Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s oldest and largest Park, is located in Northwest Uganda, covering an area of about 5072 km2, combined with the contiguous Karuma and Bugungu wildlife reserves that straddle the Ugandan districts of Buliisa, Nwoya, Kiryandongo, and Masindi. spreading inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile up to the Karuma Falls. The Park is bisected by the Victoria Nile from east to west for a distance of about 115 kilometres (71 miles) where the waters of the Nile flow through a narrow gorge only 7 meters (23 feet) wide before plunging 43 meters (141 feet). This 45m plunge drains the largest of the last of the river’s energy transforming the torrent into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor towards Lake Albert.
What to do in Murchison Falls National Park
There are many activities that can be done within and around the park which include; wildlife experience, sport fishing, a launch cruise to the bottom of falls, and beautiful scenery. The main animal species include; Lions, African elephants, leopards, Cape buffaloes, and so many bird species.
Hiking on top of the Falls
Always from the bottom and takes you through the long hike of 45 minutes to 1 hour which is a life-changing experience. They are characterized by an external struggle between water and the rock, compresses through a narrow gorge, spraying misty droplets along their walls over a 50 m radius, which creates a lasting rainbow over the ground, thus leaving a continuous roar.
Located on the northeastern side of the park in the Chobe region the best spot for port fishing is Murchison waterfalls. One of the most stunning attractions while visiting the National Park; there a series of natural good-looking rock formations all the way to the base of the Victoria Nile. The falls are located at the place where the main road of Gulu- Masindi crosses the Nile River, about 110 km northeast of Masindi town and 70 km south of the town of Gulu. Chobe safari lodge is the nearby accommodation in the area.
The longest in the world and starts its journey from Jinja town flowing. It divides the park into two ie; the northern and southern sectors and it’s home to many aquatic birds, crocodiles, and hippos. The boat cruise along the Nile to the foot of the falls s so rewarding for nature lovers, as the northern bank is filled with mammals, birds, and reptiles. There are guided walks along the north and south banks as well as sport fishing.
Nile – Lake Albert Delta
A calm stretch of water, where the peaceful Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert and is a key area for bird watchers. The papyrus-lined banks are full of birdlife, including Goliath Herons, Great Egrets as well as the African Fish eagles. The most sought-after species is the rare shoebill.
A starting point for the boat safari to the falls, the delta, and the sites of the vehicle ferry crossing. This is where the entire park’s access road’s coverage as the northern and southern banks is also connected by a passenger ferry. There are many hotels and safari lodges located nearby. You can find both the museum and gift shop on the northern bank. This region is where game drives; launch trips and nature walks take place.
Buligi Game Tracks
Extends between Victoria and Albert Nile making Murchison falls the most famous safari destination in Uganda. It’s between 12-170 km in length and passes through open savanna grassland, acacia, woodland, as well as riverine vegetation and animals including warthogs, bushbucks, elephants, lions, giraffes, Rothschild, bushbucks, buffalos, leopards, hyenas and many more. The most fantastic way of viewing these animals is through taking a hot air balloon safari which will expose you to many wildlife species at the Nile Plains alongside being monitored by their predators.
Fishing in the park
Sportfishing can either be done above or below the fall as visitors come with their own fishing equipment in case interested in fishing activity at a cost. The common fish species found include; Nile perch and Tigerfish.
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
Located in the southern part of the park and is home to the habituated chimpanzees that can be tracked with experienced guides. It’s also home to blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, and olive baboon troops. The other wildlife species found here include; elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards as well as bird species.
A birding paradise owing a variety of endangered species including; the yellow-footed flycatcher, Ituri batis, and white thatched hornbill. You get to drive through the savannah plains for one and half hours from the lodge in the park to the place where John Speke and James Grant explored. The forest is good for educational safaris and it offers an opportunity of identifying animals, birds, medicinal plants, and trees.
The forest is one of the key areas that lie southwest of the park with a link to the community, which is adjacent to Kaniyo Pabidi forest commonly known for chimpanzee tracking experience. The forest has 24 species of mammals, 360 birds, 289 butterflies, and 465 plant species. It’s also known for its primate population which totals 800 chimpanzees. The forest walks are possible at the Busingiro Ecotourism site on Bugungu – Masindi route to Murchison falls National Park.
Chimpanzee Tracking in Budongo forest
Budongo forest is a good site for tracking chimpanzees while in the park. The rate of seeing the chimps is high here and only outdone by Kibale Forest. These can be tracked in the morning or afternoon and the activity can be done on the way to or from Murchison Falls National Park. The best option is to stay here for a night and have a forest walk in Budongo forest.
Guided Nature Walks
The guided nature walks in Kaniyo Pabidi go through woodland and savannah terrain. On these guided nature walks, you are able to see elephants, lions, buffaloes, and leopards. The group is always accompanied by a guide and a harmed ranger.
Guided Night Walk
These night walks will introduce to you the sounds and feelings you didn’t know existed. You will be able to meet many nocturnal animals. This usually takes 2 hours and a half and you need closed shoes, long pants, water, insect repellent, and a flashlight.
Can be day or night game drives; they can be enjoyed early in the morning and in the afternoon or at night. The many animals to be seen here include; lions, hippos, Rothschild’s giraffe, warthog, Cape buffalo, kobs, elephants, and many more. When carrying out game drives, you are usually accompanied by a guide and an armed ranger.
These boat trips start at the Paraa landing area where the River Nile connects to Lake Albert and cruise up to the bottom of the falls. You will view many animals including; hippos, waterbucks, buffaloes, crocodiles, kingfishers, shoebill stork, and the bee-eaters. The cruise takes place between 9 am and 2 pm daily. The cruise takes you 17 km from the bottom of the falls at Paara for 3 hours. The boat cruise from Paara to River Delta is 28 km and takes about 4-5 hours.
Murchison falls National Park is one of the top areas in Uganda for bird watching. Budongo has got 360 species of birds. Birds species common here include; the Vitelline masked weaver, silver bird, Bluff bellied warbler, green-winged ptyillia, black-headed batis, and the white-rumped seedeater. The most common nocturnal species include; long-tailed and Pennant-winged nightjars and Verreaux’s owls. The other species of birds found here include; the white African fish eagle, African skimmer, Goliath Heron, and many more.
How to access Murchison falls National Park
By road; there are a number of roads that can be used to reach the park, the park’s main hub is where a vehicle ferry crosses the river at about intervals throughout the day. This journey to Murchison falls takes you around 5 to 6 hours from Kampala with 305 km. Paara region covers a distance of 85 km from Masindi town by the shortest route.
Pakuba airfield is situated in the Nwoya district of North West of Uganda serving both Murchison falls and Pakuba. The airfield is 275 kilometres by air from Entebbe International Airport is about 1 hour which is 19 kilometres by road south of Pakwach and 95 kilometres northwest of Masindi town.
There is a Chobe airstrip located in northwestern Uganda in the park around Chobe safari lodge and it’s privately managed and owned by Chobe safari lodge. The airstrip is about 2735 kilometres by air from Entebbe and about 1 hour where Airport shuttles are arranged for Chobe safari lodge visitors.
Bugungu airstrip is a domestic airstrip located inside the park in the northwestern part of Uganda in the southern sector of the park with 260 km by air.