Murchison Falls National Park is located in northern Uganda near the Albertine Rift valley and is one of the most visited Uganda National Parks. It is the oldest and largest national park in Uganda which was gazetted as a wildlife reserve in 1926 and earned its first title as a national park in 1952. It covers 3,840km2 in size bisected by the Victoria Nile which divides the Park into the Northern and Southern sector and forms falls which flow over the Western rift Valley escarpment. The awe-inspiring Murchison Falls, where the River Nile hurls itself in appalling convulsions through a narrow crevice of 7 meters and then plunges 40 meters in one breathtaking leap is an amazing place to watch.
The northern sector is covered by open savannah grassland, acacia trees and borassus palms which has facilitated game drive and the existence of many animal species like Elephants, giraffe, leopard, warthog, Lion, Giraffe Aardvark, pangolin, civet, buffalo, hyena, oribi, patas monkey, and Uganda Kob. On the other hand, the southern sector is dominated by riverine woodland and tropical forest hence making the northern sector ideal for tourism activities while at Murchison Falls National Park.
Before the Murchison Falls itself, in the eastern sector of the park, are the Karuma falls where the Nile cascades over 23 kilometers of rapids in a breathtaking sight. This is the most exciting white water in Africa.
The park hosts 76 species of mammals and 451 species of birds. This stretch of river Nile provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
The park is covered by Ugandan districts of Buliisa, Nwoya, Kiryandongo, and Masindi. The driving distance from Masindi to the National Park is about 87 kilometres. This park is about 297 kilometres by road, north-west of Kampala, the capital and largest city of Uganda. A typical Uganda Safari to this park takes you to explore the best of Uganda wildlife.
Murchison Falls National Park was attacked by tsetse flies between 1898 and 1907 causing sleeping sickness to people. It forced the colonial government to clear the human population in 1907 from 13000sqkm land around the Victoria Nile. In 1907, the Bunyoro Wildlife Reserve was created due to the existence of free vast land on the southern bank. Later in 1928, the reserve was extended to the northern bank /sector and the whole reserve was named Bunyoro-Gulu wildlife Reserve covering 4,750sqkm.
Later in 1952, the reserve was transformed into a National Park (Murchison falls National Park) including Queen Elizabeth National Park when the National Park act was put in place by the Parliament of Uganda.
When time went on, In 1960’s Murchison Falls National Park had the highest density of large mammals population than any other place in the world and it forced the park officials to create buffer zones like the Karuma (1964) and Bungungu (1968) Wildife Reserves. The protection of wildlife inside the park inserted more pressure to human population which forced them to hunt them down especially the Elephants and so the park authorities tried to keep them within the Park boundaries. In late 1960’s, Murchison Falls National Park was considered the best safari park in East Africa and it hosted 60,000 tourists as the number of elephants increased to 14,000 by the Mid 1960’s and the gazzated land space could not accommodate.
In 1965 and 1967, 2000 Elephants were killed since they were destroying and changing the environment from forest and woodland to open savannah especially it can be witnessed in the northern sector of Murchison Falls National Park. It also applies to hippopotamus and 3,873 in number were also killed between 1965 and 1969 since they were over the carrying capacity.
In 1972 to 1973, Foreign tourists were stopped from visiting this national park after Idi Amini closed the park for one year since he was the ruling government of Uganda. Later, he renamed the park to Kabalega Falls National Park and after Milton Obote taking over the power, there was rampant poaching which led to the reduction of various animals like Elephants, Buffalos, Hippopotamus among others and in 1990s the joint efforts of the Park administration, conservation groups and international donors had to rebuilt the National Park to normal and visitors started increasing up to date. The animals were guided and protected hence leading to the development and existence of Murchison Falls National Park.
MAIN TOURISM ACTIVITIES AT MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Boat Cruise on Victoria Nile
A boat cruise upstream to the bottom of Murchison Falls is one of the great experiences in Africa. Boat trip towards the Murchison Falls. Carefully watched by crocodiles, hundreds of hippos, buffaloes, water birds, elephants and all the other thirsty wildlife that the Nile attracts while cruising to the bottom of the 43 meters high and famous Murchison Falls approaching you with a thunderous sound. A narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge into a frothing pool of 43m below. This is also a zone of many bird species like Goliath heron, Egyptian goose, pelican bee-eater, kingfisher, hornbill, cormorant and the rare shoebill stork when you are to take a boat cruise downstream to Nile-Lake Albert delta. It also reflects a classic sunset view while of the river Nile.
The boat cruise is commonly done at 9:00am in morning and 2:00pm in the afternoon. So you can beat the time to catch with your boat cruise to the bottom of falls.
Game Drive in the Northern Sector of Murchison Falls National Park
Game Drives in Murchison Falls National Park are done in the northern sector of the park since it is open savannah with a lot of animals. It takes 3-4 hours for all game drives including the morning, evening and Night game drives. Viewing the animals is enjoyable especially on the delta which offers a chance of viewing Lions waiting for prey as they drink water and also along the Buligi circuit. Expect to see other animals like Elephant, Cape buffalo, Rothschild’s giraffe, hartebeest, Waterbuck, Oribi, Bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, hyena and if you are lucky, the leopard.
Murchison Falls National Park is one of the important birdwatching spot in Uganda. Boat cruise, game drives and nature walks exposes clients to various bird species ranging from water birds, Albertine endemics, savannah and forest birds. The shoebill stork bird is the highlight of the birding tour in Murchison National Park and it can be spotted in a so called hippo pool, also along the Victoria Nile on the boat cruise to the delta. Abyssinian Ground Hornbill can be seen on open savannah in the northern sector, Secretary Birds, Black-bellied Bustards, Open-billed Storks and Widow Bird are also common. Along the Nile to the bottom of falls, you can spot the Pied Kingfisher, Red-throated bee eater, Golaith Heron, Egyptian goose and Hadada ibis among other birds.
Hiking and Nature Walks
There are various trails for nature walks and hikes in Murchison Falls National Park. The northern bank has perfect trails for Nature walks especially on the edges of Victoria Nile to the bottom of falls is a perfect place for viewing elephants at close range with other animals. Also the trails in Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo Forest is perfect place for viewing various bird species and primates.
Do not forget the hike to the top of falls which offers the perfect view of Murchison falls and also visitors will be able to see Uhuru falls meaning freedom and it was named when Uganda got its independence which can only be seen when you hike to the top of falls. The breeze or cold wind is something you can feel and live to remember Murchison falls National Park. It is a world in its own.
Chimpanzee Tracking and Chimpanzee Habituation at Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
Chimpanzee tracking at Kaniyo Pabidi forest along the Rabongo forest with many chimpanzee families is one of the memorable and most exciting activity while making your safari to Murchison Falls National Parks. It takes about 3 (three) hours hours to track chimpanzees with one (1) hour of watching this closest creatures to human beings. It starts from Kaniyo Pabidi eco site with the briefing from the ranger guides and after you will be escorted into the forest in search of mainly the chimpanzees. Along your way, clients will be excited by other primates like black-and-white colobus, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, and olive baboon. Nocturnal primates include potto and various forest galago species.
On the other hand chimpanzee habituation is can also be done in this forest. It takes half or full day while undertaking this activity but upon finding the chimpanzees clients are entitled to 4 hours spending and watching the chimpanzees which makes a different of 1 hour to spend with the chimpanzees while of chimpanzee tracking.
Please note that children of 15 years and below are not allowed to participate in chimpanzee tracking and Chimpanzee habituation experience. Also Chimpanzee habituation experience is not available at Kaniyo pabidi during the peaks season in the month of July and August.
Spot Fishing along the Victoria Nile
Spot Fishing at Murchison Falls National Park is interesting especially at the bottom of Murchison Falls. You will be escorted by the fisherman or guide to take you through the fishing experience. The guide will get you the fishing equipment and a bait for example worms to be used for fishing and attracting the fish. Expect to fish the Avid angler and there is a big opportunity to catch large Nile Perch also called Mputa or Cat-Fish (Semutundu). Other fish include Tiger Fish, Electric cat-fish, Tilapia (Ngara).
The largest fish catch was 113kgs of the largest Nile Perch at the water gauge opposite the crocodile pool and the largets cat-fish was of 45kgs caught at the Nyamusika cliffs.
Book your fishing permit at USD$ 50 Per day or USD$ 150 For 4 (Four) days but it excludes entrance fees which be paid separately and it costs USD$ 40 Per day.
Hot Air Balloon Safari
Hot Air Balloon Safaris in Murchison Falls National Park are good for honeymoon, celebrating wedding anniversaries and watching wildlife with a clear aerial view of the park. It is a memorable experience one can live to remember. Hot Air Balloon Safari in Uganda was started in 2011 and it has been registered by Civial Aviation Authority of Uganda following the guidelines of ICAO. The Balloon operating in Murchison Falls National Park is an Ultra magic type M-160 manufactured in Spain. It carries 8 passengers and can fly up to 10,000 ft above sea level but for clear wildlife views they can fly it up to a minimum of 1000 feet above the tree levels.
The Balloon safari takes a minimum 6 years of age and above. Professional Pilots with 1000+ hours of flying experience are used and licensed by Egyptian and Ugandan civil aviation authorities , an additional Flight insurance is fully secured covering passengers, third parties, and the balloon and pilot.
Paraa Safari Lodge will offer a Bush breakfast for Sunrise package inserting a unique memory of having a continental breakfast which is included in your safari costing.
The Sunrise balloon safari starts at 5:00 am as you watch how they pump air in the balloon with briefing shortly on the precautions to take. Thereafter you will start flying at 6:00am before the sun rises. It takes 1 hour while flying with lots of fantastic views and taking photos. On landing, you will take a bush breakfast depending on your package
The Sunset balloon safari starts at 4:00 pm and ends at 6:30 pm (no bush dinner is provided).
After your balloon safari, you will be given a participation certificate.
ACCESS / HOW TO GET THERE
Murchison Falls National Park can be accessed using various and different routes through the Southern bank / sector or Northern bank / sector.
It is a 5 hour drive from Kampala via Masindi; A 4 wheel drive vehicle is advisable on the Masindi-Paraa section of the road and it takes around 297km to reach at the ferry crossing point via Kichumbanyabo gate.
The park can also be accessed via Bugungu gate along Hoima to Buliisa side passing on Albertine escapement, Bugungu wildlife Reserve and Lake Albert into the park. It takes almost 35 minutes and 11km to reach the ferry crossing point from the gate
Murchison Falls National Park can also be reached via Kampala, Gulu and Pakwach road as you turn off to your left at Karuma Falls. It takes 6 hours drive and 397km on road to reach at Mubako tourist centre / office via Tangi gate.
It can also be accessed via Purongo in Nwoya district branching off before reaching Pakwach district to Wangkwar gate costing 1 hours drive and 36 km to reach Paraa ferry crossing point where most activities and initiated from.
Visitors can fly from Entebbe International airport to Pakuba airstrip in the northern sector or Bugungu airstrip in southern sector of Murchison Falls National Park. It takes a maximum of 2 hours fly and the flights operate with the minimum of 4 people on board. It takes off at exactly 1200 hours from Entebbe Airport arriving at 1300 hours in Murchison Falls National Park. The returning flight from the park leaves at 1315 hours arriving Entebbe Airport at 1615 hours.
ACCOMMODATIONS / WHERE TO STAY
HIGH END LODGES / LUXURY FACILITIES AT MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
MID RANGE LODGE FACILITIES AT MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
- Murchison River Lodge
- Fort Murchison Lodge
- Sambiya River Lodge
- Pakuba Safari Lodge
- Twiga Safari Lodge
- Bwana Tembo Safari Camp
- Parkside Safari Lodge
- Kabalega Wilderness Camp
BASIC / BUDGET LODGE FACILITIES AT MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
- Heriatge Safari Lodge.
- Hornbill Bush Lodge.
- Red Chili Rest Camp.
- Boomu Womens Group Bandas.
- Yebo Safari Camp.
- UWA Campsite.