Murchison Falls National Park – Home of the Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley. It is where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna.
The park was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1926. Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area. This Uganda National Park hosts 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.
The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile. The waters of the Nile plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall. This creates the dramatic Murchison Falls. The falls is the centre piece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids.
The mighty cascade drains the last of the river’s energy. This transforms it into a broad, placid stream. It flows across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert in silence.
This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles. There are many regular visitors to the riverbanks. They include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes. Permanent Nile resident here include hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent.
Murchison Falls National Park has had some notable visitors. They include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals.
Murchison Falls National Park at a Glance
Murchison Falls became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952
At Murchison Falls, the Nile squeezes through an 8m wide gorge. It then plunges with a thunderous roar into the “Devil’s Cauldron”. This creates a trademark permanent rainbow
The northern section of the park contains savanna. It is interspersed by borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland. The south is dominated by woodland and forest patches
The film “The African Queen” by Humphrey Bogart was filmed on Lake Albert and the Nile. This was in Murchison Falls National Park in 1951
Wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is home to 76 species of mammals. They include four of the “Big Five”.
In Murchison Falls National Park you will find huge herds of buffaloes and elephants. There are well-camouflaged leopards and a healthy population of lions.
The park is also known for its giraffes which in Uganda these can only be viewed here and in Kidepo Valley.
Other animals seen here include Jackson’s hartebeest, bushbucks, Uganda kob, waterbucks and warthogs. There are resident crocodiles and hippos. These and other visiting wildlife are common along the river.
Olive baboons are common along the roadsides in Murchison Falls National Park. Just be sure to keep car windows and doors shut if you don’t want to lose your lunch!
Blue and red-tailed monkeys and black-and-white colobus can be found in the forested sectors.
The savanna-dwelling patas monkey is only found here and in Kidepo Valley National Park.
Around 800 chimpanzees live in the Kaniyo Pabidi and Budongo Forests.
Murchison Falls National Park has a variety of birds with 451 species recorded. The list includes the Shoebill Stork and the Goliath Heron, the largest heron in the world. You can’t miss pairs of elegant Grey Crowned Cranes. This is Uganda’s national bird.
Seen along the banks of the Nile are the Blue-headed Coucal and Swamp Flycatcher. You cannot miss Squacco Heron African Jacana and Sandpipers. We also have Denham’s Bustard, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill and Black-billed Barbet. Others are Black-headed Gonolek, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Piapiac and Silverbird. There are plenty of Weaver Birds, Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers. Red-throated Bee-eater, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Speckle-fronted Weaver and African Quail-Finch are here too.
Things to Do in Murchison Falls National Park
Launch Trips in Murchison Falls
The launch trip upstream from Paraa presents an astonishing display of wildlife. This culminates with the memorable frontal view of the Falls.
Recommended for birders is a morning cruise downstream to the Nile-Lake Albert Delta. Alternatively, there is a tranquil sundowner cruise. this offers the classic view of an equatorial sunset reflected on the river.
Birding in Murchison Falls
You will have game drives and the launch trips in Murchison Falls National Park. They both offer an opportunity for one to come across distinct birdlife. They include savannah forest birds, water birds and Albertine Rift endemics.
Murchison Falls National Park’s main birding attraction is the Shoebill. This is best sighted in the dry season from January-March.
Hiking and Nature Walks in Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park has vast landscapes and varied scenery. This includes the surrounding Conservation Area. They can be explored on foot.
There are trails through Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo Forests. The trails provide sightings of many primates and birds.
Around the Nile Delta, 2-4-hour guided swamp walks offer possible Shoebill sightings.
Game Drives in Murchison Falls
In Murchison Falls National Park game viewing can be enjoyed while on a game drive. This is done in several designated game drive areas.
The main areas are the Delta where there are great chances of seeing the lions. This is as they wait for prey as they go to drink. The Buligi Peninsula and the southern sector are known as the heart of Murchison.
Cultural Encounters in Murchison Falls
Energetic dancers from Mubako perform around lodge campfires. This makes for a magical African experience at dusk while on Murchison Falls safari. Boomu Women’s Group offers accommodation, a craft shop and village tours. The tours reveal the realities of life in this rural community.
Sport Fishing in Murchison Falls
The banks of the Nile below Murchison Falls provide exciting challenges to anglers. Living within strong currents and oxygenated water is the Nile perch. There is the chance to land a massive catch – the record is 108kg!
Hot air balloons in Murchison Falls National Park
Enjoy the unique experience of flying in a hot air balloon over the savanna. There are several options only available at Murchison Falls National Park:
Sunrise or post sunrise hot air balloon safari with or without bush breakfast. You can also go for the sunset hot air balloon safari. There are short rides for large groups and students
Attractions in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls is characterized by eternal war between rock and water. The waters compress through a narrow gorge. It sprays misty droplets along their wake over a 50m radius. This creates a permanent rainbow over the battlefield and causes a continuous roar.
From Baker Point on the southern side, you can also view the Nile splitting into the smaller Uhuru Falls. This was created in 1962 when the river burst its banks.
A boat ride along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls is a rewarding experience. This is a must for nature lovers, as the northern bank teems with a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles.
Guided nature walks along both the north and south banks are another refreshing activity. Sport fishing is also possible here on the river Nile.
Nile-Lake Albert Delta
This is wide and calm stretch of water. Here the tranquil Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert. It is a key area for bird watchers.
Its papyrus-lined banks are bursting with birdlife. You are likely to see Goliath Herons, Great Egrets, and African Fish Eagles. The most sought-after species here is the rare Shoebill.
Buligi Game Tracks
The Buligi game tracks stretches between the Victoria and Albert Niles. They are the Murchison Falls National Park’s most popular safari destination.
It is around 120-170km in length. The tracks pass through open savannah grassland, woodland, acacia and riverine vegetation.
Most of the park’s game canis seen on these tracks. The best time being during early morning and early evening tours.
Paraa means home of the hippo in the local Luo language. This is the park’s tourism hub. All the park’s access roads converge here as the northern and southern banks. A passenger ferry connects the banks, and several accommodations are nearby.
There is also a museum and gift shop on the north bank. Most game drives, launch trips and nature walks start here.
The Karuma Falls are in Chobe, in the northeastern sector of the park. These roaring waterfalls on the Victoria Nile are made up of a series of natural rock formations. They cause the waters to ripple and give them a white, foamy appearance. It is an ideal area for sport fishing in Murchison Falls National Park.
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
This is in the south of Murchison Falls Conservation Area. This forest ecosystem contains black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys. You will alos find olive baboons, and chimp group. You can comfortable trek chimpanzee in Uganda here.
Elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards are also frequent visitors. Many forest birds are here. They including the chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel’s illadopsis. The latter is found nowhere else in East Africa.
Kaniyo Pabidi has a campsite, cottage accommodation, forest walks and excellent bird watching.
Rabongo Forest is surrounded by savanna. It covers just 4km2 and is a birders’ paradise because of the endangered species found here.
Rabongo is ideal for educational tours to Uganda. This is because it provides opportunities to identify animals, birds, medicinal plants and trees. For relaxation, visitors can camp and enjoy picnics by the Wairingo River.
Murchison Falls National Park Accommodation
Paraa Safari Lodge
Paraa Safari Lodge os among the best of Murchison Falls accommodation. It is a luxurious and comfortable accommodation with about 54 beautiful rooms. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms and the balconies which offer a perfect view of the Nile.
The facilities at this lodge include swimming pool and full stocked bar. The lodge has a restaurant with international and the local foods. There is the lounge and the beautiful natural gardens on the landscape.
Pakuba Safari Lodge
This Murchison Falls lodge is on the North West of Uganda. It is on the Eastern bank of the Albert Nile inside the Murchison falls National Park.
Pakuba lodge has 46 en-suite rooms with private bathrooms. Out of the 46 rooms, 27 are twin sharing, 12 double rooms. There are 7 inter-connecting rooms suitable for those visitors that come as a family.
Pakuba Safari Lodge also offers rooms for special social, corporate and business events. You can enjoy your wedding, birthday party, get away or conference here.
Murchison River Lodge
Murchison River Lodge is 2km away from the city centre. It has a beautiful landscape with a 3 acre compound and gardens.
Murchison River Lodge consists of 14 double rooms. There are 5 single rooms, 8 dormitories with basic cooking facilities and camp refrigerator.
It has facilities such as wide bar area and swimming pool 300 metres from lodge. This Murchison Falls lodge has a well stocked bar. This bar is open from 6.30am to 1.30am. The restaurant open from 7.30am to 9.30pm with spacious verandas with fantastic views.
Simbiya River Lodge.
Sambiya River Lodge iswithin the glorious Murchison Falls National Park. This Murchison Falls lodge is only 15 minutes away from the ferry crossing.
Sambiya River lodge has about 26 thatched cottages. Each designed with en-suite bathrooms, self-contained with a balcony.
This lodge gives a clear view of the game and the great view of Sambiya River. The lodge offers budget to mid range accommodation.
Other facilities include a restaurant with both international and local foods. The lodge has a well decorated dining area, well packaged bar and a swimming pool.
Nile Safari Lodge
Nile Safari Lodge is on the southern banks of River Nile surrounded by the healthy papyrus forest. The amazing wooden chalets and lavishness tents that are in a perfect locations. This gives a beautiful view of the park and the African wilderness.
The lodge has 10 spacious rooms, 5 wooden chalets and the lavish tents. they are all en-suited and air conditioned. The balconies that give a clear view of the area.
The lodge has a well stocked bar, restaurant with both international and local foods. There is a lounge along with the beautiful wilderness. The camp fire is in the evening accompanied with traditional dancing.
Other facilities include swimming pool, cabins, camping and restaurant. You will have evening camp fire here.
Red Chilli Rest Camp.
This is a budget Murchison Falls National Park accommodation. The camp is within Murchison falls National Park next to the south bank of the River.
The Rest Camp usually opens from 6.30am to 9.30pm but its bars closes at midnight.
Camp at this lodge as the camp fire will be set to give all the warmth you need as you enjoy yours meals.