Murchison Falls National Park formerly called Kabalega National Park is located at the end of the Albertine rift valley, Murchison falls national park is Uganda’s largest Conservation Area. The park spread over 3840 sq km and includes Karuma-Bugunju wildlife reserve and Budongo eco-forest where you have a chance to track chimpanzees.
Murchison Falls National Park safari tours allow visitors to see a lot of wildlife including all the big 5 mammals; lion, leopard, elephant and Cape buffalo. However Rhinos are found outside the park at Ziwa rhino sanctuary.
The park is bisected by River Nile which forms the iconic Murchison falls. Plunging 40 meters into an 8 meter gorge, it’s one of the world’s strongest and most impressive waterfalls in terms of volume and force. It gives amazing views with a trademark rainbow.
A safari to Murchison falls is an opportunity to explore a diversity of habitats including palm-dotted and wooded savannah, tropical forests, and Albert-Nile delta wetland. These habitats are home to hosts 75 mammals, 451 species of birds. The River Nile is home to many hippos and Nile crocodiles.
The park offers classic African wildlife viewing safari especially during the dry season from December to February and June to September is the best time to visit the park.
The park is divided into 2 sectors; the southern sector which include Budongo forest and the northern sector across the Nile which is the park’s main area for game drives. The ferry service is used to cross vehicles and there are a lot of accommodation options in both sectors.
The northern sector is attracts a lot of wild animals. During game drives you will have a chance to see the big four mammals as well as giraffe and a variety of antelopes such as Uganda kob, waterbuck, oribi, hartebeest.
There are plentiful activities in northern sector of Murchison falls national park including game drives, boat cruises to the bottom of the falls or to the delta wetland, hot air balloon safari, bird watching, top of the falls hike, community walks.
mammals like Rothschild’s giraffe, hippos, warthogs, hyena including several antelopes such as Jackson’s hartebeest, waterbuck, bushbuck.
In addition to big wildlife viewing, visiting Budongo forest in the south of the park provide opportunities for tracking African wild chimpanzees and spotting other primates including colobus monkeys, red tailed monkey and patas monkeys. A honeymoon loop trail has also been opened for honeymooners in the south of the park.
All attractions in Murchison falls national park can be visited with 3 days safari for the shortest holiday break or as part of the western Uganda tourist circuit.
Top of the falls hike
World’s strongest waterfalls, Murchison falls is the park’s spectacular attraction. It is created by the River Nile as it squeezes through an 8 meter gorge and plunges 40 meters over the rock cliff with a thunderous roar into the devil’s cauldron creating the dramatic falls.
Visitors can view the falls both at the bottom and on top. The boat cruise from para takes you along the Nile towards the bottom of the falls. Those who want to hike to the top; you get off and stand on the rock that is 10 meters way for up close views. While the boat cruises back to paara. The climb high on the cliff to the top of the falls is easy taking about 15 minutes.
The view point on top of the falls offers spectacular view of the falls from above and the endless flow of the Nile towards Lake Albert. The boat cruise downstream the Nile takes visitors 10 meters closer to the bottom of the falls.
Wildlife is mostly concentrated in the northern sector of Murchison falls due to presence of open savannah grasslands than in the south which has a lot thickets and bushes.
Wildlife highlights that Murchison falls national parks is most famous for are large herds of African elephants, buffaloes, Rothschild giraffe and the chance to spot them is guaranteed. However, there’s always a chance of finding more or less animals near the tracks
Various species of antelopes are actually abundant as you drive along the tracks you are likely to see Jackson’s hartebeest, Uganda kob, waterbucks, bush bucks and oribi the smallest antelope. Game drives in search of predators which include lion, leopard, and spotted hyena normally go off track since these animals tend to rest under trees away from the main game drive track.
Generally game drives will cover some long distances as you rotate on tracks to maximize chances of spotting animals especially predators. Nevertheless off tracking is not allowed but where necessary.
It’s no doubt Murchison falls offers good wildlife viewing safari. The wooded grasslands also attract one of the largest concentrations of patas monkeys known in east Africa.
Boat cruise to the bottom of the falls or to the delta wetland
The Nile is the world’s longest river and the best way to explore its aquatic life including hippos, Nile crocodiles and water birds is by boat cruise. The Nile waters provide water for large mammals like elephants, buffaloes which come to drink along the banks.
There are two kinds of boats; the leisure double decked boats to the bottom of the falls and an exclusive boat ride to the delta wetland. The motorized speed boat is mainly for exploring the Nile-Albert swamp when searching for shoebill stork. There’s a chance to see hippos or even lions as they tend to rest just close to the banks.
There are several boats which include wild frontiers boat, Uganda wildlife boat and paara safari lodge boat. All are double decked and can accommodate 30 to 40 people on board. They leave paara the starting point and cruise along the bank of the Nile where you can spot elephants, hippos, nile crocodiles and water birds. And finally the boat stops some 30 meters away to the bottom of the falls and those who want to hike to the top will get off and get to a rock that’s 10 meters close to the falls.
Sport fishing is carried on the calm section of the Nile waters which provide home to the Nile perch. This recreational activity is meant to give anglers a challenge of catching a huge sized fish for fun.
With more than 451 species of birds, Murchison falls national park is a great bird watching destination attracting birding safaris. Shoebill stork is the major bird of interest. A special motorized boat cruise is the best way to search for this rare bird found deep into the Nile-Albert wetland. Other notable species of birds in Murchison falls include the African fish eagle, African skimmer, malachite and giant king fishers, saddle billed stork, various lapwings, African darter. The easy way to spot birds is during a boat cruise along the Nile.
Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo eco forest
Budongo forest in the southern sector of Murchison falls is a large habitat for chimpanzees which are the main attractions. Sharing 97.8% of human DNA, chimpanzee is man’s closest relative and looking into the eyes is unforgettable experience. The primary activity in budongo forest is chimpanzee tracking which is done in the morning and afternoon. There are several species of primates such as colobus, red tailed, blue monkeys and baboons. More than 200 species of birds are also found in this eco forest.
Activities outside the park
Rhino tracking on foot at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Another great highlight of any safari to Murchison Falls National Park is Ziwa rhino sanctuary. It is a natural habitat for 23 rhinos as well as over 200 species of birds, antelope, warthogs, pangolin and wild cats. It offers the opportunity to tourists for rhino tracking experience on foot with rangers. Ziwa is located in Nakasongora district just a few kilometers off the main route via Masindi thus makes a great stopover en route to the park. It was established in 2005 by the rhino fund Uganda in partnership with Uganda wildlife authority to assist in re-introducing rhinos back to Uganda. The rhino sanctuary provides economic benefits to the local communities through tourism and conservation.
Murchison falls national park is situated 382 km from Kampala it takes about 4 hour drive. There two gates giving access both sectors of the park. The southern entry gate is accessible via from Kampala via Masindi and Ruwero triangle with a stopover in Nakasongora at ziwa rhino sanctuary for rhino tracking en route to the park.
The northern Tangi gate can be reached by visitors using the Kampala-Gulu highway or those coming from Kidepo valley national park.
By air, scheduled charter flights from Entebbe airport or kajjansi airstrip in Kampala fly and landing at pakuba airfield which is located inside the park in the northern sector.
Safari lodges and where to stay in Murchison Falls National park
- Paara Safari Lodge
- Chobe Safari Lodge (great location on the banks of the Nile)
- Baker’s Lodge (overlooking Nile River)
Medium Range Lodges
- Pakuba Safari Lodge
- Kabalega Wilderness Lodge (located south of the Nile)
- Fort Murchison Lodge
- Murchison River Lodge