Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park, on the northern Uganda safari circuit, is bisected by the Nile river offering some of the best game viewing boat safaris & game drives in the country. The park’s most prominent feature is the Murchison Falls, the most powerful waterfall in the world. Murchison is the largest game reserve in Uganda, covering 3,840 square Kilometres and Uganda’s first gazetted park in 1952. Historically, the park was called Kabalega Falls National Park, named after the then Bunyoro King Kabalega.
Murchison falls national park lies on the Northern Albertine rift valley bisected by the Victoria Nile to create two sections in the north and south. The northern section is dominated by savannah grasslands, acacia trees, riverine woodlands and Borassus palms, while woodlands and forests dominate the southern section.
The Victoria Nile water creates Murchison Falls as it forcibly pushes through an 8-metre wide Chasm, plunging 45 meters down to rejoin the calm Nile river northbound. The river flows through the park into Lake Albert, creating a delta downstream famous for Shoebill stock viewing.
Boat Safaris occur along the Nile river flowing through Murchison Falls National Park. Many animal species regularly visit the river banks, including elephants, giraffes, Kobs, buffaloes, Jackson’s hartebeest, bushbucks, waterbucks, warthogs, hippos, and Nile crocodiles.
Aquatic birds are permanent residents in the waters, and you will never miss them on any single visit. The park is also a habitat for cats like Leopards, Lions and Hyenas, which you will luckily find on a game drive in this park.
Activities in Murchison Falls National Park
Safari Launch Trips
A boat safari cruise upstream from Paraa towards the falls is a fantastic way to experience the Murchison Falls National Park, with chances to view various wildlife species by the river banks, not withholding several aquatic birds. Combining this cruise with a moderate hike to the top of falls is commendable for the best views of the Magnificent Murchison Falls. The boat cruise downstream to the Nile Delta is recommended for birding trips with chances of viewing the excellent shoebill stork. In contrast, sunset cruises are another form of relaxation on the Nile with sunset views on the river.
There are various game viewing tracks and points within different ecosystems in Murchison Falls National Park, where you will have a chance to see various wildlife species. Some designated game drive areas include the Buligi Peninsula, the best area for game viewing in the open savannah grassland, and The Delta, which pose great chances of spotting lions hunting for prey.
Murchison Falls National Park has 451 recorded bird species, Savannah forest birds, Waterbirds and Albertine Rift endemic species.
Common birds spotted in Murchions include the Marabou Stork, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Secretary Birds, Black-bellied Bustards, Open-billed Storks and Widow Bird. The Swallow-tailed and Red-throated Bee-eaters – particularly in the Nyamusika Cliffs; Woodland, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers; Francolin; Hornbills, Grey heron; Hamerkop; Shrikes; Flycatchers; Cuckoos; Woodpeckers; Crombecs and Warblers are found in the thickets and woodlands nearer to the river.
The ducks, geese, stilts and plovers are always found on the riverbanks. The park’s top birding attraction is the shoebill stork, most commonly found in the Delta.
Keen Anglers love Murchison Falls National Park for its superb fishing opportunities on the Victoria Nile. At the Delta, there are high chances of catching a Nile perch, catfish, Tigerfish, Tilapia or an electric catfish.
With a fishing permit that costs USD 50 per day (as of 2019), not including park entrance fees and an experienced fishing guide, you will hit the waters of the Nile looking for the big catch!
Sport Fishing in Murchison Falls is a freshwater fishing experience. Visitors can do the activity throughout the year, yet the best results are expected in the dry periods of June to October and December to March. The rainy months of April to May and November are not very good and should be avoided if possible.
Hot Air Balloon Safaris
In Uganda, hot air balloon safaris are only available at Murchison Falls National park (2021). Balloon safaris are a unique way to view wildlife while flying. The flight is approximately 1 hour and can go up to 1000 meters high. You can choose to go during sunrise or sunset. A pre and post-flight ground safari always accompany your Balloon safari experience.
Nature walks and hikes
Nature walks are also available in Murchison Falls National Park. Apart from hiking to the top of falls off the boat cruise, you can also experience Murchison park on foot through Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabong forests, with trails leading to primate and bird views. There is also a 2-4 hours guided swamp walk at the delta, the shoebill viewing sight.
In Murchison, you can enjoy cultural performances from the Mubako dancers at Boomu Women’s group Banda. Boomu women group offer cultural experiences to the communities to experience the lifestyle of the local people living around the Murchison Falls National park. Farm tours and food processing experiences will always add to your exploration of the traditional lifestyle of this community.
When to Visit Murchison
Murchison Falls National Park lies in one of the hottest regions in the country, with a temperature range of about 250C – 320C. Nights can be cooler up to 180C. Rains are usually low but can be heavy during the season.
Tourists can visit Murchison all year round; however, the best time to visit is during the dry seasons of June to September and December to March. The dry seasons are when animals usually concentrate towards the river, making it easier for game viewing.
The best time for birding is generally between January to March.
How To Get to Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park is located approximately 300 kilometres, a 5-hour drive north of Kampala city. You can access the park by road via Masindi and main entry through the Kichumbanyobo gate. Along this route, you can visit Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary en-route.
Coming from Gulu, you can access the park through the northern gates, while the most scenic route is through Bugungu Gate, connecting with the Butiabe Escarpment of the Albertine rift valley. However, this is a longer route from Masindi or Hoima.
Three small airstrips serve Murchison Falls National Park, including Chobe airstrip to the east, Bugungu Airstrip to the south and Pakuba airstrip 19 kilometres north of Paraa.
Daily local commercial flights are available from Entebbe Airport with possibilities of connecting to other national parks like Kidepo Valley National Park, Bwindi National park at Kihihi, Mweya Queen Elizabeth and Kasese serving Kibale forest Park as well.
Accommodation at Murchison Falls National Park
Are you planning a visit to the Largest and Oldest National park of the Pearl of Africa! Murchison falls several accommodation facilities ranging from Budget to Luxurious establishments. We shall help you find the best suitable accommodation for your holiday.
- The UWA Bandas and Campsite
- Red Chilli Rest Camp
- Yebo Safari Camp
- Sambiya River Lodge
- Fort Murchison by Nature Lodges.
Mid budget Facilities
- Pakuba Safari Lodge. Located right where the game drives begin, the lodge boasts 46 en-suite self-contained guest rooms and is a short distance away from Pakuba airstrip. The lodge has a swimming pool for your relaxation.
- Twiga Safari Lodge is located along the southern bank of the River Nile on the outskirts of Murchison Falls National Park. With the African canvas tents within the thatched cottages, the lodge aims to give you a comfortable night stay while on your safari experience.
- Murchison River Lodge is a family-run lodge with Thatched tents located on the southern bank of the river Nile.
- Paraa Safari Lodge, by Marasa Africa, is located just near the Paraa ferry point on the northern bank of the River Nile. The lodge has 54 rooms varying from standard rooms to suites, Tents and cottages.
While the High-end Facilities
- Bakers Lodge by Uganda Exclusive Camps is located on the southern bank of River Nile, deriving its name from the first English Explore Samuel Baker. The rooms are set up on raised decks overlooking the river with magnificent views of the water stream.
- Nile Safari Lodge is a luxurious lodge in the Murchison Falls Park located on the southern bank of the River Nile. With eight Luxurious bandas and a swimming pool, this boutique lodge offers the experience you are looking for!
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