This should be high on your bucket list. Here, the historic Murchison Falls coexist with amazing wildlife. Named after the dramatic Murchison Falls, Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest protected wildlife sanctuary with a wonderful artistry of natural landscapes awaiting visitors in the park.
You can make the best memories from this amazing destination with a perfect blend of rivers, great Savannah woodlands, grasslands, plains and forests making it an ideal place to view and appreciate nature and biodiversity. Here, the mighty Nile River bisects the flourishing vegetation before bursting through a chasm in the Rift Valley escarpment to form the raging Murchison Falls.
Murchison Falls is a waterfall found on the course of the great Nile breaking the stunning Victoria Nile 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. Here, the waters of the Nile force their way through a small slit within the rocks, which is just 7 meters and topples to 43 meters with a thunderous roar forming a residual water spray forming a breathtaking beautiful rainbow as it continues westward, draining the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the Rift Valley floor into Lake Albert.
Wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park
The park is blessed with several attractions including over 76 mammal species with four members of the big five: lions, leopards, elephants, and buffaloes. Other species include bushbucks, Uganda kob, waterbucks, warthogs, giraffes, Jackson’s hartebeest, hyenas etc. As you make your way along the shores of the Nile, you are likely to spot hippos, crocodiles and many other resident creatures. There are also many primates in Murchison Falls National Park including baboons and several monkey species.
The park is Uganda’s largest national park and is home to over 450 recorded birds species including the rare shoebill stork with 23 Albertine Rift endemics given its location in the western arm of the east African Rift Valley.
What to see in Murchison Falls National Park
Although almost everyone desires a photo-shoot or view of the magnificent and scenic Murchison Falls, many other interesting tourist attractions exist in the park, which include:
76 species of mammals in the park include huge herds of buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions, giraffes, Jackson’s hartebeest, bushbucks, jackals, Uganda kob, waterbucks and warthogs. Crocodiles and hippos are found along the river. In addition, there are over 800 chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest along with other primates including: olive baboons, blue and red-tailed monkeys, as well as black-and-white colobus monkeys.
The park is blessed with a range of bird species, with over 451 recorded species which include the rare shoe-bill stork that can be spotted at the banks of the Nile-Lake Albert Delta. Other birds that make their homes here are the Goliath Heron, elegant Grey Crowned Cranes Blue-headed Coucal, Swamp Flycatcher, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Sandpiper, Denham’s Bustard, Abyssinian Ground-Horn-bill, Black-billed Barbet, Black-headed Gonolek, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Piapiac, Silver bird, Weaver Bird, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Red-throat Bee-eater, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Speckle-fronted Weaver and African Quail-finch.
- Murchison Falls
This is the main attraction of the park from which it is named after, and includes the River Nile with crocodiles and hippos at the riverbanks. The most memorable view of the waterfalls is from the top where you can appreciate the sight and sound of the Nile roaring through a narrow expanse of rock… This site can be reached either by car and a 30 minutes climb or leaving the Paraa launch boat cruise.
- Budongo Forest
The forest lies on the escarpment North East of Lake Albert with a bio-diversity with 24 mammal species, over 360 birds, 289 butterflies and 465 plants. Budongo Forest is well known for its former abundance of East African Mahogany trees with an exceptional large Mahogany tree that can still be found in the Budongo Forest. The forest is more than 80 meters tall and 20 meters in circumference.
- Buligi Game Tracks
The Buligi region is well known among the major game-viewing safaris in Uganda with its Savannah grasslands giving it a perfect place to enjoy this African wilderness and the attractive sights of the great East African Rift Valley on top of Lake Albert just adjacent to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Karuma Falls
Karuma Falls are found in Chobe in the Northeastern part of the park and are about an hour drive from the district of Gulu in North Western Uganda. The Karuma Falls are made up of a number of natural rock formations which cause the waters to ripple, giving them a white foamy appearance and create roaring sounds on the Victoria Nile.
- Nile- Lake Albert Delta.
The Nile- Lake Albert Delta is a stretch of water where the tranquil Victoria Nile pours its water into Lake Albert. The waters violently compress through a narrow gorge, spraying misty droplets over a 50m radius creating a permanent rainbow over the battlefield and cause a continuous roar. From Baker point on the southern side, you can also view the Nile splitting into the smaller Uhuru Falls created when the rivers’ banks burst.
Paraa is one of the most intriguing places in Murchison Falls National Park with activities like game drives, launch trips and nature walks in Paraa.
Top Things to do in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is the most frequented park in Uganda after the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, due to its diverse wildlife and the majestic Murchison Falls and the variety of activities to engage in including;
- Game Drives/ safaris
These take place early in the morning where tourists can see many varieties of game including lions, hippopotamuses, Rothschild’s giraffes, warthogs, cape buffaloes, Uganda kobs, Jackson’s-hartebeest and elephants. At Nyamsika Cliffs, one can enjoy a picnic, the beautiful view and gaze at elephants and other wildlife on the green grassy hillsides and river below. Game drives are exciting and informative when accompanied by a tour guide.
- Boat cruise to the bottom of the falls
The Launch trip begins at Paraa landing area at the point where river Nile enters into Lake Albert and takes you 17Km from the bottom of the falls at Paraa for 3 hours. While on the cruise you will sight hippos, waterbucks, crocodiles, buffaloes and elephants alongside water birds such as cormorants, Fish eagles, ducks, Kingfishers, bee-eaters and the shoebill.
- Hike to the top of the Falls
The hike to the top of the magnificent Murchison fall is combined with a boat cruise on the Nile to the base of the falls. The boat lands at the base and you hike up for a 45-minute guided hike. While on this hike, you will have a great time admiring rolling hills, varied vegetation, birds, and getting a closer view of the narrow gorge. The Hike up the top of Murchison falls is another exciting walk that everyone should take.
- Boat Cruise to the Delta
The cruise from Paraa to River Delta is 28 km and takes about 4-5 hours with fishing opportunities in the river above and below the falls.
- Bird watching
Murchison Falls National is one of the best birding spots in Uganda due to its vegetation diversity. Bird Species commonly seen are; Spotted Mourning Thrush, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Silver Bird, Bluff-bellied Warbler, Blue-napped Mousebird, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver Black-headed Gonolek, Green-winged Ptyilia, Black-headed Batis, White-rumped Seed-eater, Verreaux’s owls, amazing standard-winged nightjar African Skimmer, White African fish eagle, long-toed plover, Gray Crowned crane, Goliath Heron and many more.
- Chimpanzee Trekking in Budongo Forest
Budongo forest is located in the boundaries of Murchison Falls National Park where chimpanzees can be viewed and trekked by travelers alongside numerous other primates like baboons, red-tailed monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys and blue monkeys. 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.
- Sport fishing
The waters after the falls on Victoria Nile provide some of the most exciting challenge to anglers with presence of Nile Perch with fishing permitted in designated sites and places that require prior booking.
- Nature 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 lives.
- Community walks and Cultural experiences
Conduct a scenic village tour as you learn about the residents’ livelihood, farming, visit the black smith, demonstration of basket weaving, cooking and visit to a local school.
- Hot Air Balloon
Hot air ballooning is perfect for those on a honeymoon, adrenaline junkies and those seeking a once in a lifetime adventure. The scenes up there are spectacular and the air is fresh and soothing.
Best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park
The park can be visited at any time of the year as Uganda is located within the equatorial region and is blessed with a relatively stable climate.
The dry months of December to February and June to August are the best time to visit the park since it is easier to spot the animals as they gather at water points for a drink, with the roads passable for the tour vehicles
The rainy seasons of March to May and September to November make the roads muddy, slippery and sometimes impassable however; there are those who might find driving through the mud filled routes and dense vegetation exciting, adventurous and even refreshing.
How to get to Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest game reserve with a lot of exploration to offer the travelers. The park can be reached either by road or by air according to the client’s time of travel and intended budget.
- By Road
There are 4 commonly used gates to access the park;
- Kichumbanyobo gate (main southern gate 1)
This gate is commonly used by those accessing the park from Masindi town. It is 215km from Kampala to Masindi and then 22km from Masindi to this gate. And it is a 75km drive from this gate to the ferry landing site in the park.
- Mubako gate (southern gate 2)
This gate is commonly used by those coming from or going to Lake Albert or Hoima as well as Fort portal. It is 135km between Masindi and Paraa via Lake Albert.
- Wankwar gate (northern gate 1)
This gate is situated 10km south of Purongo town which is located 58km on the Arua route from the Karuma junction. It is the best optional for those coming from Chobe, Gulu or Kidepo Valley National Park.
- Tangi gate (northern gate 2)
This gate is situated 50km further from the Purongo town, so you can follow the directions for Wankwar gate but continue past Purongo for 50km, there will be a number of sign posts on your left before you get to Packwach Town.
Note: There is a ferry in the park at Paraa connecting the north and south banks. And the official departure times are; 07:00, 08:00, 09:00, 11:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00 and the last one at 19:00. This is how visitors can connect to their lodges on both banks of the park and also to different activities in the park.
- By Air
Pakuba Airfield is 19 km from North Paraa and can be reached using chartered aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield near Kampala. Other airfields in the park include Chobe to the east and Bugungu to the south near Murchison Falls
Where to stay in Murchison Falls National Park
The park has various lodges in and around it since it is the largest game reserve and one of the most frequented destinations in Uganda. The safari lodges range from budget to midrange to luxury and the choice is made by the client in accordance to their budget to spend.
- Bakers Lodge
- Kabalega Wilderness Lodge
- Murchison River Lodge
- Red Chilli Rest Camp
- Yebo Safari Camp
- Top of the Falls UWA Campsite
- Paraa Safari Lodge
- Pakuba Safari lodge
- Fort Murchison Lodge
- Heritage Safari Lodge
- Delta UWA Campsite