Murchison Falls National Park
PARK AT A GLANCE
Spread over 3840 km2, Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savannah. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and over 451 birds. In 1952, Murchison Falls was gazetted as a national park from game reserve status.
The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of River Nile from Karuma Falls rapids. The mighty river cascade drains the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. At Murchison Falls, the Nile squeezes through an 7-8m wide gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the “Devil’s Cauldron”, creating a trademark rainbow.
This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffalos; while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
The northern section of the park contains savanna and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland while the south is dominated by woodland and forest patches.
A number of routes can be used to reach the Nile at Paraa at the heart of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. The river is crossed using a ferry which runs at intervals throughout the day.
Southern Entrance Gates: Two southerly approaches to Paraa lead out to Masindi town, which is a 4 hour drive (305km) from Kampala. Along the way to Masindi is the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda. You can track them on foot and support this important initiative to reintroduce rhinos to protected areas.
Kichumbanyobo is the main gate along the southern section of the park. It is only 16km from Masindi town and 70km to Paraa the Park Headquarters. The access road passes via the Kanio Pabidi section of Budongo Forest with a lot of Primates, butterflies, bigger game and fabulous scenery enroute.
A longer but more scenic alternative runs for 135km from Masindi via Buliisa to the park’s Bugungu gate. The route includes a passage through Budongo Forest and a memorable descent of the rift valley escarpment with views across Lake Albert towards the Blue Mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Northern Entrance Gates Murchison Falls National Park can also be accessed via the Chobe, Wankwar, Mubako and Tangi gates north of the Nile. These can be reached from the Kampala-Pakwach Road which crosses the Nile at Karuma Falls Bridge in the north-eastern corner of the park, 260km from Kampala. These gates are convenient for visitors travelling to/from Gulu town and Kidepo Valley National Park.
Pakuba Airfield, 19km from North Paraa, can be reached using chartered aircraft from Entebbe
International Airport or Kajjansi airfield near Kampala. Other airfields in the park include: Chobe to
the east and Bugungu – near Murchison Falls – to the south.
During the day, the temperature is around 25-32°C, making this one of the hottest regions in Uganda. Nights are cooler, dropping to around 18°C, and there is little rain – though when it arrives it can be torrential!
WHEN TO VISIT
The best time to visit is during the dry seasons from December to late February and from June to September, as the animals congregate around water bodies making them easier to observe. The best time for bird watching is January-March which tends to have plenty of bird activity with fewer tourists.
A range of accommodation facilities catering for both up-markets, medium range and budget visitors are available. It is advisable to book well in advance.
Murchison Falls is characterized by eternal war between rock and water. The waters violently compress through a narrow gorge, spraying misty droplets along their wake over a 50m radius. This creates a permanent rainbow over the battleﬁeld and causes a continuous roar. From Baker Point on the southern side, you can also view the Nile splitting into the smaller Uhuru Falls, created in 1962 when the river burst its banks.
A boat ride along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls is a rewarding experience for nature lovers, as both the northern and southern banks team with a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles. The ambience oﬀered by the river while on the trip makes the experience enjoyable and memorable.
The River Nile Delta (Victoria Nile joins Lake Albert):
This wide, calm stretch of water, where the tranquil Victoria Nile ﬂows into Lake Albert, is a key area for bird watchers. It’s papyrus lined banks are bursting with birdlife, including the Goliath Heron, Great Egret, African Fish Eagles and many other wetland migrants. The most sought-after species here is the rare Shoebill.
Buligi Game Tracks:
The Buligi game tracks, stretching between the Victoria and Albert Niles, are the Murchison Falls National Park’s most popular safari destination. At around 120-170km in length, they pass through open savannah grassland, woodland, acacia and riverine vegetation. Most of the park’s game can be viewed here such as Elephant, Lions, Rothschild Giraﬀes, herds of buﬀalos especially during early morning and early evening tours.
Paraa, meaning home of the hippo in the local Luo language, is the park’s tourism hub. All the park’s access roads converge here as the northern and southern banks are linked by a passenger ferry, and several accommodations are located nearby. Additionally, a museum and gift shop can be found on the north bank, and most game drives launch trips and nature walks commence here.
The Karuma Falls are located in Chobe, in the northeastern sector of the park. These roaring waterfalls on the Victoria Nile are made up of a series of natural rock formations which cause the waters to ripple and give them a white, foamy appearance. It is an ideal area for sport ﬁshing, game viewing and bird watching as it’s at an area where two ecosystems converge(protected and loosely conserved ecosystems converge).
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest:
In the south of Murchison Falls Conservation Area, this forest ecosystem contains black-and-white Colobus and blue monkeys, olive baboons, and a habituated chimp group which can be tracked and viewed. Elephants, buﬀalos, lions and leopards are also frequent visitors. Many forest birds can be viewed here, including the chocolate-backed kingﬁsher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel’s Illadopsis which is found nowhere else in East Africa.
Surrounded by savannah and covering just 4km2, Rabongo Forest is considered a birders’ paradise because of the endangered species found here such as the African Finfoot. Rabongo is ideal for educational tours as it provides opportunities to identify animals, birds, medicinal plants and trees.
For relaxation, visitors can camp and enjoy picnics by the Wairingo River.
Both the game drives and the launch trips oﬀer an opportunity for one to come across distinct birdlife, including savannah forest birds, water birds and Albertine Rift endemics. The park’s main birding attraction is the Shoebill, best sighted in the dry season from January-March at the delta.
A game drive around the Buligi game tracks on the northern bank with a trained ranger guide is a fantastic way to see and photograph the wide range of animals in the Nile Valley. Your guide will have a good idea where the lions are hiding, and you may even spot a leopard at dusk!
Hiking and Nature Walks:
The vast landscapes and varied scenery of Murchison Falls National Park and the surrounding area can be explored on foot. Trails through Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo Forests provide sightings of many primates and birds, while around the Nile Delta, 2-4 hour guided swamp walks oﬀer possible Shoebill sightings.Launch
The launch trip upstream from Paraa presents an astonishing display of wildlife and culminates with the memorable frontal view of the Falls. Recommended for birders is a morning cruise downstream to the Delta. Alternatively, a tranquil sundowner cruise oﬀers the classic view of an equatorial sunset reﬂected on the river.
The banks of the Nile below Murchison Falls provide exciting challenges to anglers. Living within strong currents and highly oxygenated water is the Nile perch. There is the chance to land a massive catch – the record is 108kg!
ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS in MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
PARAA SAFARI LODGE (up market)
Set on the Northern Bank of River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park where game drives are done, Paraa Safari Lodge offers a unique blend of comfort, relaxation and adventure. Each of the 54 rooms is a haven of style and serenity, complete with balcony and en-suite private bathroom. The choice of accommodation at the lodge varies – a cottage, suites, double, twin and single.
Other facilities at the lodge include swimming pool, restaurant and cuisine, business centre, conference facilities, fully stocked bar and a gift shop.
CHOBE SAFARI LODGE (luxury)
Chobe Safari Lodge offers a unique opportunity to sample the wildlife, birds, flora and fauna; all in an area of the park that has yet to be discovered. This area of Murchison Falls National Park is ideal for fishing, and will revive this newly refurbished lodge to become one of the best fishing destinations in Africa.
Other facilities at the lodge include swimming pool, restaurant and cuisine, business centre, conference facilities, fully stocked bar and a gift shop.
Chobe Safari Lodge features 36 elegant guest rooms, 21 luxury tents, 4 suites and a Presidential Cottage. The River Nile is the main focus from an architect’s perspective, and so all the rooms and luxury tents have balconies and terraces facing the magnificent sweeping views. The choice of accommodation at the lodge varies.
Baker’s Lodge is situated on the South bank of the mighty Nile River which transects Murchison Falls National Park.
Accommodation is in spacious thatched safari suites. Each of the individual thatched safari suites is raised from the ground on supporting pillars with its own deck overlooking the river. The facilities are fan cooled, have netted windows with opening options, customized solid wooden furniture, hanging mosquito nets and have en-suite bathrooms with solar hot water showers and baths.
The thatched central lounge, bar and dining area which is raised with wooden decks all around allow guests to savour the morning sunrise for breakfast, sunset in the evening with 180 degree river views and the cool breezes thereof. Other facilities include swimming pool and local crafts for sale.
MURCHISON RIVER LODGE
Murchison River Lodge is located on the southern bank of the River Nile overlooking Murchison Falls National Park, pods of hippos and papyrus islands.
The lodge offers mid-range accommodation to suit all budgets in en-suite thatched cottages (with solar fans and USB ports), thatched safari tents each with private facilities and comfortable camping tents already set up for your comfort around our shaded campsite. If you would prefer to bring your own tent the lodge has covered areas, including a fire pit and excellent shower and toilet facilities.
The 4 thatched cottages are spacious and comfortable. They are open plan with double bed upstairs on a Mezzanine floor and two single beds and enSuite downstairs. The cottages are perfect for families or a maximum of 4 adults traveling together as a team.
The furnished en-suite thatched safari tents are on level ground amongst the bush, with three positioned close to the river bank. All tents are twin shared, although
four of them can include a third bed and a baby cot if required. The safari tent is fashioned with wooden doors, solar lights, bed linen, towels, solar hot water, mosquito nets and private permanent bathrooms.
PAKUBA SAFARI LODGE
Pakuba Safari Lodge is nestled on the Eastern Bank of the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park. The Lodge location affords views of the mighty River Nile, sweeping vistas of the surrounding riverine forest below and surrounding wilderness where some wild life may be sighted.
Accommodation at Pakuba Safari Lodge comprises of 32 Double/Twin rooms and 4 family rooms.
Each room has private ensuite bathroom, charging points, a reading corner, mosquito nets and a closet. Rooms have private verandahs for relaxation and sightseeing.
Fort Murchison is situated in the former Aswa Lolim Game reserve, just outside the northern park boundaries of Murchison Falls National Park. Fort Murchison consists of 12 en-suite units comprising of a spacious bedroom with comfortable beds, bathrooms with countersunk basins and showers with plenty hot water from solar heaters. All rooms boast a writing desk and a private balcony with its own sofa.
Aside from the main accommodation, Fort Murchison offers non-self-contained tents. These are comfortably furnished with 2 single beds with mosquito nets, a bedside table and a power outlet for charging your electrical equipment. All tents are placed under a grass thatched roof which creates your private terrace and provides some welcome shade. The tents share a communal ablution block with showers and flushing toilets and all bedding and towels are provided.
SAMBIYA RIVER LODGE
Guests stay in any of the 26 double rooms designed as individual and family thatched cottages which have en suite bathrooms, fans, screened doors & windows, mosquito nets, and a veranda to relax and enjoy the commanding views of quintessential Africa. Twelve basic Bandas are also available for guest accommodation some of which share bathroom facility blocks and three self contained Bandas. Guest have their meals in the lodge dining area and those sleeping in Bandas can access the swimming pool.
NILE SAFARI LODGE
Nile safari lodge is perched on the southern bank of the River Nile, in a remote beautiful savannah. The Lodge has eight Bandas; a honeymoon suite with a plunge pool and star bed. A family Banda consisting of two master rooms, a living room and a private swimming pool. The Bandas are elevated on private decks on the river bank, one can view the Murchison Falls National Park and watch animals in their natural habitat.
BUDONGO ECO LODGE
Nestled in the heart of Budongo Central Forest Reserve, within the boundaries of Murchison Falls National Park, Budongo Eco consists of comfortable 5(five) eco-cabins with private veranda, four (4) spacious dorm rooms, a visitor’s centre and restaurant. In addition, the lodge offers Outdoor restaurant, Visitor’s centre with craft shop, Lounge area, parking available.
Each Eco cabin is tucked away in the pristine forest and has a private deck and the rooms are spacious and bright, with large twin or double beds and a sitting area. En suite is a fully equipped bathroom with a wash table, shower and separate composting toilet.
For larger groups, Budongo Eco Lodge offers four comfortable dormitory rooms, each with two double-deckers. The bunk beds are provided with a mosquito net. Adjacent to the dormitory rooms is a common shower and toilet block with hot and cold running water.
RED CHILLI REST CAMP
Red Chilli Rest camp is located on the southern bank of River Nile in the heart of the park. Located just 500 metres from the Paraa Ferry, where all vehicles on the southern bank cross the Nile for game drives, and where boats can be hired for game viewing and sport fishing. The camp offers low to mid budget accommodation in furnished safari tents, bandas. These have either public or private bathrooms.
The camping facility has modern showers, toilets, cooking area and security lighting. There is a fully stocked bar, restaurant where drinks and meals are served respectively.
PARKSIDE SAFARI LODGE
Park Side Safari Lodge is located 2km away from Tangi gate of Murchison Falls National Game Park. The lodge is situated on the shores of the Albert Nile and features African styled suites with twin and double bed cottages, a family cottage, single cottages and an indoor shower.
Amenities at the Lodge include Restaurant, laundry, private shower, housekeeping, working area, private parking and bon fire.
YEBO SAFARI CAMP
Yebo safari camp is a simple budget accommodation located at Murchison falls national park on the southern part of the park just about one and half kilometers from mubako gate. The camp serves both local and international cuisine and has an onsite bar. Those interested in camping can hire
the lodge’s tents or use their own camping gears at an affordable price. Accommodation is in four traditional African Bandas, camping area with shared bathrooms and toilets.
HERITAGE SAFARI LODGE
Accommodation at Heritage safari Lodge is in traditional round-hut cottages which are designed and constructed to provide guest with both worlds. On the outside, a typical two step-thatched round huts. The interior is a combination of tradition and modernity. Each cottage is en-suite with modern eco-friendly bathroom fittings with a characteristic high shower-head.
Accommodation consists of luxurious cottages and standard cottages as well as tents. The Camping Ground is popular with self-sufficient or budget guests. The cottages are designed to allow unique and flexible bedding arrangement to suit each guest’ unique requirements; single, double, triple, quadruple, family etc.
BWANA TEMBO SAFARI CAMP
Located next to Murchison Falls National Park, Bwana Tembo camp is 10 km from the Park’s northern gate and a kilometer from the White Nile. It comprises both cottages and safari tents. All accommodation types are self contained with flushing toilets, hand basins and showers with hot and cold running water.
The 6 cottages can be prepared as doubles, twins or for single occupancy. A third bed can also be provided if need be. Each of the cottages contain 2 shelved wardrobes, small safe and all cottages have small verandas overlooking the Nile.
The 4 safari tents are place on the upper side of the camp. They are mounted on a well layered wooden platform raised off the ground and have a thatched roof on top for extra protection from the sun and rain. Accommodation in safari tents can be either twin or single occupancy. The bathroom is made from brickwork attached to the back of the tent.