paraa. There are three dramatic viewpoints of the 40m high waterfall. The most convenient is the ‘Top of the falls’ where the Nile thunders through a narrow canyon just six metres wide. A fifteen minute climb will take you to Baker’s point which enjoys a frontal view of the Nile churning through the gorge. A secondary waterfall, Uhuru Falls can also be seen. The third option is to climb down into the gorge from Baker’s point to the ‘Devil’s Cauldron;’ the turbulent pool at the base of the waterfall.
A trip to the delta
The Murchison Falls conservation Area is Uganda’s largest protected area covering 5072km2. This contains the Murchison Falls National Park (3893km2) and the adjoining Bugungu (50km2) and Karuma (678km) wildlife reserve
Murchison Falls National Park is one of Uganda’s oldest protected area. Its conservation history dates back to 1926 when the area was gazette as the Gulu and Bunyoro Game Reserve. The reserve became Murchison Falls N.P in 1952, one of the country’s first two national parks (the other being queen Elizabeth N.P.)
During the 1960’s, Murchison contained one of the wildlife spectacles of the world including 14,000 elephant, 26,000 buffalo and 14,000 hippos. However these huge numbers caused great environmental damage. Though today’s wildlife population is far smaller, their numbers are more in balance with the limited area of parkland available to them.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen mother, visited Murchison Falls National Park in 1959 when she stayed in the Queen’s cottage at Paraa and she cruised upriver on a brand new launch to view the Falls. However, her first visit to Uganda was in 1925 when, as the young Duchess of York, she visited the Semliki Valley with her husband, the Duke of York (later George VI), for a hunting safari
Ernest Hemingway’s visit to Murchison was not a success. His intention was simply to overfly the falls whilst on a charter flight from Kenya to the Congo. However, his plane clipped and old telegraph wire strung across the gorge and cartwheeled into riverine forest. Hemingway and his wife were sustained the debilitating injuries that are blamed for his subsequent depression and suicide.
Winston Churchill visited the falls in 1907 after traveling on the new railway from Mombasa to Kisumu (Kenya) where he took a boat across Lake Victoria to visit Entebbe and Jinja. From the source of the Nile he hiked, boated and bicycled to Murchison Falls where he considered that ‘Ten pounds would throw a bridge across the Nile at this point.’ And in 1960 a footbridge was built across the gorge; the bill has been lost but it was certainly the cheapest structure ever built across the Nile. The footbridge lasted only two years before it was washed into the gorge during the floods in 1962.
United States President Theodore visited Murchison Falls National park in 1909 during the most lavish hunting safari of all time, one which, by today’s price, cost US$1.8m! During his year long tour of East Afica. Roosevelt collected wildlife specimens for the Smithsonian Institute. As a result he left the continent rather emptier than he found it, travelling home with 4900 mammals, 4000 birds, 2000 reptiles and 500 specimens including 5 Northern white Rhino, 8 elephants, 10 Uganda Kob and a shoebill.
Murchison Falls pours over the fading escarpment at the northernmost tip of Africa’s Western Rift Valley, a 3000km tectonic trench that has opened up between lake Malawi and northern Uganda during the last twelve million years.
Murchison Falls was named by the explore sir Samuel Baker in 1864 after Sir Roderick Murchison, then President of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society.
Sir Roderick Murchison was one of the 19th Centuries foremost geologists. He believed sub Saharan Africa to be a geologically dull continent in which nothing of interest had occurred for hundreds of millions of years. Its waterfalls and the rift valley into which it plunges prove him wrong.
Classic film fans will recognize Murchison Falls as a backdrop in John Huston’s famous movie, The African Queen. The film, which starred Humphrey Bagart and Katharine Hepburn, was filmed on location in 1951 in and around the Lake Albert port of Butiaba.