Murchison Falls National Park is the oldest National Park in Uganda gazetted in 1926 and is the largest wildlife Reserve in the country covering an area of 3840 square kilometers/1483 square miles/384000 hectares. This Park is the best and most popular destination you should visit for a safari because it offers an ultimate African Safari Experience. Whether you are planning a short safari, Murchison Falls National Park is the answer or even a Long safari, it is still the answer.
Murchison Falls National Park is situated at the Northern side of the Albertine Rift Valley (in North-western Uganda) where the extensive Bunyoro Escarpment topples over a broad palm-dotted Savannah. This Park is a home to over 76 mammal species on top of the 450 bird species that call the Park home.
The 3,840 sq. km Murchison Falls National Park is the largest and most spectacular of all Uganda’s national parks. Aside from game, this park is renowned for its scenic beauty. Rolling savannah, tall grasslands and thick bush woodlands make the park. But you are advised not to miss out the magnificent waterfalls after which the park is named. The waterfall is formed where the Nile tapers from 50 metres to rush through a 7 metre gorge, falling 45 metres in a breath taking leap. This phenomena is said to be the most powerful natural flow of water anywhere on Earth. Upstream of the Murchison Falls are the Karuma Falls, where the Nile cascades over 23 kilometres of rapids. Here you have some of the most exciting white water in Africa.
Things to See in Murchison Falls National Park
The Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park is popular for/ and derives its name from the powerful Murchison Falls which involves the Victoria Nile thrusting 45 meters over the remnant of the Rift Valley Wall creating the famous and substantial Murchison Falls that we all know and is also the highlight of this Park. The final event of the Murchison Falls is an 80 kilometer/50 miles stretch of impressive rapids. The tremendous cataract drains the last of the river’s strength and transforms it into a vast tranquil stream that flows quietly across the rift Valley floor into Lake Albert. This Park has in the past years drawn millions of local and International tourists including prominent tourists such as Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt and other British Royals.
Things to Do in Murchison Falls National Park
Let us explore some of the interesting activities that attract tourists to Uganda’s oldest and largest National Park. These include;
Day game drives
Game drives within Murchison Falls National Park are always conducted in the company of experienced UWA guides who have knowledge of most wildlife species you might encounter during the game drives. The game you come across in the park includes elephant, hartebeest, leopard, lion, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, crocodiles and many species of antelopes.
Buligi game track on the Northern bank offers a marvelous sighing of herds of elephants, numerous buffaloes, giraffes, Antelopes such as duikers, Uganda Kobs, Oribis, Reedbucks and the strange-looking Hartebeests among others. Another popular game track is the Honeymoon track (still new)-situated on the Southern bank and is popular for the Giraffes that were translocated from the Northern bank in 2016.
Night or Nocturnal Game drives
Night game drives introduce tourists to some of the predators of the National Park that include Serval Cats, Lions, Spotted Hyenas and leopards. Night game drives within Murchison Falls National Park start from 7pm and last for 2 hours and is a must-do activity.
Game drives and launch cruises offer the best opportunity for tourists to spot some bird species within this Park. This allows tourists to see aquatic birds, forest birds (especially within Budongo Forest), Savannah birds and different Albertine Rift Endemic bird species. Some of the common bird species you will encounter within Murchison Falls National Park include Abyssinian ground hornbills, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Giant Kingfishers, Secretary birds, Red-throated bee-eaters, Black-bellied Bustards, Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, Open-billed Storks, the Ituri batis, Ducks (mainly sighted by the riverbanks), the Widow bird, the elusive shoebill and Plovers (also sighted at the Riverbanks) among others.
Hiking and nature walks
What can be greater than hiking the Murchison Falls and be rewarded with incredible views of the National Park? Nature walks can be conducted within Rabongo Forest where you will sight different bird species and primates like Chimpanzees. Other areas for nature walks include Budongo Forest for several wildlife species such as monkeys and bird species, the Baker trail allows tourists to explore then trail used by Samuel Baker and Florence Baker.
Launch cruises or Boat rides/cruises on the Nile River
This is probably the most exciting activity within Murchison Falls National Park, which allows tourists to watch several aquatic bird species such the Pink-backed Pelicans and African Fish eagles among others. The wildlife species at the banks of River Nile include Nile crocodiles, Hippos, and Buffaloes, Elephants as they visit the banks to bathe and cool off.
Hot air balloon wildlife Safaris
Murchison Falls National Park together with Queen Elizabeth National Park, are the only two Parks in Uganda where this activity can be conducted. To achieve a maximum satisfaction, tourists have to rise at dawn to experience the sun rise then fly over the Park to see several wildlife species such as Elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, Antelopes and predator such as lions and leopards as they return from the nigh hunt. This activity costs $380 per person and include refreshments on-board.
This Park is the best option for tourists interested in Sport Fishing, and this Nile Perch Fishing adventure can be conducted from the shores of the Falls or by boat rides through the falls. Another perfect spot for extraordinary fishing experience (for big Nile Perch and Tiger Fish) is the Karuma falls next to Chobe Safari Lodge
Chimpanzee tracking within Budongo Forest
Chimpanzee tracking is also possible within this Park especially from the Kaniyo Pabidi Site and Busingiro site of Budongo Forest Reserve. This activity within Budongo Forest is conducted by the Jane Goodall Research Station and done in two sessions (Morning and afternoon sessions). It is interesting to know that the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience is also possible within Budongo Forest Reserve at only $150 per person.
Cultural encounters within Murchison Falls National Park involve visiting the Mubako Cultural performers who perform in Alur or Bunyoro Traditional dances around Lodge Campfires. You can also visit the Boomu Women’s group near the entrance of Kichumbayobo gate. While at the Boomu Village, you will enjoy a typical Ugandan rural village lifestyle (within the traditional African Bandas), enjoy traditional foods and participate in some of the activities like preparing a traditional meal or cultivating and harvesting crops. You can engage in a Village walk and explore everything you need to learn about their everyday lives.
Besides activities within Murchison Falls National park, Visit to the Rhino Sanctuary is an important activity you can do on your way to this Park.
Where to stay at Murchison Falls Nationals Park
Murchison Falls National Park takes pride in most of its exquisite lodging facilities ranging from Budget to Luxury facilities that include the Nile Safari Lodge, Murchison River Lodge, Sambiya River Lodge, Paraa Safari Lodge (Luxury), Chobe Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Red Chilli Red Camp (Budget), Murchison Safari Lodge, Kaniyo Pabidi Camp (Budget), Bakers Lodge and Boomu Women’s Group.
Where to stay in Murchison Falls National Park
This park features as the largest in the entire Uganda and the notable safari lodges for you to spend night over include;
Nile Safari Lodge (Luxury)
This lodge is situated in the southern part of the park and comes with 10 private chalets offering occupancy of about 20 people.
Paraa Safari Lodge (Luxury)
It is positioned on the banks of the River Nile, Northern part of Murchison Falls National Park. It offers comfort, relaxation, quality and adventure with each room giving that privacy any traveler deserves with private balcony and en-suit wash room. There are about 54 rooms in this lodge that range from standard, queen’s cottage, the suites and safari tents.
Baker’s Lodge (Luxury)
This is a newly established luxury facility in the park which comes with spectacular views of the Mighty River Nile on the southern part. It was named after Sir Samuel Baker famous English explorer who discovered the Murchison falls.
Chobe Safari Lodge (Up-market)
The lodge is situated in the northern bank of River Nile and it is a 4 star lodge offering over 36 guest rooms, 21 luxurious tents, and four suites together with a presidential cottage.
Murchison River Lodge
Murchison River Lodge (Mid range) is situated in the southern bank of the mighty River Nile.
Bwana Tembo Safari Camp (Mid range)
This is owned by an Italian family that came to Uganda in 1986. It is located about 10 kilometers from the Tangi to the Murchison Falls National Park.
Fort Murchison (Mid range)
It is positioned on the bank of Albertine Nile to the North of Murchison Falls National Park and this is perfect for mid range visitors or budget travelers. It is close to Aswa Lolim game reserve
Sambiya River Lodge (Mid range)
The lodge is situated about 20 minutes’ drive to the top of the Murchison Falls. It comes with 26 double rooms crafted as individuals and family thatched cottages with en-suite and fans.
Pakuba Safari Lodge (Mid range)
This lodging facility is located in the northern part of the Murchison Falls National Park and ideal for mid ranger or budget travelers. It is strategically located as it comes with spectacular views of various wildlife species.
Red Chilli Rest Camp
The Red Chilli is found on the southern side of the park and very near to Paraa jetty where the ferry crossing to the northern side and the departure point for boat cruises both upstream and downstream the River Nile.
Heritage Safari Lodge
This lodge is found outside the northern boundary of Murchison Falls National Park near Tangi gate offering comfortable and pocket friendly accommodation. This comes with the local Acholi cultural architecture and the cottages are step thatched. It offers views of the vast savanna towards the shores of the Albert Nile
Bomu Women Group Bandas (Budget)
If you are a budget traveler this is the ideal place for you. These bandas are located about 13 miles from Masindi town along the southern border of Murchison Falls National Park near Kichumbanyobo gate.
Therefore, Murchison Falls National Park is the main tourist destination in Uganda because it is a home to the powerful Murchison Falls (the main attraction in the Park), over 76 mammal species and over 450 bird species, and the activities to participate in include day and night game drives, hiking and nature walks, sport fishing, chimpanzee tracking, hot air balloon safaris and launch cruises among others.