SAFARI GUIDE ON MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK IN UGANDA
Murchison Falls Park Introduction - Location, Wildlife & HistoryAs the mighty Nile travels through Africa, it takes on many personas and names while nourishing the landscape with life-giving water that sustains flora, wildlife, and humans that live around it. Perhaps one of the most spectacular faces of the Nile in East Africa is the one it presents at Murchison Falls National Park (where to stay).
At the northern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the Bunyoro slopes dip into massive savannahs, the Victoria Nile tumbles down through 80 kilometers (50 miles) of rapids and pours through a narrow 7-meter (23 feet) gap into the Devil’s Cauldron. The mist rising from the falls creates a breathtakingly beautiful rainbow floating in the sunshine. Even more striking than the view from below is the thundering viewpoint from the top of the falls, which can be done as part of your hiking trip in Uganda.
Murchison Falls National Park is part of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA), which encompasses various other woodlands and forests, such as the Budongo Forest Reserve, Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserve and Bugungu Wildlife Reserve. The wholesome wilderness of Murchison Falls received gazetted status in 1926 as a game reserve and in 1952 as a national park, and is not only the country’s first conservation area, but also covers the largest area at 3840 square kilometers (1483 square miles) as a park.
During your safari vacation in Uganda, you will learn about how indiscriminate poaching during the era of dictator Idi Amin decimated much of the wildlife. But the recovering numbers of recent times present a fine example of nature’s renewed resilience when offered some protection from human destruction. Today, it’s possible to see some 76 species of mammals and 451 varieties of birdlife in the region, along with a stunning array of plant and tree life, including acacia trees, Borassus palms, and riverside forests.
- The first conservation area of Uganda having received the gazetted game reserve status in 1926 and park status in 1952
- Covering a national park area of 3840 square kilometers (1483 square miles) showcasing 76 species of mammals, 451 types of birds, and a striking diversity of flora and landscapes
- Victoria Nile River running over 80 kilometers of rapids before thundering through the Murchison Falls at Devil’s Cauldron
- Running through the northern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley across the Bunyoro Escarpment
- The park is part of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) which includes Budongo Forest, Karuma Falls and Bugungu Wildlife Reserves
Travel Guide Content - Start Here
|1. What Are The Wildlife Experiences In Murchison Falls National Park?|
|What Are The Areas Of Interest In Murchison Falls National Park|
|2. Murchison Falls & Uhuru Falls - Uganda’s Mightiest|
|3. Safari Game Drives Along The Buligi Game Tracks|
|4. The Legendary Nile River|
|5. The Lake Albert Delta For Birdwatching Shoebill|
|6. Chimps - Primates & Biodiversity In The Kaniyo Pabidi Area Of Budongo Forest|
|7. Tourism Hub at Paraa|
|8. Rabongo Forest - Flora & Avian Experiences|
|9. Karuma Falls|
1. What Are The Wildlife Experiences In Murchison Falls National Park?
- Sightings of animals that come to the river banks to drink including the aquatic wildlife of the Nile
- Predators like lions, leopards, and hyenas also thrive here with opportunities for predator-prey interactions
- The forest of Budongo hosts around 600 to 800 chimpanzees with the prime trek areas being Kaniyo Pabidi. Various other primates can be seen in the park including the rare patas monkey
- A rich diversity of bird life, both semi-aquatic and terrestrial
- Sightings of the grey-crowned crane which is the national bird of Uganda
Animals Of Murchison Falls Park - Big Cats - Predators, Grazers - Herbivores & PrimatesIf you tour the river by a boat cruise, you’ll have an opportunity to view pods of hippos half-submerged in the water and crocodiles basking in the warm sunshine. You can also spot other animals visiting the Victoria Nile River to drink, including elephants, buffalos, Rothschild’s giraffes, warthogs, Defassa waterbucks, Uganda kobs, oribis, Jackson’s hartebeests, grey duiker, and bushbucks. Keep your eyes peeled during Murchison Falls Park safari activities to spot some of the carnivores that inhabit this unique wilderness, such as lions, leopards, hyenas, and their prey, along with the rare patas monkey, which thrives in the savannah grasslands.
Currently, there are no zebras, wildebeests, rhinos, wild dogs and cheetahs present in Murchison Falls Park, and we recommend you extend out to Kidepo National Park in northern Uganda as it has plenty of zebras, and the occasional cheetahs and rare wild dogs for maximum wildlife viewing; We also recommend you visit Kenya and Tanzania on safari to view these missing wildlife as there are plenty of parks that have them, and in abundance. Should you take a trip to the Kaniyo Pabidi area of the Budongo Forest, you’ll be able to see the resident chimpanzees, which number around 600 to 800. Other beautiful primates living in the park include olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys.
Beautiful Birds Of Murchison Falls ParkBirdwatchers on safari in Africa will be delighted by the incredible variety of feathered wonders that live in Uganda’s premier national park - Murchison Falls. Look for the African quail finch, speckle-fronted weaver, white-browed sparrow weaver, red-throated bee-eater, giant and malachite kingfishers, black-headed gonoleks, silver birds, blue-headed coucals, squacco herons, African jacanas, swamp flycatchers, Abyssinian ground hornbills, sandpipers, black-billed barbets, eastern grey plantain-eaters, weaver birds, Denham’s bustards, and rare shoebill storks. You might also spot grey-crowned cranes, which are famous as the national bird of Uganda.
After your birdwatching tour, add a visit to the local communities to your holiday itinerary and look forward to a fascinating introduction into traditional cultural lives of the Ugandan people.
What Are The Areas Of Interest In Murchison Falls National Park?
2. Murchison Falls & Uhuru Falls - Uganda’s Mightiest
- Opportunity to see two of the most spectacular falls in this region, Murchison and Uhuru
- Transition point where the Nile transforms from a raging torrent into calmly flowing Albert Nile
- Reveling in the views of the fabulous mist that spreads over a 50-meter radius (164 feet)
3. Safari Game Drives Along The Buligi Game Tracks
- Meeting point of the Victoria Nile and Lake Albert abounding with lush forests, savannah grasslands, and other vegetation
- Buligi game drive tracks for sighting a diversity of wildlife
- Game drives covering a distance of 120 to 170 kilometers
4. The Legendary Nile River
- Boat tours to various species of wildlife that come to drink on the shores
- Nature walks on the north and south banks
- Fishing for the famous Nile perch and river rafting activities in Jinja
5. The Lake Albert Delta For Birdwatching Shoebill
- Scenic delta in the west of the park where the Nile River merges with Lake Albert
- Area abounding with papyrus reeds and other flora
- A magnet for aquatic avian life that thrives on the fish in the shallow swamps - best place to spot the prized shoebill catching the African lungfish
6. Chimps - Primates & Biodiversity In The Kaniyo Pabidi Area Of Budongo Forest
- Located on the southwest of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area
- Activities include chimpanzee and primate trekking safaris and birdwatching excursions
- Sightings of various other primates and smaller mammals, both herbivores and predators
- Nature walks to spot some of the 360 bird species, 289 butterfly varieties, 24 kinds of mammals, and 465 plant types
Birdwatchers can try to spot some rare and endemic species, such as the Puvel's illadopsis, white-thighed hornbill, and chocolate-backed kingfisher. Guests in Uganda can go on primate trekking safari trips using the budget Budongo Eco Lodge as a base.
Budongo Forest also has about 360 bird species, along with 289 butterfly species, 24 types of mammals, and 465 plant varieties. Should you hike along the “Royal Mile,” you’ll enjoy an opportunity to view the numerous species of flora that thrive here. On request, your consultant at AfricanMecca Safaris can organize a nature trek for you at the Busingiro Ecotourism Site, which lies on the Masindi-Bugungu trail leading to Murchison Falls Park (view recommended trip).
7. Tourism Hub at Paraa
- Taking its name from the term for “home of the hippo” in the Luo language
- A base for most tourism activities in the region such as launch rides, nature walks, and game drives
- Ferry connecting the north and south banks that hosts lodges and camps of Murchison Falls
8. Rabongo Forest - Flora & Avian Experiences
- Covering an area of four square kilometers and surrounded by rolling grasslands in the fringes
- Supplemental destination boasting of several spectacular bird species, also abounds with a diversity of plant varieties
- Camping and picnics beside the Wairingo River
9. Karuma Falls
- Located at Chobe on the eastern region of the park
- Waters rippling over a series of rocks taking on a white sudsy appearance
- An ideal spot for sport fishing to catch the famous Nile perch - permit required
What Safari Attractions & Tour Activities To Experience During Your Murchison Falls Visit?
- Boat safaris on the Victoria Nile River winding through the park - the main highlight and supports a rich diversity of terrestrial and avian life
- The spectacular sight of the Murchison Falls from a height of 40 meters gushing through a 7-meter wide cleft and plunging into Devil’s Cauldron. Hiking to the top of the falls to watch the waters cascading into the cleft
- Game drive safaris to sight the four of the Big Five of Africa - the lion, leopard, elephant, and Cape buffalo. Diverse land terrain supporting a stunning diversity of herbivores and predators interactions
- Walking safaris along the river bank to spot hippos and crocodiles. Nature walks to spot some of the 451 bird species and different medicinal plants and other trees
- Chimpanzee trekking safaris in the Kaniyo Pabidi Site of Budongo Forest
- Excursions to the Lake Albert Delta for birdwatching safaris - perfect place to spot a shoebill in the low swampy areas of the delta
- Sport fishing for the Nile perch, and cultural interactions with the local communities
The diverse terrain of Murchison Falls National Park supports about 76 species of mammals, including four of the Big Five of Africa - with the exception of wild rhinos. As you explore the reserve on game drive trips, you can spot predators such as lions, leopards, and hyenas, along with grazers and ungulates such as the buffalo, oribi, waterbuck, Jackson’s hartebeest, warthog, elephant, and various others. Enjoy a nature walk along the riverbank and you might see pods of hippos half-submerged in the shallows and camouflage crocodiles lounging about, on the lookout for an easy prey meal.
The prime attraction of Murchison Falls National Park (best time to visit) is undoubtedly the Nile - Africa’s longest river. After tumbling over 80 kilometers (50 miles) of rapids, the river tears through Murchison Falls, a narrow cleft just 7 meters (23 feet) wide, before pouring into the Devil’s Cauldron. The force of the river is such that it sprays mist across a radius of 50 meters (164 feet). As you travel to the foot of the falls on your boat trip, you’ll be able to view the fabulous rainbow created by the mist, glistening in the bright sunshine. For a whole new facet of the falls, optionally hike to the top of the falls and watch as the waters begin their 40 meter (130 feet) cascade into the gorge.
After leaving the falls, the river transforms into a placid stream that goes west to join Lake Albert and east towards Chobe’s Karuma Falls. One of the excursions possible in Murchison Falls Park is a boat safari to the Lake Albert Delta created by the river here - perfect birding site to view the rare shoebill. As part of your safari holiday itinerary, you can also choose to go on a catch and release fishing excursion for the famous Nile perch or take a hot air balloon safari ride, where you will waft over the landscape for a bird’s-eye view of its natural beauty. Having interacted with the natural wonders of the park, complete your safari holiday in Uganda with a cultural tour visit to one of the local communities e.g. Banyoro tribe to develop an understanding of how traditional lifestyles have been deeply integrated with nature and her bounty.
Our Top 8 Safari Activities In Murchison Falls - Things You Can Do & See
Activities Content - Start Here
1. Game Drives To View The Diverse Wildlife Of Murchison Falls
- Opportunity to explore both the northern and southern banks of the river on game drives - perfect for spotting the Big 4 of Africa
- Savannah grasslands of the Buligi tracks extending to the delta where the Nile River meets Lake Albert in the west
- Option of extending your game drive east towards the Chobe area of the park
The southern bank has the distinct “Honey Moon Track”, which offers viewings of the introduced herd of giraffes (brought in from the northern bank) and several other fauna. There is also opportunity for game drive towards the eastern Chobe section - 2 hours away; though, the habitat is more dense and wildlife are skittish due to the alternate Karuma tarmac road running through the northeastern section of the park with more human activities and settlements.
2. Boat Safaris To View The Murchison Falls
- Launch rides to the foot of the Murchison Falls in the Fajao Gorge
- Each cruise lasting for around 3 hours offering sightings of diverse wildlife coming to drink on the banks
- Sundowner cruises to view the spell-binding sunset to the accompaniment of wine and cheese
While the longer cruises take you to the foot of the Murchison Falls, you can also opt for shorter river cruises. These trips allow you to enjoy the striking orange-gold of the setting sun spreading on the crystal clear waters of the Nile, a truly memorable experience that’s enhanced by sundowner drinks of wine with cheese.
3. Birdwatching Safaris On The Victoria Nile & Lake Albert Delta
- Diverse avian life thriving in the reserve including rare and common species
- Game drives, forest nature walks, and boat ride excursions for spotting some of the birds
- Wetland created where the western side of the river merges into Lake Albert - ideal spot to see the including the elusive shoebill stork
Below is a list of some of the birds of Murchison Falls National Park
4. Chimpanzee Trekking Safaris In Budongo Forest
- A perfect destination for viewing chimpanzees habituated to the presence of humans
- Opportunity to spend 60 minutes in their presence observing their activities
- Treks permitted only for visitors aged 12 years and above, birdwatching excursions for younger vacationers
If you enjoy nature walks, forest trekking safaris, primates and birdlife, opt to explore other wilderness areas like the forests of Rabongo, where you can also view primates, mammals, birds, and an incredible array of plant life.
5. Cultural & Community Tours Near Murchison Falls Park
- Visiting the Mubako Village that comprises of a collection of huts constructed with traditional materials
- Participating in their traditional activities and learning their crafts. Taking part in the evening music and dance festivities, examing and learning to play instruments
- Sustainable tourism shopping at the handicraft store run by the Boomu Women’s Group in support of the community
The village has a small handicraft store organized by the Boomu Women’s Group, where you can buy beautiful wooden items and woven artifacts made by hand. As your guide will advise you, the hot-dry climate around Murchison Falls National Park offers few means of livelihood, and the purchases you make as vacation souvenirs helps as part of sustainable tourism for the tribal community.
6. Hiking To The Top Of Murchison Falls
- Hiking tours to the top of the falls to revel in the river’s beauty from different vantage points
- Following the trail that follows the cascades through the cleft spanning an area of 7 meters
- Exploring the smaller Uhuru Falls
7. Fishing In The Nile River
- Fishing to catch the legendary Nile perch known for its beauty and spirit along with catfish and other species
- Fishing allowed in designated areas on a catch-and-release basis; permits, equipment, and assistance provided by the tour consultant at AfricanMecca
- Largest fish caught known to have weighed 108 kg (238 lbs)
8. Hot Air Balloon Safari In Murchison Falls Park
- Excursions organized on the northern banks of the Nile River at sunrise or sunset
- Opportunity to marvel at the falls from altitudes of 1,000 feet above sea level
- Sunrise balloon tours offers guests a bush breakfast upon landing
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WHERE & BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MURCHISON FALLS
Murchison Falls has varied accommodations, from the luxuries of Nile Safari Lodge and Baker's Lodge. The value lodge options are Murchison River, Paraa and Chobe Safari Lodges.
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MURCHISON FALLS SAFARI ACTIVITIES & TOUR ATTRACTIONS
Experience safari game drives in the Buligi game tracks area, boat safaris on the Victoria Nile to see the Murchison Falls and Lake Albert Delta, wild chimpanzee trekking safari in Budongo Forest and more.
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BEST TIME TO VISIT MURCHISON FALLS
Like most locations in Africa, Murchison Falls National Park has two wet rainy seasons and two dry seasons. December to March, June & July is the best times to visit Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.
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EAST AFRICA SAFARI BOOKING TRIP IDEA FOR MURCHISON FALLS IN UGANDA
When visiting Murchison Falls for your wildlife safari, we recommend combining it with Bwindi Park for your gorilla safari trek, Queen Elizabeth, and Kibale (chimpanzee safari) alongside your city tour visits of Kampala and Entebbe.
You may optionally extend out to other wilderness areas such as Mgahinga to track down golden monkeys and gorillas in the same park, Jinja for whitewater rafting on the Nile River, and Semliki, Lake Mburo or Kidepo for an offbeat wildlife tour.
You can end your vacation on the beach at Lake Victoria or even extending out to the exotic spice island of Zanzibar or Lamu, or even Mombasa.
Best Safari Planning Ideas & Trip Experiences For UgandaBelow are guide references on how to plan each of the below safari experience in Uganda. Alternatively, go to the summary section for a quick overview of each trip planning experience.READ MORE
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