Meet Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, found in the Northwest part of the country. Its 3,840 Km2 expanse has all you can expect of a multi-award winning national park; rolling grassy hills studded with borassus palms, 76 mammal species inclusive of Big 5 animals, over 450 bird species and dense tropical forests full of primates like chimps.
Most unique attraction
One of the things that makes in one in a million is its most powerful waterfall, Murchison falls. It is the most fascinating thing to happen to River Nile en route from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea! At this stunning waterfall that overlooks a rift valley escarpment, you will find the only spot where the world’s longest river forces its self through a narrow cleft that is less than 8 meters wide. The result is a thunderous explosion and a plume of foaming white water that showcases the sheer force of nature.
Few kilometers downstream is a vast river system with countless schools of hippos grunting away in the shallows and enormous crocodiles basking in the sand bars. There is no better way to see them than by pursuing a sightseeing boat trip that covers roughly 15 kilometers. This two hour excursion is safe, fun and intriguing. It is guided by ranger guides who are great at spotting out other wildlife that are taking a refreshing drink at the river banks. It could be giraffes, buffaloes, elephants, lions or even the elusive leopards. The boat has a lower designed for relaxed wildlife viewing and an upper deck which is suited for photographic encounters.
A boat ride in the opposite direction will lead you to a swampy stretch where you will have mixed luck in seeing the oddball shoebill, a large prehistoric bird and grey papyrus dweller. In an effort to enable you see as many birds as possible from up-close, the ride will unfold at a slow pace along the river banks.
If you wish to see more wildlife, a morning or evening game drive in the park’s open savannah plains will leave you with tears of joy. The well maintained network of trails here makes it easy to view animals even in the wet seasons. These range from Jackson’s hartebeest, oribi, lions… The dominant species in this Northern section of the Murchison is the Uganda kob and Rothschild giraffes, estimated at over 1,200. This is partly because the poaching rate is low. That aside, ranger guides make daily patrols to uproot snares planted in routes used by animals.
If plan your visit for the breeding season that runs from April-June, you might find one of the buffaloes that inhabit the grassy plains north of the river giving birth to a calf. It is hard to forget the ease with which they start running barely one hour after they are born.
Chimp trekking in Budongo forest
A visit to this southern part of Murchison is a must for nature lovers interested in seeing the second biggest population of wild chimps in Uganda, over 600 individuals. Over 100 of these are habituated. The walk in the woods to see them is interesting for those that love encountering trees that have been under the sun for over three centuries.
There is no need to worry about steep hikes, the trails are all easy going as it unfolds on mostly level terrain. As such, the walk is manageable even for people with minimum levels of fitness.
Depending on how fast the chimps are moving in search for food, you might walk or run through the middle of thick forest. On finding the family you have been allocated to visit, you will have quality time with them lasting one hour. During this time, you will see them doing what they naturally do. Their status as the most intelligent Apes is evident in what they do. They are fond of making umbrellas from large leaves whereby they cover themselves from heavy rains and sunshine. It is fascinating to watch them make fishing tools by stripping leaves off a thin branch. Next, they poke a termite mound with the stick and after pull it out when it is covered with tasty termites.
The preferred territory of these subtle apes in the dry seasons is a rocky outcrop in the middle of the jungle. Here, you might be surrounded by as many as 80 chimps. Keep your camera on standby mode so as to get some great random pictures. You will be amazed by how close the chimps get to you as they strive to pick fruits in the trees around you.
Hot air balloon safaris
Its until you have pursued this experience that it starts to make sense as to why Murchison is rated as the biggest park in Uganda. It offers different perspectives of the park, vast and wide. It last's roughly one hour and takes place early morning, a time of the day when huge herds of elephants and giraffes are browsing. It is amazing how they look so gigantic from a horizontal perspective yet so humble and small from a vertical angle.
The tour also offers a very impressive and vertigo-inducing view of river Nile starting from downstream. At first glance, the river seems sludgy brown and calm but as you look at it more vividly, it dawns on you that its momentum is overpowering. As the balloon drifts smoothly in the wind, you will behold a ferocious wall of white water dropping some 45 meters into a steamy boiling pot.