Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest National Park in Uganda. It takes on a space of 3840 square kilometers. The famous National Park gets its name from the thunderous Murchison falls where the mighty river Nile forces it self through a narrow gorge of 9m, pouring its waters 100 meters below into what has been called the ‘Devils Cauldron’ creating an ever present rainbow. Sir Samuel Baker the ancient explorer marveled by this spectacle considered the Murchison falls as “the most important object of the entire course of the river Nile!” He named the waterfall in 1864. The park is only 6 hours away from Kampala the capital city of Uganda and with all the attractions is a perfect destination for exciting Uganda safaris. The park has diverse habitats that range from forest, savanna, riverine woodland, borassus palms, and several acacia trees.
Murchison Falls National Park lies in the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley giving it great views of the plains and forested areas and the Victoria Nile that pours into Lake Albert at the Delta which is the lowest point in Uganda, standing at only 612m. while on your safari, you have opportunity to view the falls from both up as the Nile squeezes through the gorge and from below while on the boat launch cruise safari on Victoria Nile. The boat cruise on Victoria Nile gives you an opportunity to experience the Nile like the actors of the 1951 film “The African Queen.”
Wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park
Animals in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is a host to over 76 recorded species of mammals that call this their home including four of the big five. To have a complete big 5 list, you would need to pass by the Rhino Sanctuary on the way to the park.
Animals are often seen while on a boat safari and during game drives in the park. The more common animals often seen in volumes are the; Elephants, Giraffes, Buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, Bushbucks, Jacksons Hartebeests, Oribi, waterbucks and warthogs to mention but a few. The big cats of Leopards and Lions have higher chances of being seen when you go early morning for a game drive before the sun is too hot to force then into hiding. It is also home to several primates including Baboons, Patas monkeys, Blue monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys and Black-and-white Colobus monkeys and Chimpanzees are found in the forested area of Kaniyo Pabidi which is part of Budongo forest.
Birds in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is a host to over 450 recorded species of birds in its many varied habitats for birds making bird watching a famous activity in this park. The park is home to many migrant birds and those that are there all year round. The different bird habitats found in this park provide a haven for the birds attracting a good number of birds. The park has forested, swampy areas, riverine woodland, Savannah and acacia trees which all provide habitats for the birds. You will enjoy the waterbirds when you take a boat safari towards the delta or towards the Murchison falls. Some bird species found here include; the sought after elusive pre-historic Shoebill stork , Swamp flycatcher, papyrus Gonolek, Goliath Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Northern red bishop, Squacco heron, Red-throated Bee-eater and African-Quail Finch among others.
Safaris and Activities in Murchison Falls National Park
Game drives in Murchison Falls National Park
The game drives are done on the northern bank of the River Nile on designated tracks, each with rewarding species and numbers of wildlife, scenery and spectacular landscapes. You will take the game drive activities in the custom-made tour vehicles with open roof so that you can easily spot the animals. Everyone should have access to a window for easy viewing.
The game drives takes anything from 4 hours to an entire day depending on your interests, amount of time in the park and the different activities you are interested in. Have your cameras and self ready to take photos of the different animals, birds and landscape. The animals to look out for include; Bushbucks, Waterbucks, hartebeest, Oribi, Uganda Kobs, giraffes, Patas monkeys, Warthogs, Elephants, Buffaloes, Leopards and Lions among others.
Boat safaris on the Nile /Launch trips on the Nile
The boat cruise safari takes place on the River Nile, and you will be sailing towards the bottom of the Murchison Falls, from which the National Park gets its maiden name. This is one of your signature moments and ultimate experience on the cruise as you will chance to see various animals, birds, and great scenery. Here you look out for animals coming to water and those resident/semi residents in water; Crocodiles, Hippos, monitor lizards. Watch out for herds of Buffalo, Elephants and antelopes that come for water.
The opportunities for water birds are high as you take this trip. The launch trip happens twice a day with a morning trip starting at 9am and afternoon at 2pm; however, one can rent a boat and take trip at their leisure.
Chimpanzee tracking at Kaniyo Pabidi in Budongo Forest
You can track chimpanzees from Kaniyo Pabidi a section of Budongo forest, which is home to numerous other primates like baboons, red-tailed monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys and blue monkeys, lots of rare bird species and big game like Buffaloes, Elephants, and bush pigs with magnificent scenery. The trek normally takes 3-4 hours depending on where the chimps nested the previous night, once located the people are can stay in the presence of chimps for an hour watching them eat, play, rest and groom each other.
There is also an opportunity for a full day Chimp habituation experience, which has to be booked prior to your safari. This offers one time watching the chimps and following them along throughout the day for them to get used to humans.
The waters after the Murchison Falls on the River Nile provide some of the most exciting fishing challenge to anglers with presence of the Nile Perch. The largest Nile perch recorded is 108kg! Fishing is permitted in designated sites and places which require prior booking. You are encouraged to bring their own equipment and secure a permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Bird watching in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park with 450 bird species was named No. 9 best birding spot in Africa by the Africa Bird Guide. Bird watching can be done while on game drive, launch trips and nature walks with a ranger guide. Because of the varied habitats, you have opportunities of watching forest birds, Savannah, water and a few of Albertine rift endemics.
Birds in Murchison Falls National Park are easy to find because of the its Savannah grassland. However some woodlands and forested areas make it difficult but still possible to locate the birds. The highlights during your bird watching trip will be the numerous birds by the waters and swamp areas like the; open-billed stork, Red-throated bee –eaters (nests in the cliff by the river), Pied, malachite and Giant Kingfishers, Grey, night, commom Squacco, Striated and Goliath herons, Egyptian ducks, Spur winged lapwings, Intermediate, Great and Little Egrets. While on game drive do not miss the Abyssian ground hornbills, Black and Northern Red Bishop among others.
Nature and forest walks
Most of the nature walks happen through the forests, Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo forest where you have opportunities of watching the primates such as Chimpanzee, black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkey, and numerous bird life.
The Hike up the top of Murchison falls is another exciting walk that everyone should take. Once on the boat trip from Paraa toward the ‘Devils cauldron’, stop a few meters from the bottom of the falls and take hike through the vegetation to experience the top the falls. The hike is fulfilling as you watch the waters of the Nile be squeezed through a 7m gorge. This hike takes any thing between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the interests of the people and their speed at hiking.
Community walks and Cultural experiences
The Boomu women’s Group right outside the park is a worthy visit for someone who wants to engage with the local community. Take the scenic village tour as you learn about the residents everyday lives, farming, visit the black smith, demonstration of basket weaving, cooking and visit to a local school. You can choose to stay over night in this place or just visit for a few hours and continue to the park or when leaving for Kampala. The activities will depend on how much time you have to in the area.
Routes to Murchison Falls National Park
You can access the park by taking scheduled/chartered flights from Entebbe International Airport or drive from Kampala, which takes approximately 5 -6 hours. The park has access gates from the south for people traveling from Kampala through Masindi or those traveling from Fort portal. It also has access gates in the north for people traveling from Kampala via Karuma or those traveling from Gulu or Kidepo valley national park.
Where to stay?
Murchison Falls National Park – Safari Lodges and Camps
In the park
- Paraa Safari Lodge
- Red Chili Rest Camp
- Pakuba Safari Lodge
Outside the Park Boundaries
- Murchison River Lodge
- Bakers Lodge
- Fort Murchison
- Twiga Lodge
- Kabalega Wilderness Lodge
- Court View Hotel
- Masindi Hotel
- Global Village Guest House