Murchison Falls National Park

About Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National park is situated in the northern part of Albertine Rift Valley, a place where the massive Bunyoro escarpment amalgamates into the enormous plains of Acholi land. It is well known to be one of Uganda’s ancient conservation areas. In 1926, it was known as a game reserve set up to protect the savannah grassland that was talked about by Winston Churchill in 1907 as the great Kew Gardens along with the wildlife blended on a restricted land.

The park is acknowledged for receiving prominent international visitors. Winston Churchill said to have done a number of activities here such as boat cruise, hiking as well as cycling along the Nile corridor of the falls. Later on, he was followed by his predecessor who is believed to have spent a lot of money around US$1.8m on his hunting safari in Uganda.

Other vital visitors include the Prince of Wales, Edward VII in 1930, Queen Mother in 1959 and the British royals

In 1954, Ernest Hemingway also visited the park. The aim of his visit was to enjoy the adventure waterfalls although his plane got a problem on his way to venture the beautiful scenery of the Park. Hemingway and the wife survived and were taken to Butiaba hospital for some treatment.

Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda is the largest of National Parks, one can say literally, that a river runs through it and that river is the Nile River. The name “Murchison” Falls was given to us by Sir Samuel White Baker, (June 8 1821 – December 30 1893) a British explorer, naturalist, big game hunter, engineer and also served as the Governor-General of the Equatorial Nile Basin (today’s South Sudan and Northern Uganda) between Apr. 1869 – Aug. 1873. Baker named them after Sir Roderick Murchison, president of the Royal Geographical Society. The falls lend their name to the surrounding Murchison Falls National Park.

The park covers an area of about 3,893km2 and its known to be one of Uganda’s well protected area. This area is an addition  to Murchison falls thus covering an area of about 5,072km2 including Bugungu  as well as Karuma wildlife reserves.

The Albert Nile corridor is on the low plains of about 612m at delta point. The temperatures tend to be hot with a maximum of 29 degrees Celsius and the affected months are December,mid February, June as well as July. The rainy season is between April and November.

Besides the wildlife safari in the northern part of the park where game such as lion, giraffes, elephants, buffalos, bushbucks among others are seen roaming in the vast savannah, Murchison Falls National Park also covers a big part of Budongo Forest which is a hub for various primates. Chimpanzee tracking,  which is one of the most exciting primate tracking adventure after gorilla tours  is done here in Budongo Forest.

The Delta area which form part of Murchison Falls national park is the best place to see the rare shoebill stock. A boat cruise to the Delta area where the shoe bill is sighted offers great opportunity to see game as hippos, crocodiles, lots of bird species among others.

Murchison Falls National Park was formerly full of Rhinos but they got depleted in 1970’s due to bad governance. The Rhinos have now since been bled and conserved in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary pending reinstating in Murchison Falls National park. A visit to this park offers an opportunity to pass by Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary to see the Rhinos in their natural environment.

Back in the early 70’s when Idi Amin (the former Ugandan dictator and self-styled “Conqueror of the British Empire”) came along; he had a way of removing any British name reference and renamed the waterfalls “Kabarega”, after the Omukama (King) Kabarega of Bunyoro. But this was never legally promulgated and the name reverted to Murchison Falls following his 1979 downfall.

There are different cultural set ups around the park and cultural walks to these unique cultures always offer insight into the different cultures in Uganda.

Murchison Falls National park is thus, the most inclusive park which offers best of wildlife safari in Uganda which can be combined in three days

Best Time to Visit Murchison Falls National Park

As the largest protected area in Uganda, Murchison falls national park attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is arguably the best place to go for wildlife safaris in Uganda. Visitors to the Murchison Falls national park come for a variety of activities which include game viewing, boat cruises along the river Nile, birding, camping/picnics and tracking chimpanzee in the nearby Budongo or Kaniyo Pabidi forest. For many visitors, the 3 days Murchison falls Wildlife tour is the most ideal.

The park is a perfect mixture of rivers, great savannah woodlands, grasslands, plains and forest making it an ideal place to go for the purpose of just appreciating nature and biodiversity. Given the attractive activities in the park, a question travelers often ask is -When is the best the time to visit Murchison falls? To answer the question, we must look at the different seasons and Uganda as a country more broadly

Uganda is located within the equatorial region and is blessed with a relatively stable yearly climate. This implies that the Murchison falls National Park can be visited throughout the year. Uganda like most countries within the equator has two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. These wet and dry seasons dictate events within the park leading to what, in the Uganda tourism industry is referred to as the low and high/peak seasons respectively. Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each season in order to arrive at a firm recommendation for the best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park:-

High/Peak Season: 

This falls between the dry months of December to February and June to September. It is the time most tourists flock to Uganda and the Murchison falls in particular. Unfortunately this is also the time when prices are hiked for the available accommodation because of high demand. The more popular and luxury lodges are fully booked at this time and travelers may have to make do with lesser known lodges. If one is looking for accommodation in one of the high-end lodges, then they will need to book their safari a few months in advance.  The dry season is also the time when mosquitoes are most active and back into buildings after breeding in the bushes during the rainy season.

The advantages of visiting during the dry season are many.  One is that the vegetation in and around the park is not too overgrown hence allowing tourists to spot animals from afar. Tour vans can go anywhere in the park using any of the roads. During the dry seasons, animals face difficulty finding water and will gather at specific water points making it easier to spot them in one place. It is also during the dry season that one can more easily encounter elusive animals like the Leopard. It’s a perfect season to take wildlife photos and watch predators like lions making a kill in the open savannah. Mosquitoes are few and the chances of getting malaria are significantly reduced.

Low Season:

The low season coincides with the rainy seasons of March to May and October to November. During the low season, the rains can go on for most of the day making the park roads muddy, slippery and sometimes impassable even for the best 4X4 vehicles. Overgrown vegetation also makes some parts of the park difficult to access. Many of the animals take shelter during the wet season unlike in the dry season where they can be seen looking for good pasture and water – affecting the quality of some game drives. However, there are those who might find driving through the mud filled routes and dense vegetation exciting, adventurous and even refreshing.

On the good side, travelers can get discounts from the lodges at this time as hotels charge less because of fewer clients. There are fewer tourists in the park during the low/rainy seasons, allowing visitors time to really reflect and enjoy themselves in a park with fewer crowds. If you are afraid of the heat or wish to see the park in perfect green with a lot of beautiful plants, trees, flowers and newborn babies, then this is the recommended time. It’s also the perfect time to take walks to appreciate the beauty of the park. The Nile River increases in volume during the rainy season leading to higher pressure as it passes through the narrow gorge that forms what we call the Murchison falls. The Murchison falls becomes more intense and breathtaking. Although birding is a year round activity in Murchison falls National Park, it is really in the rainy seasons that you get to see all the great bird species in the park. This is the breeding period with plenty of food causing a lot of bird activity and bird sounds everywhere. Migratory birds gather in the park and especially along the river Nile during this period.

Our Recommendation: 

Given the advantages and disadvantages of each season, our opinion is that the best time to visit Murchison Falls is just after the rains have started and a few weeks after it has ended. To be more specific, the best time to Murchison Falls National park is in early March, late May and late November. During these times, you get the park still green, the rains not as intense and temperatures still low. There is a lot of activity among the park animals as they prepare for the changing of seasons.

N.B: The dry season particularly December and February are the best months to come purposely to spot game.  The late dry season of January, February and August is hot and dusty with heat that can be difficult to bear during certain times of the day. The quality of game drives is excellent around this time.

Getting there

Murchison Falls Park is by far the largest and oldest national park in Uganda. It is famous for chimpanzee tracking and the Murchison falls which are pretty the center piece of the park. It is a destination that everyone interested in Uganda Safaris should have on their itineraries.

Travelling to Murchison falls is quite easy because the park is very accessible.

Murchison falls can be reached by a number of routes by road’

The main entry point into the country is Entebbe International airport, found about 26km from the Uganda Capital, Kampala. Murchison Falls National Park is a 5 hours drive from Kampala.

There are public transport buses, that go up to Masindi which is the nearest town to park, from there you can hire a car to take you all the way to the park.

There are a couple of charter flights available; information about these can be acquired from your tour operator. There are a few air strips near the park that accommodate chartered flights these include Pakuba, Chobe, and Bugungu airstrips.

An alternative and brief explanation on how to get to Murchison Falls National Park is as below;

By road, the Nile River crossing at Paraa, in the center of the park, is approximately 4½hrs drive from Kampala (305km). Paraa is 85km from Masindi town by the direct route. A longer (135km) alternative route passes through Budongo forest and enjoys spectacular views across Lake Albert from the rift valley escarpment above Butiaba. Paraa can also be approached from the north, via Chobe Gate near Karuma Falls and Tangi Gate near Pakwach (25km to Paraa), and Wankwar Gate near Purongo.A vehicle ferry crosses the Nile at Paraa. This operates hourly between 07.00 and 19.00 with the exception of 13.00

 

The Best Safari Activities in Murchison Falls

Best Murchison falls safaris

Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda is the largest wildlife reserve in the country.  It is home to more Rothschild Giraffes than anywhere else in Africa. Vast herds of Elephants, Buffaloes, and Antelopes. This is also Carnivore country and you can see lions, leopards other cats here.

Murchison Falls has the distinction of having a River flow through it, not just any River but the historic River Nile which you cross via a safe Ferry.  Where you cross the Nile it flows serenely toward Lake Albert toward its northward, goal of the Mediterranean Sea.  Just up the river is one of the Main Attractions in the park, the most powerful waterfall in the world – Murchison Falls.

This is a park visitors to Uganda ought not to miss and include on their safari in the Pearl of Africa.

Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest wildlife reserve – 3,840 square kilometers in size. Murchison Falls National Park is a must see and do wildlife park for the visitor to Uganda. Located at the northern end of the vast Albertine Western Rift Valley where you find the mighty River Nile river tumble-down the Bunyoro escarpment onto the Savannah plains, and then continues peacefully its journey South to North to the Mediterranean Sea.

There are many things to do and see in Murchison Falls National Park,  something for everyone, most of all you experience the African Wild, the African Bush, Forest, Wildlife, Birds, Primates and the River Nile. Murchison Falls has more than 76 species of mammals and 451 species of birds.

You will find large herds of buffaloes and elephants here, the endangered Rothschild Giraffes in great numbers, the stealthy leopard (usually alone except during mating season and of course of the king of the beasts – lions, there are many antelopes such as Jackson’s hartebeest, Bushbucks, Uganda Kob, Waterbucks, and Warthogs.

Along the River Nile you will see enormous Nile Crocodiles and a vast number of Hippos – advice – keep your camera ready.

As you drive through the park you will also come across a number of Olive Baboons, Patas Monkeys, while in the forests of the park you can often spot black and white Colobus Monkeys, even chimpanzees can be spotted on occasion while taking a guided nature walk in Rabongo Forest.

Murchison Falls Park has been declared one of the best birding locations in all of Africa with 451 recorded species such as the Shoebill Stork, the Goliath Heron – the largest heron in the world – and pairs of elegant Grey Crowned Cranes – Uganda’s national bird.

Seen along the Nile are the Blue-headed Coucal, Swamp Flycatcher, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Sandpipers, Denham’s Bustard, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Black-billed Barbet, Black-headed Gonolek, Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater, Piapiac, Silverbird, Weaver Birds, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Red-throated Bee-Eater, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Speckle-fronted Weaver and African Quail-Finch to name a few

Murchison Falls Park, the best all-around Park, in recent years it has become one of Uganda’s most visited Park.

 

These are the top Murchison Falls Park Safaris you are going to have to go for during your Uganda safari;

 

Wildlife Game Drives

 

Game Drives take a Uganda Wildlife Authority Ranger on board – between our driver-guide and the UWA Ranger there is not much that you will miss on a game drive in Murchison Falls Wildlife Reserve.

There is nothing like a sunrise or late afternoon game drive with its Rothschild Giraffes, Elephants, Buffaloes, antelopes, lions, leopards, warthogs, Savannah birds and more.

Game Drives are about three hours in length – not too long if you are on a family safari with small children.

Game Drives in Murchison Falls Park are simply a great way to experience the African Wild in Uganda.

 

Nocturnal Game Drives

 

This is one of the highlight that’s not to be missed. On Nocturnal Game Drives you can see the predators of the night out on the prowl such as Lions, Leopards, Hyenas, and serval cats.

The Nocturnal Game Drive is about two hours in length and it takes place at dusk or after darkness has set in. This is something we suggest not to miss. You might have a hard time taking pictures but the pictures and images will forever be embedded in your mind.

Spotlights are used for the Night Game Drives in Murchison Falls Park – this way there is not much you can miss.

If you are on a family safari with us in Murchison Falls Park, your children will have the time of their lives on a Nocturnal Game Drive.  Nocturnal Game Drives must be arranged in advance with us at Globetrotters travel and tours.

Nile River Boat Safari

 

Another  highlight of any safari visit to Murchison Falls National Park is the boat ride up to the falls, almost a scene out of a National Geographic Special on TV, only better because you are there seeing hippos frolic in the water (they do not swim but bounce off the bottom of river or lake),

Nile Crocodiles mouths wide open sunning themselves along the banks, elephant herds coming to bathe and water buffaloes in numbers, various species of antelopes and many water birds, one cannot imagine the scenic shoreline you will see on a boat safari up the River Nile.

On the Murchison Falls Boat Safari up to the falls, you have the choice to disembark at the bottoms of the falls and hike up to the top of the falls or return on the boat downstream for more wildlife viewing.

Murchison Falls – Top of the Falls Hike

 

Murchison Falls is the world’s most powerful waterfall. One can take the boat safari up to the falls and disembark at the bottom of the falls.

Take the 45-minute hike up to the falls and be refreshed by the mist, feel the ground shake and vibrate under your feet – a most amazing experience.

The waterfall hike is a guided hike and the very path you are taken up, Winston Churchill came down and boarded a boat for the Sudan. The trail is also part of the famed Baker Trail, named after Samuel and Florence Baker.

There is another fall in the distance and that is Uhuru Falls which means in English – Freedom Falls. The Falls hike has become a favorite with visitors to the park.

 

 

Nile Delta Boat Ride

 

Most take the boat safari up to the Falls each day, fewer take the boat ride down the Nile to the Nile Delta where the Nile River merges into Lake Albert.

This is certainly a not to miss event if you enjoy birds, and birds, wildlife, hippos, crocodiles you will see on this boat safari down the River Nile.  This hike is also part of the famed Baker Trail.

This stretch of the River is also one of the best spots in Uganda where you can spot the shoebill stork along the banks of the river, sometimes even in pairs.

Experience both the River Nile and Lake Albert on this boat safari.

Hot Air Balloon Wildlife Safaris

 

Hot Air Balloon Safaris can now be taken in Murchison Falls Park.  This is the second park in Uganda where you can take a hot air balloon wildlife Safari.

Rise at dawn over the savanna – watch the sun rise and then glide over the park above the tree-tops where you can see the most wildlife below.

The park is filled with vast herds of buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, antelopes. Watch the predators below as they come home from a night’s hunt.

Afterward, it is a one of a kind champagne Bush Breakfast prepared by Paraa Lodge chefs that you will enjoy.

Birding at Murchison Falls National Park

 

Birding can be done from a safari vehicle or on a nature walk along the Nile or through one of its forest. The possibilities are endless here and there are numerous spots where with a guide you will make some rewarding discoveries and see why Murchison Falls Park is one of the best birding locations in all of Africa.

Murchison Falls Park includes various landscapes such as Savannah, Riverine Forest, the large Budongo Forest, all areas where the avid birder will spot a wide of variety of Bird Species by boat, vehicle or on foot.Murchison Falls Park is a must visit for birders.  Birders will delight in the wide variety of birds found here – Savanna Birds – Water – Birds and various species of Forest Birds – all in one Park – Murchison Falls Park.

 

Hiking in Murchison Falls Park

 

One can go on a variety of nature walks and hikes in Murchison Falls National Park and choose from a variety of areas to do so.

There is Rabongo Forest which is a birders paradise and also an area where you can spot chimpanzee and other primates as you walk along with your guide.

Budongo Forest is one of the best areas to hike when it comes to Murchison Falls National Park and you can see a variety of wildlife, monkeys, and birds.  You can also go on guided walks in the Chobe area of the park.

The new Baker Trail will also go through the park as you can hike from South Sudan to Lake Albert and follow the trail of the Discoverers Samuel and Florence Baker.

 

The Scenic Drive to or from Murchison Falls Park

 

This is the best scenic route along Lake Albert where you see the Blue Mountains in the Congo and see the Western Rift Valley Escarpment which will give you many photo opportunities.

See fishing villages along the Lake, where also smugglers and poachers hide out.  One of the highlights is a stop in Butiaba, once the halfway stop for Seaplanes that flew from Cairo to Cape Town.

This is also the town where you will find the wreck of the SS Croydon that used to make its journey across the lake.  Butiaba was also the starting point for wildlife cruises to Murchison Falls Park.  Sadly no longer, a great storm destroyed the harbor, ships and technology changed. Butiaba, however, is still the same as it was from before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kibiro Salt Gardens and Fishing Village

 

This is a steep hike down and up the Western Rift Valley Escarpment that requires that you are in reasonable shape. On the lake, you enter the Fishing Village where also Salt has been made for the local Bunyoro Kingdom and beyond.

This is a look into another world, life as it used to and still is today.  Most everything is carried in and out on the path you just came down on making you think why people would go through the hardships of living here.

The Village and Salt Gardens are off the beaten tourist path; this is authentic, cultural Africa.

Visits can be arranged for you as you take the scenic route from Murchison Falls Park and spend  a night in nearby Hoima district.

Chimpanzee Tracking – Budongo Forest

 

Budongo Forest is an excellent area for Chimpanzee tracking, it is a Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Research Station and you have a good opportunity here to track Chimpanzees.

During the off-season, you can even do an all-day Chimpanzee Habituation here.  Lodging and food is available at the reasonably priced Budongo Eco-Lodge

Budongo Forest is a great place for chimpanzee tracking and chimpanzee habituation experience, birding and hiking and nature walks from a few hours to all day hikes on the trails of Budongo Forest.

Chimpanzee tracking is best done by adding a day to your Safari to Murchison Falls Park, or as an add-on to your safari on the first or last day in Murchison Falls Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhino Tracking – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

 

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is not a part of Murchison Falls Park but can be easily visited on the way to or from Murchison Falls National Park.  Here you track Rhinos on foot with guides, which is a most exhilarating experience.

What most people do not realize is that you can also do various nature walks and hikes seeing wildlife and birds.  You can do a swamp boat ride here and it is one of the better areas to spot the Shoebill Stork and other water-birds.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is on a large estate that is similar in nature to Murchison Falls where eventually some of the Rhinos will be released to when the numbers of them reach over 20.

You can stay overnight here at either the upmarket Amuka Lodge or the Ziwa Guest House.

 

Boomu -Ugandan Village Visit and Stay

 

Boomu Village is a cultural experience and is near the Murchison Falls Park Area.  Here you can visit an African Village either for a few hours and take a village walk or you can stay overnight in a traditional African Banda.

Go into the gardens to pick the things for lunch and dinner and work alongside African women, sit with a storyteller of old.

There are a variety of activities that you will learn here and Boomu is a great place for a family on safari with children – they simply love Authentic Africa.

Learn how dyes are made from plants and flower and see them used as the loom is used to make a cloth fabric, learn how to make traditional crafts such as baskets and more.