Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Murchison Falls National Park

Soon after breakfast at Paraa Safari Lodge, we headed out on a game drive in the park. Murchison Falls has a wide variety of game activities including boating, hiking near Murchison Falls and game drives, with the Nile and the Falls being at the heart of this park.

I really had no idea what to expect, but Murchison Falls surprised me in terms of scenery and wildlife. The landscape is much like that of the Masai Mara, with its rolling hills and open plains, plus unique water elements in the Delta and Lake Albert.

On our game drive we spotted: Patas monkeys, hartebeest, Rothschild giraffe, hippos, buffalo, a pair of jackals chasing an immature Bateleur eagle away from a recent lion kill (the lions were spotted earlier that morning, but we didn’t see them). A couple more highlights included a beautiful flock of crowned crane – Uganda’s national bird – along with a herd of elephant by the Delta and, of course, an impressive variety of birdlife.

We returned to the lodge for lunch and a bit of down-time before our afternoon private boat launch on the Nile. Denis (of CAS) accompanied us, as well as the local boating guide, who was superb. The couple-hour trip heads upstream towards the Falls, well within viewing distance, but it's the pressure of the water coming downstream that is truly awesome and a bit scary!

As we headed upstream we were treated to another array of wildlife: buffalo, hippo, elephant, crocodile, black and white colobus monkeys, red-throated bee-eaters, fish eagles, black kite, goliath heron and more…I really enjoyed how wild this excursion felt.

I envisioned myself as an early explorer heading upstream for the first time, with the beautiful lighting and impressive Falls. I loved how undeveloped the area is – no hotels sitting right on the edge of the Falls, just lush forest and wild riverfront. While the game was OK, it is much better in the dry season when large herds of elephant and buffalo come to the water’s edge to drink. However, the birdlife was excellent.

We learned how wildlife populations really suffered under Idi Amin (there were once 14,500 elephant in the area and now the number is estimated at half that; with anti-poaching efforts the numbers are increasing). The boat was comfortable and drinks are available for purchase. A wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen are a MUST on this boat trip! All of our boat trips are private versus done on the big boats with 30-40 other people, and the boat guides are excellent.

For more on Murchison National Park wildlife, see my Uganda photo album on Facebook, or learn more about Classic Africa Safaris in Uganda.

Photos by Lyndsay Harshman/The Kusini Collection

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