Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Murchion Falls National Park - A Ugandan Treasure

On Sunday, the 15th I had the good fortune to spend the day traveling from Masindi to Murchion Falls National Park.  The total distance is just 80km; however the trip takes 2 hours by 4 wheel drive due to the roads.  Bill Clapman from West Virginia is also in Uganda with Catholic Relief Services and working about 150km's from me.  We agreed to meet to take the Nile river boat to the bottom of the falls.

Sunday, the man who has the job of driving me to the Cooperative each day agreed to hire out for the trip,  We left the hotel at 8 am with the only item on the itinerary to be at the Nile boat launch by 2 pm.  Upon reaching the park I had to pay for each of our entrance fees and a vehicle.  The Ugandan government's fee structure for everything at the park depends upon ones status, Non-resident tourist pays the highest fee, $40 US, Non-resident working, $30 US and Ugandan resident, 30,000 Ugandan shillings, about $15 US.  With the Ugandan average salary about $4,000 US the fee structure makes a lot of sense.  The entrance to the park looked just as I had imagined, something right out of National Geographic.


Mike at the entrance to Murchion Falls National Park

It is common for Ugandans to have a job that keeps them away from their families for 3 weeks each month.  It is also common for them to catch a lift to get back and forth to their job site.  On this trip I met Andrew and Jacob who are both park rangers who had returned after the park closed on Saturday and had to wait until Sunday morning to catch a lift to their jobs.  Providing a lift to Andrew ended up being a bonanza as he was extremely knowledgeable about the park; its history and animals.  Andrew works as a guide at the top of Murchion Falls which also turned out to be to our good luck.

Almost immediately after leaving the entrance of the park I was excited to see a troop of baboons so I thought I would have Sunday stop so I could get a picture; Andrew immediately commented that baboons were all over the park and I would get a better picture somewhere along the way; he was right.  Andrew also knew where to look along the forest.  He spotted a group of White Striped Colobus Monkeys in the tree tops.  These monkeys look like a big skunk from behind.  The skin at their sides stretches out to create parachutes that allow them to jump from tree to tree.

The Colobus is very shy, when we stopped to try to get a picture they immediately took off.  I did get a chance to take a few photos of a different group on the boat tour, but they did not come out well.  The picture above is from a web search.

Upon reaching the top of Murchion Falls Andrew led us on a walking tour of the area.

Sunday (driver) and Andrew (Park Ranger) at the top of Murchion Falls

Sunday and I at the trail head of Murchion Falls
The plaque in both of the pictures commemorates 50 years of the park's existence.

The Nile river is the longest in the world at 6,700 km.  Its' headwaters are still contested with some saying they are in Uganda at Lake Victoria and others in Rwanda.    In either case the Nile flows northward through Uganda toward Egypt and must squeeze down from a width of 50 meters to 6 with a vertical drop of 44 meters.  The squeezing creates a violent crashing of water with its mist rising up and soaking the observer.

Top of the falls at 6 meter width

Vertical drop of 44 meters creating a nice rainbow

The Nile emptying out toward Lake Albert

The force of the water makes it look like a boiling pot

The top of Murchion Falls is also noted for its bat caves.  Each day at 8 pm an estimated 10,000 bats leave the caves in search of food returning around 6 am each morning.  The sides of the cliffs where they dwell are black and white from their excrement.

Bat Caves

Bat caves

Even with our personal guide Andrew, we could not traverse any further up the trail without paying the fee.

When Uganda was a British colony the Brits had built a foot bridge across the falls at its narrowest point. The bridge gave way after Uganda won its independence from Britain and the ruling party decided not to rebuild it.
Bridge landings at 6 meter mark

On top at the widest point of 50 meters before the falls

After leaving Andrew at his job location we headed to the bottom of the falls where we would take a 3 hour boat ride to see the falls from the bottom side.  Along the way we came across a few of the park's residents.

Water Buck

Water Buck
 Upon reaching the boat landing Andrew's words regarding the baboons came true.  The boats leave at 8 am and 2 pm each day; we were instructed to arrive by 1:40 for the 2 pm trip.  We had arrived at about the same time as the crew started arriving and like on cue a gray colored baboon came out of the woods and walked across the parking lot.

One of the tourist threw some type of fruit or vegetable to the baboon who immedately picked it up and had its dinner.  I am pretty sure this guy knew where his meals were coming from.

Up until the early 1960's the shores of the Nile below Murchion Falls had abundant numbers of wild life.  Unfortunately poaching and wars led to their demise.  As a National Park hunting is not allowed within its borders; however, poaching is still a problem.  As we left the dock and headed toward the falls we immediately started seeing wild life. 

Water Buffalo

To say the least I was quite excited to see the hippo's lounging about.  It did not take long to note they owned the place.

Staying cool on a hot day

Water Buck
 There are over 400 varieties of birds on the Nile in the Murchion Falls area.

Goliath heron
This area is where the movie "African Queen" was filmed; if you remember the film you also remember the crocodiles.




 The hippos and crocs live quite peacefully together.

 In the next few pictures a crocodile lurks under a nesting area of Fisher Kings

A view toward the falls

 The Ugandan Bee Eater is a very colorful bird that migrates through the Falls area.  They live in the side of the cliffs.

Having an early dinner

Water Buck keeping cool at the rivers edge

at the bottom looking up

Walking up to the top of the falls also costs

Bill Clapman - CRS volunteer in Uganda

1 comment:

  1. Mike wonderful pictures--the water was amazing.