Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park - The World's strongest waterfall

The 1,483 square miles Murchison Falls National Park was created in 1952, and is the biggest park in Uganda. It covers districts of Kiryandongo, Masindi, Nwoya and Bulisa in northwest Uganda. The park is split in half by the River Nile which also leaves behind stunning waterfalls in its wake. Sir Samuel Baker, a British explorer was astounded by one of the park's waterfalls and gave it the name Murchison Falls, which was later given to the entire area. Idi Amin, the former president of Uganda tried to rename the falls Kabalega (after the King of Bunyooro) but this only stuck during his regime due to differences with the west over his dictatorship reign.

Geographical composition of the Park

Wetlands, wide plains, wooded areas and sweeping Savannah grasslands make up the majority of Murchison Falls National Park. The broader Murchison Falls Conservation area which also comprises the park, includes Karuma reserve, Budongo forest reserve and Bugungu Wildlife Reserve. It has big woodlands, just like Budongo, Rabongo and Kaniyo Pabidi. At Kaniyo Pabidi, huge mahogany and ironwood trees may be spotted. All three forests are known to be home to a wide variety of bird and primate species, including chimpanzees, blue monkeys, olive baboons, and black-and-white colobus monkeys.

Majority of Uganda's crocodiles and Roskilde giraffes can be found in the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. With over 76 species of mammals and more than 445 bird species, the park serves as a lion conservation unit. Mammals suffered greatly during the Idi Amin regime in the 1970s as a result of unchecked poaching and hunting for sport and meat, that led to complete extinction of rhinos. Although there is an effort to reintroduce them to the park from Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary nearby, the few white rhinos that once roamed the park were essentially driven out of existence.

Despite efforts by the Uganda Wildlife Authority to eradicate it, poaching is still common in the park albeit on a small scale and mostly for bush meat. The park was also greatly affected by Kony rebellion in Northern Uganda in the 1990s, which resulted in some countries prohibiting their citizens from visiting the area. Since 2005, all areas of the country have experienced a return to peace and tourism has improved significantly. The main attractions are Savannah grasslands, Murchison and Karuma Falls, the Nile River and forests such as Kaniyo Pabidi, Budongo and Rabongo.

How to reach Murchison Falls National Park?

The drive from Kampala to Murchison Falls National Park takes about 6 hours. The road from Kampala to the park is well paved, including the portion leading to the park from the main Masindi gate. Travelers can use the services of a tour operator, self-drive or public transportation such as buses, though there are no public buses that access the park. A visitor from Kampala must first take a bus to Masindi town before transferring with a special hire car that will take them up to Paraa or their lodge of choice.

The park entrance fee is $45 for foreign visitors and 25,000 UGX for East African citizens. Public transportation in a developing country like Uganda can be inconvenient due to erratic schedules and unscheduled stops to pick up and drop off passengers. It is highly advised that you use a tour company or rent a private car directly from Kampala.

Scheduled flights from Entebbe or Kajjansi to Pakuba airstrip near the Nile's northern bank, Chobe airstrip or Bugungu near the park's administrative center are available daily.

What are the main Attractions in Murchison Falls National Park

Here are the top activities to enjoy while visiting Murchison Falls National park. 

Visit the top of Murchison falls

Murchison Falls are formed when the Nile River squeezes through a small gorge on its way to Egypt. It is arguably one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, second to the Victoria Falls. Although the top of Murchison falls can be reached without a guide, it is still recommended that you travel with a group or someone who is familiar with the area. It's incredible to see the falls from the top for the first time. The thunderous roar as water rushes through a gorge before plunging 42 meters below is one of the most unforgettable experiences in the park.

The mist from the waterfall can be soothing and calming on a hot day or during the dry season, especially after a long day of activities and they also create a rainbow which is a beautiful backdrop. You ought to bring a camera with you if you want to take pictures in this area.

There is a path that descends to the smaller Uhuru Falls just besides the Murchison Falls, "The crocodile bar" is one place you shouldn't miss. Crocodiles congregate in this area near the base of the falls where they wait for unfortunate creatures like fish and animals that are unintentionally dragged down by the torrential water. All sizes of crocodiles are always waiting patiently for their next prey.

A Boat cruise to the bottom of the falls

Similar to the boat cruise at Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park, this is one of the most well-preferred things to do in the park. The boat trip lasts roughly three hours, beginning and ending at the base of the falls. The waterfalls and thunderous roars of water pouring into the river are breathtakingly visible from top of the falls. Murchison Falls National Park launch voyages after the falls, R. Nile has a thriving wildlife population, including some of Africa's largest herds of hippos and crocodiles. Buffaloes, elephants, and various species of antelopes can all be seen by visitors on the cruise as they drink by the river's edge.

Boat cruise to the Nile Delta

A boat cruise in Murchison Falls National Park is a gateway to an ultimate adventure. The junction of River Nile and Lake Albert is known as Nile Delta. For birders, this trip is essential and calls for setting aside half a day. Typically, tourists travel down stream on a boat on R. Nile until Lake Albert is reached. There are opportunities to see numerous mammals gathering to drink by Nile River shores and birds within the papyrus swamps surrounding Lake Albert while traveling to the lake. Numerous bird species, including the rare shoebill stork are found in the areas surrounding Nile Delta.

Visit Karuma Falls

These falls are found in the game park's northeastern region along the Gulu highway. These falls are created when Nile River squeezes through several rocky outcroppings before roaring downward. It's stunning to watch the foamy water that forms when the rushing river meets the rocks. Additionally, the region is home to a variety of bird species and mammals, including the Uganda Kob and Hartebeests, baboons, buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions and monkeys.

Game drives in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park

Perhaps the most enjoyable activity in the park is a game drive. Even though you can go on a game drive by yourself, having a park ranger makes the experience more exciting because they can point out different kinds of birds and mammals or show you where to look for them. Expect to see animals like buffalo, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, hippopotamuses, leopards, lions, monitor lizards, side-striped jackals, spotted hyenas, and warthogs during a 3-hour game drive in Murchison Falls national park. The Bohor Reedbuck, Bushbuck, Defassa Waterbuck, Hartebeest, Oribi, and Uganda Kob are just a few of the antelope species found in the park.

Primate species in the park include Baboons, Black and White Colobus, Patas Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys and Chimpanzees in Rabongo and Budongo Forests. The park is also home to variety of reptiles like African rock python, mambas, cobras and other smaller snakes.

Visitors have the option of going on a two-hour night game drive in addition to the day game drives. The likelihood of spotting predators like hyenas, lions, serval cats, and especially leopards increases during the night game drive. To ensure that no action is missed, the rangers move with spotlights. Late in the evening or when it is beginning to get dark, night game drives begin.

Rhino tracking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Along the route from Kampala to Murchison Falls national park is the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary. Rhinos no longer roam Uganda's national parks as a result of widespread poaching. When there are 20 rhinos left, they will be returned to the larger parks. Ziwa Rhino sanctuary was created to protect the remaining rhinos and to carefully breed more of them. The primary activity in this area is rhino tracking on foot, which is frequently supervised by rangers from the sanctuary. Rangers discuss the rhinoceros, history of the sanctuary, breeding program, and broader conservation initiatives. Visitors are then taken to a feeding area where large mammals can be seen up close. Small primates and various bird species also reside in the vast sanctuary, in addition to rhinos.

Visitors can also take nature walks in this rhino sanctuary to spot birds like Shoebill Stork. All proceeds from the visitations are channeled to Rhino conservation efforts. Visiting Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is best done before or after a safari to Murchison Falls National Park.

Bird watching

One of the best places to go birding in Uganda is Murchison Falls N/Park. The activity can be carried out in a safari vehicle or while taking a nature walk. Murchison Falls National Park offers numerous opportunities and locations for birding because it is a sizable park. Your lodge's front yard might be the beginning, followed by Savannah grasslands, forests and the Nile River shores.

Kaniyo Pabidi forest area is a good place to go bird watching. Prominent bird species in the park include Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, African Fish Eagle, African Jacana, Giant Kingfisher, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, White-fronted Black Chat and so many other species.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Budongo forest

South of the park, in the Budongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forest reserve is where you'll find Budongo Forest. Over 820 chimpanzees and 464 different plant and mammal species can be found in the forest. The most common activity in this forest is chimpanzee tracking because Jane Goodall has a research station here. Chimpanzee habituation experience can also be enjoyed.

Sport Fishing

One of the best places do sport fishing in Uganda is the Murchison Falls n/park. In this section of the Nile, huge Nile perch weighing more than 200 pounds are still catchable. Tiger fish and tilapia are two additional frequently caught species in this area. Visitors can stand at the base of the Murchison Falls and cast their line while fishing from a boat on the River Nile. Additionally, fishing excursions can be arranged at the Karuma Falls or one of the riverside pools. Visitors must obtain a fishing license and come with their own equipment. The Nile Perch must first be caught and used as bait before being caught.

Forest and nature walks

These educational forest walks can be completed in Chobe, though Rabongo and Budongo forest are the preferred locations. Numerous bird species as well as primates like chimpanzees and monkeys can be found in these two forests. A seasoned guide / ranger with knowledge of the various bird, tree, and animal species will lead the walks.

Hot Air Balloon safaris

The only park in Uganda where one can go on a hot air balloon safari is Murchison Falls national park. The gathering and inflation of balloon signals the beginning of this activity early in the morning. Before departing, visitors receive briefing on safety issues. The activity lasts for about an hour and offers chances to observe and capture images of the forests and wildlife from above.

Gliding over enormous herds of giraffes, elephants, buffalo, antelopes, and the main predators returning from their nighttime hunt is breathtaking. Visitors leave the activity having observed more animals than they had during typical game drives. At the conclusion of balloon ride, participants receive a certificate of participation and a delicious bush breakfast.

Visit to Boomu Women's Village

This activity is planned with Boomu Women's group for a few hours or an overnight. This community-led organization runs a store selling African art, village tours, and homestays. Village walks provide chances to meet and talk to residents of the village. The option to spend the night with a rural African family and sleep in an African traditional hut is also available. Visitors can wake up after spending the night with the family and assist with gardening or cooking with local women.

Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

There are a variety of accommodation sites to choose from and they vary from high end to low budget places.

Nile Safari Lodge; built near the western boundary of the park and surrounded by a papyrus forest, this luxury camp overlooks the river Nile on the southern bank and consists of six tents, cottages and a large pool for swimming.

Paraa Safari Lodge; this has more than 53 luxury self-contained rooms that are decorated with local African art. The rooms have a balcony that overlooks the Nile on its northern bank and epic wilderness. Other facilities include a swimming pool, a bar, restaurant and well trimmed gardens. Due to its closeness to the river Nile, it is possible to easily spot animals like buffaloes, hippos, elephants on the banks of the river.

Sambiya River Lodge; Sambiya offers midrange accommodation, with its 26 cottages that are self-contained with showers and large balconies. From the balconies, one can spot game and the nearby Sambiya River. Those who are planning to spot birds and track chimpanzees at Budongo forest will find staying in this lodge very convenient.