Murchison Falls National Park : A Uganda Safari calls for a visit to Murchison Falls National Park because of its fascinating attractions including the mighty Murchison Falls from which the park borrows its name. It has an impressive population of antelopes, Rothschild giraffes, and buffaloes. Murchison Falls National Park is among Uganda’s best places for game drives with chances of seeing lions, leopards and hyenas.

Also called Kabalega National Park especially by the locals around the northwestern region, Murchison Falls National Park is popularly known for its enormously thrilling waterfalls which emit water in large volumes of about 300 cubic meters per second at a strange pressure causing splashes and a thunderous roar. It is Uganda’s biggest national park – covering 3,840sq.km. The habitat to 76 mammal species and about 450 bird species is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area which is home to chimpanzees in Budongo Forest and Kaniyo Pabidi forests.

A safari to Murchison Falls National Park can be combined with a visit to Ziwa Rhino sanctuary for rhino tracking and with this, you might tick off all the Big 5 animals on the same trip.

Brief history of Murchison Falls National Park

After the establishment of National Parks Act by the British administration in 1952, Murchison falls national park was gazetted and became Uganda’s first national park. The first explorers to visit the park were John Speke and James Grant in 1862 and Samuel Baker and his wife Florence Baker in 1863-64.

Samuel Baker named the water falls after the then president of the Royal Geographical Society Roderick Murchison. This is where the park later got its current name – Murchison Falls National Park.

Major Attractions in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Waterfalls

As the Nile River flows to Lake Albert, it intersects Murchison Falls National Park and at some point within the park, it violently squeezes into a 7 meters gorge forming the world’s strongest waterfalls. These waterfalls can be watched from the top or bottom.

To view the top of the falls, your private safari guide will drive you there while the bottom of the falls is watched when you go for the boat ride.

Wildlife

While the key attraction in Murchison Falls National Park is the mighty waterfalls, the park also boasts a great population of mammals, birds, primates and reptiles. It is home to the African elephant, Cape buffalo, Rothschild’s giraffe, waterbucks, Uganda kobs, lions, leopard and hyenas among others. The Nile is a habitat for a big number of hippos and crocodiles. The park has many species of water birds, savannah birds and forest birds.

Victoria Nile

If you are staying at a lodge that is close to the Victoria Nile, an evening relaxation is enjoyable with views of the water body and sometimes animals are spotted along the banks.

Budongo forest and chimpanzees

Budongo is a rich natural forest with about 460 plant species that make it a comfortable home to over 20 mammal species, 360 bird species and more than 200 types of butterflies. The moist semi-deciduous tropical forest offers thrilling nature walk experiences.

It is located in the southwest of Murchison Falls Conservation Area, bordering the park and connecting to a community that links to the Kaniyo Pabidi forest where chimp tracking takes place all year round. Other animals in the forest include the black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, olive baboons and the nocturnal pottos.

Karuma falls

The fascinating Karuma falls lie in the northeastern part of Murchison Falls National Park. They are impressive for scenic viewing and an interesting place for spot fishing.

Things to do in Murchison Falls National Park

Boat Safaris

Murchison falls national park offers two boat trips; the Nile boat cruise and the Albert delta boat cruise. More famous is the Nile boat cruise to the bottom of the Falls which takes tourists upstream to Murchison Falls. The best time for this 3 hours trip is the afternoon when you can spot more animals at the river banks – crocodiles, waterbucks, and elephants. The shores also harbor several species of water birds.

If you want to visit the Albert Delta, then you will prepare to go for your boat cruise in the morning. This is a 4-5 hours boat trip taking you downstream the Victoria Nile. As both boat trips give a chance to see numerous hippos, this one gives an extra chance to spot the shoebill stork.

Both the Nile boat cruise to the bottom of the falls and the Albert Delta launch cruise start and end at Paraa landing site.

Game drives

On an early morning game drive in Buligi, Queen’s and Albert tracks, you have a chance to see most of the park’s wild animals including large herds of buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, waterbucks, Jackson’s hartebeest, Uganda kobs, and warthogs. Morning and evening game drives can also expose lions and leopards. The activity will take you through plains, woodlands and wetlands where you will see a number of bird species including the Abyssinian hornbill which is commonly spotted in the savannah plains.

Hike to the top of the falls

Hiking to the top of Murchison falls is one of the most enjoyable adventures to do in Murchison Falls National Park. When you go for the launch cruise to the bottom of the falls, there you can disembark from the boat and climb to the top of the falls. The 45 minutes’ walk trail offers stunning views of the surrounding, sightings of beautiful birds and you will finally get to the top where you watch the Murchison Falls delightfully. You will meet your safari driver here waiting for you to later transfer back to the lodge.

If you can’t hike to the top of the falls, the alternative is to drive there.

Nature walks

Exploring the park on foot with an armed Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger guide takes you viewing animals, birds and stunning landscapes at a closer range. Guided nature walks are done in Paraa, Rabongo forest, Kaniyo Pabidi and the top of the falls.

Bird watching

While the highlight for Murchison Falls safaris is viewing the big wild animals and the waterfalls, birders too get a rewarding experience. Out of about 450 bird species in the park, there is plenty of birds to see in a single day when you go on a birding excursion. Many can also be seen during launch trips and game drives. The Albert delta boat cruise offers a chance to spot the elusive shoebill stork. Pied kingfishers, Malachite kingfishers, woodpeckers, hamerkop, Egyptian geese, plovers and grey herons are common along the banks of River Nile and Abyssinian ground hornbills, Marabou storks, and secretary birds in the savannah plains.

Chimpanzee tracking

Tourists on a Murchison falls safari visit Kaniyo Pabidi and Budongo forests to track chimpanzees. These two protected areas are located in the same conservation area with Murchison Falls National Park. Other attractions that you may sight while in the forest are the red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and olive baboons.

Chimpanzee permits are required to track and we can help you secure them with ease prior to your safari.

Accommodation at Murchison Falls National Park

Lodges around Murchison Falls National Park are categorized according to the following;

  • Budget Lodges: Red Chilli Rest Camp, Heritage Safari Lodge, Geolodge Shoebill Campsite, Budongo Eco lodge,
  • Midrange Lodges: Fort Murchison Safari Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Murchison River Lodge, Kabalega Wildernes Lodge, Parkside Safari Lodge and Sambiya River Lodge
  • Luxury Lodges: Chobe Safari Lodge, Paraa Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Baker’s Lodge,
  • Lodges en-route to the park (in Masindi town): New Court view hotel and Masindi Hotel plus Amuka lodge in Nakasongola.

How to get to Murchison Falls National Park

The park is located at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, northwest of Uganda. It straddles the districts of Masindi, Kiryandongo, Buliisa and Nwoya. Murchison Falls National Park has multiple entrances which determine the distance to be covered.

By road

From Kampala to Masindi, it is about 305km and the drive time is 3-4 hours. An extra 85km to connect from Masindi through Kichumbanyobo gate to the park. Alternatively, you can use the 135km route from Masindi, which is longer but more scenic leading you through Bugungu gate. These two southern gates favor tourists coming from Kampala and the western parts of Uganda.

The northern gates of Tangi, Mumbako, Wankar and Chobe are recommended for travelers from the northern areas like Kidepo Valley National Park and Gulu and they can be accessed via the Kampala- Pakwach highway.

By air

Murchison Falls National Park can be accessed by air: an 1.5 hours flight from Kajjansi or Entebbe international airport to Pakuba, Chobe or Bugungu airfields. Chobe and Pakuba are convenient for visitors staying in the northern part of the park while Bugungu airfield is used by tourists staying at lodges in the southern sector.

Our travel consultation team is ready to book for you a chartered or scheduled flight with one of the domestic airline companies like Aerolink and Fly Uganda anytime.

If you are looking to visit Uganda and wish to get a local expert to help you plan for your travels and stay at the destinations, we are here to offer the best. Get in touch with us through dolphintours@live.com or info@ugandagorillatrekkingtrips.com

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