August 14, 2011

Murchison Falls, Uganda

Continuing our “twelve months ago I was” series…

About this time twelve months ago we headed off from Bulisa to tour the Nile and see the Murchison Falls. Of course we had to stop at the entrance to the national park and hand over more money… but then headed off to where the boat for the river wildlife tour and base of the Murchison falls took off. There were a few wart hogs here, we thought they were fairly friendly animals here – we hadn’t seen anything yet. We met up here with a guy from Germany I think, who had been on the ferry with us over to Kalangala – had a bit of a chat with him, good to see him getting out and seeing a bit of Africa. We jumped on our boat and were all given a life jacket – and it was suggested we sit on it (the boat seats were pretty hard). The life jackets were wet – it took a while for some to figure out why I wasn’t sitting on mine… So cruising up the Nile was pretty cool. The guide would stop and show us some of the wildlife. Some of it was obvious to spot, some of it no so obvious… I’m sure those guides must get pretty frustrated pointing out animals to tourists who just can’t find the animals no matter how how they try and explain where they are! So heaps of hippos, around about the area we saw them yesterday – opposite the Nile Safari Lodge. Heaps of alligators (no swimming in this river), birds, hippos, water buffalo, more hippos, a few monkeys of some description, and yes, more hippos – and plenty of weeds in the river as we headed up it. Those hippos look like they’re pretty strong. That’s another animal I wouldn’t want to come across if I could avoid it.
We pulled up about 500m from the base of the waterfalls. I thought hey that’s cool, he’s letting us get some photos before we get really close. Umm… no. That was as close as we got. That was a bit disappointing because “base of falls” meant to me you got closer than half a km away. Anyway, it wasn’t to be and that’s as close as we got. It was a bit disappointing we couldn’t go closer but he said something about force of water pushing us back and capsizing if we went closer. I was good with that location in that boat after that comment. Jumped out of the boat on the little island and took a few photos of us with the falls in the background. Of course they didn’t allow us very long there so he’s virtually taking off while we’re getting back in. The cruise back to base was pretty much an express one. No stopping for wildlife this time.

At the base area, (which I forget what it’s actually called, so hence no name) there was this pretty cool spinning map of the world that was bigger than me. I can hear some people saying that wouldn’t be hard – enough of that! Had a look at the world, found Uganda and Murchison Falls and then found home and got an indication of how much ocean you actually had to fly over to get to Africa.

After this, we headed off to find some lunch. We went to Red Chilli Rest Camp for lunch, plenty of tour groups and backpackers there, and lunch was pretty good, although I think the Nile Safari Lodge was much better (but also more expensive). At lunch though, we met some more interesting and very friendly, but wild, guests. Warthogs. Oh wow, they were friendly. Far too friendly for my liking. They were very interested in the food we were eating. I moved to the other end of the table to get away from them and they started to follow – but thankfully took more of an interest in Mike’s food than Shirley’s or mine. They are ugly looking, but those tusks could also make them quite dangerous and I wasn’t too keen on checking out the hospitals in Uganda as a patient!

After lunch we headed off to the top of Murchison falls. After the disappointment of the view from the base, we were hoping that the top would be far more spectacular. We weren’t disappointed. This would have to be in the top 5 highlights of the trip. The roar from the water is amazing. The nile, with all it’s width – and it is a pretty wide river, is pushed through a 7m wide gap in rocks. I think you’d last about two seconds if you fell in there, the power of the water is just amazing. And if you did happen to survive, the alligators or hippos would get you anyway!

The falls were just spectacular. I love water and I could sit there for hours just watching it flow and go down through the crack in the rocks. You could view the falls from before the water went over the edge and then after it had flowed through the gap. The spray from the water as, and after, it flowed through the gap left you fairly wet. So powerful. God has created some amazing things and seeing something like this just reminds you how small and how fragile you really are. While I would’ve loved to sit there for ages in the sun, just like the Chameleon was, watching the water flow, listening to the roar and let it refresh and renew me, the weather wasn’t doing us any favours. There was a storm coming in – and storm clouds do make great backdrops for photos – but they normally bring rain with them. Getting wet didn’t matter, I was already a bit damp from the spray, but unfortunately the roads to get into the top of the falls were… mud. So any extra water on them wasn’t really going to be good. Now I do think sometimes we over estimate the effect of rain on roads, especially when you’re in a place that’s strange and you’re the only car in a group. But nevertheless, it started to rain, so we hot footed it out of there, cutting short our time at the top, but leaving it as a “must return” destination.

Met a few cars coming towards us on the way back, including a taxi, (ie not a 4WD – surprised it had got that far), but then again, taxis go ANYWHERE in Uganda. Anywhere. Wonder if those cars made it out! Saw a few cars that had slidden off the road but I don’t think I grabbed any photos, I was either too busy laughing at them (mostly tourists who’d done something stupid) or wondering if us, in our small little car could help. We decided we couldn’t.

Overall, a great day and while I’m not sure I’d do the river safari again, I would definitely go to the top of the falls and spend much longer there! Here’s Mike’s take on the falls.


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