About Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park was established in 1952 and is by far the largest national park in Uganda. Found in the North and Mid-western parts of the country, the park covers 1,503 square miles in the Districts of Masindi, Kiryandongo, Nwoya and the newly established Buliisa. The park derives its name from British Explorer Sir Samuel Baker although Uganda’s president Idi Amin renamed it Kabalega. This name did not stick with both the locals and foreigners hence it is still predominantly called Murchison Falls.

Murchisonfalls national park safariThe park is characterized by green savanna grasslands, open plains as well as woodlands which act as food and shelter to the animals in the park. It also hosts large forest areas like Budongo Forest reserve with strong ancient mahogany trees. The other forests are Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabango which are well known for hosting a number of bird and primate species. Some of these include chimpanzees, olive baboons, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys. The park is a lion conservation unit but also has 75 other species of mammals and over 445 of birds. Two events in the country’s history significantly affected this number i.e. the Idi Amin’s regime which saw rampant poaching which saw the loss of animals. In the 1990s, the Lord’s Resistance Army waged war in the Northern part of the country and some of the animals were lost to poaching due to the general instability in the country. Rhinos almost became extinct but efforts to restock them are underway from the nearby Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The Uganda Wildlife Authority through stringent regulations and deployment of game rangers has been able to control to an extent the levels of poaching in the park. Community programs and revenue sharing agreements have been made with communities bordering the park as incentives to dissuade them from poaching for livelihood. Please check out our 3 days Mur  chison Falls National Park package.

Making your way to Murchison FallsNational Park

There are various ways to reach Murchison Falls and it all depends on your preference, budget or taste. You can reach the park by private means on the road, public means, or air from the city in Kampala. The road to the park is tarmacked from Kampala until Masindi town. Throughout the park, one will go through a well maintained murram road with hard soil.
Travel by public means: Masindi District from which one disembarks before entering the park is accessible from Kampala through a tarmacked road of 220 km. The journey may take between 3-5 hours depending on traffic especially around Kampala. Several buses ply this route and will charge anything between $18 and $25. This cost only covers the bus fare from Kampala to the town of Masindi. To get to the park, one needs to hire a small commuter bus or taxi depending on the number of travelers to Paraa which is where the park is founded.

Although public means can be affordable and cheap, it has disadvantages with congestion and sometimes failure to keep time in addition to many stop overs to the inconvenience of a traveler. However, it is a good way of socializing and learning the lives of local Ugandans.

Hire of private vehicle: One can reach the park by hiring a private vehicle from car rental services or safari companies in Uganda. These usually come with knowledgeable drivers who can respond to your questions and tell you more about the country. They have designated stops and tend to be more time conscious unlike the public means. The private vehicle takes you inside the park and you can choose to use it during game drives.

Travel by air: Local flights are available from Entebbe or Kajjansi airfield to Pakuba and Bugungu airstrips. From this point, a traveler will need to hire a car to Paraa where the park headquarters are located. A tour operator would have sent a driver to pick you from the airport to start your safari.

Activities in Murchison Falls National Park

A safari in Uganda is incomplete without visiting the Murchison Falls National Park. At the cost of $40, international visitors are treated to a variety of activities while inside the park. These include a walk to the top of the falls, chimpanzee trekking, fishing, boat cruises, nature walks, bird watching, game drives and camping among others. With the number of activities found in the park, one may need more days to complete all the activities as each is as exciting as the other. In no particular order of priority let us delve a little deeply into the activities.

A visit to the Murchison Falls top: climbing the top of the Murchison falls is one of the top things to do in Uganda. Here, one is treated to a narrow gorge in which the Nile River passes through powerfully before continuing its flow to Egypt. The thunderous force and roar of the falls through the gorge to 42 meters below is a breathtaking sight to behold. In fact, it has Murchison Falls National Park tourbeen ranked the most powerful waterfall in Africasecond only to the Victoria Falls. When the mist from the waterfall meets with the raise from the sun, there is a spectacular rainbow formation that is amazing to behold. This is a must watch breathtaking scene as you get to relate in a powerful way with nature.

One tip for visiting the top is to ensure you have a camera in hand. It’s a gorgeous view that can be captured in pictures for your travel memory. If one visits during the dry season, the mist from the waterfall is the best cooling therapy after a long day of trekking, walking or touring around. It is not only from the top that one enjoys the waterfall. Right at the bottom lies Uhuru Falls or the river where you will find the crocodile bar, an area heavily infested with crocodiles waiting for their prey like fish or animals that fall down by the force of the water. You will be treated to the sight of all sizes of crocodiles.

A tour of Murchison Falls National ParkBoat Cruise: Filled with abundant wildlife like buffaloes, elephants, antelopes, cormorants, ducks, fish eagles, herons, king fishers and shoe bill, a boat cruise along the river Nile offers more than an ordinary cruise. Lasting almost 3 hours, the cruise begins and ends at the bottom of the falls. The boat captain will sail upstream to the bottom of the falls to give visitors the experience of disembarking and climbing to ground level.  This popular fun filled activity is only comparable to that of the Kazinga Channel of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Again, this scenic view is worth capturing on your camera.

A boat rides to the Nile Delta: The Nile River connects to many other lakes as it makes its way to Egypt. One of those intersections is the Nile Delta, the point where the river connects to Lake Albert in Mid-Western Uganda. A boat ride on the delta takes you downstream and further than where the normal boat cruise would stop. Birders enjoy this half day activity as it provides opportunities not only to watch more mammals drinking water but the sought after shoebill stork.

Karuma Falls: Currently located in Nwoya District, on the Kampala Gulu highway, these falls drop with a fierce roaring sound due to the Nile water squeezing its way through several rocks. The beauty of the falls and its surroundings is an attraction to ordinary travelers on the road and those visiting Murchison Falls National Park. Several birds and mammals like baboons, chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes, leopards, the Uganda Kob, hartebeest and others are always in sight.

Murchison Falls Game Drives: A game drive within the park is a preferred activity for most visitors. It offers a wide variety of animals to look out for. The game drive can be taken with or without a game ranger. Game Rangers are knowledgeable about the terrain, the animals and can help take you to specific spots where certain animals usually reside. In the company of a game ranger, you can be certain that you Activities in Murchison Falls National Parkwill see all species of animals and mammals in the three-hour drive. Some of the animals to spot include buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, leopards, lions, giraffes, monitor lizards and warthogs among others. Lovers of antelope species will enjoy the Bohor Reedbuck, Bushbuck, Defassa Waterbuck, Hartebeest, Oribi and the Uganda Kob among others. The primates include Baboons, Black and White Colobus, Patas Monkeys and Vervet Monkeys. Chimpanzees can only be sighted in the Rabongo and Budongo Forests. If you are a fan of reptiles you will enjoy seeing the African rock python, mambas, cobras and other smaller snakes that dot the green savanna grassland. For better opportunities of spotting cats and other predators, visitors may choose to take a night game drive in the company of game rangers.

Things to do in Murchison Falls National ParkRhino tracking at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary: Located on the Kampala Gulu highway, the Ziwa Rhino was established to provide protection to the few remaining rhinos that were close to extinction before they can be transferred back to the bigger parks. Here, rhinos are tracked on foot in the company of game rangers who share vital information about the mammals and the breeding programme. Other small primates and bird species such as the shoebill stork also inhabit the sanctuary. Unlike other activities in Murchison Falls, proceeds from this sanctuary are strictly used for conservation efforts. It is advisable to visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary before or after a 3 day safari in Murchison Falls National Park.

Fishing: One of the best places to catch huge Nile perch weighing over 200 pounds is the area below the Murchison Falls. By using fishing rods, one can enjoy fishing the Nile perch, tiger fish and tilapia at the Karuma falls or at any of the pools on the riverside. Visitors who are interested in fishing must invest in fishing gears and carry along their licenses. Paraa and Pakuba safari lodges rent out boats and fishing gear at a fee. In order to obtain maximum benefit from your experience, a combination of a game drive and fishing can be achieved in our 4 days Murchison Falls and wildlife safari package.

Forest and nature walk: Rabongo and Budongo forests provide you a great opportunity to take this walk along which you will enjoy watching more bird species and primates. Alternatively, you can take the walk within the Chobe area. Like other walks, it is advisable to do this in the company of game rangers who are knowledgeable about the terrain. The rangers can help you identify all the wildlife species, trees and birds. In the end, it is a great educational walk.

What to see in Murchison Falls National ParkBird watching: Murchison Falls National Park is one of the best places for birding in Uganda when you consider the over 450 bird species on offer. Some of the species are specific to the Albertine region while others are the common species in the East African region. The savanna grasslands, the forests and river provide a variety of birding opportunities that can be taken during nature walks or with a safari vehicle at the Kaniyo Pabidi forest area.

Murchison falls national park UgandaChimp Tracking in Budongo Forest: Budongo forest is one of the best places to track chimpanzees in Uganda. Budongo forest hosts 464 species of plants and mammals combined. The forest is also home to about 820 are chimpanzees. The best time of day to track the chimps is between 8am in the morning and 3pm in the afternoon. The months of May and June offer the highest chances of seeing them. The forest also has over 360 species of birds and smaller primates that one can observe while tracking the chimps. A full research station by the Jane Goodall team has helped make tracking chimpanzees one of the most popular activities in the park.

Hot Air Balloon Wildlife experience: This almost comes as a surprise to many visitors. The possibility of going for a hot air balloon wildlife safari sounds too good and yet it is possible in Murchison Falls National Park. The park is the only place for such an activity in the country. This one-Safaris in Murchison Falls National parkhour long experience allows visitors to spot and take photos of the wildlife from the air as opposed to what is experienced during standard game drives. It is an exciting experience watching the mammals, the primates, the birds, the beautiful views of the lush green savanna from an aerial view. One has chances of seeing more of the beauty of park than a visitor who only uses a safari vehicle. It is also one of the few activities where one is given a certificate of participation at the end of the viewing. The balloon safaris are run by Dream Balloons with supervision from the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to ensure safety standards are adhered to. Before undertaking the activity, visitors are adequately briefed on the safety measures.

Camping: Although the lodges within the national park offer camping options within their premises, the thrill of camping in the wilderness is usually preferred. A forest like Kaniyo Pabidi offers such an opportunity where campers are given firewood, water and tents to enable them enjoy their camping experience. For a complete camp experience, you may carry your own food and equipment although with early arrangements these can be provided by your lodge or park authorities.

Cultural visit to the Boomu Women’s Group: After being in the wild for days, interacting with game rangers, hotel staff and fellow visitors, a cultural visit to the Boomu Women’s group offers you an A safari in Murchison falls national park Ugandaopportunity to interact with the locals who live around the park. The women’s group organizes village tours as well as a shop for African art where visitors can buy beautifully made souvenir as well as support the women with their livelihood. Accommodation in the village may be arranged with the women who will organize a sleeping arrangement in a traditional African grass thatched house. For a little bit of more fun and thrill, one may decide to join the African host family in village chores such as cooking, gardening and taking care of domestic animals. It is an opportunity to experience how the locals go about their daily life. For a comprehensive tour of the park, checkout the 5 days Murchison Falls safari package.





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