Murchison Falls National Park


Murchison Falls National Park is one of the protected areas in Uganda and was named after the current Murchison Falls that were formally known as the Kabalega Falls. This protected area is located in the northwestern region of the country 235km from Kampala bordered by districts such as Masindi, Bulisa, Nyoya and Kiryandongo.

Murchison Falls National Park is the oldest National Park in Uganda that was established after the British administration set up the National Parks Act of Uganda in 1952. The current Murchison Falls National Park was an area of about 13,000square kilometers that was occupied by ancient inhabitants that later evacuated from this area due to sleeping sickness spread by tsetse flies back in 1907. This area was later declared Bunyoro Game Reserve in 1910 and its boundaries were further extended north of the Nile River in the current Nyoya district in 1928. Murchison Falls National Park is not only the oldest National Park in the country but also the its largest National Park covering an area of 3,840 square kilometers with a combined vegetation cover of savannah grasslands, savannah woodlands, wetlands, tropical forests and water covered by macrophytes.

Attractions in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls

Murchison Falls is a water fall on the Nile River at the culmination of Lake Albert. This water fall was initially referred to as the Kabalega falls a name attributed to the king of Bunyoro Kingdom called Omukama Kabalega. The local people used to visit these water falls to pray to their gods and offer sacrifices to their gods of wars, rain and to protect them against their enemies and diseases. These magnificent water falls formed where the Nile forces its way through a 7meter wide gorge and tumbles 43meters over a Rift valley wall into a Devil’s Cauldron making them the world’s strongest waterfalls before flowing westwards into Lake Albert. These falls were first fully explored and sighted by Sir Samuel and Florence Baker who named them after Roderick Murchison the by then president of the Royal Geographical Society and after which the National Park was named. Viewing these magnificent water falls at its top is so phenomenal while capturing a rainbow in its background that should never be left out on one’s visit to the Park.

River Nile

The River Nile is the world’s longest River with its source being in Jinja on Lake Victoria in Uganda where it starts its long journey to the Mediterranean Sea in northern Egypt. The Nile River flows through Murchison Falls National park westwards to Lake Albert and harbors numerous aquatic life for example hippopotamuses, giant crocodiles that are seen lying and sunbathing along the River banks, numerous bird species for example the African Darter, Osprey, giant Kingfisher, long-toed Plover, the pre-historic shoebill stork and many more. These animals and bird species are seen during the Nile River exploration by taking a launch cruise upstream to the bottom of the falls or downstream to the delta where the Nile enters Lake Albert.

Mammals/Animals in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls National Park is covered by varying vegetation types that range from savannah grasslands, woodlands, wetlands to tropical forests that are habitats to over 76 mammal species that include 4 of the big 5s namely lions, leopards, elephants and buffaloes. Other mammals that call Murchison Falls National Park their home include giraffes, Uganda kobs, warthogs, Jackson’s hartebeest, hyenas, waterbucks, oribis, hippopotamuses to mention but a few. These animals are easily encountered and spotted when one decides to go for game drives which are done in the morning, evening and night.

Bird species in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls National Park is a home to over 451 bird species that are easily seen in the Park. The Park is dominated by savannah grasslands, woodlands and riverine forests which provide suitable habitat to various bird types. Murchison Falls National Park is regarded as an important birding site that harbors various types of birds for example savannah bird species, water birds, Albertine rift endemic birds, rare and occasional bird species. Bird species in the Park include Abyssinian ground hornbill, kingfishers, grey crowned cranes, herons, black-headed lapwing, shoebill stork, nightjars, marabou stork, long-toed plover, veracious dove, rock pratincole, yellow-fronted tinker bird, black-billed barbet, weaver birds, martial eagle, silver bird, Denham’s bustard, Senegal thick-knee, red winged grey warbler, palm nut vulture, squacco heron, African jacana, African qualifinch, Piapiac to mention but a few.

Primates in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls Nation Park is a home to various primate species namely the olive baboons that are always spotted in the forested park areas and Paraa, patas monkeys that are seen all over the Park’s savannah plains, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and chimpanzees that are always seen roaming the Budongo forests which are part of the Murchison Conservation Area.


Paraa is an area along the River Nile banks in the National Park that is worth exploring. “Para” is a local language phrase that means a home of hippopotamuses attributed to the large numbers of hippopotamuses that are found in this area. These hippopotamuses are easily spotted in the night when they are out of the Nile to graze since they only feed in the night when temperatures are cool and during the entire course of the day, they are in the water due to the much heat from the sun and you can still encounter them while on a Nile boat cruise. Therefore, having you night around Paraa is so interesting because you will have to fully watch the hippopotamuses as they graze around the lodges.

Budongo Forests

Budongo rainforest is a rainforest located on the escarpment northeast of Lake Albert adjacent to Murchison Falls National Park. However this rainforest is made up of six forest blocks namely waibiri, siba, busaju, nyakafunjo, biiso and Kaniyo-Pabidi that are all part of the protected areas that make up the Murchison Falls Conservation area. These forests are believed to harbor more than 600 chimpanzees, 360 bird species, 24 mammals including jackals, bush elephants, bush buffaloes and Uganda kobs. Therefore Budongo forest is a perfect destination for chimpanzee trekking and bird watching on one’s visit to Murchison Falls National Park.

Activities in Murchison Falls National Park

Hiking to and viewing the top of Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls are the Park’s main attraction after which the National Park was named. These magnificent water falls are viewed by both making a hike to the top of the falls and taking a boat cruise upstream to the bottom of the falls. Hiking to the top of the falls is so rewarding since your appetite to see the falls are risen by the thunderous sounds that are heard before even one starts their hike to the falls. The top of the falls is so magnificent due to its splitting waters that shower you on your arrival to its top and the beautiful all day rainbow that is formed due the light rays from the sun that continuously hit the waters splashing from the falls. This is therefore the perfect place and moment for photography and videography as you have your Murchison falls experience to take away back home.

Game drives

Game drives in Murchison Falls National Park are the perfect ways to encounter animals in their natural habitat. These drives are done on a 4wheel drive open roof tourist vehicle where one is able to view animals and bird species with the help of an experienced guide to fully explain and articulate tourist concerns and matters into details. Game drives in Murchison Falls National park are done in the early morning to see the early risers as well as nocturnal animals as they return back to their hideouts, evenings when the temperatures have reduced and grazers are out to grab their dinner before it gets dark and in the night to catch up with nocturnal animals that become active in the night. Animals that can be seen during the Murchison Falls Game drive include the giraffes, lions, elephants, buffaloes, hartebeests, oribis, patas monkeys, leopards, spotted hyenas, Uganda kobs to mention but a few.

Murchison Falls National Park boat cruise

For one to have the most impressive experience in Murchison National Park, one shouldn’t miss out on a boat cruise along the Nile River within the Park. The boat cruise is done upstream to the bottom of the falls and downstream to the Albert delta where the Nile River joins Lake Albert. The boat cruise in Murchison Falls National Park is done in two sessions that is the morning session that sets off at 9:00am and the afternoon session that sets of at exactly 2:00pm. The two types of boat cruises one may indulge in are described as below;

        The boat cruise to the bottom of the falls

This is the most exciting cruise that starts from its docking point and sails through schools of hippopotamuses levitating in the Nile waters as the boat gets you closer to majestic Nile crocodiles lying and sunbathing along the river banks and have the opportunity to spot various water birds roaming the Nile River for example the goliath heron, great blue turaco, blue-spotted doves, black-headed lapwing, African jacana, African black crake, dwarf kingfishers, skimmers, malachite kingfishers to mention but a few. You will start to capture the beautiful views of the falls as you sail closer to it as well as viewing the devil’s cauldron from a distance where the water drops from a high cliff having forced its way through a 7meter wide gorge and thus producing a thunderous sound the is easily heard from a distance. After viewing the falls, you will sail back while you appreciate the beauty of the Nile which takes 3hours to the bottom of the falls and back to where the boats dock.


    The Albert Delta launch cruise

The boat cruise to the Albert delta starts off at Paraa and sails downstream along the gently flowing Nile River after its waters losing energy at the falls. This Albert delta boat cruise is also referred to as the sundowners launch cruise which is more recommended for birders more so during the morning cruise where you will be able to see the Africa’s most sought after prehistoric shoebill stork that are always spotted trying to grab their prey like the fish, frogs and many more. The shoebill stork always follow the hippopotamus trails that make their fishing easy since in these trails the water vegetation is cleared by the hippopotamuses that may hinder its fishing. During this boat cruise, other numerous bird species are spotted for example the Senegal thick-knee, spar-winged lapwing, saddle-billed stork, herons, African fish eagles and many more as well as other wildlife like the elephants, hippopotamuses to mention but a few that are seen along the Nile shores quenching their thirst and cooling their temperatures. There is also an opportunity for one to enjoy the sundowners cruise at around 5:00pm that offers a beautiful view of a sunset reflected on the Nile waters.

Bird watching

Birding in Murchison Falls National Park is more done on a boat cruise with an experienced birder guide who is willing to explain into details about every bird species in the Park. Boat cruises both the bottom of the Falls and the Albert delta are recommended for birding where several bird types are seen for example the elusive shoebill stork, giant kingfisher, long toed plover, grey-headed kingfisher, pied kingfishers, malachite kingfishers, swamp fly-catcher, yellow-billed stork, giant heron, saddle-billed stork to mention but a few. Birding in Murchison falls National Park is also carried out in the Park’s plains and rainforests such as the Budongo forests where forest birds are witnessed for example the Abyssinian ground hornbill, grey crowned cranes, weaver birds, tinker-bird, black-billed barbet, nightjar bird, sandpipers, blue-headed coucal, secretary bird, red-throated bee-eater, palm-nut vulture, white-browed sparrow weaver bird, Piapiac to mention but a few.

Sport fishing

Sport fishing in Murchison Falls National Park can be done from two spots that is, at Paraa along the river banks and at Chobe just below the karuma falls. Spot fishing as well can be done from a boat along the Nile where one is able to test their fishing techniques and chances of either grabbing large or small fish. During sport fishing, one is able to catch various types of fish which include the Nile perch, tilapia, mudfish, cat fish, and many others as you are able to learn about several fishing methods.

Chimpanzee trekking

This activity is so exciting that is carried out in Budongo forest which involves one to move on foot through dense forests in search of these endangered apes. Chimpanzee trekking starts with a briefing at the visitors’ center where one gets to know about the dos and don’ts of this wondrous activity after which you are led into the forests to embark on the search of a habituated group of chimpanzees which are usually found feeding on Figtree fruits, hanging and playing in mahogany tree branches. Tracing these apes may last for 1 to 4 hours depending on how far they could have moved and strictly an hour is allowed to watch them go by their routine activities. During chimpanzee trekking, other primates are encountered for example red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, grey-checked mangabeys, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys as well as numerous bird types.


Cultural encounters

Cultural encounters are always done as complementary activities to the Park’s main activities such as game drives, boat cruises, hiking and viewing the top of the falls and many more. Murchison falls National Park is surrounded by a diverse range of communities that reflect the 56 tribes of Uganda and these include the Alur in the northwest of the Park, Acholi in the northeast and the Banyoro in the south who all have cultural backgrounds, norms and beliefs that are worth exploring on one’s visit to Murchison Falls National Park. These cultural groups are more than ready and willing to entertain you with their vibrant songs and dances during your visit to their communities and during campfires staged at your lodges. You are also able to make visits to craft shops such as the mubako craft shop where you are able to buy some curved wooden sculptures and woven items made by the locals.


Best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is open to visitors and enjoyable all year round though the best time for its visits is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. During these months, there are little rainfall amounts received implying that the tracks leading to wildlife viewing spots are dry and accessible compared to wet seasons. During the dry season, animals are easily attracted to water sources which make it easier to view them during your game drives.

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