Uganda’s largest savanna woodland National park is located in North western corner adjacent to Lake Albert. It was gazette as a game reserve in 1926 and upgraded to a national park in 1952. At 3840 sq. km, the country’s first park hosts over 76 mammal and 451 bird species. At the Murchison falls, the Nile squeezes through an 8m gorge with a crashing roar into the “Devil’s cauldron” creating a permanent trademark rainbow.
The park which is also contiguous with Budongo forest mainly consists of Savanna vegetation, dotted acacia trees and riverine woodland along the Nile River as well as vast swampy areas. The different vegetation creates a favorable environment for terrestrial, aquatic and semi aquatic animal as a habitat.
Murchison falls National Park is home to four of the famous big five. These include the Elephant, Leopard, Lion, buffalo with the exception of the Rhino. These can however be seen on your way to the park at Zziwa Rhino sanctuary in Masindi, the parks closest town.
The park is split by the Victoria Nile, which plunges over the rift valley wall, creating the vivid Murchison Falls, the jewel of the crown. It flows for several kilometers with rapids in an 80km stretch. The mighty river is attracts variety of game with permanent residents as well as occasional visitors to its banks. These include crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, aquatic birds. It is also home to Uganda’s most sought after bird, the Shoebill. The park has notably been visited by Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt among many others. More recently, the park has been visited by lead American artist/rapper and His wife Kim Kardashian, and most recently Jidenna, also a trending RnB artist.
The park has since 2005 been considered a Lion conservation park, Important Bird area.
Activities done at the park include:
Game drives avail the opportunity to see most of the park’s animals. These can be done in the morning, evening and in the night. Game drives done at the night are special in a way they give you the opportunity to see nocturnal animals like lions, leopards during their most active hours.
Two launch trips are made at 2:00pm everyday each lasting 3 hours. One boat ride goes down stream to the bottom of the falls and the other goes up to the delta of the Victoria Nile to the shores of lake Albert. This is a very good opportunity for bird watching and amazing views of the river bank visitors.
A forest walk form the bottom of the falls to the top is inevitable as it gives you the opportunity to dwell and have a feel of the natural freshness.
Uganda boasts of being the country of 1070 bird songs and 70% of these are in Murchison falls, a known birding haven for all prominent bird watchers. The park’s most sought after birds include; the endangered shoe billed stork, dwarf kingfisher, Goliath Heron, White thighed hornbill. This is a true birding paradise.
Biking is a popular activity which like the rest of then activities can be pre-booked for heightened pleasure. Are you a lover of motorized bikes, then Murchison falls is the place to start.
Although it is not done within the park itself, rhino tracking can be done on your way to and from the park at Zziwa rhino sanctuary. There is an opportunity to see rhinos at a distance as close as 6 meters or during feeding times. The sanctuary was opened in 2005 to protect the Ugandan white rhinos from extinction as they were facing extreme poaching in Kidepo and Murchison falls. These are considered critically endangered by the IUCN.
Uganda is known as the primate capital of the world. A trip to Murchison is guaranteed to give your adequate dose of primate proximity. Chimpanzee tracking can be done in Murchison falls particularly in the southern part of the park in Budongo forest. Chimpanzee tracking permits can and should be pre-booked before the trip as only a number of tourists can go tracking per day.
The park can be accessed by road which is 4 hours from Kampala through Masindi town using Kichumbanyobo gate to the Southern sector of the park. Through the Northern sector using Chobe gate and Tangi gate in the Paraa region where it is necessary to cross the Nile using the ferry.
The park can also be accessed by air. Tickets are pre-booked at Entebbe airport/Kajjansi airstrip to Pakuba airfield which is close to the park or Chobe airstrip which is 1 hour away from the park entrance.
There accommodation options in Murchison falls vary form camps, hotels, lodges. The rates range from Luxury, midrange to budget as seen below.
Luxury: Chobe Safari lodge
Paraa safari lodge
Murchison River Lodge
Midrange: Fort Murchison lodge
Pakuba safari lodge
Budget: Red chilli camp