Murchison Falls National Park is the largest park in Uganda. It is located in the northwest of the country, in the Albertine Rift Valley. The park is named after Murchison Falls, which is a waterfall on the River Nile that flows through the park.
The River Nile is the longest river in Africa and it has a total length of about 6,670 kilometers (4,160 miles). The park is named after the Murchison Falls, which is located at the point where the Nile River flows through a narrow gorge and drops about 43 meters (141 feet). The falls are a popular tourist attraction and offer a great view of the surrounding landscape. The Nile has other falls, however, the Karuma falls on the Gulu highway is the most easily seen, Others are located deep within the park.
The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, some of the key animals in the park include lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffalos, Uganda kobs, and chimpanzees. It is also home to many bird species, including the rare shoebill stork.
Established in 1952 by the British Colonial Authority the park is located in a region that is known for its diverse landscapes, including savannas, grasslands, and forests. It is the largest park in Uganda covering an area of about 3,840 square kilometers (1,480 square miles).
The park is part of a bigger Murchison falls Conservation area composed of other Wildlife reserves that include Karuma wildlife Reserve and Bugungu Wildlife Reserve,
Murchison Falls National Park formerly known as Kabalega National Park is a popular tourist destination in Uganda, and it plays a critical role in the conservation of the country’s rich biodiversity. It is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which works to protect the park’s wildlife and habitats and to promote sustainable tourism practices.
Attractions in Murchison Falls National Park
When you visit Murchison Falls National Park there are various attractions and activities on offer.
Hike to the top of the falls
The hike starts at the bottom of the falls, where visitors can take a boat ride to the base of the falls. From there, it is a steep and strenuous climb to the top of the falls, which takes about an hour to complete. The hike is not recommended for those who are in poor physical condition or have difficulty with steep inclines.
The hike offers stunning views of the falls and the surrounding landscape, as well as the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife that collect along the banks of the river, including elephants, Crocodiles and various water-dwelling birds. It is recommended to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and insect repellent, as well as a hat and good walking shoes.
It is important to follow the park’s rules and regulations while hiking and to stay on designated trails to protect the natural environment and prevent accidents. It is also a good idea to hire a local guide, who can provide valuable information about the park and its history, as well as help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Game Drive in Murchison Falls National Park
Park game viewing can be enjoyed while on a game drive in several designated game drive areas. The main areas are the Delta where there are great chances of seeing the Lions in wait for prey as they go to drink, the Buligi Peninsula and the Honey Moon Track in the southern sector famously known as the heart of Murchison.
The park’s prime game viewing area lies on the Buligi Peninsula, a triangle of grassland bounded by the Victoria Nile entering Lake Albert, and the Albert Nile flowing out of it. Expect to see elephants, buffalo, antelopes and giraffes and keep your fingers crossed for lions and leopards. The game track network converges at Delta Point where the Nile flows north out of Lake Albert; this is a convenient place to stop for refreshments and view waterbirds offshore and distant hippos.
Heart of Murchison
While much of the southern part of MFNP is covered by bush and forest, a delightful tract of savanna rolls down to the river from the Rabongo road in the very centre of the park. Vehicle tracks have recently been opened in this area, which thanks to substantial herds of Uganda kob, is becoming known as a prime location for lions. The ‘Heart of Murchison’ lies 20km east of the Masindi-Paraa road.
In January 2016 15 giraffes were translocated to this area and now it is possible to spot these giants on the Honey Moon track
Launch Trip on the Nile in the National Park
The launch trip upstream from Paraa presents an astonishing display of wildlife and culminates with a memorable frontal view of the Falls. Recommended for birders is a morning cruise downstream to the Nile-Lake Albert Delta. Alternatively, a tranquil sundowner cruise offers the classic view of an equatorial sunset reflected on the river.
Recommended for birders is a morning cruise downstream to the Nile-Lake Albert Delta, providing the best chance in Africa of sighting the elusive Shoebill. This four- to five-hour return voyage also takes in a variety of other wildlife, including hippos, elephants and many birds.
A tranquil sundowner boat cruise at 5.30 pm offers the classic view of an equatorial sunset reflected on the river.
Birding in the National Park
Both the game drives and the launch trips offer an opportunity for one to come across distinct birdlife, including savannah forest birds, water birds and Albertine Rift endemics. The park’s main birding attraction is the Shoebill, best sighted in the dry season from January-March.
The commonest species in Murchison falls national park include the Marabou Stork, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Secretary Birds, Black-bellied Bustards, Open-billed Storks and Widow bird.
Closer to the river where there are more thickets and woodlands, the commonest bird varieties include the Swallow-tailed and Red-throated Bee-eaters particularly in the Nyamusika Cliffs; Woodland, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers; Francolin; Hornbills, Grey heron; Hamerkop; Shrikes; Flycatchers; Cuckoos; Woodpeckers; Crombecs and Warblers. The riverbanks are also home to ducks, geese, stilts and plovers.
Hiking and Nature Walks
The vast landscapes and varied scenery of Murchison Falls National Park and the surrounding Conservation Area can be explored on foot. Trails through Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo Forests provide sightings of many primates and birds, while around the Nile-Lake Albert Delta, two- to four-hour guided swamp walks offer possible sightings of the Shoebill when the water level is low. After an afternoon boating upriver, you can also hike 45 minutes through woodland to the top of Murchison Falls for a completely different experience of this magnificent waterfall.
This is an experience that brings all the senses into play: watch waves of white water tumble hypnotically through this six-meter chasm, listen to the roar, taste the spray on your face and feel the rock shake beneath your feet. Sheer sensory overload! If you don’t fancy the trek to the top, stop off at the north bank during your game drive, and walk down a set of steps to stand within meters of the rapids.
Birders and nature lovers can enjoy short treks starting from Sambiya River Lodge or Mubako Junction, both on the south bank, or a walk along the north bank from Paraa, passing the Emmy River. All walks last from one and a half to two hours.
Sportfishing in Murchison falls National Park is quite rewarding for the avid angler. There are great opportunities to land a large Nile Perch “Mputa” or Catfish “Semutundu”. Other fish include Tigerfish, Electric catfish, Tilapia, and “Ngara” (Genus Alestes).
The record largest Nile Perch was 113 Kgs landed at the water gauge opposite the crocodile pool, and the largest catfish was 45 Kgs landed near the Nyamusika Cliffs
Experienced UWA Guides are available to lead you to the best fishing spots, however, Wildfrontiers operates a fishing concession at Murchison falls National Park and they can be contacted privately.
A fishing permit is required and currently (March 2019) is at $50 per day or $150 for four days. Park entrance fees are paid separately details are on theUWA Tariff.
World-famous anglers includingJeremy Wade(River Monsters presenter), The late John Dennis Wilson MBE (RIP) (1943 – 13 November 2018) a former UK TV presenter and Zeb Hogan of Monster Fish National Geographic TV have been on the Nile in Murchison looking for that big one!
How to get to Murchison Falls National Park
From Kampala, driving to Murchison Falls National Park is the quickest option. Getting to the park’s headquarters in Paraa from Kampala is a 4-6 hour journey due to the 305 km distance (85km from Masidi).
From Kampala, the shortest and most direct way to reach Murchison National Park is via its southern gates (Kichumbanyobo and Masindi South Gate). The northern gates (Wankwa from Purongo Town and Tangi from Packwach) are another excellent choice; they go directly to the park’s most fascinating areas, but are somewhat farther from the park’s centre.
It is also feasible to take a chartered plane or one of the regular flights from Kajjansi Airfield, which is located close to Kampala, to reach the park. Less than an hour is required for the flight. Pakuba is the most convenient airport because of its close proximity to the park’s administration building and the majority of the accommodations. It’s also possible to fly to Chobe or Bugungu.
Scheduled flights departing from Entebbe International Airport are the quickest method to get there. The airfields at Pakuba, Chobe, and Bugundu are all served by the planes that fly to and from Murchison Falls every day. This flight will take exactly one hour.
Best Time to visit Murchison Falls National Park
The best time to visit the park depends on what you want to see and do while you’re there.
Here are some general guidelines to help you plan your trip:
- If you want to see the powerful Murchison falls at their most spectacular, the best time to visit is during the rainy season, which runs from March to May and from September to November. During these times, the water levels are highest, and the falls are at their fullest.
- If you’re interested in wildlife viewing, the dry season (December to February and June to August) is the best time to visit. During this time, the grass is shorter, and the animals are more concentrated around the water sources, making them easier to spot.
- If you’re planning a safari, the dry season is also the best time to visit, as the roads are in better condition and it’s easier to get around.
It’s worth noting that the weather in Murchison Falls National Park can be quite variable, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s Fahrenheit (mid-20s Celsius) during the day to the mid-50s Fahrenheit (mid-10s Celsius) at night. It can also be quite humid, so it’s a good idea to pack light, breathable clothing and plenty of sunscreen.
Overall, the best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park will depend on your specific interests and preferences. If you’re not sure when to go, you can consider contacting a local tour operator or the park authorities for more information.
Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is a protected area in Uganda that is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, and gorillas. There are several accommodation options within the park for visitors to choose from, including:
- Murchison Safari Lodge: This luxurious lodge is located within the park and offers a range of amenities, including a swimming pool, a bar, and a restaurant.
- Nile Safari Lodge: This lodge is located on the banks of the Nile River and offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It has a restaurant, a bar, and a swimming pool.
- Pakuba Safari Lodge: This lodge is located on the eastern bank of the Nile River and offers comfortable rooms and a range of amenities, including a restaurant and a bar.
- Red Chili Rest Camp: This budget-friendly accommodation option is located within the park and offers basic amenities, including a restaurant and a bar.
- Paraa Safari Lodge: This lodge is located on the northern bank of the Nile River and offers comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bar.
- Budongo Eco Lodge: This eco-friendly lodge is located within the Budongo Forest Reserve and offers comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and a bar.
- Kabalega Wilderness Lodge: This lodge is located outside the park, but it offers easy access to the park and a range of amenities, including a restaurant, a bar, and a swimming pool.
- Murchison River Lodge: Located on the southern bank of the Nile, Murchison River Lodge provides stunning views of Uganda’s biggest national park, Murchison Falls National Park.
There are also several camping sites within the park for those who prefer to camp.
Cost of Murchison Falls National Park Safari
It’s a good idea to spend at least two or three days in Murchison Falls National Park to get a good feel for the park and see a variety of wildlife. This will allow you to take part in different safari activities and explore the park at your own pace.
The cost of a safari package to Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the length of the trip, the type of accommodation, the number of activities included, and the time of year. On average, you can expect to pay between $150 and $300 per person per day for a safari package to Murchison Falls National Park.
However, it’s important to note that this is just a rough estimate and the actual cost may be higher or lower depending on your specific needs and preferences. Some of the factors that can affect the cost of a safari package include:
- Length of the trip: Longer safari packages will typically cost more than shorter ones.
- Type of accommodation: Luxury lodges and tented camps will usually cost more than budget-friendly options like camping or guesthouses.
- Number of activities included: Safari packages that include a variety of activities, such as game drives, boat safaris, and nature walks, will typically cost more than those that only include one or two activities.
- Time of year: Prices for safari packages may vary depending on the time of year. High season, which is typically from June to September and December to February, may have higher prices due to increased demand.
It’s a good idea to shop around and compare prices from different tour operators to find the best deal for your safari to Murchison Falls National Park. You should also be sure to carefully read the details of the package to understand exactly what is included and what additional costs you may need to pay.