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Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls national park is Uganda’s largest protected with an area size of 3,840km2 and also lies at the core of the greater Murchison falls conservation area which also covers the Bugungu, Karuma wildlife reserves and the Budongo forest. The park was gazetted in 1952 and previously forming part of the bunyoro game reserve which was proclaimed in 1910 following the evacuation of the local human population during the sleeping sickness epidemic. However during the idd Amin era Murchison falls national park was re-christened Kabalega falls after their former King of Bunyoro Kingdom, the Omukama Kabalega and this name still exists on some Ugandan maps.

At an altitude range of 619m-1292m, Murchison Falls National Park receives an annual rainfall of 1085mm, compared to most of the other National Parks in Uganda that are slightly higher. Around the 1960’s, the park with its spectacular waterfalls, game and a bunch of outstanding lodges , the park was regarded to be East Africa’s most compelling National Park.

Murchison Falls is named after Roderick Murchison by Florence Baker a European explorer in 1863.  Roderick was a geologist and President of the Royal Geographical Society.  However, John Speke and James Grant were the first Europeans to visit the present day Murchison Falls National park in 1862. The park is sometimes referred to as Kabalega National Park. Kabalega was the Omukama of Bunyoro around the end of the 19th century who resisted colonization by the British.

A total of 76 mammal species have been recorded in the park and these include the bushbuck, African elephant, defassa waterbuck, bohor reedbuck, warthog and the jackals that are frequently observed while on game drives. The bird checklist of the park is over 460 bird species and over 19 species still unconfirmed and these include the elusive shoebill occasionally seen along the River Nile while on the boat cruise whereas the raptors make a strong checklist of over 53 species in the park.

The temperatures are constant throughout the year due to its closeness to the equator. Daytime temperatures of around 31°C/88°F; and night temperatures around 18°C/64°F. The altitude ranges from 500-1292m

The Park is bisected by the Victoria Nile from east to west for a distance of about 115 kilometers. The Nile is about 6,670 km in length and is the longest river in Africa and in the world. In 1961, there were heavy rains that caused floods in Uganda, the waterfall that is Murchison falls got a second breach. The waters of the Nile were forced through a narrow gap in the rocks to fall through a series of foaming and roaring cascades; falling at about 50m high and creating one of the most spectacular waterfalls.

Uganda Safari Attractions in Murchison Falls National Park

Mammals as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Murchison Falls National Park

The park has a number of mammals of around 76 species and supports four of the “big five”, the rhino being absent.( Because of excessive hunting and poaching, black rhinoceros became extinct by 1983, but were re-introduced into Uganda in 2005 by Rhino Fund Uganda. White rhinoceros are now being bred again at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which is located 70 kilometers away from the park, from Kampala capital).

The mammals include lions, elephants, kobs (one of Uganda’s emblem), crocodiles, buffalos, leopards, hyenas, Antelopes, Rothschild’s giraffe, warthog, Cape buffalo and many more.

Primates as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National park has a number of olive baboons that are common along the parks roads. Other primates include blue and red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, and patas monkeys

Birds as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Murchison falls national park

479 species are recorded to be in the park. They include the Shoebill stork, the Goliath Heron, Cranes (one of Uganda’s national emblem). Seen along the Nile banks are the blue headed Coucal, swampy flycatcher, weaver birds and many more.

Top of Murchison falls as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Murchison falls national park

The falls are impressive indeed however the combination of the distance and the rumbling boat engine do much to mute its impact. There is a picnic site on top of the falls just 15km from the Masindi-Paraa. There is not much wildlife to be seen around the falls apart from the baboons and the black –white colobus monkey

Uganda safari Activities in Murchison Falls National Park

Nile boat cruise as a safari activity in Murchison Falls National Park

This is the most popular activity in Murchison that starts from Paraa to the base of the Murchison falls and leaves twice a day that is at 08.00 and 14.00, though the departure time is sometimes changed by request. The return trip goes up to 3 hours to the magical Murchison falls. The launch trip follows a stretch of the Nile River with a compelling African atmosphere that is covered by the Borassus palms, acacia woodlands and mahogany trees. Game viewing while on the launch cruise is excellent as one can spot schools of hippos, large basking Nile crocodiles, buffalos and waterbucks. The birdlife on the papyrus lined banks is stunning with the top being the elusive shoebill, African fish eagle, goliath heron, saddle- billed stork, African jacana, malachite kingfishers and the pied kingfishers. The dazzling colorful red throated bee-eater nests in the sand banks between Paraa and the falls and they are likely to be seen than anywhere else in east Africa.

Hiking on Top of the Murchison falls as a safari activity in Murchison Falls National Park

The falls are impressive indeed however the combination of the distance and the rumbling boat engine do much to mute its impact. There is a picnic site on top of the falls just 15km from the Masindi-Paraa. There is not much wildlife to be seen around the falls apart from the baboons and the black –white colobus monkey.

Game drives as a safari activity in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls is concentrated with wildlife in the north of the Nile the best area for game drives where there is a circuit of tracks that run west from the Paraa jetty to Lake Albert delta. Game drives are in three intervals; Morning which starts as early as 6am – 7am depending on where you are staying, Evening which start at 4pm and night game drive which start at 7pm.A game drive around the Buligi tracks on the northern bank and Nile valley. Large herds of buffalos, dozens of elephants, lions, kobs, giraffes, leopard and other animals will be seen accordingly.

Forest walks as a safari activity in Murchison Falls National Park

The Rabongo forest in the southeastern part of the park is an area of interest to bird watchers though the black and white colobus monkey and the red tailed monkey are often seen and a number of beautiful butterflies that are seen in this forest are so impressive.

Sport fishing as a safari activity in Murchison Falls National Park

This can be done from the river shore at the falls of by the boat as you go to the falls as trap the Nile perch. Karuma falls near Chobe lodge is another good place for fishing in a way one has not experienced elsewhere and this is the spot to catch a big Nile patch and a tiger fish. There are always experienced guides to help at the river bank or from the boat to catch the big Nile perch.

Chimpanzee tracking as a safari activity in Murchison Falls National Park

The Budongo forest is an excellent area for chimp tracking both in the morning and in the afternoon. The Morning Chimpanzee trekking shift starts at 8am while the afternoon encounter commences at 2pm. The trek normally lasts 2 – 5 hours inclusive of one hour of viewing. There is also a chimpanzee habituation experience here mainly during the off season.

Birding as a safari activity in Murchison Falls National Park

Birds can be found at the river banks and Albertine area. The most common species found in the plains include the marabou stork, Abyssinian ground hornbill, secretary birds and many more. Also, there are bird watching walks at Budongo forest. 479 species are recorded to be in the park. They include the Shoebill stork, the Goliath Heron, Cranes (one of Uganda’s national emblem). Seen along the Nile banks are the blue headed Coucal, swampy flycatcher, weaver birds and many more.

How to get to Murchison Falls National Park

Travelers heading to Murchison falls from Kampala must first drive to Masindi which can take roughly 3hours. From Masindi, there is a choice of two routes to Paraa. The direct route is 85km long and can be covered in 2-3 hours depending on the road conditions.

The more scenic road is 135km via Lake Albert and can take up to 5 hours. Both roads are generally in fair condition, but sections become muddy after heavy rain.

Note that no fuel is available along the either routes so filling up at Masindi is ideal.

Murchison falls can also be approached from the north, along the Karuma – Pakwach road which branches off the Kampala Gulu road just north of the Karuma Bridge. Here the park is entered through the Tangi gate just before Pakwach though this route has been considered unsafe for several years.

Uganda safari Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

Up market Uganda safari Accommodation in Murchison falls National Park

Chobe safari lodge

This is a five star lodge located in Murchison Falls National Park with a lot of gem. The lodge has breathtaking panoramic views with sounds of the magnificent river Nile. The lodge offers an opportunity to sample the wildlife, birds, flora and fauna and is an ideal area for sport fishing.

Lodge amenities

  • Restaurant and bar
  • Swimming pool
  • Gift shop
  • Gym
  • Telescope for stargazing
  • Air strip

Baker’s Lodge

Baker’s Lodge is one of the new lodging choices in Murchison Falls Park. For those who are looking for an out of the ordinary lodge experience in Uganda, in Murchison Falls Park, Baker’s Lodge is just right for you.

You will enjoy your time here along the River Nile with a splendid view of the River, wildlife, and birds that are all around you. There are 8 tented cottages that await, enjoy a romantic Dinner along the Nile, a bush breakfast while here and the wildlife in one o Uganda’s best all-around parks. Baker’s Lodge is one of the best luxury lodges in all of Uganda.

Paraa safari lodge

The lodge is well known for its luxurious and comfortable accommodation as it has about 54 beautiful rooms with ensuite bathrooms as well as balconies and some of the suites that offer a perfect view of the Nile River.

Moderate Uganda safari Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

Budongo eco-lodge

Located in Budongo forest central reserve stands confortable and spacious eco-cabins that stand in the dark, cool forest, surrounded with monkeys, rare birds and provide a mix of relaxation and adventure. The visitor centre displays a selection of different wild animal skeletons, snares and fossils that were picked from the forest as well as information about Budongo forest reserve.

Lodge amenities

  • Travel desk
  • Visitor’s information centre
  • Craft shop
  • Restaurant and bar
  • Craft shop

Solar power lighting and solar hot water

Sambiya river lodge

Sambiya river lodge situated 500mfrom the main road between Masindi and Paraa, near the turn off to the falls. Sambiya river lodge enjoys a pleasantly but unspectacular woodland location in the small sambiya river valley. The main lodge offers accommodation with 20 cottages with solar powered hot showers and a fan, but more basic bandas and a campsite is also available. The sambiya is conveniently located for chimpanzee tracking and birding in Budongo forest and just a 20 minutes’ drive to the top of the falls. Facilities include swimming pool and guided walks through the bird rich forest along the river.

Budget Uganda safari Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

Red chilli rest camp

Managed by Kampala’s popular red chilli hide away, the former Paraa rest camp is situated on the southern side of the park. The accommodation here is standard and there are also brick bandas provided with electricity. Though river views are distant from the rest camp, it enjoys a strategic location close to the Paraa jetty. The launch is just 10 minutes’ walk down the hill.

Rabongo camp

Set in the remote southeastern part of the park, this camp lies roughly 40 km from the main road between Masindi and Paraa and along the rough track signposted between kaniyo Pabidi and sambiya lodge. It lies within the Rabongo forest which consists of 8 relic patches of an extensive that suffered as a result of elephant overpopulation in the 1960s and 1970s. it is a home to a wide range of primates, including the black and white colobus monkeys and the chimpanzees and roughly 150 birds have been recorded in the area. The stretch to the wairongo river runs through the camp and this is a good place to see the shinning blue king fisher and the African fin foot.

Boomu Women´s Group Bandas

Boomu Women´s Group has around 40 members from the villages of Kihaguzi and Kigaragara. These subsistence farmers had little produce left over to sell, so in 1999 the women´s group was formed, with the aim of reducing poverty and malnutrition, and providing an income for the members to be able to pay their children´s school fees.

What began as a craft group has evolved into a wonderful community tourism project, with accommodation, a restaurant, unique guided tours and a well-tended garden.

The grass-thatched bandas have been built in traditional Ugandan style for an authentic community experience. They are surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens filled with butterflies and weaver birds. Guests are welcome to relax in the gardens, visit the local community of Kigaragara and explore the craft shop. Ugandan food prepared by local women is served in the restaurant, and in the warm evenings you can relax by the open air bar under the stars.

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