Murchison Falls National Park is the largest, oldest and most popular National Park in Uganda, sitting on an area of 3840 square kilometers in north-western Uganda at the extreme northern brim of the Albertine Rift Valley in an area where the vast Bunyoro escarpment join into a large palm-dotted savannah.
This biologically diverse Protected Area was initially established as a Game Reserve in 1926 before eventually being converted into a National Park in 1952. Murchison Falls National Park is renowned for the spell-binding Murchison Falls characterized by the waters of the Nile River forcefully squeezing through a narrow gorge of 8 meters wide before finally falling into the Devil’s Cauldron and producing a thunderous sound.
Wildlife species within Murchison falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is a haven to more than 76 species of wildlife including four of the big five animals-lions, leopards, elephants and buffaloes in addition to numerous antelope such as Uganda Kobs, Topis, Oribis, Defassa waterbuck, elands and bushbucks among others. Other popular wildlife species to expect during your visit to Murchison falls National Park are Rothschild giraffes, Chimpanzees, olive baboons, warthogs, spotted hyenas, Nile crocodiles, Hippos and many others.
Bird life in Murchison Falls National Park
There are presently more than 450 species of birds inhabiting the different ecosystems of Murchison Falls National Park. The water birds, Budongo restricted species and others are all found in this Park but the popular ones to look-out for include the shoebill stork, Goliath herons, great-blue turaco and white-thighed hornbills among others.
Other attractions in Murchison falls National Park
The magnificent Murchison falls
You can’t describe the beauty of Murchison Falls National Park without mentioning the breathtaking Murchison falls for its milk-white waters, boulders and external force of the Nile River as it forces itself through the narrow gorge and producing misty droplets like rain drizzles.
The Paraa region is undeniably one of the most popular areas to visit within the Park and is known for its large hippo population in addition to being known for being the starting point for most activities of the Park. It is also where paths meet as southern and northern banks of the Nile are linked by the ferry and also, most Safari Lodges are found within Paraa area.
Kaniyo-Pabidi and Rabongo forests
Forest trails through the Rabongo and Kaniyo-Pabidi forests offers tourists with the once in a lifetime chance of tracking the chimpanzee population found within the country’s vastest surviving Mahogany forest- Budongo forest. Activities such as birding as well as nature walks are conducted within these forests where birds such as the Ituri batis can be spotted.
Karuma falls is another attraction you are likely to explore during your visit to Murchison falls National Park and lies within the north-eastern corner of the Park in the famous Chobe region. The roaring waterfalls and beautiful rapids on the Victoria Nile as the water flows through large rock boulders makes the waters to ripple and produce white foam-like sight that you can’t avoid glaring at.
Other magnificent attractions to expect during your visit to Murchison falls National Park are the spectacular Buligi Game tracks and the Nile-Lake Albert delta among others.
Activities within Murchison Falls National Park
Game drives are the prime activities undertaken by every tourist who visits Murchison Falls National Park with a number of designated game tracks available but the Delta area, Buligi Peninsula and the southern side of the Park is the riches areas in terms of wildlife species. Common species in these areas are Rothschild giraffes, warthogs, elephants, Uganda kobs, buffaloes and even the rare lions and leopards.
Boat cruises are conducted upstream from the Paraa area with opportunities of spotting numerous wildlife and usually climaxes with the breathtaking views of the Murchison falls. The morning boat cruise to the Nile-Lake Albert Delta is the most interesting for spotting bird species.
Hot air balloon safaris
There are two places where hot air balloon safaris are conducted and Murchison falls National Park is one of them with sunrise and sunset tour organized by Dream Balloons Limited for a chance to enjoy the aerial views of the vast plains of Murchison Falls National Park.
Engaging in nature walks, game drives and boat cruises reward visitors with the views of forest, aquatic, wetland, Albertine Rift and savannah birds. The shoebill storks are usually every tourist’s bird of interest but other species to look-out for are the Malachite Kingfishers, pied kingfishers, African skimmer, chestnut-crowned sparrow weavers, grey crowned cranes, Pink-baked pelicans, black-headed batis, African fish eagles, red-throated bee-eaters and swallow-tailed bee-eaters among others.
The extensive and lush plains as well as landscapes of Murchison falls National Park can be explored on foot for a chance to spot some of the attractions not seen through other activities. There are numerous hiking trails through Rabongo forest and the Kaniyo-Pabidi area where the forest birds and if lucky chimpanzees can be encountered.
Murchison falls National Park is one of the few places in Uganda where sport fishing can be undertaken and the commonly caught species are Nile Perch, Cat fish, Tilapia and Tiger fish among others with lucky visitors catching a fish of up to 100 kilograms.
Visiting Murchison falls National Park without undertaking a cultural tour means you have missed one of the most exciting adventures. You wouldn’t wish to miss performances from the Mubako Cultural Campfire Performances or a chance to experience the everyday life of a typical Ugandan rural community.
Where to stay within Murchison falls National Park
Murchison falls National Park boasts of some of the most comfortable and numerous accommodation facilities every offered in any African Wilderness National Park. Some of the luxury facilities are Nile Safari Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge, Paraa Safari Lodge, Baker’s Lodge and many others.
The moderate places to stay during a safari in Murchison falls National Park are Bwana Tembo Safari Camp, Murchison River Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Fort Murchison and Sambiya River Lodge among others.
Some of the modest budget accommodation facilities in Murchison falls National Park are Kaniyo-Pabidi Camp, Shoebill Campsite, Heritage Safari Lodge, Red Chilli Rest Camp and Boomu Women’s Group Bandas among others.
Best Time to Visit Murchison Falls National Park
Safaris to Murchison falls National Park are arranged from January to December but the perfect time to visit Uganda’s largest Park is the dry season (January, February, June, July, August, September and December) because during these months animals tends to congregate around drinking points thus making it ideal to observe them. However bird watching is perfectly conducted during the wet months of March, April, May, October and November when abundant bird species are spotted.
How to get there
Murchison falls National Park is about 390 kilometers/5 hours’ drive from Kampala and can be accessed by either road or air transport whereby with air, chartered flights can be arranged from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip (Kampala) to Pakuba airstrip (about 19 kilometers) from Northern Paraa or Bugungu airstrip to the south of Murchison falls or Chobe to the east of the Park.
When it comes to road transport, the route depends on whether you will be staying in the northern or southern section of the Park but for the latter, there are two entry points. The first Kampala-Luwero-Nakasongola-Masindi to Murchison falls National Park through Kichombanyobo gate, Kaniyo-Pabidi forest to Paraa. Distance from Kampala to Masindi is 305 kilometers and from Masindi to Paraa is 85 kilometers.
Another southerly route is longer from Masindi to the Bugungu gate for 135 kilometers and transverses Budongo Forest and the Rift Valley escarpment. There are also northern routes for visitors to the northern area of the Park. They involve accessing the Park through Tangi, Chobe, Mubako and Wankwar gates through Kampala-Luwero-Nakasongola-Kiryandongo-Karuma and Pakwach road. However, these gates are perfect for visitors traveling from Northern Uganda or Kidepo Valley National Park.