Whether you have few or enough days for your Uganda safari, you should not miss seeing wonders at Murchison falls national park in the northwestern part of Uganda. It is one of the most popular national parks in the country and hosts unique attractions to convince anyone that Uganda is the Pearl of Africa. Murchison Falls National Park is endowed with about 76 mammal species including four of the big five; elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard.It is a great wildlife viewing destination with vast game-filled plains that are perfectly accessible with 4WD vehicles in all seasons while saloon cars may experience some difficulties in navigating through some tracks on some days of the wet season. The park records over 450 bird species and some primates including chimpanzees.
The highlight for most people’s visit to Murchison falls national park is “Murchison Falls”, an amazing point along the Nile in the park. The top of this incredible site can be reached by car or by hiking.
History of Murchison Falls National Park
After the evacuation of a number of people that were occupying an area of about 13,000 sq.km due to the spread of sleeping sickness around 1907-1912, the area south of River Nile was declared Bunyoro Game reserve in 1910. In 1928, the protected area was extended to the northern side of the Nile into Gulu district and this was named Bunyoro-Gulu Game reserve.There was no displacement of people when forming this protected area since they had already been evacuated due to sleeping sickness.
In 1932, Budongo Forest Reserve was established and this became the very first logging concession in Uganda. For the following thirty years after establishment, the forest boundaries continuously expanded up to the current size of 825 sq. km. Budongo forest is today the largest forest in the country. However, its expansion caused conflicts due to loss of land by the locals who were intruded by the forest boundaries.
The National Parks Act of Uganda was founded in 1952 bythe British administration. For about forty years, there was reduced hunting in the Bunyoro-Gulu Game reserve which resulted into increase in the animal populations hence the upgrade of the reserve to a national park. Murchison falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks were the first two parks to be established.
Sir Samuel Baker and his wife Lady Florence Baker were the first Europeans to see the mighty falls currently known as Murchison falls. Baker named the falls after Roderick Murchison who was the president of the Royal Geographical Society and the park later on borrowed the same name. With its various wildlife and beautiful landscapes, Murchison Falls N.P had become one of the top safari destinations in East Africa by mid-1960.
Size and location of Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison falls is the biggest national park in Uganda covering an area of 3,893 sq. km. It is part of the large Murchison Falls Conservation Area which also comprises of Bugungu Wildlife Reserve (501 sq.km), Karuma Wildlife Reserve (678 sq.km) and Budongo Forest Reserve (591 sq.km) adding up to a total area of 5,663 sq.km. Uganda Wildlife Authority manages the national park along with the two wildlife reserves whereas the forest reserve is managed by the National Forestry Authority.
Murchison Falls National Park is situated at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley in the northwestern part of Uganda. It stretches to Uganda’s districts of Nwoya, Bullisa, Kiryandongo and Masindi whose town is the nearest to the park. The park is intersected by the Victoria Nile into the southern and northern parts. Both sectors can be reached by road. The northern part is more entertaining for game viewing with lots of elephants, antelopes, prides of lions and herds of giraffes. To have perfect views of the animals, rent a car such as safari van with a pop-up roof, extended land cruiser and land cruiser TX suited to the major purposes of visiting the park. In the southern part of the park, visitors enjoy showers from the thunderous top of the falls.
Tourist activities and Attractions at Murchison Falls National Park
A Visit to the top of Murchison Falls National Park
It would be unfortunate to have a chance to visit Murchison falls national park and miss to reach the top of the falls. Move around different locations around the falls and enjoy every scene at the top of the falls. The thunderous falls are formed at a point where the river Nile forces itself through a 7 m gorge before flowing over 40m down to proceed to Lake Albert. These are the strongest falls in the world and the site offers the most thrilling experience and picturesque scenery. You can reach the top of the Murchison falls by car or hike after a transfer to the bottom of the falls by the boat.
Murchison falls consists of Savannah grasslands, woodland, wetlands and the tropical forest and all these host different mammals, birds and reptiles with unlimited movement. While on a guided safari,the driver guide drives through the famous tracks to locations where they commonly sight predators like lions and leopards. Herds of buffaloes, waterbucks, Uganda kobs, Jackson’s hartebeests, elephants and Rothschild’s giraffes among others are spotted frequently grazing in the plains. Game drives are more rewarding in the morning and evening. All you need to consider when planning for your Murchison safari for wildlife viewing is hiring a suitable car that enables good viewing across the vast grasslands.
The boat cruise along the Nile in Murchison is one of the most adventurous rides o water for a nature lover. Throughout the three hours of the cruise on water, lots of attractions are seen including hippos,crocodiles and sometimes giraffes and antelopes along the shores. The banks of the river is also beatified with various species of birds including pied kingfishers, fish eagles, Egyptian geese, cormorants and Malachite kingfishers among others. The boat departs from Paraa landing area for the 17 km cruise up to the bottom of the Murchison waterfalls where visitors enjoy the white energetically falling waters. Make sure your camera has enough battery not to miss capturing these sceneries.
Adventurers who want to explore Murchison falls national park on foot are accompanied by an armed ranger who takes them through designated trails around the park to different locations where they watch a lot of wildlife at a close range,beautiful landscapes and spot a lot of birds. Nature walk trails in the park include the trail at Paraa, top of the falls, Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo forest. Besides birds, there are a lot of primates spotted during nature walks for example red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkey and baboons. Enjoy a walk through any of the forests and also learn about the varying tree species.
Hot Air Balloon
Enjoy the exciting experience of watching an overview of the Savannah park in a hot air balloon. It offers a great opportunity to see a lot of attractions in the park including the huge herds of big game, water bodies around the areaand the scenic views. Do you want to have a bush breakfast?Book for a hot air balloon with breakfast and end the flight with a bottle of Champagne and cock tails in the bush. The hot air balloon safari is a perfect activity for honeymooners and travelers who wish to experience adventure to the fullest. It is done in the morning at sunrise and in the evening at sunset.
Murchison falls National Park has an impressive list of birds that exceeds 450 species. Birding enthusiasts enjoy every moment in the park as birds are seen everywhere. A lot of birds are seen on the banks of the Victoria Nile during the boat cruise. Another popular birding site is the Paraa Rest Camp and notable species here include the Silver bird, Bluff-bellied warbler, Black-headed batis, Chestnut-crowned sparrow, Spotted mourning thrush, Black headed gonolek,Green-winged Ptyilia and many others. Other special birds of the park are the Abyssinian ground hornbill, African jacana, Denham’s bustard, Palm-nut vulture, giant kingfisher and Eastern grey plantain-eater. The elusive shoebill stork can be spotted aroundthe swamps of Lake Albertaccessed on a boat cruise.
Tracking for chimps in Budongo forest is a very fascinating experience of adventuring the forests of Uganda. Trek through the tropical forest with sunrays penetrating through the canopy to search for groups of the habituated chimps. It is always amazing coming face to face with these primates and watching them play around and show off some of the swinging techniques on the trees.
Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park
Since this is one of the most visited safari destinations in Uganda, there are very many accomodations ranging from lodges, campsites and guesthouses. Both the southern and northern sides of Murchison have good lodges for luxury, midrange and budget accommodation. They include Paraa safari lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge, Pakuba lodge, Nile Safari lodge, Baker’s lodge, Red Chilli Rest camp, Sambiya River lodge, Budongo Ecolodge, Murchison Safari lodge, Heritage safari lodge and Fort Murchison lodge.
Getting to Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison falls national park can be reached by road through either the southern gate or the northern gate and by air transport to Pakuba airfield, Chobe or Bugungu. The park is located about 305km northwest of Kampala and most tourists enter through the southern gate which takes about four hours to arrive at the gate and an extra hour to reach the busy areas of the lodges and the Paraa landing site. Travelers spending their night or having activities to do in the northern sector cross to the north Paraa area by a ferry. An option of using the northern gate takes you via the Karuma wildlife reserve and the Karuma falls. If you are flying from abroad, book for a safari car with a driver to pick you from the airport and relax amidst the road trip during the transfer to the park.
By air, chartered and scheduled flights operate daily from Entebbe International Airport and Kajjansi Airfield to the airstrips in the park. Pakuba airfield is the most convenient flight destination to connect to the park headquarters and other areas such as lodges and game drive areas.
Climate of Murchison and When to visit
Murchison is one of the hottest regions in Uganda with day temperatures ranging from 250 -320 C, temperatures drop at night to around 180 C. it receives little rain though at times they come in large amounts and interrupt some activities.
The bests time to visit Murchison falls national park depends on the kind of experience sought by the traveler and their budget of expenditure for the safari. Otherwise the park is open and offers good wildlife viewing throughout the year.
The dry season is mostly said to be the best because it is very rewarding for game viewing and driving on the dirt roads of the park is easier. This is the high season and tourist numbers are higher.
During the dry season from December to February and June to September, numbers of animals increase around water bodies and they can easily be observed. The scenery is beautiful during this period.
The wet season which is also considered to be the low season with few visitorsis from March to May and October to November. The rains may make some tracks slippery and difficult to navigate through especially for small cars. However, with a 4WD vehicle, you have higher chances of taking on your safari activities. The wet season is the best time for travelers who want to enjoy the discounted rates of accommodation. It is alsothe best time for birding as migratory birds are available in the park.
Mumwe African skimmer safaris organizes safaris to Murchison falls national park at affordable rates. Contact our expert travel consultants by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on +256-700315510to help you plan for your safari to Murchison falls for a remarkable trip.