Murchison Falls National Park safari | Travel guide

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Murchison Falls National Park in northwest Uganda is best known for hosting the most powerful waterfall in the world. Every second, the equivalent of 200 bathtubs full of water is forced through a gorge less than seven paces wide.

The pressure is so great that the ground trembles around it and the park occupies an area of 1,483 square miles (3,840 square km) of rolling grassland east of Lake Albert.

Part of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA), the park offers excellent wildlife viewing and the Victoria Nile bisecting the park offers spectacular boat trips to the Murchison Falls.

Why visit Murchison Falls National Park?

Murchison Falls National Park safari

Managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, this is Uganda’s most popular national park, receiving the highest annual number of visitors of any park in the country and it’s easy to see why as this is a one-stop shop for nature and wildlife lovers.

Activities include game drives, night safari drives, boat cruises to the delta and Murchison Falls waterfall, nature walks, bird watching and chimp tracking.

A safari at Murchison Falls NP you’ll get the chance to see over 70 African mammal species, everything from elephants and hippos to chimpanzees and crocodiles. You can also see White Rhinos at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary which was built close to the park.

Animals

The park supports four of the Big Five; only rhinos are absent. Buffalo and elephant are particularly common. There is a very healthy population of lions that like to prey on the abundant Uganda kob.

Other antelope found here are oribi, Jackson’s hartebeest, defassa waterbuck, grey duiker and bushbuck. The Victoria Nile teems with crocodiles and hippos and gorilla trekking is hugely popular also.

Large herds of the localized Rothschild’s giraffe are found in the park and leopard, though far from numerous, is most likely to be seen in the vicinity of Pakuba Lodge.

Troops of the rare patas monkey can sometimes be spotted on the grassy plains, and chimpanzees can be tracked in neighboring Budongo Forest.

Birds

Murchison Falls National Park is one of the best places in Africa to find the prehistoric-looking shoebill stork. Sightings of this bird are almost guaranteed on a boat trip on the Victoria Nile towards the Lake Albert delta.

This boat trip, as well as the more popular ‘launch’ trip towards Murchison Falls, are, in fact, great for checking off many water-associated birds. The park’s impressive checklist contains more than 450 species in total. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Trees

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 over 451 bird species. Murchison Falls NP is one of the best places in Africa to find the shoebill stork.

Other activities at Murchison Falls National Park

The following are some other Ugandan activities that visitors to  that visitors to Murchison Falls National Park can look forward to on their trip:

  • Cruises on the River Nile: The 2 hour UWA boat cruises or launch cruises at 30$ per person are a highlight. Expect to see the Nile Crocodiles mouths wide open sunning themselves along the banks, elephant herds coming to bathe and water.
  • Top of the Falls Hikes: An adventurous trek which is a 45 minute hike up along the falls and be refreshed by the mist, feel the ground shake and vibrate under your feet – one of the most amazing experiences.
  • 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. Enjoy incredible sightings of birds, wildlife, hippos, crocodiles and more.
  • Hot Air Balloon Safaris: This is the second park in Uganda where you can take a hot air balloon wildlife Safari, the first being Queen Elizabeth National Park, seeing the wildlife and scenery from a unique perspective.

How to get to Murchison Falls National Park?

By Plane

Entebbe International Airport (EBB) is how most most visitors enter Uganda and travellers should be aware of the latest Uganda visa requirements. Your local tour operator will usually arrange for you to be picked up at the airport and will take care of all further transportation as part of your safari package.

It is also possible to fly to the park by chartered or scheduled aircraft service from Entebbe International Airport (EBB) or Kajjansi Airfield near Kampala.

Pakuba Airfield is the most convenient point of arrival for the main cluster of camps and lodges around the park headquarters at Paraa. Other options are Chobe or Bugundu.

By Road

Murchison Falls National Park is located 305km/190mi north of Kampala. The drive to the southern entrance gate takes 4 to 5 hours.

Coming from the southwest, the 280km/170mi drive from Fort Portal takes at least 6 hours. Allow another hour or 2 from the entrance gate to most of the lodges.

Carrying a small amount of local currency, the Uganda currency (UGX) is advised for smaller purchases.

Tariffs & Regulations

Entrance fee

All Murchison Falls National Park fees are payable at the gate at time of entrance. Park fees are valid for 24 hours.

  • Foreign non-residents: USD $40 per day
  • Foreign residents: USD $30 per day
  • Children foreign non-residents USD $20
  • Children foreign non-residents USD $10

Regulations

If you keep to park rules, you can stay with the animals as long as they are not disturbed by your presence.

Accommodation at Murchison Falls National Park

Tourists at Murchison Falls National Park can choose from a number of different options when deciding where to sleep with accommodation ranging from luxury safari lodges to lower budget camping.

Lodges

The average cost of luxury accommodations such as Paraa Safari Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge or Nile Safari Lodge is $500

The average cost of mid-range accommodation such as Bwana Tembo Lodge, or Murchison River Lodge is USD $350.

Paraa Safari Lodge lodge is located in the north west of Uganda overlooking one of nature’s best kept secrets, the River Nile, on its journey from its source at Lake Victoria to join Lake Albert.

The lodge offers a unique blend of comfort, relaxation and adventure. Each of the rooms is a haven of style and serenity, complete with balcony and private bathroom.

Guests can also treat themselves to an incredible menu of local and international specialties produced by the in-house experienced chefs. The Captain’s Table restaurant is located on the upper floor in what was one of the lodge’s main halls before it was renovated.

Camping

The average cost of budget accommodation such as Fort Murchison, or Red Chilli Tented Camp is $ 200

Campervan

Guests on a self-drive safari with a campervan can make significant savings by sleeping in their vehicle.

Bars/restaurants/amenities

Lodges will typically have all meals and drinks included in the lodge package.

Useful information

Geography

On a Uganda safari tour, Murchison Falls National Park can be located some 305km/190mi north of Kampala. The drive to the southern entrance gate takes 4 to 5 hours.

Trips to the park can be combined with tours of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Kibale National Park.

Weather

The climate in Murchison Falls National Park is tropical and hot. Temperatures are quite uniform throughout the year. Daytime temperatures of around 31°C/88°F are common, with it cooling down at night to around 18°C/64°F.

The Wet season runs from March to November, with a drier period from June to July. There is little rain during the Dry season (December to February).

Best time to go

Understanding the best time to visit Uganda is important as this will impact accommodation, flight prices, availability and the weather that visitors can expect on their safari vacation.

Watching wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park is generally good and at its best during the Dry season, from December to February. However, January and February can be very hot and scenery is more beautiful during the Wet season from June to November.

Health

It is recommended to visit a travel clinic before coming to Uganda. Several Uganda vaccinations are recommended and usually administered before your departure.

Taking measures to avoid malaria risks in Murchison Falls NP is very important. You should take antimalarial medication as well as use mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective).

Long sleeves and trousers are good for covering up exposed skin in the evening. Ensuring you have the recommended vaccinations for Uganda is also essential.

Antimalarials are advised, as well as covering up in the evening and using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective).

It is recommended to visit a travel clinic before coming to Uganda. Several Uganda vaccinations are recommended and usually administered before your departure.

FAQs

Where is Murchison Falls National Park located?

Murchison Falls National Park is located 305km/190mi north of Kampala. The drive to the southern entrance gate takes 4 to 5 hours. Visitors can also charter flights from Entebbe International Airport (EBB) to the nearby Pakuba Airfield.

What animals will visitors see at Murchison Falls National Park?

Visitors to Murchison Falls National Park will see four of the Big Five; only rhino are absent. Buffalo and elephant are common and other animals include lions, Uganda kob, antelope, oribi, Jackson’s hartebeest, defassa waterbuck, grey duiker, crocodiles and hippos.