Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savannah. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.
The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centre piece of the park and the final event in an 80km 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 on safari in Uganda visit to the River banks wildlife which includes elephants, giraffes and buffaloes, hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals. The explorers John Speke and James Grant were the first Europeans to visit the present day Murchison Falls Conservation Area in 1862. It was more thoroughly explored by Samuel and Florence Baker in 1863-4. Baker named the falls Murchison Falls after the geologist Roderick Murchison, then the president of the Royal Geographical Society.
Between 1907 and 1912, the inhabitants of an area of about 13,000 square kilometres (5,000 sq mi) were evacuated due to sleeping sickness spread by tsetse flies. In 1910, the Bunyoro Game Reserve was created south of the River Nile. That area roughly corresponds to the part of the Murchison Falls National Park that is in the districts of Bulisa, Masindi, and Kiryandongo. In 1928, the boundaries were extended north of the river into the modern-day Nwoya District. In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. The area described above became Murchison Falls National Park.
Murchison Falls National Park, part of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA), offers excellent wildlife viewing. The Murchison Falls Conservation Area includes Kaniyo Pabidi, which is a great place for chimpanzee tracking. Most big safari animals are easily seen, including four of the Big Five. The Victoria Nile bisects the park. At Murchison Falls, the Nile is channeled through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment. Boat trips to the spectacular Murchison Falls, perhaps the most impressive waterfall in East Africa, are a highlight – especially if you hike to the top where the immense power of the Falls is best appreciated.