Travel 

Monday, January 13, 2014 

Murchison dazzles your senses

RAINBOW’S END: The writer Leonard Magomba basks in the splendour of the angry waters as the plunge to into the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’ begins.


Our journey started at 6 o’clock in the morning passing through a rough and poor road as if we were heading to the remote area but in reality, we were going to an amazing area.

A visit to Murchison Falls in the National Park of same name is an amazing and unforgettable experience. 

The water is forced through a gap of only seven metres then drops 40 metres to continue its gentler 30 kilometre journey towards Lake Albert. 

What makes this waterfall so memorabl experience for us, was the rare opportunity to combine a water-falling excursion with the chance to see big game wildlife. 

Add to that the odd distinction that this could possibly be the world’s most ‘powerful’ waterfall in terms of the force of water ejected from the falls itself. 

I felt this notion had some credibility based on my observation that the wide Victoria Nile River was squeezed into a six metres width chute at the base of the roughly 20-30 metres tall falls. 

The Murchison excursion was our side trip after touring the Total oil exploration operations. We were journalists training on oil, gas and mining as a way to strengthen media oversight of the extractive. The whole thing was organized by African Centre for Media Excellence and Journalists’ Environment of Tanzania.

Murchison National Park in Uganda was once world famous for an abundance of wildlife along the river cruise up to the waterfall itself. This according to one of the tour guides who accompanied us.

Murchison is Uganda’s, largest park and is known for its high concentration of game and scenic beauty. It is the place where the Nile explodes through the gorge to become a placid river flowing all the way to Egypt.

The Nile squeezes through the narrow gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’, creating the trademark rainbow. 

The northern section of the park contains savanna and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland. 

The south is dominated by woodland and forest patches. Due to its contrasting and spectacular scenery, the 1951 film ‘The African Queen’ starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn was filmed on Lake Albert and the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park.

The park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna. 

It was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, making it Uganda’s oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.

The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45 metres over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80 kilometre stretch of rapids. 

The mighty cascade drains the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. 

This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.

The park was Uganda’s only ‘big five’ destination, but according to our guide, sadly rhinos were poached to near extinction.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary about three hours drive south of Murchison is currently breeding and protecting rhinos once more, and hopefully they will one day be released into the park.

However the park is still an excellent game viewing destination, with large herds of elephant and buffalo, many kob, an increasing number of lions, plus giraffe, hartebeest waterbuck and more. 

It is possible to see the falls from the top (south bank only) and also from a boat at the bottom – a trip which is well worth taking to see the hippos, crocodiles and prolific birdlife.

The Buligi circuit on the north bank of the Nile is usually deemed to take you to the best game viewing areas, but the whole park offers a great experience. 

The birding is excellent here too, and it is one of the few places left where you can see the rare shoebill stork. 

For sure Murchison Falls National Park was  n amazing experience for me.


By Leonard Magomba, Monday, January 13th, 2014