Murchison Falls National Park
A visit to Uganda’s largest protected area and home to the world’s most powerful waterfall in Africa is worth the journey. Formerly known as Kabalega Falls, it covers 3893 sq km and is a 7 hours’ drive from Kampala. It has more than 76 mammal species and 451 bird species.
The park derives its name from the Murchison Falls where the mighty River Nile explodes through a narrow gorge of about 7 meters wide, before plunging 43 meters flowing down to become a placid river. The park is adjacent to Bugungu and Karuma wildlife reserves forming the Murchison Falls Conservation Area covering 5081 sq km.
Things to do at Murchison Falls National Park
Wildlife Game drives
The park offers game drives for about 3 hours in Buligi area between Lake Albert and Victoria Nile tracks. The game includes buffaloes, giraffes, waterbuck, elephants, Nile crocodiles, and hippos among others. Nocturnal game drives can also be done with the aid of spotlights and take 2 hours conducted by Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers.
Nile Boat Cruise
One of the highlights in the park is the Nile boat cruise – a 3-hour launch trip from Paraa to the base of the falls. The upstream cruise starts from the jetty at Paraa on the South bank to view Murchison Falls at the head of the Fajao Gorge. The boat cruise schedules run every afternoon departing by 2.30 pm and maybe privately arranged in the mornings at 08.30 am and 11.00 am depending on availability. A 90 minutes’ sundowner cruise can also be booked at 05:30 pm taking in the amazing scenery with a backdrop of an equatorial sunset along the river. Look out buffaloes, giraffes, waterbuck, elephants, Nile crocodiles, hippos, along the cruise.
Top of the falls hike
The hike involves boarding off the boat cruise at the bottom of the falls hiking to the top within 45 minutes as you get refreshed by the mist from the waterfall. The hike starts at ‘Bakers’ point, from where Sir Samuel Baker is believed to have stood admiring the beauty of Murchison falls national park in 1864.
The hike is one of the greatest historical trails in the world – Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail. It follows the shoreline of Lake Albert northwards to the Victoria Nile and the mighty Murchison Falls and up the river to the Karuma Falls.
Winston Churchill in 1907 also took that same trail, he is famed for naming Uganda – the Pearl of Africa. Look out for the Uhuru falls (freedom falls) that was formed as massive floods created a second channel 200m north of the falls.
Nile Delta Cruise
This is a four-five-hour scenic cruise downstream along a 40km stretch taking in wildlife like hippos, elephants and bird species at the water’s edge. The cruise takes place where the Nile merges into Lake Albert and is a great spot for the shoebill stork one of the unusual unique bird species in the world. Breakfast on board may be served for private prior bookings.
Sport Fishing excursions
Fishing expeditions from the shore or boats is also done along the mighty Nile River upon acquiring a fishing permit. Murchison Falls turbulent waters are famed for its large Nile Perch as well as several species of catfish and tiger fish. A catch and release method is used with the help of experienced guides for a day or multi-day excursions. The recommended months are from December to March and June to October.
The park has got about 451 bird species among which are Albertine rift endemic birds, water birds, and savannah birds. The birding expeditions can be spotted while on a game drive, nature walks through the savannah grasslands and on the boat cruise along the Nile and Lake Albert Delta.
Hot Air Balloon Safaris
This activity starts at 05:00 am with pick up places at Paraa entrances in the north and the south using UWA speed boats to transfer guests to the northern bank where they are picked at the river where they are taken to the takeoff position. The 1-hour balloon safaris accommodate 8 passengers and can fly up to 10,000 ft. above sea level. Bush breakfast may be provided at the end of the trip thereafter guests are transferred back to their pick up locations.
Boomu Women’s Group
Boomu Women’s Group was formed in 1999, in the village of Kihaguzi, to fight poverty in the area by creating economic and social development. This was done by starting a community tourism project through the help of the Uganda Community Tourism Association that involves; handcraft production, cultural performances, accommodation and guided walks that are showcased to visitors.
Budongo Forest Reserve
Budongo Forest Reserve is a 793 sq km classified as a medium-altitude semi-deciduous tropical rainforest in the southern part of Murchison Falls National Park. The reserve has a high biodiversity with 24 species of small mammals; nine being primates; 465 species of trees and shrubs; 359 species of birds; 289 species of butterflies; and 130 species of moths.
The below activities are done in Budongo reserve at Kaniyo Pabidi Tourist Site:
Chimpanzee Tracking – These hikes take about 2 to 4 hours daily on both morning and afternoon sessions depending on the movement of the chimpanzees. You get to spend one hour with the chimps upon sighting them.
Chimpanzee Habituation – Get to spend the entire day with the chimpanzees from nesting to de-nesting. You get to learn how to identify the chimps as individuals by their markings, sometimes scars and other unique features that make them stand apart from rest. The best months for the habituation are March, April, May, and November (low season) when there is less tourist congestion.
Nature walk/forest walks – The reserve has well-developed forest trails offering chances of exploring the tropical rainforest. Learn more about the eco-system, the large Mahogany trees and different bird species, about 359 bird species are recorded in the reserve on half or full-day excursions guided by keen birding guides.
Where to stay at Murchison Falls National Park
Inside the park
Paraa Safari Lodge luxury option
Outside the park
Bakers Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, and Chobe Safari Lodge luxury options
Murchison River Lodge, Bwana Tembo Safari Camp, Fort Murchison, Pakuba Safari Lodge, and Heritage Safari Lodge and Budongo Eco Lodge as Standard and Mid-range options.
It is recommended to have a 3 -4 days’ safari trips in Murchison Falls National Park for perfect value during your stay in Uganda. https://www.travelerslinkafrica.com/safaris-and-tours/uganda-wildlife-safari-chimpanzee-tour/