Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is where the Nile explodes through a narrow gorge and cascades down to become a placid river of the stunning Victoria Nile, that flows across Uganda’s northern region from the vast Lake Victoria to the deep Lake Kyoga and continuing to the northern tip of Lake Albert within the western arm of the great East African Rift.
The majestic Murchison Falls have the waters of the Nile force their way through a small slit within the rocks, which is just 7 meters or 23 feet wide and topples to 43 meters or 141 feet below with a thunderous roar forming a residual water stray that forms a beautiful rainbow offering breathtaking views. Before the falls, the Nile runs through 80km of shallow water and rapids, to calm down to a wide quiet river until it pours out into Lake Albert.
Murchison Falls National Park comprises of the Bugungu and Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserves alongside the vegetation which is characterized by savannah, riverine forest, woodland and wildlife including lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, hartebeests, oribis, Uganda kobs, chimpanzees, and many bird species.
Murchison Falls National Park is subjugated by woodland, wetland, Savannah as well as the tropical forest that is well known to be a habitat for over 76 mammal species and over 450 different bird species with 23 Albertine Rift endemics. Among the big mammals include hippo, Rothschild’s giraffe, warthog, Uganda kob, hartebeest, Nile crocodile, the four members of the big five, the lion, the leopards, the elephants, and the Buffaloes. There also several primates in the Murchison falls national park including baboons and several monkey species.
The varied habitats in the park make it home to a variety of birds with 451 species recorded including the Shoebill Stork, the Goliath Heron, elegant Grey Crowned Cranes. Along the banks of the Nile are the Blue-headed Coucal, Swamp Flycatcher, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Sandpipers, Denham’s Bustard, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Black-billed Barbet, Black-headed Gonolek, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Piapiac, Silverbird, Weaver Birds, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Red-throated Bee-eater, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Speckle-fronted Weaver and African Quailfinch.
Murchison Falls National Park is the biggest national park in Uganda and is comprised of Karuma plus Bugungu Wildlife Reserves, woodland, Savannah grasslands plus riverine forest. It was named Murchison Falls after the impressive Murchison Falls on which the longest river in the world through a series of cascades from here it becomes a calm river and its banks are crowded with giant crocodiles, buffaloes, hippos, chimpanzees, tree climbing lions plus Uganda kobs, plus a variety of bird species among which are the uncommon shoebill.
The Attractions at Murchison Falls National Park are quite many and highlight most of your trip to make it memorable and interesting including;
Murchison Falls: The waters violently compress through a narrow gorge, spraying misty droplets along their wake over a 50m radius creating a permanent rainbow over the battlefield and causes a continuous roar. From Baker Point on the southern side, you can also view the Nile splitting into the smaller Uhuru Falls.
The Nile River: A boat ride along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls is a rewarding experience for nature lovers, as the northern bank teems with a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Nile-Lake Albert Delta: This wide, calm stretch of water, where the tranquil Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert, is a key area for bird watchers. Its papyrus-lined banks are bursting with birdlife, including Goliath Herons, Great Egrets, and African Fish Eagles. The most sought-after species here is the rare Shoebill.
Buligi Game Tracks: The Buligi game tracks, stretching between the Victoria and Albert Niles, are the Murchison Falls National Park’s most popular safari destination as they pass through an open savannah grassland, woodland, acacia and riverine vegetation.
Paraa: This is one of the top areas of interest in Murchison falls where all the park’s access roads converge as the northern and southern banks are connected by a passenger ferry and a number of hotels and safari lodges are located nearby.
Karuma Falls: Located in the northeastern side of Murchison Falls National Park in the Chobe region, these thundering waterfalls on the Victoria Nile are made up of a series of natural rock formations which cause the waters to ripple and give them a white foam-like appearance to the amusement and excitement of the viewer
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest: The forest ecosystem harbors a habituated chimpanzees,black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys and olive baboons. Other wildlife that visits include Elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards. A great number of forest birds can be ticked off the list here, including the chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel’s illadopsis which cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa.
Rabongo Forest: Surrounded by savanna, it is considered a birders’ paradise because of the endangered species found here. Rabongo is ideal for educational tours as it provides opportunities to identify animals, birds, medicinal plants and trees.
Budongo Forest: Budongo Forest is one of the key areas that lies southwest of Murchison Falls Conservation Area with overwhelming biodiversity of 24 species of mammals, over 360 birds, 289 butterflies and 465 plants. This forest is mostly known for its primate population, which includes around 800 chimpanzees.
Murchison Falls National Park is one of the most visited parks in Uganda due to the various activities you would enjoy that would make your safari interesting and memorable for a lifetime including;
Game Drives: Game Drives in this Park are the best way to experience the African Wild in Uganda,you will be accompanied by a ranger on board to ensure that you don’t miss anything whilst on the game drive. Early morning and late afternoon game drives with its Rothschild Giraffes, Elephants, Buffaloes, antelopes, lions, leopards, warthogs, Savannah birds and more.
Nocturnal Game Drives: This is one of the highlights of the safari in this park, where you can see the predators of the night out on the prowl such as Lions, Leopards, Hyenas, and serval cats.Lasting about two hours in length and it takes place at dusk or after darkness has set in with spotlights to catch a glimpse of the animals
Boat Safari: The launch cruise to the bottom of the falls is one of the highlights of any safari visit to Murchison Falls National Park.
Nile Crocodiles mouths wide open sunning themselves along the banks, elephant herds coming to bathe and water, Buffaloes in numbers, various species of antelopes and many water birds, one cannot imagine the scenic shoreline you will see on a boat safari up the River Nile.
Here you have the choice to disembark at the bottoms of the falls and hike up to the top of the falls or return on the boat downstream for more wildlife viewing.
Top of the Falls Hike: Murchison Falls is the world’s most powerful waterfall, one can take the boat safari up to the bottom of the falls and disembark and take a 45-minute hike up to the falls and be refreshed by the mist, feel the ground shake and vibrate under your feet.
There is another fall in the distance and that is Uhuru Falls which means in English – Freedom Fall which has become a favorite with visitors to the park.
Nile Delta Boat Ride: On this boat cruise, you will experience both the River Nile and Lake Albert . This Boat Safari is a must for Birders and for those that want to see the Shoebill Stork in the Wild.
This stretch of the River is also one of the best spots in Uganda where you can spot the shoebill stork along the banks of the rivers, wildlife, hippos, crocodiles. You will enjoy majestic views on this boat safari down the River Nile to where it drains into Lake Albert and where it is commonly referred to as the Nile Delta.
Hot Air Balloon Wildlife Safaris: This is the only park in Uganda where you can take a hot air balloon wildlife Safari, rise at dawn over the savannah – watch the sun rise and then glide over the park above the treetops where you can see the most wildlife from below.
Birding: Birding can be done from a safari vehicle or on a nature walk along the Nile or through one of its forest. The possibilities are endless here and there are numerous spots where with a guide you will make some rewarding discoveries and see why Murchison Falls Park is one of the best birding locations in all of Africa.
Hiking: They are variety of nature walks and hikes in Murchison Falls National Park from the Rabongo Forest, Budongo Forest and the Chobe area of the park.
The Scenic Drive to or from the park: This is the scenic route and snakes along Lake Albert where you see the Blue Mountains in the Congo and see the Western Rift Valley Escarpment which will give you many photography opportunities.
Chimpanzee Tracking in Budongo Forest: Budongo Forest a great place for chimpanzee tracking and chimpanzee habituation experience, birding and hiking and nature walks from a few hours to all day hikes on the trails of Budongo Forest.
Rhino Tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Kibiro Salt Gardens and Fishing Village
Boomu -Ugandan Village Visit and Stay
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest game reserve in Uganda that attracts many visitors thus it being a home to a variety of lodges both inside and outside of the park – from budget to midrange to 5-star luxury lodging including;
- Paraa Safari Lodge
- Chobe Safari Lodge
- Bakers Lodge
- Murchison Tree House
- Murchison Safari Lodge
- Nile Safari Lodge
- Amuka Safari Lodge
- Budongo Eco Lodge
- Bwana Tembo Safari Camp
- Fort Murchison Lodge
- Kabalega Wilderness Lodge
- Murchison River Lodge
- Nile Safari Lodge
- Parkside Safari Lodge
- Red Chilli Rest Camp
- Ziwa Rhino Camp
How To Get There?
Murchison Falls National Park is located 305 kilometers north of Kampala and is usually visited as part of a long safari circuit combining other destinations including Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi Forest, Kibale forest or Kidepo valley national park.
By road: The drive to Murchison Falls National park takes approximately 5 hours on a smooth tarmac road with a stopover at Ziwa rhino sanctuary along the way adds to the excitement.
By Air: The park can be accessed by air as you can fly from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield to Pakuba airfield and connect with a driver / guide to begin your activities. Fly Uganda and Aerolink offers scheduled departures to Murchison falls National Park and there is also an option of Charter flights landing at airstrips north of the Nile at Pakuba (19 km from Paraa) and south at Bugungu (13 km from Paraa).
When To Visit?
The park can be visited all year round though some seasons are more convenient and interesting that others as you will be able to enjoy all the activities without any interference. Game viewing safaris in Uganda, for example are best arranged for the dry season, while bird watching is best done in the rainy season.
The best time to visit to visit the park is December to February and June to September which is the dry season while during the rainy seasons of March to May and September to November,the roads are challenging and slippery though it is the best time to go bird watching since they are fewer people and there is a lot of bird activity and many migratory birds.