Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s biggest and also one of the oldest parks is found in Northwestern region. Established in 1952, this national Park is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and sits on the land area spanning up to 3,840sq.km. The park makes up part of the extensive Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
About 4 protected areas are encompassed within the Greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) and other than Murchison Falls Park, other 3 protected areas include Budongo Forest, Karuma Wildlife Reserve and Bugungu Wildlife Reserve.
Murchison Falls National Park gets its name from the Murchison Falls. This is a natural wonder that makes this park one of the most sought-after destinations in Uganda and East Africa at large. It is at this waterfall where the Mighty Nile River is observed exploding through a narrow rock of about 8m before it flows to the Albertine Nile.
Murchison Falls National Park has its borders stretching to about 4 districts (Nwoya, Kiryandongo, Buliisa and Masindi) in Northwestern Uganda. It extends covering the scenic shores of Lake Albert on the Victoria Nile and the Karuma Falls. It is best reached on Kampala-Gulu highway.
Murchison Falls National Park is largely comprised of savanna grassland, wetlands, riverine woodland, Borassus palms, tropical forest and acacia trees. It is the loveliest spot for big game safaris in Uganda, excellently done on the Northern game tracks and chimpanzee tracking in Budongo Forest.
In 1862, John Speke and James Grant happened to be the first Europeans to visit the now Murchison Falls National Park. From 1863 to 1864, thorough exploration was done by Samuel and Florence Baker. The present Murchison Falls was named by Baker taking its name after Roderick Murchison, the former president of the Royal Geographical Society.
Evacuation of inhabitants living in the now Murchison Falls National Park was carried out from 1907 to 1912. The area was affected by sleeping sickness from tsetse flies. The Bunyoro Game Reserve was formed, South of the Nile River. Its boundaries were expanded in 1928, covering the Northern River side to now the Nwoya district area.
The present Murchison Falls National Park was created in 1952 under the British administration. This was done under the National Park’s Act of Uganda.
Tourist Attractions in Murchison Falls National Park.
Murchison Falls National Park protects variety of the most sought-for wildlife on an African safari. Over 76 mammal species, plus many reptiles all live in this park. Only 4 of the big 5 game call Murchison Falls National Park a home and they include lions, leopards, buffaloes and elephants. These share the same habitat with a range of other species: the Rothschild giraffes, Nile crocodiles, hippos, warthogs, oribis, waterbucks, Jackson’s hartebeest, the grey duikers, Uganda Kobs, etc.
Primates to see: over 800 chimpanzees reside in the Kaniyo-Pabidi & Budongo Forests together with plenty of playful olive baboons, the red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys.
Over 451 bird species await you to explore on birding tour in Murchison Falls National Park. The birds in this park include among others: Abidin stork, black headed lapwing, malachite kingfisher, black headed gonoleks, eastern grey plantain eaters, palm nut vultures, blue headed coucal, piapiac, red throated bee-eaters, shoebill stork, white-browed sparrow weaver and more.
Tourist Activities to do;
Guided game viewing / game drives
Murchison Falls National Park is the premier wildlife safari destination in Uganda, offering the best of game viewing experience. From over 76 mammal species to diverse birds, the park has a lot to offer when it comes to game viewing/game drives. The game drives are excellently done while on the Northern game tracks including the 7kms Buligi track and wildlife species to expect to see include; leopards, lions, giraffes, warthogs, elephants, buffaloes, birds, etc.
The Southern bank game track “Honeymoon track” is newly created and has something distinct to experience. Game drives take 3-4 hours and it is possible to enjoy them at any time of the year. The morning guided game drive is best done starting at 6:00am and allow you to enjoy sight of early risers.
Launch cruises, also called boat trips in Murchison Falls National Park are a such memorable water recreational experiences awaiting you. It is a perfect chance to sight aquatic life like hippos, crocodiles and aquatic birds. The 3-4 hours’ guided boat cruise experience is done on the Victoria Nile in the morning at 9:00am and at 2:00pm in the afternoon.
Hiking to the top of the falls
The best way to explore the magical Murchison Falls is by undertaking a hike to its top. It is just 45 minutes’ walk and at the top of world’s strongest water falls, you will be blown away by the powerful roar as it squeezes itself into a narrow gap of about 8m.
Hot air balloon safari
Hot air balloon in Uganda is only possible on a tour in Murchison Falls National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park. This is operated by Dream Balloon company, offering a remarkable aerial view of wildlife in the wild.
For honeymooners or lifetime adventure seekers, a hot air balloon tour should be a must-do on Murchison Falls National Park safari. Enjoy the sunrise or post sunrise balloon experience with or exclusive of bush breakfast, sunset balloon tour starting at 4pm but with no special offers such as bush meals after a balloon trip.
Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest
Chimpanzee trekking is best done while at Budongo Forest, a natural forest with over 800 chimpanzees. Chimpanzees share over 98.7% of their DNA with humans and this makes them our closest relatives. A chimpanzee trek is a great chance to have a deep understanding about their daily behaviors, taking photos and more.
Murchison Falls National Park is a perfect destination for anglers on a holiday in Uganda. Sport fishing in this park is done at the base of the powerful Murchison Falls and at Karuma Falls. You get a chance to challenge yourself with heavy Nile perch or catch the catfish, etc.
Birding in Murchison Falls National Park is all about searching for amazing species of birds. Over 451 bird species live here including the black bellied bustards, secretary bird, blue headed coucal, goliath heron, shoebill stork, open billed storks, etc.
Whitewater rafting is a new experience currently offered at Murchison Falls National Park Uganda. This is a lifetime opportunity to experience the Nile River and a perfect choice for adrenaline adventure seekers.
Get the real rural/local life experience in the remotest villages or communities adjacent to Murchison Falls National Park. The key communities to visit for authentic cultural experiences here include Boomu Women’s Group, Mubako Cultural performance, etc.
Best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park.
Murchison Falls National Park enjoys favorable weather and climatic conditions, with 2 seasons experienced each year – the dry and wet season. The dry season is the best time for game viewing safaris in Murchison Falls Park and this is experienced from June to September, January to February (also considered to be the peak months of the year).
Low season or wet/rainy season starts from March to May and October to November each year. This is when low turn up of visitors is recorded in the park and other destinations. The safari lodges and camps often give discount offers on accommodation during this period, making it the best for budget travelers.
Accommodation options in Murchison Falls National Park.
All categories of accommodation facilities exist in Murchison Falls National Park Uganda; budget, midrange and luxury. The must-stay safari lodges include Chobe Safari Lodge, Paraa Safari Lodge, Murchison River Lodge, Parkside safari Lodge, Red Chili Lodge, Bwana Tembo Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge and so much more.
Accessing Murchison Falls National Park from the Southern gates; drive from Kampala via Luweero-Masindi with a chance to make a stopover at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, about 5 hours’ drive. From Masindi via Kichumbanyobo gate through Kaniyo-Pabidi Forest to Paraa is about 85kms. Via Bugungu gate to Budongo Forest navigate while enjoying the breathtaking view of the rift valley escarpment.
How to get there?
Northern gates: From Kampala via Pakwach cross the Karuma Falls bridge and access the park through Wankwar, Tangi or Chobe gates.
By air, fly from Entebbe International Airport / Kajjansi airfield and you can land at Pakuba Airfield in the Northern side 19kms away from Paraa, Chobe Airfield to the East of Paraa or Bugungu airfield in the South, 13km from Paraa.