Murchison Falls National Park Uganda, Attractions, Activities, Best Time & Accommodations
Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda offers wildlife tours with about 76 mammal species including Elephants, Buffaloes, Lions and Leopards. Almost 450 bird species can be seen in the park. Aquatic species, butterflies, reptiles and many more species in the park.
Murchison Falls safaris are the most popular short safaris in Uganda undertaken on 3 days and 2 days safaris. Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s oldest and largest safari park covering 3,840 sq. km and home to the worlds’ most powerful waterfalls-Murchison Falls.
In case you are planning a safari in Murchison Falls National Park, here is a guide on how to get to the park, when to visit, how much it would cost and where to stay while at the park;
Where is Murchison Falls National Park?
Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) is one of the 10 national parks for safaris in Uganda, straddling the districts Nwoya, Buliisa, Kiryandongo and Masindi.
Murchison Falls Park sits on the shores of Lake Albert and is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area that comprises of Bugungu and Karuma wildlife Reserve.
The size of Murchison Falls National Park is estimated to be about 3,893 square kilometers and is known as the largest national park in Uganda. Murchison Falls National Park location is convenient from Kampala on a distance of about 282km on a drive time of about 4-5 hours.
Where is Murchison Falls Located?
Murchison Falls that is definitely the main attraction of the park is located within Murchison Falls National Park. The Murchison Falls also referred to as Kabalega Falls is formed as the Nile River water squeezes through a 7 meter Gorge toppling 43 meters below.
Squeezing through a 7 meter rock gorge and pouring about 141 feet below, the water forms a thunderous roar a residual water spray that forms a beautiful rainbow.
The Murchison Falls were named so by European Explorer Sir Samuel Baker in honour of geologist Roderick Murchison the then president of the Royal Geographical Society. The falls later on lent its name to the park.
History & Background of Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
The now Murchison Falls National Park started its journey to becoming a national park when Samuel and Florence Baker thoroughly explored the area in 1863-4. They named the falls after Roderick Murchison, the then president of the Royal Geographical Society.
By the time between 1907 and 1912, about 13000 square kilometers of land were left vacant after inhabitants were evacuated following spread of sleeping sickness. In 1910, the Bunyoro Game Reserve was created in the southern part of River Nile.
In 1952, the British administration that was governing Uganda then established the National Parks Act of Uganda and Murchison Falls National Park came as a result of the Act. Ever since then this is a premier Uganda safari park with thousands of visitors visiting every year.
What are the attractions in Murchison Falls National Park?
What to see in Murchison Falls National Park is diverse since there are several attractions within the park and in the adjacent reserves. Here are the attractions in Murchison Falls National Park that anyone should not miss out during their safari to the park;
The banks of the Nile River here are thronged with hippopotami, crocodiles, buffaloes, waterbucks and much more. The park is host to about 76 mammal species including the “big four” African game which are lions, leopards, Elephants and Buffaloes.
Wildlife seen on Uganda wildlife safaris include the earlier mentioned as well as the Rothschild Giraffe, Bushbucks, Jackson’s Hartebeest, Warthogs, Ugandan Kobs, Olive Baboons. primates include the Black and white Colobus monkeys, Blue and red tailed monkeys, Patas monkeys and many others.
To have a complete encounter of the “big five” wild game, visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for Rhino tracking. This is the only habitat to Rhinos in Uganda and can be tracked on a 3 days Murchison Falls safari in Uganda.
- Bird species
Birds especially savannah bird species are common at Murchison Falls National Park with about 450 bird species recorded. Notable bird species seen on birding safaris in Uganda at the park include the;
|Goliath Heron||Shoebill Stork||African Darter||Weaver birds||Grey Crowned Crane||Malachite Kingfisher||Yellow-billed Stork||Northern Crombec|
|Blue-headed Coucal||Swamp Flycatcher||Abdim’s Stork||Weaver birds||Grey Crowned Crane||African Quail-Finch||Squacco Heron||Black Crake|
|African Jacana||Black-billed Barbet||Osprey||Sandpipers||Secretary Bird||Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill||Denham’s Bustard||Yellow-throated Greenbul|
|Martial Eagle||Black-headed Gonolek||Red-throated Bee-eater||Senegal Thick-knee||Long-toed Plover||Long Tailed Nightjar||Standard-winged Nightjar||Eastern Grey Plantain eater|
|Pied Kingfisher||Silverbird||Rock Pranticole||Beautiful Sunbird||Whistling Cisticola||Black-faced Waxbill||Fawn-breasted Waxbill|
Adjacent to the park is the Budongo forest host to 59 restricted range bird species inclusive of which are the White-thighed Hornbill, Dwarf Kingfisher and Great Blue Turaco.
- The Murchison Falls
The Murchison Falls also referred to as Kabalega Falls is formed as the Nile River water squeezes through a 7 meter Gorge toppling 43 meters below. Squeezing through a 7 meter rock gorge and pouring about 141 feet below, the water forms a thunderous roar a residual water spray that forms a beautiful rainbow.
Murchison Falls is so powerful because of the pressure that large volumes of water use to squeeze through the rock and therefore its named the world’s most powerful falls. This is a spectacular spot to view in Uganda whether with just a visit to the top, hike to the top of falls or on a boat cruise.
Hotspots to visit in Murchison Falls National Park
- Budongo Forest
Budongo Forest is a great spot for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda just adjacent to Murchison Falls National Park. The forest covers about 825 sq km and home to more than 600 chimpanzees with 4 habituated chimpanzee families for a Budongo chimp trek.
Trekking chimpanzees in Budongo forest can even be on a short trip since its the closest Uganda chimp tracking habitat from kampala on about a 4 hours drive. Tracking chimpanzees at Budongo is done on the 115km long trail that offers an extensive chance to see chimps and other primates.
While tracking chimpanzees at Budongo Forest also expect to come along several other flora and fauna species. 9 primate species, 24 species of small mammals, 465 plant species and 270 butterflies are within the boundaries of the forest.
- Kaniyo Pabidi Forests
Located north east of Budongo forest, Kaniyo-Pabidi forest is just 8km from the kichumbanyobo gate of Murchison Falls National Park. Kaniyo-Pabidi forest is host to several primates including chimpanzees managed by the Jane Goodall Institute.
Other primates include black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, red tailed monkeys and nocturnal primates like pottos. The forest is home to over 360 bird species making it an ideal bird watching spot in Uganda especially while on a trip to Murchison.
Activities & Top Things to do at Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is a top visited safari destination in Uganda, however, what is there to do at the park. Here is a list of the top activities to do at Murchison Falls National Park;
- Game drives
Being home to almost 76 mammal species, the best way of seeing wildlife is by undertaking a game drive in the park. Game drives can be done either in the morning or in the evening depending on the itinerary. Game drives last about 2-4 hours taking on different tracks of the park.
The top wildlife viewing tracks in Murchison Falls include the Buligi game track that is known to be host to several wildlife as it stretches from the Victoria and Albert Niles. On a game drive you sight a variety of wildlife inclusive of which can be Elephants, Leopards, Giraffes, Lions, Buffaloes and many more.
- Bird watching / birding
For any avid birder, Murchison Falls Park, Budongo Forest and Kaniyo-pabidi are a must visit for birding safaris in Uganda. There about 450 bird species recorded in the park and about 360 known to be within the Kaniyo-Pabidi forest. There are several bird species that can be spotted in the area and these include the rare Shoebill Stork, weaver birds, malachite kingfishers, and many more.
Bird species that can be seen include the Blue-headed Coucal, Black-billed Barbet, Squacco Heron, African Quail-Finch, Sandpipers, Red-throated Bee-eater, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Eastern Grey Plantain Eater, Grey Crowned Crane and many more. The top bird-watching spots include the Budongo Forest and Royal mile area.
- Boat cruise
The park is crossed by the Nile River, which makes it an ideal place for a boat cruise or launch trip. A boat cruise at Murchison Falls takes you to the bottom of the mighty falls setting off from the jetty at Paraa. The banks of the Nile River at Murchison is filled with aquatic animals like crocodiles and hippopotami.
A boat cruise takes about 2 hours to get to the bottom of the falls. Apart from organizing a boat cruise to see wildlife and birds, you can also take a sundowner boat cruise on the Nile River for relaxation. Private boat cruises can be organized and take a private group of people to cruise on the Nile.
- Hike to the top Falls
One of the amazing activities at Murchison Falls National Park is a hike to the top of the falls. The hike is short and not so strenuous. It lasts about 1 hour from the bottom of the falls. To take a hike to the top of the falls, you must have had a boat cruise to the bottom of the falls. However, without the boat cruise you can only visit the top of the falls but not hiking there. The hike to the top of the falls is so scenic and the best way to have great photos of the world’s most powerful waterfalls.
- Sport fishing
Anglers can have a great sport fishing activity on the Nile waters when they visit the park. Sport fishing at Murchison offers a chance to catch fish species like Nile Perch, catfish, tilapia, tigerfish and Electric catfish. Many world anglers have been to Murchison Falls just to catch the bigger fish and you could be one of those who break the record.
For seasoned anglers, it is recommended to carry your own fishing equipment. The best time for fishing is during the months of mid-January to early April when the water levels are low. Morning and late evening hours are the best times of the day to go fishing.
- Chimpanzee tracking
In the adjacent Budongo forest are habituated chimpanzees that can be tracked while on a chimpanzee tracking safari in Uganda. About 800 chimpanzees live here offering a memorable chimpanzee trekking experience. Uganda is the best chimpanzee trekking spot in Africa with the best park as Kibale Forest National Park and Budongo forest coming next.
How to get to Murchison Falls National Park by car & flight
Being a popular visited national park in Uganda, there are two options of getting to Murchison Falls National Park which is either by road or by air. Here is how to use the two options;
To get to Murchison Falls park by air, you will have to book for a chartered flight from Entebbe International Airport or at the airfield in Kajjansi. Flights to the park take clients to either Pakuba, Bugungu or Chobe Airfields. Before you decide to book a chartered flight remember to consider your accommodation facility since the airfields are in different sectors of the park. Aerolink runs most of the chartered flights to the park and therefore booking with them or through a tour operator is convenient.
The common way of getting to the park is by a road trip to the park by 4×4 safari vehicle. From Kampala, it’s about 282km to the park on a 4-5 hours drive. If you arrive through Entebbe International Airport, you will be driven by your driver guide through Kampala on the Kampala-Gulu highway.
If you are connecting to the park from the northern end of the country, you take the Gulu-Kampala highway and get to the park through the Chobe, Tangi and Wankwar gates.
What is the Best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park Uganda?
Amazingly this is one of the best parks to visit all year round. The park is situated in a region that has a moderate kind of climate almost all year round. However, just like the best time to visit Uganda, the most preferable time of visiting the park is during the dry season in the months of June – September and December – February.
The reason as to why the dry season is referred to as the best time to visit the park is because during this time the rain totals are low and therefore roads are easier to drive on. The most important thing with visiting during the dry season is that the grass is short and therefore wildlife can easily be seen and photography very clear.
However, the park does not experience any extreme weather conditions that can stop a safari to Murchison Falls National Park. The park is open all year round and good for a visit at any time of the year.
Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park
Choosing the right accommodation during a safari in Uganda is as important as choosing the perfect itinerary. If you are wondering where to stay while on safari to Murchison Falls National Park, here is a highlight of the best lodging facilities ranging from luxury to budget for each kind of traveller.
Luxury accommodation hotels/lodges
Chobe Safari Lodge
Located in the Murchison Falls National Park, this Five Star lodge is undoubtedly the gem in Uganda’s crown of tourism destinations. The breathtaking panoramic views, coupled with the sounds of the River Nile’s magnificent rapids, sets the scene for an adventure that will impress even the most discerning of visitors.Chobe Safari Lodge offers a unique opportunity to sample the wildlife, birds, flora and fauna; all in an area of the park that has yet to be discovered. This area of the park is ideal for fishing and accessible via the Chobe airfield.
Paraa Safari Lodge
Paraa Safari Lodge is located in the north west of Uganda over looking one of nature’s best kept secrets, the River Nile. Paraa Safari Lodge is that one lodging facility that offers a unique blend of comfort, relaxation and adventure. Each of the rooms is a haven of style and serenity, complete with a balcony and a private bathroom. If you would love to have a hot air balloon experience, then spending a night at Paraa lodge is a wise option as they work with Dream Balloons to make this experience possible. A hot air balloon experience includes bush breakfast and lasts for about 1 hour.
Pakuba Safari Lodge
Pakuba safari lodge is nestled in the Eastern Bank of the Albert Nile overlooking the spectacular River Nile.The location of the lodge offers panoramic views of the mighty River Nile in a surrounding that is home to several wildlife species like giraffes, elephants, antelopes and occasionally leopards. The beautifully furnished rooms offer comfort, style and serenity.
Murchison River Lodge
Murchison River Lodge is a mid-range facility located on the southern bank of the River Nile with comfortable and relaxing facilities. The Lodge is suited with en-suite thatched cottages all with solar fans and USB port. The thatched safari tents each has private facilities and comfortable camping tents already set up. A bar, restaurant, swimming pool are part of what keep those who choose to stay at the lodge relaxed.
Red Chilli Rest Camp
Red Chilli Rest Camp is located just 500 meters from Paraa ferry which is the ferry crossing point for vehicles going for game drives in the park.The lodge is on the southern bank of the River Nile and an a great budget facility and starting point for most of the safari activities in the park. Red Chilli Rest Camp has great facilities that include a fully stocked bar, restaurant, solar hot water systems, modern toilets and a bonfire is lit in the evening.
Heritage Safari Lodge
At Heritage Safari Lodge, you will nestle and see, hear, taste, smell and touch the wonderful sights and fantastic landscape of the renowned Murchison Falls National Park. This is a budget accommodation facility that offers a warm welcome as well with very scenic views of the park. The cottages offer an experience of the traditional settings of Acholi land.