Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
Welcome to Murchison Falls National Park travel guide, here is the most relevant information that will help in all information about Murchison Falls National Park Uganda. For safaris to Murchison Falls Park, location, history / background, how to get there, where to stay/accommodation, best time to visit Murchison Falls Park, attractions and activities in the park with so much more, here is all you need to know;
Location of Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) is situated in north-western Uganda stretching from the shores of Lake Albert up to the Karuma falls. The park is situated in the district of Amuru, Lolim a region where the Bunyoro escarpment joins the Acholi plains. Murchison Falls National Park is at latitude 2.145768 and longitude 31.806906 on GPS coordinates 208’44.7648’’N and 31048’24.8616’’E
Murchison Falls National Park is 3,840km2 making it the largest Uganda safari park. With the adjacent Bugungu Wildlife Reserve (748 square kilometers) and Karuma Wildlife Reserve (720 square kilometers) it forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Murchison Falls Park is the location where the Nile River waters squeeze through a narrow 7 meters (23ft) wide gorge then plunge into what is known as the devils cauldron, 43meter (141ft) below with a thunderous roar, water spray and beautiful rainbow. The falls actually lends its name to the park.
From Kampala-Uganda’s capital, Murchison Falls National Park is 282km away on a 4h 32min drive. Masindi, the closet city from the park is 72.4km away on a 1h 26min road drive.
History / Background of Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
Formerly known as Kabalega Park, Murchison Falls National Park became Uganda’s first national park in 1952 when the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. However, the area was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1926 to protect the beautiful savannah grassland and wildlife making it the oldest conservation area to be gazetted. In 1862, John Speke and James Grant were the first European Explorers to visit the present day Murchison Falls Conservation Area. 1863-4, Sir Samuel Baker and Florence Baker, thoroughly explored the area and later on named the falls Murchison Falls. Sir Samuel Baker named the falls after the then geologist Roderick Murchison the then president of the Royal Geographical Society.
In 1910, Bunyoro Game Reserve was created situated south of the River Nile within the districts of Buliisa, Masindi and Kiryandongo. By 1928, boundaries were further extended north of the river to the present day Nwoya district.
Best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
Murchison Falls National Park is a popular Uganda safari destination for tourists on either short or long safaris in Uganda. The popular trips to the park include the 2 days Murchison Falls safari Uganda, 3 days Murchison Falls wildlife safari Uganda and the 3 days Murchison Falls safari Uganda.
The park is a good all year round safari destination though the best time to visit is during the dry season.
Best time (dry season): June – September and December – February
The advantage of visiting Murchison Falls National Park in the dry season is that, the park is dry therefore grass is short and animals are easier to spot. Photography is easy too as well as trails being dry for easy movements. However, travelers should note that this is a peak or high safari season in Uganda and therefore early booking is recommendable and it can also be very hot.
The wet season considered to be the less preferable season to safari Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park is known to be in the months of March to May and October – November. However, the rains are normally not so heavy to interfere with safari activities. Rainfall totals reach a maximum of 150mm in October which is average compared to high altitude parks. During the rainy season there is a beautiful greenery backdrop great for photography.
Note: No matter the time of the year Murchison Falls National Park is the best park to tour all year round with less weather interferences.
Attractions / what to see in Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
Hosting about 76 mammal species, Murchison Falls National Park is a great Uganda wildlife safari destination. The four of the “Big Five” sought after Africa safari animals; Buffaloes, Lions, Leopards and Elephants can be seen at Murchison Falls National Park. This is the best place to see the giraffes in Uganda and world over, the park has the highest population and can only be seen at Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda.
Several other wildlife species that can be seen in the park include the waterbucks, bushbucks, Uganda Kob, Jackson’s hartebeest, warthogs, olive baboons, blue and red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, patas monkeys and many more. Aquatic species found in the banks of the Nile River as it continues to flow northwards include the hippos and crocodiles (Uganda’s largest population).
With the varied habitats, about 450 bird species are present at Murchison Falls National Park. Bird species include water birds like the rare Shoebill stork, Weaver birds, the Grey Crowned Crane (Uganda’s national bird), Malachite Kingfishers, the Blue-headed Coucal, Swamp Flycatcher, African Quail-Finch, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Black-billed Barbet, Sandpipers, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Denham’s Bustard, Black-headed Gonolek, Red-throated Bee-eater, Eastern Grey Plantain eater, and many more .
There also the Budongo forest 59 restricted range bird species which include the Dwarf Kingfisher, Goliath Heron, White-thighed Hornbill and the Great Blue Turaco. With these several bird species in the park it has attracted many avid birders and becoming a top Uganda birding safaris tours destination.
Murchison Falls is the highlight of the Murchison Falls National Park. Murchison Falls is a beautiful feature formed as the Nile River waters squeeze through a narrow 7 meters (23ft) wide gap of rocks then plunge into what is known as the devils cauldron, 43meter (141ft) below with a thunderous roar, water spray and beautiful rainbow. The falls actually lends its name to the park. The spot is so spectacular for photography and sightseeing.
Kaniyo-Pabidi and Budongo forest chimps
The forest trails of Kaniyo-pabidi and Budongo forests south west of Murchison Falls Conservation Area are host to chimpanzees. Chimpanzees can be tracked in the Kaniyo-pabidi and Budongo Forest with about 800 of them living there and habituated for tracking. Within the forest, there about 24 mammal species, 465 plants and 360 birds enriching all kinds of safaris with great memories.
Activities / what to do at Murchison Falls National Park
With about 76 mammal species, Murchison Falls National Park is a great wildlife sighting area with the most rewarding way being the game drive and the top activity in Murchison Falls National Park. At Murchison Falls National Park, there several trails for game drives that tourist safari vehicles follow to see several wildlife species. The Buligi game tracks are the top wildlife sighting destination stretching from the Victoria and Albert Niles. Stretching for about 120-170km the Buligi tracks pass through open savannah grassland, woodland, acacia and riverine vegetation. On a wildlife safari in Uganda’s Murchison Falls Park, a traveler can choose a morning, evening or night game drive. For the Olive baboons remember to always keep the car windows closed just to make sure your snacks are not grabbed.
A game drive lasts about 2-4 hours, early morning ferry crossing at Paraa may be required and a knowledgeable safari guide is recommendable.
With about 450 bird species, Murchison Falls National Park is a great bird watching tour destination and the other of the top activities in Murchison Falls National Park. Bird species that can be sighted here include the rare Shoebill stork, Weaver birds, the Grey Crowned Crane (Uganda’s national bird), Malachite Kingfishers, the Blue-headed Coucal, Swamp Flycatcher, African Quail-Finch, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Black-billed Barbet, Sandpipers, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Denham’s Bustard, Black-headed Gonolek, Red-throated Bee-eater, Eastern Grey Plantain eater, and many more .The “Royal Mile” along Budongo forest is a beautiful stretch that is very much rewarding for bird watching.
A boat cruise is almost a must do Uganda tour activity on safari itineraries for tourists heading to Murchison Falls Park. Boat cruises set off from the jetty at Paraa on the south bank to the bottom of the mighty Murchison Falls thronged with numerous hippos and crocodiles. A boat cruise can be organized as a visit to the bottom of the falls (upstream) just for spectacular views and aquatic animal seeing or to the Victoria delta that stretches to the shores of Lake Albert (downstream). However, launch trips can also be organized as sundowner trips with snacks, Most popularly following a morning game drive, a boat cruise can be organized to suit a travelers interest. It’s the best way of seeing the world’s strongest waterfall.
Hike to the top of Murchison Falls
A hike to the top of Murchison Falls is becoming the other popular safari activity at the park undertaken just after the boat cruise. In most cases started from the bottom of the Murchison Falls a hike to the top of the falls is one of the active safaris in Uganda as you tourists get a chance to follow a narrow path along strong impermeable rocks on the borders of the gorge that have for centuries stood on the way of the Nile water. The hike takes the route that early explorers like sir Samuel Baker used to reach the top of the falls with very scenic sights. This is a great opportunity for classic photography.
For avid anglers on Uganda tours, sport fishing in Murchison Falls National Park is rewarding with several opportunities of catching a large Nile Perch. The possible fish types caught on sport fishing include the Nile Perch, Cat fish, Tiger fish, Electric cat-fish, Tilapia. The largest fish ever caught was a Nile Perch weighing 113kgs. For sport fishing, anglers are required to have a fishing permit that can be booked early via your Uganda tour operator. Since it’s a sport, the activity includes catching fish by casting lures and other fishing methods. Anglers are advised to carry or hire their fishing equipment.
Fishing in Murchison Falls National Park can be done at any time of the year though the best time is when water levels are low during the period of mid-January – Early April. The best time of the day for fishing is said to be in the morning and late in the day.
The forest trails of Kaniyo-pabidi and Budongo forests south west of Murchison Falls Conservation Area are host to chimpanzees. Chimpanzees can be tracked in the Kaniyo-pabidi and Budongo Forest with about 800 of them living there and habituated for tracking. Chimpanzee trekking can be added on a short trip to Murchison Falls Park for a rewarding primate encounter. Budongo forest is also known to be the best chimp destination for chimp sighting and photography.
How to get to Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
By road; Road distances / drive time
Getting to Murchison Falls National Park can either be by road or by air. If you are wondering how to get to Murchison Falls National Park by road, here is a highlight of the road distances from major towns;
From Kampala-Uganda’s capital, Murchison Falls National Park is 282km away on a 4h 32min drive. The Budongo forest route from Masindi is rewarding with magnificent views overlooking Lake Albert. For tourists arriving at Entebbe International Airport, you will go through Kampala which is about 47km from the Airport.
Masindi, the closet city from the park is 72.4km away on a 1h 26min road drive.
For travelers from the north, you can access Paraa (the popular safari start point) through Chobe gate, Tangi gate and Wankwar gate.
Getting to Murchison Falls National Park by air is possible since there flights to Pakuba, Bugungu and Chobe air fields from either Entebbe or Kajjansi airstrip. From Entebbe International Airport, Pakuba airfield is a 1 hour’s flight especially chartered by Aerolink. Pakuba Airfield is 54.1km to Murchison Falls on a 1h 40min drive including a ferry crossing.
Bugungu Airstrip is 1 hour’s flight from Entebbe International Airport. It is convenient for tourists going to stay in the southern part of Murchison Falls National Park.
Booking a chartered flight to Murchison Falls National Park can best be done by a safari tour operator.
Accommodation / where to stay in Murchison Falls National Park
Welcoming all kinds of travelers, Murchison Falls National Park also has accommodation for all kinds of clients ranging from Luxury/ up-market, mid-range/standard to Budget/basic. Here are highlights of each category accommodation type;
Luxury accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park
- Paraa safari Lodge
Paraa Safari Lodge offers a unique blend of comfort, relaxation and adventure. Each of the 54 rooms at the Lodge is a haven of style and serenity, complete with balcony and private bathroom. The safari décor of the lodge still reflects the bygone era of the early explorers, enshrined with a modern touch to offer memorable comfort moments on safari. Accommodation options at the lodge include cottages (Queen’s cottage), suites, double, twin, single rooms and safari tents.
- Baker’s Lodge
Baker’s lodge derives its name from the historic Explorer Samuel Baker. It is situated on the south bank of the mighty Nile River set within a large private area with direct river access. At the lodge, you also have access to views of the nesting egret birds, bathing elephants and pods of hippos. The most memorable thing you can decide to do on your stay at Baker’s Lodge is have a bush dinner.
Midrange accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park
- Murchison River Lodge
Murchison River Lodge is located on the southern bank of the River Nile offering comfortable and relaxing mid-range accommodation. The Lodge is well set with en-suite thatched cottages (with solar fans and USB port), thatched safari tents each with private facilities and comfortable camping tents already set up though a traveler can bring in their own tents. The Lodge offers comfortable accommodation for families, couples, groups and solo travelers. The Lodge also has a bar and restaurant, swimming pool and craft shop.
- Fort Murchison Lodge
Fort Murchison Lodge is set on the Eastern banks of the slow flowing Albert Nile. The massive tower, the earth colored walls, the touch of Swahili style will impress you from your arrival up to your departure.
Budget accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park
- Red Chilli Rest Camp
Red Chilli Rest Camp is superbly situated at Paraa on the southern bank of the River Nile in the heart of the park. The Lodge is just 500 meters from the Paraa ferry where all vehicles cross the Nile for game drives, boat cruises and sport fishing. Red Chilli Rest Camp has a fully stocked bar and restaurant, a bonfire is lit in the evening, solar hot water systems, modern toilets, showers and a lot more.
- Heritage safari Lodge
The accommodation at Heritage Safari Lodge consists of luxurious and standard cottages as well as tents. The cottage give guests a 180 degree view; to the east, the early morning sunrise and hot spring, to the immediate south right in front of the cottages the hot spring a s it flows into the Nile and to the West the Albert Nile itself with the community in their canoes going about their daily routine. The cottages are designed to allow unique and flexible bedding arrangement to suit each guest’s unique requirements.
Popular Uganda safari packages to Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is indeed one of the most inclusive Uganda safaris destinations with wildlife, waterfalls, bird life within a beautiful savannah plains area and great accommodation facilities. A visit to Murchison Falls Park can be tailored with other destinations in Uganda or also Tanzania safaris, Rwanda tours, Kenya safaris or even long Congo safari tours. For all kinds of travelers including families, groups, solo travelers, Murchison Falls National Park is a rewarding all year round destination that will meet your tour expectations. Here are safari packages to Murchison Falls National Park;