A favourite park for a lot of visitors given the diversity of activities chief among them the boat cruise along the Nile to the bottom of the iconic Murchison Falls.
Murchison Falls National Park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which winds its way through the park and gives life and prosperity to the diversity of wildlife that is home to Uganda’s largest conservation area – covering an area of 3,893 square kilometres (1,503 sq mi).
Located in northwestern Uganda, Murchison Falls was first gazetted in 1926 as a game reserve and later graduating to Uganda’s first National Park in 1952. The park protects a lot of wildlife and is home to about 76 mammal species and about 451 birds including the mythical shoebill, which can be spotted on a cruise to the delta.
The park gets its name from its own Murchison Falls waterfall where the mighty river Nile explodes through a narrow gorge to thunder below – creating the world’s most powerful waterfalls.
Down below past the gorge, it becomes placid whose banks are thronged by hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks, elephants, buffalos – all of which can be seen on a 3-hour boat cruise to the bottom of the falls.
Once home to one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in the whole of Africa, Murchison Falls National Park is still recovering from devastating poaching in the 1970s and 80s which wiped out almost all of its wildlife.
Animal populations have recovered and visitors can see plenty of elephants, the endangered Rothschild giraffe, lion, leopard, Uganda Kob, waterbuck, buffalo, chimpanzee and many bird species.
Getting to Murchison Falls National Park
Visitors can get to Murchison Falls National Park from the south by driving from Kampala on the Kampala-Gulu road through Masindi and onto the park. Visitors can also get to Murchison Falls National Park when travelling from Kibale Forest National Park or Kidepo Valley National Park. You can as well fly into Murchison Falls National Park given that Aerolink operates daily afternoon flights into the park. Aerolink lands at two airfields inside the park – Pakuba and Bugungu. Charter flights can also be operated to Murchison Falls National Park.
Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park
There are several lodges in Murchison Falls National Park both on the southern and northern banks of the river Nile. On the southern bank, we have Murchison River Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Red Chilli Rest Camp. More lodges can be found across the river to the north as well as on the fringes of the park. You have Paara Safari Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Fort Murchison Lodge and others.
Things to do and see in Murchison Falls National Park
Boat cruise to bottom of Murchison Falls
The boat cruise to the bottom of Murchison falls is not to be missed – nothing beats the 3-hour cruise in terms of experience on the African continent. Why? Because it’s along the Nile to the most powerful falls in the world with views of Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, elephants, buffaloes, majestic birds and a lot more to die for.
Cruising along the Nile provides a great opportunity to observe the animals as they come down to the river’s edge for a drink. This section of the Nile supports a large concentration of hippos and crocodiles not to mention the dazzling variety of birds chief among them the African Fish Eagle.
The views of the falls as you approach by boat are spectacular. At the top of the falls, the Nile plunges 40 metres across a rift gorge to create the iconic falls.
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest game park in Uganda and a favourite of many. During a typical game drive, visitors can expect to see a large number of antelope species including the Thomson’s Gazelle, the water buck, the bush buck, dik dik etc. Larger grazers such as elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo in large numbers. Large carnivores include lions, leopards and hyenas.
Delta Cruise on the Nile
The delta cruise takes visitors from Paara to the delta where the Nile engorges into Lake Albert. The cruise is a must for keen birders as the birdlife is prolific. A boat trip to the delta leads you through papyrus swaps filled with wildlife and birds. The trip takes about 4-5 hours. The delta is the best place in Uganda to see the rare mythical shoebill.
Top of the Falls Hike
Visitors can access the top of the falls two ways – make the short drive from the southern bank at Paara or get off the launch cruise once it gets to the bottom of the falls. At the top of the falls, you can hear the thunder as well as get bathed in the misty spray that is the result of the Nile falling through the 7-metre cleft on the edge of the rift valley escarpment. Views from the top of the falls are stunning and offer excellent photo opportunities.
Chimpanzee Trekking – Budongo Forest Reserve
Visitors can trek to see chimpanzees in the Budongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forest reserves – a part of the Murchison Falls National Park Conservation Area.
Budongo forest is located on the southern side of Murchison Falls National Park and lends its uniqueness to the fact that it has the most varied forest faunas in the whole of East Africa.
The 790 square kilometre forest reserve is home to over 465 plant species, more than 250 butterfly species, a large variety of mammals, including the largest population of chimpanzees in Uganda – more than 800 individuals.
In terms of birds, Budongo forest is very much sought after given it is home to more than 366 bird species recorded, including 60 West or Central African birds.
Chimpanzee trekking takes place in the Kaniyo Pabidi forest reserve where visitors can make guided chimp walks/treks that depart at 8.00am or 3.00pm.
The success of seeing the chimpanzees is high, although it depends greatly on the fruiting seasons, with a better chance of viewing the chimps between the months of May and August.
The walk itself is not too strenuous but again, the beauty of the forest will compensate for any difficulty not to mention the sounds of the other animals and birds.
Birding the Royal Mile – Budongo Forest Reserve
The Royal Mile in Budongo Forest Reserve lies at the edge of the Albertine Rift and is attached to Murchison Falls National Park in the south. Named for its popularity as a traditional leisure stopover for Uganda’s royals, the royal mile is a superb birding spot with many west and central African species.
It is home to over 250 bird species with the major ones including; African Crowned Eagles, Nahan’s Francolin, White-spotted Flufftail, Sabine’s Spinetail, Cassin’s Spinetail, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Spotted Greenbul, Blue-throated Roller, Fire-Crested Alethe, Rufous-Crowned Elemomela and White-thighed Hornbill to mention but a few.
Rhino Tracking – Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Visitors can access Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary either on their way to or from Murchison Falls National Park.
A visit to the sanctuary where rhinos are being bred with the long-term goal of being re-introduced in both Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park enables you to track and see them.
There are now more than 20 southern white rhinos roaming the savannah and wetland that is Zziwa rhino sanctuary – a 70 sq-km reserve located 170km northwest of Kampala.
Rhinos were wiped out in the Ugandan wild close to 40 years ago when a poacher shot the last rhino in Murchison Falls National Park in 1983.
Visitors will be led by a guide/armed ranger to where the rhinos are in the sanctuary for an up-close encounter either on foot or in your vehicle.
Other animals living inside the 6 feet tall electric fence include leopard, hippos, crocodiles, bushbucks and oribis. The Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary is also home to 350 species of birds including giant kingfishers, Ross’s turacos and shoebills.
Birds are best seen on early morning trawls on canoes in an adjoining swamp, where you have a very good chance of spotting them.
Murchison Falls National Park offers anglers the best backdrop with the thundering roar of one of the most powerful water falls in the world cascading nearby. You fish in one of the most beautiful and picturesque spots in the world.
Species that will likely tag on your lines include Giant Nile Perch that feed in the pools below the churning falls. Others are Cat fish, Tiger fish and a lot more. Nile perch here can weigh up to 80kgs.
In terms of an extension, anglers can make the cruise to the Lake Albert-Nile Delta along the Nile. Anything caught at the Lake Albert-Nile Delta can be returned to your lodge and the chef can prepare the fish for you to enjoy.