Murchison Falls National Park

Located in the Northern part of Uganda Murchison Falls national park is the oldest and largest national in Uganda offering some of the best wildlife sightings in East Africa. The park is situated north west of Kampala the capital city of Uganda and is divided by the Victoria Nile into a north and southern section. Murchison Falls national park is well known for its abundance of wildlife and famously known for its mighty Murchison Falls. The Murchison Falls is one of the most sought after attraction in the park as visitors from across the world visit the top of the falls to watch them as they dramatically splash through a small 7 metre gap splashing with a thunderous explosion into the River Nile.
Murchison Falls national park is the most popular destination for wildlife safaris in Uganda as visitors to the park are assured of incredible wildlife sightings that are best seen while on the full day game drives in the park. The park is also a birding hot spot for specialist birders while on their birding in Uganda excursions as the park hosts 650 species of birds including 14 of the Sudan-Guinea Biome species.

History of Murchison Falls National Park

The first Europeans to visit Murchison Falls national park formerly known as Kabalega Falls national park were John Speke and James Grant in 1862. The park was however extensively explored by Samuel Baker and Florence Baker between the years of 1863-1864. Most history books actually state the Bakers as the first Europeans to visit the park because of the extensive period of time they spent in the national park. Samuel Baker even later named Murchison Falls after the geologist Roderick Murchison who was the Royal Geographical President at the time.
Murchison Falls national park has faced a number of changes over the years in naming, presence of wildlife and occurrence of natural hazards. In the years between 1907-1912, locals living in the conservation area at the time were evacuated from an area of 500 square miles due to the sleeping sickness spread by tsetse flies. This was a natural hazard that could only be solved by evacuation. In the year 1910 the Bunyoro Game reserve was established in the southern part of River Nile. “Banyoro” are part of the tribal group living near present day Murchison Falls national park hence the origin of the name Bunyoro Game Reserve. The establishment of Buyoro Game Reserve extended to the northern section of River Nile in 1928. In the year 1952 the conservation area received national park status and officially became Murchison Falls National Park, this was after the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda.

Wildlife of Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is known for its large population of wildlife that are often seen across the open savanna strolling and feeding within the park. Wildlife sightings begin right from the entrance of the park however the wildlife population density is high in the northern sector of the national park where most game drives happen.

Murchison Falls National Park has 76 species of mammals and these can be found in the national park and the adjacent Budongo Forest which is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation area. The park is also home to some of the “Big Five” and offers the best Big Five wildlife viewing in Uganda. The wildlife of Murchison Falls national park include Lions, Cape Buffaloes, Leopard, Elephants, Rothschild’s Giraffes, Hyenas, Oribi, Jackson’s Hartebeest, Patas monkeys, Olive baboons, Vervet monkeys, Hippos, Chimpanzees in Budongo forest, Uganda Kobs, Water bucks, Bush bucks, Reed buck, Warthogs, Hyenas crocodiles which are best seen while on a boat safari on River Nile and many other animals. Murchison Falls national park is known for having the largest population of Nile Crocodiles in Uganda. Budongo Forest is also rich in primates and one of the best place to do the chimpanzee trekking adventure in Uganda and the forest is also provides a habitat for primate species like the black-and-white colobus monkey, Blue Monkey, Potto, Bush baby and the Red-tailed monkey.

Birds of Murchison Falls National Park

The park is rich in wildlife and also makes for a great birding haven as it hosts 650 species of birds and harbours the elusive Shoebill that is best seen while on the Delta Boat ride. The park is home to escarpment species, low land species, savanna birds and hosts 14 of the Sudan-Guinea Biome species offering the specialist birder incredible sightings!
Birding to Murchison falls national park begins en-route as you look out for species like the Stripped Kingfisher, Grey-headed Oliveback, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu and the Brown Babbler. Birding Murchison then continues at Budongo Central Reserve at the Royal Mile which is a stretch of murram road between the main research station and a forestry college. The Royal Mile is known as the richest bird watching site in Uganda and about 366 bird species have been recorded at the site. Birds to look out for at the Royal Mile in Budongo forest include the African Yellow Warbler, Cabanis’s Bunting, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Forest-Robin, White-thighed Hornbill, Uganda Woodland-warbler, African dwarf Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (a rare sighting), Black headed Gonolek, Purple-headed starling etc.

Top Safari Activities to do while in Murchison Falls National Park

Game Drives
Game drives in Murchison Falls national park happen in the northern section of the park as it is the area with the highest population of wildlife and the best area to go on full day game drives. The game drives start as early as 6:00 am so as to catch some of the nocturnal animals before they go into hiding. You spend the day with your guide looking out for animals in the park such as lions, leopard, elephants, cape buffaloes, olive baboons, hyenas, Rothschild’s giraffes, antelope species and bird species etc. Our guided game drives are carried out in a 4WD vehicle with a pop up roof for easy game viewing experiences. The game drive offers incredible sightings over the open grassland with scattered acacia trees.

Boat Safari on River Nile
The afternoon Nile boat safari is a must do safari activity while in Murchison falls national park and one of the most popular activities while on a Murchison Safari. The boat safari happens in the afternoon as it is the best time to watch animals that like to come to the shores of River Nile to drink water and cool off on a hot day. Animals to look out for while on the Murchison Afternoon boat ride include Nile Crocodiles, elephants, water bucks, cape buffaloes, hippos and other antelope species like Uganda kobs that like to feed on the fresh grass that is found on the shores of the river. The boat safari also offers an opportunity to see some bird species especially water birds and papyrus endemics. Birds include cattle egrets, herons, king fishers, pelicans, bee-eaters and fish eagles. Boats that carry up to 30 people are available and stationed at Paraa near the Ferry crossing section and private boats that carry between 2 – 6 people are also available for visitors interested in a more private boat experience. The boat ride also takes you to the bottom of the Murchison falls where you are treated to a view of River Nile as it forces itself through a narrow 7m gorge splattering 43m down with a roar. Once here you decide whether to take a hike to the top of the falls or watch them from the bottom while on the boat.

Hike to the top of the Murchison falls
The hike to the top of the Murchison falls is a great experience as it brings one closer to the magnificent Murchison waterfalls. A boat ride along River Nile will take you up to the bottom of the waterfalls and from here you will get off the boat then proceed to the starting point of the hike. The hike to the top of the falls is a rewarding experience that is recommended as it offers views of green scenery along the trail. Once you get to the top you will have amazing views of the thunderous water falls as you watch them splash and force their way through the narrow 7 m gorge. The top of Murchison falls offers great photography moments, beautiful view of the ever present rainbow and an expansive view of the national park. The hike is about one hour and a person with average fitness is able to trek with ease. The top of the falls also gives one a free shower of the splashing water drops from the waterfalls hitting the rocks, an experience that most visitors like to indulge in.

Nile Delta Boat Trip
The boat trip towards the Lake Albert delta is one of the ways you can spend time in Murchison falls national park and is a popular activity for expert bird watchers as it offers incredible bird sighting. The Nile Delta boat trip offers high chances of seeing the elusive Shoebill and Murchison falls national park is the second best place to see the Shoebill in Uganda after Mabamba Wetland. The delta boat trip is a quiet and beautiful trip as it has less activity hence offering bird watchers an opportunity to sight different bird species and capture amazing photos without disruption.

Chimpanzee Trekking at Kaniyo Pabidi in Budongo Forest
Budongo Forest is the second best place to see and trek the chimpanzees in Uganda. Budongo forest is one of East Africa’s largest tropical rain forest and is rich in diversity as it hosts a variety of plants, birds, fungi, mammals and primates. Chimpanzees are present in Budongo forest in large numbers with over 800 individuals living in the tropical rain forest, this makes it the next best place to see the chimps in Uganda. The forest has one habituated chimpanzee community that lives in the Kaniyo Pabidi area south of Murchison Falls National park and this community with over 100 members is open to visitors for tracking.

Bird watching in Murchison Falls National Park
When it comes to birding, Murchison falls national park is a birding hot spot in Uganda. The park is a birding haven as it hosts 650 species of birds and harbours the elusive Shoebill that is best seen while on the Delta Boat ride. The park is home to escarpment species, low land species, savanna birds and hosts 14 of the Sudan-Guinea Biome species offering the specialist birder incredible sightings!Birding to Murchison falls national park begins en-route as you look out for species like the Stripped Kingfisher, Grey-headed Oliveback, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu and the Brown Babbler. Birding Murchison then continues at Budongo Central Reserve at the Royal Mile which is a stretch of murram road between the main research station and a forestry college. The Royal Mile is known as the richest bird watching site in Uganda and about 366 bird species have been recorded at the site. Birds to look out for at the Royal Mile in Budongo forest include the African Yellow Warbler, Cabanis’s Bunting, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Forest-Robin, White-thighed Hornbill, Uganda Woodland-warbler, African dwarf Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (a rare sighting), Black headed Gonolek, Purple-headed starling.

Birding then continues to the main Murchison Falls reserve where you do full day game drives and boat ride on Victoria Nile in search of water birds, escarpment species and savanna species. Birds in the national park include Bateleur, Gray-headed Bushshrike, Marsh Tchagra, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Abysinnian Ground Hornbill, Red-necked Falcon, Spotted thick-nee, Greater Painted-snipe, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Red-throated Bee-eater, Grey Crowned cranes, Senegal thick-knee, Water thick-knee, Black-bellied Bustard, Silver Bird, Gray Kestrel, White-faced Whistling duck, Saddle-billed Stork, African Swamphen, Rock Pratincole usually seen on a hike to the bottom of the falls perched on rocky outcrops, and the Goliath Heron which is the world’s largest heron which is resident to Murchison Falls national park. Nocturnal species to look out for while on a night game drive in the park include the Slender-tailed Night Jar and the Greyish Eagle-owl.

Sport Fishing in Murchison Falls National Park
Sport fishing is one of the less known activity in Murchison falls national park. Sport fishing is done on the River Nile under the guidance of expert fishing guides based at the park headquarters. The most common fish that is caught is the Nile perch and the fish is released back in to the water afterwards. The fishing activity requires a fishing permit that is issued to visitors by Uganda Wildlife Authority at a fee.

How to get to Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls National Park can be accessed by road from Entebbe to Nakasongola via Masindi town. It is a scenic drive to the park as it introduces you to the Uganda county side, the journey is about 6 hours depending on the stopovers along the way. The other mode of transport is by chartered flight from Entebbe International airport landing at Pakuba airstrip in the northern section of the park or Bugungu airstrip located in the southern section of the park. The flight is by a local airline and it takes about 1 hour to arrive in Murchison Falls national park.

Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls National Park has a number of accommodation facilities that range from luxury to mid-range to budget. The accommodation facilities are spread out between the northern and southern sections of the park. If you spend the night at a lodge in the southern section of the park you transfer by ferry to the northern section of the park the next day, ferry crossing takes only 5 minutes. The accommodation options in the park include;

Nile Safari Lodge – This is a luxury lodge situated along the southern section of Murchison falls national park with beautiful views of the Nile River. The lodge was recently upgraded and renovated and features comfortable rooms that include single, doubles and twin rooms. The luxury facility has a large swimming pool, excellent staff and a dining area with professional chefs serving delicious meals.
Tilenga Safari Lodge – This is a mid-range lodge located in the northern section of Murchison falls national park with incredible views of the expansive landscape of the park. The lodge is a just a few kilometres away from the Tangi gate. The lodge has 13 guest cottages that feature clean linen, comfortable beds and a beautiful private balcony where guests can enjoy a glass of wine as they take in the beauty of the park.
Murchison River Lodge – Murchison River lodge is a mid-range facility situated in the southern bank of River Nile. The lodge is a family run facility with excellent staff and comfortable guest rooms. The lodge offers rooming that includes single, double, twin and family cottages. The cottages are all en-suite and have stunning views of the River Nile. In addition the property has some non-self-contained (shared bathrooms) tents available for the budget traveller.

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