Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna.
First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda's largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.
This Uganda National park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids.
The mighty cascade drains the last of the river's energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert.
This stretch of river provides one of Uganda's most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals.
History of Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls Conservation Area is one of the oldest, and is the largest, protected area (PA) in Uganda. It is comprised of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Wildlife Refuge and Karuma Wildlife Refuge.
Currently, the national park itself encompasses 3,893 sq.km. Bugungu Wildlife Refuge (501 sq.km) and Karuma Wildlife Refuge (678 sq.km) are adjacent and act as buffer zones for the park.
In addition is Budongo Forest Reserve which overlaps parts of both wildlife reserves, and covers an additional 591 sq.km. This makes a total of 5,663 sq.km of space that is under some level of protection through controlled use.
The national park and the two wildlife reserves are managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) and the Budongo Forest Reserve is managed by the National Forestry Association except where it overlaps with UWA-managed lands.
Between the years of 1907 and 1912, the inhabitants of an area of about 13,000 sq.km were evacuated due to sleeping sickness spread by tse-tse flies.
This paved the way for the establishment of the Bunyoro Game Reserve in 1910, which encompassed roughly the area south of the Nile River that is now part of the National Park in Masindi District.
In 1928 the boundaries were extended into Gulu District north of the river, and the resulting protected area (PA) became known as the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve.
As the human population had already been evacuated due to sleeping sickness, it was possible to establish this game reserve without displacing any of the local people for the sake of the park. In 1932, the Budongo Forest Reserve was established.
This became the first commercial logging concession in Uganda, and to date is one of the most intensively studied “working” forests in the world. The boundaries of this forest continued to expand over the next thirty years until they reached the current size of 825 sq.km.
Much animosity was created by this process as locals lost land and never quite knew where the boundaries were due to the frequent changes.
In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. After forty years of reduced hunting in the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve, the animal populations had expanded to an extent that justified upgrading the reserve.
This became Murchison Falls National Park, one of the first two national parks, along with Queen Elizabeth NP. By the mid-1960’s, Murchison Falls had become the premier safari destination in all of East Africa, with over 60,000 visitors per year.
Flora and Fauna at Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Fall National Park houses a combination of grasslands, wooded savannah, tropical forests, wetlands, and open water covering approximately 39,000 ha at an altitude of more than 600m.
The park houses 109 species of mammals including; hippopotamus, antelope, giraffes, hartebeest, oribi and Uganda kob, 145 tree species and 0ver 476 bird species.
Murchison Falls NP is one of the best places in Africa to find the shoebill stork. The boat trip on the Victoria Nile is a great start for many water-associated birds. With 53 species recorded, raptors are also very well represented.
The park's impressive checklist contains more than 450 species. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
The park supports four of the "Big Five", only rhino being absent. Buffalo and elephant are particularly common. There is a very healthy population of lions that like to prey on the abundantly available Uganda kob.
Hyena is present but rare but zebra is absent. The Victoria Nile is a magnet for wildlife and it teems with crocodiles and hippos. Chimpanzees can be tracked in neighboring Budongo Forest Reserve.
Large herds of the localized Rothschild's giraffe are found in the park. The rare Patas monkey can sometimes be spotted on the grassy plains.
Top Things to do in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is a must see and do wildlife park for the visitor to Uganda. Located at the northern end of the vast Albertine Western Rift Valley where you find the mighty River Nile river tumble-down the Bunyoro escarpment on to the Savannah plains, continues peacefully its journey South to North to the Mediterranean Sea.
There are many things to do and see in Murchison Falls National Park, something for everyone, most of all you experience the African Wild, the African Bush, Forest, Wildlife, Birds, Primates and the River Nile. Murchison Falls is more than square miles, more than 76 species of mammals and 451 species of birds.
You will find large herds of buffaloes and elephants here, the endangered Rothschild Giraffes in great numbers, the stealth leopard (usually alone except during mating season and of course of the king of the beasts – lions.
There are many antelopes such as Jackson’s hartebeest, Bushbucks, Uganda Kob, Waterbucks and Warthogs. Along the River Nile you will see enormous Nile Crocodiles and vast number of Hippos – advice – keep your camera ready.
Wildlife Game Drives:
Game Drives take a Uganda Wildlife Authority Ranger on board – between our driver-guide and the UWA Ranger there is not much that you will miss on a game drive in Murchison Falls Wildlife Reserve
There is nothing like a sunrise or late afternoon game drive with its Rothschild Giraffes, Elephants, Buffaloes, antelopes, lions, leopards, warthogs, Savannah birds and more.
Game Drives while on Uganda safari in Murchison falls are about three hours in length – not too long if you are on an African family safari tour with small children.
Game Drives in Murchison Falls Park are simply a great way to experience the African Wildlife safari tour in Uganda.
Nocturnal Game Drives:
This is one of the highlights that is not to be missed. On Nocturnal Game Drives you can see the predators of the night out on the prowl such as Lions, Leopards, Hyenas, and serval cats.
The Nocturnal Game Drive is about two hours in length and is take at dusk or after darkness has set in this is something we suggest not to miss. You might have a hard time taking pictures but the pictures and images in your mind.
Spotlights are used for the Night Game Drives in Murchison Falls Park – this way there is not much you can miss.
If you are on a family safari with us in Murchison Falls Park, your children will have the time of their lives on a Nocturnal Game Drive. Nocturnal Game Drives must be arranged in advance with us.
Nile River Boat Safari:
Another highlights of any safari visit to Murchison Falls National Park is the boat ride up to the falls, almost a scene out of a National Geographic Special on TV, only better because you are there seeing hippos frolic in the water (they do not swim but bounce off the bottom of river or lake),
Nile Crocodiles mouths wide open sunning themselves along the banks, elephant herds coming to bathe and water, Buffaloes in numbers, various species of antelopes and many water birds, one cannot imagine the scenic shoreline you will see on a boat safari up the River Nile.
On the Murchison Falls Boat Safari up to the falls you have the choice to disembark at the bottoms of the falls and hike up to the top of the falls or return on the boat downstream for more wildlife viewing.
Murchison Falls – Top of the Falls Hike:
Murchison Falls is one of the world’s most powerful waterfall. One can take the boat safari up to the falls and disembark at the bottom of the falls.
Take the 45 minute hike up along the falls and be refreshed by the mist, feel the ground shake and vibrate under your feet – a most amazing experience.
The waterfall hike is a guided hike and the very path you are taken up, Winston Churchill came down and boarded a boat for the Sudan. The trail is also part of the famed Baker Trail, named after Samuel and Florence Baker.
There is another fall in the distance and that is Uhuru Falls which means in English – Freedom Falls.
Nile Delta Boat Ride:
Most take the boat safari up to the fall each day, fewer take the boat ride down the Nile to the Nile Delta where the Nile River merges into Lake Albert.
This is certainly a not to miss event if you enjoy birds, and birds, wildlife, hippos, crocodiles you will see on this boat safari down the River Nile. This hike is also part of the famed Baker Trail.
This stretch of the River is also one of the best spots in Uganda where you can spot the shoebill stork along the banks of the river, sometimes even in pairs.
Experience both the River Nile and Lake Albert on this boat safari.
Hot Air Balloon Wildlife Safaris:
Hot Air Balloon Safaris can now be taken in Murchison Falls Park. This is the second park in Uganda where you can take a hot air balloon wildlife Safari.
Rise at dawn over the savanna – watch the sun rise and then glide over the park above the tree-tops where you can see the most wildlife below.
The park is filled with vast herds of buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, antelopes. Watch the predators below as they come home from a night’s hunt.
Afterwards it is a champagne Bush Breakfast prepared by Paraa Lodge chefs that you will enjoy.
Murchison Falls Park Fishing:
Fishing for the Largest Fresh Water Fish in Africa, the Nile Perch fishing can be done from the shore at the falls themselves or by boat as you go up to the falls.
The Karuma falls area near Chobe Safari Lodge is also a great place for fishing in a way you have not experienced elsewhere. If you are avid about fishing – Murchison Falls Park is the spot for you to let your line out and catch a big Nile Perch or Tiger Fish.
An experience Guide will be with you as you fish either from the River Bank or from a boat that guides you on the way to catch a Nile Perch at Murchison Falls Park.
Birding at Murchison Falls National Park:
Birding can be done from a safari vehicle or on a nature walk along the Nile or through one of its forest. The possibilities are endless here and there are numerous spots where with a guide you will make some rewarding discoveries and see why Murchison Falls Park is one of the best birding locations in all of Africa.
Murchison Falls Park includes various landscapes such as Savannah, Riverine Forest, the large Budongo Forest, all areas where the avid birder will spot a wide of variety of Bird Species by boat, vehicle or on foot.
Murchison Falls Park is a must visit park for birders. Birders will delight in the wide variety of birds found here – Savanna Birds – Water – Birds and various species of Forest Birds – all in one Park – Murchison Falls Park.
Hiking in Murchison Falls Park:
One can go on a variety of nature walks and hikes in Murchison Falls National Park and choose from a variety of areas to do so.
There is Rabongo Forest which is a birders paradise and also an area where you can spot chimpanzee and other primates as you walk along with your guide.
Budongo Forest is one of the best areas to hike when it comes to Murchison Falls National Park and you can see a variety of wildlife, monkeys, and birds. You can also go on guided walks in the Chobe area of the park.
The new Baker Trail will also go through the park as you can hike from South Sudan to Lake Albert and follow the trail of the Discoverers Samuel and Florence Baker. If you an avid hike take a look at hiking advice and tips for Africa.
Chimpanzee Tracking – Budongo Forest:
Budongo Forest is an excellent area for Chimpanzee Tracking, it is a Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Research Station and you have a good opportunity here to track Chimpanzees.
During the off-season you can even do an all-day Chimpanzee Habituation here. Lodging and food is available at the reasonably priced Budongo Eco-Lodge
Budongo Forest a great place for chimpanzee tracking and chimpanzee habituation experience, birding and hiking and nature walks from a few hours to all day hikes on the trails of Budongo Forest.
Rhino Tracking – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary:
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is not a part of Murchison Falls Park but can be easily visited on the way to or from Murchison Falls National Park. Here you track Rhinos on foot with guides which is a most exhilarating experience.
What most people do not realize is that you can also do various nature walks and hikes seeing wildlife and birds. You can do a swamp boat ride here and it is one of the better areas to spot the Shoebill Stork and other water-birds.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is on a large estate that is similar in nature to Murchison Falls where eventually some of the Rhinos will be released to when the numbers of them reaches over 20.
You can stay overnight here at either the upmarket Amuka Lodge or the Ziwa Guest House.
Boomu -Ugandan Village Visit and Stay:
Boomu Village is a cultural experience and is near the Murchison Falls Park Area. Here you can visit an African Village either for a few hours and take a village walk or you can stay overnight in a traditional African Banda.
Go into the gardens to pick the things for lunch and dinner and work alongside African women, sit with a storyteller of old.
There are a variety of activities that you will learn here and Boomu is a great place for a family on safari with children – they simply love Authentic Africa.
Learn how dyes are made from plants and flower and see them used as the loom is used to make a cloth fabric, learn how to make traditional crafts such as baskets and more.
|Languages spoken||English, Luganda, Acholi|
|Currency used||Uganda Shillings (UGX)|