Murchison falls national park is located in the northwest Uganda, covering an area of 3, 840sq.km, making it Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area. The park was first gazzeted as a game reserve in 1926 and became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952. The name of the park was coined from the great falls (Murchison falls) that have made it a popular destination for adventure seekers and avid holiday makers from all over the world.
Being Uganda’s largest protected area, it provides a safe haven for a profusion of wildlife including 450 bird species, forest primates and the big five apart from the Rhinos (located in the neighboring Ziwa Rhino sanctuary). The park’s major attraction is the Murchison falls – arguably the world’s strongest flowing from 40m high, and on the top is where the Nile forces through a rock that is only 7 meters wide.
The park is bisected by the Vitoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the magnificent Murchison falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids.
This stretch of river presents one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles where both small and big mammals congregate to refresh and relax. The park hosts more than 76 species of mammals such as huge herds of buffalos, elephants, big cats such as leopards, lions as well as birds species among others like African jacana, pied giant red throated bee-eater and malachite king fisher. The park comprises of very many activities for travel and some of them can be seen below.
Game Viewing Drives
Game drives offers visitors a chance to view wild game in the park. The main areas are the delta where are great chances of seeing the lions in wait for unsuspecting prey as they are going to drink water, the Buligi peninsular (the animal magnet) and the southern sector famously known as the heart of Murchison falls National park.
There are different scheduled game drives but the famous ones happen in the morning offering fantastic views of majority animals leaving their dens/kraals, evening / sunset game safari sighting big herds of animals returning to their hideouts and night / nocturnal game drive to spot the most elusive resident animals, mainly the nocturnal cats like leopards, serval cats, hyenas, and more.
Murchison falls national park has two boat cruises along the famed Victoria Nile. These scheduled boat cruises depart in the morning and afternoon, each taking three hours. One boat trip goes up stream down to the bottom of the falls to view the most powerful waterfalls in the world, and the other runs downstream to the Albert delta where the legendary River Nile joins Lake Albert.
A boat cruise is one way to explore the gems offered by Mother Nature. Animals such as hippo and Nile crocodile thrive in the Nile waters and unique bird species such as shoebill stock, king fisher, goliath heron and African fish eagle among others can be viewed more easily.
While on a boat trip in Murchison falls national park, you will get a chance to spot wild game such as kobs, elephants, waterbucks and on rare occasions, giraffes are spotted on the banks on their quest for drinking water. These combine to enable you generate lifetime safari experiences. This activity is best done in the afternoon for about 3 hours from 2pm; while the scheduled morning cruise starts from 8am – 11 am.
Murchison falls is one of the greatest birding spots hosting over 451 bird species that inhabit savannah, forest, river line and woodland sectors of the park.
Best birding opportunities are presented during game drives and launch tours for one to come across distinct bird life, including savannah / forest birds, water birds and Albertine Rift endemics. The park’s main sought after bird species is the endangered Shoebill stork , best sighted in the dry season from January-March along the shores of Lake Albert and a delta boat cruise presents the best way to spot it.
Notable species of birds inhabiting the beautiful plains of Murchison National park include the African fish eagle, Grey crowned crane, Secretary Birds, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Black-bellied Bustards, Open-billed Storks and Widow Birds among others.
Birding can be done the whole year especially in the months of January until March when it is dry season. One can do birding while on a game drive and nature walk through the savannah grasslands, or on a boat cruise upstream the Nile and delta areas.
Sport fishing in Murchison falls national park happen along the Victoria Nile, downstream the Murchison falls in the calm waters. However, experienced guides are available to lead you on the best fishing spot. Fishing permit is required and currently it goes up to $50 per person.
Numerous world famous personalities including Jeremy wade, the late John Dennis Wilson and Zeb Hogan of monster fish national geographic television have been on the Nile in Murchison Falls National park searching for sport fishing adventures.
Besides the beautiful fauna and flora, the neighborhood of Murchison falls national park possesses diverse groups of people with different indigenous cultures and beliefs. These include the Acholi in the northeastern, Alur in the north western and Banyoro in the southwestern part.
One search example is the Mubako cultural community, located on the south western entrance gate of Murchison falls national park close to the stunning Albertine escarpments. The Mubako community people usually perform at campfires and lodges making tourists feel the African experience at dusk.
Mubaku village is a cluster of traditional thatched huts around a clearing, where villagers gather to escape the midday sun under the shade of a large tree. There is an onsite small craft shop in Mubaku village that sells carved wooden sculptures and handwoven items made by community members to sell to the visitors and earn a living.
Their energetic performances and vibrant songs accompanied by the “adungu” sound entices the whole travel experience. More to cultural encounters in Murchison falls national park, is the Boomu women’s group. Coined from an indigenous word, “together” Boomu is located at the periphery of Murchison falls national park just besides Kachumbanyobo gate.
Boomu women’s group started in 1999 with an aim to enhance community involvement in tourism development in the area, conservation of natural environment and for her people to work together in order to improve quality of their livelihoods, while preserving culture and traditions.
Made up of over 35 women and 5 men, the Boomu women’s group has developed into one of the most successful community tourism projects in Uganda, providing wonderful homestay accommodation in Boomu traditional bandas, an onsite souvenir / handicraft shop, restaurant and guided village tours.
Visitors are guided around the community where they are given chances to participate in handicraft weaving, traditional dancing and singing, preparing meals, bird watching and village walks.
Hot Air Ballooning
A hot air balloon tour is one activity one should not miss out while in Murchison falls national park. Take to the skies and fly up in the air as high as 10000ft above the ground. This adventure presents beautiful views of wildlife game, Lake Albert and the Victoria Nile. After an early morning ride, be treated to a special bush breakfast organized by one of the park’s finest chefs.
Hiking and Nature Walks
Hiking to the top of striking falls is everything you need. This hike takes about 45 minutes beginning from the bottom of Murchison falls after a leisurely boat cruise. It is one of the best experiences everybody should have on their bucket list. Climbing to the top of rocky hill is a strenuous and sweaty experience but it is worth undertaking, as you are rewarded with a majestic view of the falls crushing through a 7-metre gorge with a thunderous roar and an occasional rainbow.
There is also a 2 to 4 hour guided walk. As you walk through the trails of the low hills and riverine forests, you will have a look at the fauna and flora at a close range. The trails traverse through Rabongo forest, Kaniyo Pabidi forest and the delta area. The forest walks offer interesting sights of unique bird species and primates like black and white colobus monkeys, the baboons and more.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Budongo Forest
Murchison falls National Park is gifted with lush forests like Budongo, Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo forests. These forests make it an ideal place for tracking chimpanzees.
Over 600 chimpanzees reside in Kaniyo pabidi and Budongo forest – the largest mahogany forest in East Africa. The optimal season for trekking these primates is in October to January because during this period, the grass is short and the fruits are ripening hence making it easy to view the chimps as they fed and jump from one tree to the other. Chimpanzee trekking usually takes place in the morning and afternoons; travelers are required to be accompanied by an armed guide.
Accommodation in Murchison falls national park range from 5-star luxury class, Midrange / medium lodges to shoe-string budget safari lodges. Some of the luxurious lodges in Murchison falls national park include Chobe Safari Lodge, Paraa Safari lodge, Nile safari lodge and Bakers lodge. Midrange lodges include Pakuba Safari Lodge, Fort Murchison River Lodge. While budget safari lodges include Red chili, Heritage and Park Side safari lodges, among others. Now take a step and visit Murchison falls national park – home to arguably the most powerful waterfall in the whole world.