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Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park, Situated in the North-western side of Uganda is the vast Murchison Falls National Park, the country’s most popular and prime National Park. Extending for over 3894 square kilometers, this National Park is Uganda’s largest National Park covering several districts that include Masindi, Kiryandongo, Nwoya and Buliisa.

Just like other National Parks in Uganda, Murchison Falls National Park is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority and together with the adjoining Karuma Wildlife Reserve as well as Bugungu Wildlife Reserve form the massive Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA). It being the oldest Park, Murchison Falls National Park was gazetted in 1952 and is famous for the Murchison falls (from which it was named), where the massive waters of the Nile River forcefully pass through a narrow gorge of 7 meters before falling into a wide plunge pool the “Devils Cauldron” thereby creating a jaw dropping rainbow that you will visibly see during your visit.

Murchison Falls National Park is bisected by the Victoria Nile from East to West for a distance of approximately 115 kilometers and lies within the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley rewarding it with magnificent views of the vast savannah Plains as well as the Victoria Nile that pours into Lake Albert.

Attractions to see

Wildlife

Murchison Falls National Park is a home to more than 76 species of mammals with the common ones being four of the big five animals-lions, leopards, buffaloes and elephants, Reedbucks, Rothschild giraffes, warthogs, Oribis, Topis, Uganda Kobs and many others. Reptiles such as the large Nile crocodiles, Monitor lizards, pythons and other snakes are commonly spotted in the park.

Birds

Also shelter to over 450 species of birds occupying the savannah, forest and water habitats. Some of the easily sighted species of birds in this Park are the shoebill storks, secretary birds, African darters, yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, great blue Turaco, Senegal thick-knee, long-tiled plovers, weaver birds, Pied kingfishers, Dwarf Kingfisher, Black-headed lapwings, giant herons, Shoebill storks, Abyssinian ground hornbills, Osprey, swamp flycatcher, white-thighed hornbills, Denham’s bustard, African jacana, Martial eagles, Saddle-billed storks, malachite kingfishers, yellow-billed storks, grey-crowned cranes, silverbirds, and Goliath herons among others.

Other beautiful attractions worth exploring in and around Murchison Falls National Park are the Paraa, the breathtaking Karuma falls, Budongo Forest and the Murchison falls among others.

Activities to do within 

Game drives

Most of the National Park’s wildlife species can be explored through game drives with tracks passing through the vast savannah grasslands where predators can be spotted hunting for prey. Game drives within the southern banks with the Honeymoon track offer few wildlife especially the Rothschild giraffes that where recently translocated while within the northern banks especially around Buligi Peninsula offer a large concentration of wildlife especially duikers, lions, Rothschild giraffes, herds of elephants, leopards, Jackson’s Hartebeests, buffaloes, Reedbucks, Uganda Kobs, bushbucks, warthogs, Defassa waterbucks, Topis and Oribis among others.

Sport fishing

Sport fishing is another activity offered in Murchison falls National Park and is done at the Devil’s Cauldron, base of the falls and Banks of the Nile River where large species such as Catfish and Nile Perch are caught as well as smaller species such as tiger fish are caught. All you need for this trip are fishing equipment and your fishing permit among other important things.

Launch cruises

During the launch cruise along the Victoria Nile in Murchison falls National Park, you will be led to the base of the magnificent falls where the Nile is seen squeezing through a narrow gorge before finally falling into the Devil’s Cauldron.

Hike to the top of the falls

Also, a safari to Murchison Falls National Park offers opportunities of seeing the magnificent falls from up as the Nile squeezes through the narrow gorge. This activity usually goes hand in hand with the launch cruise whereby the boat first lands at the base of the waterfalls and is followed by a 45-minute hike to the top of the falls where breathtaking views of the rolling hills, birds and vegetation can be enjoyed.

Birding

Birding in Murchison Falls National Park introduces tourists to the forest, savannah, aquatic and wetland bird species that call this Park home. The woodlands and thickets at the River banks shelter the woodpeckers, Malachite kingfishers, red-throated bee-eaters and hornbills among others. Other species in this Park are the grey-crowned cranes, secretary birds, shoebill storks, Great and little egrets, widow birds, Egyptian ducks, Goliath Herons, Abbyssian ground hornbills, open-billed storks and black-bellied bustards among others.

Hot air balloon safaris

Hot air balloon safaris in Uganda are conducted in only two places- Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park organized by Dream Balloons. This experience is ideal for adrenaline junkies with views of the vast savannah plains, forest Lake views, hidden wildlife species and many other interesting features of this Park. Sunrise hot air balloon trips involve bush breakfast and a ride while the sunrise trips come with bush meals and a ride on the sky.

Chimpanzee trekking

Budongo forest at the edge of Murchison falls National Park is where chimpanzee treks are conducted.

Cultural tours

Cultural tours in Murchison falls National Park are conducted within Boomu Women’s group where guided tours, cooking demonstration, gardening/local farming lessons, basket weaving, blacksmith workmanship and many activities are organized. Cultural visits also involve campfire performances by the Mubako cultural Campfire Group.

Accommodation facilities

There are numerous budget, midrange and luxury accommodation facilities scattered across the different areas of Murchison falls National Park. These include Murchison River Lodge, Paraa Safari Lodge, Boomu Women’s Group Bandas, Red Chilli Rest Camp, Bakers Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Fort Murchison safari Lodge, Parkside Safari Lodge, Yebo Safari camp, Heritage Safari Lodge, Budongo Ecolodge, Amuka Safari Lodge, Sambiya River Lodge and Murchison falls River Lodge among others.

Best time to visit 

Open all year round to tourists but tourists’ most preferred time is the dry season-months of January, February, June, July, August, September and December because during these months, most parts of the Park are dry with few water drinking points where most animals converge. This time is therefore the best for game viewing.

The wet season-months of March, April, May, October and November is perfect for bird watching because there are numerous migratory bird species during these months.

How to get to there

Situated in western Uganda, 305 kilometers/5 hours’ drive from Kampala and can be reached through air and road transport. With air transport, flights are organized from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to three of the Park’s airstrips-Bugungu, Pakuba and Chobe. The airstrip chosen depends on the area you are planning to visit.

For road transport, the drive from Kampala-Luwero-Nakasongola-Masindi-southern entrance gates of Murchison Falls National Park. One of the gates is Kichumbayobo through Kaniyo-Pabidi forest while the second gate is through Bugungu gate through Budongo forest.

The northern route involves driving from Kampala-Luweero-Nakasongola-Karuma-Pakwach road at the Karuma falls Bridge to Murchison Falls National Park through Wankwar, Chobe, Tangi and Mubako gates north of the Nile River.

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