Murchison Falls National Park Uganda - Travel Guide, Packages & Cost
Often we associate Uganda with dense jungles, majestic mountain gorillas, and cheeky monkeys swinging from tree to tree. The country also boasts wildlife reserves and savannah grasslands stretching as far as the eye can see. A pristine wilderness where lions climb trees, gazelles hide in long grass, and naughty hyenas steal the spoils of a hunt.
Murchison Falls National Park Uganda is the perfect setting for the classic wildlife safari that we’ve come to love in the Masai Mara or Serengeti National Park. And perhaps a little more.
In this unspoiled wilderness in Northern Uganda, you’ll enjoy thrilling wildlife encounters and come face to face with the world’s most powerful waterfalls—the Murchison Falls. It’s a haven for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and wildlife enthusiasts. Are you ready to embark on this thrilling journey?
Plan Your Wildlife Safari to Murchison Falls National Park Uganda With Us
To arrange your trip to the Murchison Falls National Park, we invite you to contact us via phone or WhatsApp at +254-704-532-105. You can also connect with us via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Senior Consultant, James Gatheru, is on hand to help you personalise your trip and activities to maximise your experiences.
Safari to Murchison Falls National Park - Photos by Our Clients
Discovering Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
Although the Murchison Falls National Park was first set up as a game reserve in 1926, it was later declared a national park in 1952. Covering 3,840 square kilometres, the Murchison Falls conservation area has earned its position as the largest park in Uganda. At this national park, lush green grasslands, patches of Borassus palm, acacia, riverine woodland, and the majestic river Nile come together to create a breathtaking paradise.
Back in the 60s, Murchison Falls National Park (also known as Kabalega National Park) had way too many animals. An estimated 15,000 iconic silhouettes of elephants freckled the landscape, the River Nile was guarded by 14,000 hippos, and over 26,000 buffalos stampeded its savannahs.
The government tried culling elephants and hippos to control their population but wasn’t very successful. Ironically, it was decades of civil war and poaching that actually did the job. Elephant numbers, for example, dropped from 15,000 to a mere 500 while rhinos disappeared entirely.
With peace now prevailing in Uganda and an increased understanding of tourism’s value to the nation, wildlife reserves are better protected and animals are thriving. The park hosts four of the “Big Five”—lions, leopards, buffalos, and elephants alongside Rothschild Giraffes, Kobs, Hartebeests, Waterbucks, Bushbucks, and warthogs.
Rhinos are conspicuously missing from Murchison Falls National Park as the last one was hunted down and killed in 1983 by poachers. The govt is considering re-introducing rhinos to the park from Ziwa rhino sanctuary.
Murchison Falls: Uganda’s Spectacular Waterfall
Nestled in the heart of Murchison Falls National Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty. The wide and fast-flowing Nile makes its way west into Lake Albert. In the process, it’s forced to squeeze through a narrow gorge creating a highly charged white-water waterfall that drops 45 meters into the devil’s cauldron below.
While a 45-meter drop may not be that tall, this mighty cascade drains the equivalent of 200 bathtubs every second. The pressure from the river’s energy is powerful it shoots water sprays into the air and makes the ground around it tremble. The water then flows quietly toward Lake Albert.
Views of thunderous white water gushing down clefts of dramatic rocks and creating rainbows are spectacular, making Murchison Falls the park’s crown jewel.
Murchison Falls has long been a favourite among prominent figures. Winston Churchill, who described the park as an ‘exciting kew garden and zoo of unlimited scale,’ was one of its notable visitors. Theodore Roosevelt, a passionate conservationist, also visited the park during his African safari in 1909, drawn by its stunning natural beauty and abundant wildlife.
The park has also seen some thrilling adventures. Ernest Hemingway, along with his wife, had a memorable experience when their plane crashed in the park. Luckily, they were rescued by a tourist and taken to safety. Several British royals like Edward the 7th and the Queen’s mother have been captivated by the allure of Murchison Falls National Park.
The Murchison Falls National Park was one of the locations used to film the 1951 classic, ” The African Queen” starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.
Wildlife Encounters and Safari Adventures
In addition to the dramatic Murchison Falls, the Murchison Falls National Park is a wildlife lover’s paradise. It offers a variety of wildlife encounters and safari adventures including game viewing, bird watching and chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest, boat cruises and hot air balloon rides.
Let’s look at some of the activities you can enjoy at Murchison Falls National Park.
Game Viewing Safaris
Murchison Falls National Park is home to almost all of Africa’s major mammals, big cats, scavengers, primates, and crocodiles. Game drives, boat cruises, nature walks, and hot air balloon rides are fantastic ways to explore the park and enjoy its offerings.
Game drives are mostly done in the northern sector of Murchison Falls National Park where large concentrations of wildlife live along the plains. Game drives start early in the morning to ensure visitors can catch sight of big cats coming from a night’s hunt but you can also enjoy late afternoon drives as well.
With beautiful scenery, expansive landscapes, and riverine woodlands Murchison Falls National Park is perfect for foot exploration. There are several trails to follow on guided nature walks including:
- Hiking to the top of Murchison Falls. This trip begins with a boat cruise to the base of the fall followed by a guided hike to the top.
- Walking in Kaniyo Padidi. You can enjoy chimpanzee trekking experiences in this natural forest and see the gigantic mahogany and ironwood trees and other natural medicinal plants.
- Rabongo forest. This forest within the savannah grasslands is perfect for walks, hikes, primate trekking safaris, bird watching, and learning about medical plants.
At Murchison Falls National Park you can also enjoy swamp walks along the Nile Delta. It’s an experience that opens you up to various ecosystems and several bird species including the rare shoebill stork.
Recently the Uganda Wildlife Authority allowed hot air balloon safari in Murchison Falls National Park and they are spectacular. Taking to the skies rewards you with scenic views of the park and the Victoria Nile. Who knows you just might see spot some off-road animals tucked away from sight. Experiencing the exhilarating feeling of fresh air blowing in your face will create lasting memories.
If you would rather view the park on a boat safari in the Nile River, you’ll be in for many delights. You’ll sail through hippo schools floating on the water, elephant herds taking a shower, see crocs lurking in the water and watch beautiful aquatic birds. All of this, amid lush scenery in a pristine wilderness.
There are several boat cruises you can sign up for including
- Sunrise/Early morning cruises
- Sunset and sundowner cruises
- Waterfall cruises
- Victoria Nile Delta cruise
Bird Watching Bonanza
Murchison Falls National Park Uganda hosts over 450 bird species including the Albertine rift endemic birds, savannah birds, and aquatic birds. Bird watchers will have an exciting time spotting a wide range of birds including the
- Yellow-footed fly catcher
- Rare shoebill stork
- Grey-crowned crested crane
- Red-winged Grey Warbler
- Black-headed Lapwing
- Long-tailed Nightjar
- Blue-headed Coucal
The best places in Murchison Falls National Park for bird watching include the Budongo forest, Lake Albert delta, Kaniyo Pabidi forest, and river Nile
Chimpanzee Trekking in Budongo Forest
As part of the larger Murchison conservation area, the Budongo forest is the largest Mahogany forest in all of East Africa and the perfect habitat for several primates. Here you’re likely to see grey-cheeked mangabeys, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, and olive baboons.
Chimp trekking in the Budongo forest can be done at sunrise or in the afternoon. It starts with a briefing from ranger guides who will lead the search. It takes around three to four hours to find these primates and visitors are allowed to spend an hour with them.
Before you can go on the trek you’ll need to obtain a permit that goes for $130 (at the time of writing this). You’ll also need comfortable hiking shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirts, a lightweight rain jacket or poncho, a hat and sunglasses, and insect repellent. A pair of binoculars, a camera, snacks, and water will also come in handy.
Murchison Falls National Park has two major fishing sites—one near Paraa and the other below the Karuma Falls. Guests can catch large fish species such as the Nile Perch by casting lures or using live bait (worms or termites) for smaller fish.
Sport fishing is done mainly at the Devil’s Cauldron at the bottom of Murchison Falls and along the River Nile’s banks. If you’re Murchison Falls safari isn’t complete without a dose of sports fishing, talk to your tour operator about it- they can arrange it for you.
Attractions Close to Murchison Falls National Park
Along Murchison Falls National Park’s eastern boundary is the gorgeous Karuma Falls. Here, Victoria Nile runs down huge rock formations creating a stunning white form as its waters hits these rocks. A fine opportunity for snapping photos.
Another attraction close to the Murchison Falls National Park is the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Established in 2005, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the one place you can see white rhinos following their poached-to-extinction tragedy at the Murchison Falls National Park.
At Ziwa you can track rhinos in the company of well-trained rangers which can be pretty exciting to do. Besides white rhinos, Ziwa also hosts various mammal species like antelopes, monkeys, hippos, reptiles and bird species.
Where to Stay: Lodges and Camps Inside the Park
Murchison Falls National Park offers a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences, from luxurious lodges to budget lodges. Here are some options worth checking out
Luxury accommodations at Murchison Falls National Park include Paraa Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge, and Baker’s Lodge.
Mid-range options include Sambiya River Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Twiga Safari Lodge, Budongo Ecolodge, and Murchison River Lodge.
Budget accommodation facilities include Red Chilli Rest Camp, Masindi Hotel, Mama Washindi Lodge, Shoebill Campsite, and Karuma Falls Campsite.
Journeying into the Heart of Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
Reaching Murchison Falls National Park is an adventure in itself. You can access the national park via road or plane. From Kampala, it will take you just under six hours to drive to the Murchison Falls National Park headquarters at Paraa.
If you’re coming into the country through Entebbe International Airport, you can access the park via scheduled flights to Murchison Falls National Park. You will land at Chobe airstrip, Pakuba airstrip, or Bugundu airstrip. Flights to and from the park take place daily and only take up an hour of your time.
If you’re already in Uganda, you can fly into Murchison Falls National Park by chartering an aircraft or through scheduled flights from Kajjansi Airfield (close to Kampala). You will land at Chobe, Pakuba or Bugundu airstrips.
Park Entrance Essentials
Upon reaching the park, international visitors are required to pay an entrance fee of $40 payable in USD, UGX (Ugandan Shillings), or East African community currency.
As an extra tip, we recommend working with reputable tour operators. Take your time to research an operator. Compare quotes from several tour operators and understand their operations before taking them on. Tour operators should arrange your accommodation, transportation, meals, and the activities you want to participate in before you arrive for your tour of Murchison Falls National Park.
Planning Your Visit: Seasonal Tips and Practical Advice
Some forethought is required when planning your visit to Murchison Falls National Park. While Murchison Falls National Park welcomes visitors all year round, there are optimal times to tour the park. The low season comes with its set of advantages and challenges. Here are some considerations
Dry Season Delights
The dry season, typically from December to February and from June to September, provides optimal wildlife viewing opportunities. The park becomes dry and hot, with little to no rainfall making it easier to view the park’s permanent residents. Similarly, nature walks and hikes are best done in the dry season since trails are generally dry and easier to traverse.
Chimp trekking is something of a mixed bag. Since you will be venturing into tropical rainforests, the dry season makes the trails passable but with thin vegetation, the chimps go deeper into the forest in search of food. The wet season brings abundant food sources meaning the primates don’t need to go into the deep forest and you can find them quicker. Except the trails are muddy and everything is slippery.
Navigating the Wet Seasons
From March to May and late September to November, the park experiences the wet season. During this season, much rainfall is received, making it a challenge to spot wildlife as they tend to flee deeper into the park. Some parts of the park may also be unreachable due to flooding.
Despite these challenges, the wet season can still offer unique experiences. We recommend using a sturdy 4X4 tour car to navigate the tracks during this time. Further, you may enjoy low rates in the wet season.
Essential Packing List
Embarking on a safari in Murchison Falls National Park promises an adventure of a lifetime. Coming prepared will keep you comfortable and ensure you make the most of your trip. Here are some essential items to pack:
- Lightweight clothes (preferably neutral-coloured quick-drying shirts)
- Waterproof gear (a waterproof daypack if you’re going chimp trekking)
- Comfortable lightweight hiking boots and socks
- Insect repellent to keep mosquitoes and tsetse flies away
- Safari sunhat
- A camera for capturing memorable moments
Connecting with Nature: Conservation Efforts in the Park
Murchison Falls National Park serves as a paradise for tourists and a haven for wildlife. Several conservation efforts have been put in place by the park, including active attempts to eliminate poaching. Organizations such as the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF), Global Conservation, and Nature Uganda have actively raised awareness about the need to preserve the wildlife reserve.
Challenges to these conservation efforts include the presence of oil reserves and oil drilling activities, the widening of roads, and increasing poaching and logging. Despite these challenges, ramped-up patrolling, community engagement, and stricter law enforcement at Murchison Falls National Park have resulted in a positive impact. A remarkable doubling of wildlife numbers in the park is evident.
From the breathtaking cascade of Murchison Falls to the diverse wildlife encounters and unique experiences, Murchison Falls National Park is indeed a treasure trove of natural beauty. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or a wildlife enthusiast, the park has something for everyone. So pack your bags, plan your journey, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure into Murchison Falls National Park – the heart of Uganda’s pristine wilderness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Next, we will cover the most frequently asked questions abouts Murchison Falls.
Why Is Murchison Falls Famous?
Murchison Falls is renowned for its immense power; every second, 200 bathtubs of water are forced through a gorge that’s only seven paces wide. It’s so powerful that the ground trembles around it!
How Many Elephants Are in Murchison Falls National Park?
In 2019, the Murchison Falls conservation area (park and surrounding wildlife reserves) recorded an elephant population of 2726 animals. Thanks to active anti-poaching efforts, the elephant herds are steadily increasing. Spotting elephants in Murchison Falls National Park is optimal in the savannah grasslands near the northern banks of the Nile.
What Is Special About Murchison Falls National Park?
Murchison Falls National Park is home to the world’s most powerful waterfall – every second, the equivalent of 200 bathtubs full of water is forced through a gorge less than seven paces wide, creating a truly awe-inspiring sight and a ground-trembling experience!
What Is the Best Time To Visit Murchison Falls National Park?
Experience Murchison Falls National Park in its fullest glory and witness breathtaking wildlife during the most ideal time to visit, from December to February!