Murchison Falls National Park is the oldest and largest protected conservation area in Uganda. It’s located in the north western part of the country and covers an area of 3,840 km2. It was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1926.The Park was named by an explorer sir Samuel Baker after a geologist Roderick Murchison and it was established as a game park in 1952. The park is divided into two parts; the northern part that boosts of a high concentration of the wildlife and the southern where the magnificent Murchison falls are located. The two parts of the park are bisected by the Victoria Nile from the east to the west which is about 200km.
HOW TO GET THERE
Murchison Falls National Park can be accessed by both air and road means of transport. The drive from Masindi to MFNP leading to the southern gate of Kichumbanyobo passing through the Kaniyo Pabidi forest to Paraa is 85 km. And the total distance from Kampala using this route via Masindi is approximately a 5-6 hours’ drive with about 305km distance and also has Ziwa rhino sanctuary along the way which is home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda.
One can decide to use the more scenic yet longer route at the southern part of the park which leads you to the Bugungu gate. This drive has a passage through the Budongo Forest and the rift valley escarpment with views of Lake Albert.
The park can also be accessed through the northern gate at the Chobe, Wankwar, Mubako and Tangi gates which are north of the Nile. It’s about 260 km from Kampala using the kampala-Packwach road which crosses the Nile at the Karuma falls bridge in the northeastern part of Uganda.
There are also scheduled aircraft flights to the nearby airfields such as Pakuba 19km north of Paraa, Chobe to the East and Bugungu to the South to save you from the long drive. Flights are offered by Aero Link Uganda https://www.aerolinkuganda.com
Fly Uganda https://flyuganda.com
ATTRACTIONS IN THE PARK
The park boosts of a diverse variety of wildlife and bird species you can choose to partake. One can choose from a game drive, launch trip, birding, trekking among others. With over 460 bird species recorded, 76 mammal species, different vegetation among others there’s definitely a number of activities one can indulge in.
Budongo forest: Located in the southern part of the park near the main gate from the Masindi side, this mahogany rain forest is home to over 500-600 chimpanzees, birds, butterflies, tree species among others. Given its smooth terrain, it’s the easiest trek one can indulge in. There are three habituated groups trekkers can trail with the help of a Uganda Wildlife Authority guide. Here you will be able to see all their social behaviors and lifestyle as you view them in close proximity.
Murchison falls: the park derives its name from the Murchison falls. At this point is where the Nile squeezes through an 8m wide gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the devils cauldron which is 50m below hence creating a trademark rainbow and making it the most powerful waterfall.
ACTIVITIES TO PARTAKE IN THE PARK
Game drives: The north part of the park has an extensive variety of vegetation i.e. savannah, woodland, palms and riverside vegetation that are a habitat to a range of wildlife hence a high concentration of animals are found in the northern part of the park. Game drives are done in the northern part of the park in the early morning or the late evenings when the weather is not too hot so the animals can be easily spotted during this time. You will have sightings of animals like the antelopes, buffalos, giraffes, elephants, lions among others during the game drive.
Chimpanzee trekking: This guided excursion that is done in the morning leads you for a look out for the habituated chimps in their natural habitat of Budongo forest. Budongo forest is located in the southern part of the park and this rainforest covers an area of 8km. This trek takes about 2-4 hours on a rather smooth trek given the flat terrain, once the chimps have been spotted, you will have a one hour close encounter with the chimps as you watch them in close proximity eating, playing among others
Bird watching; with over 460 bird species recorded in the park, this is a good hot spot for someone looking out for an amazing birding experience. Birds’ species include the great blue Turaco, Goliath Heron, kingfisher, white thighed hornbill, shoe bill stork among others
Launch trip to the top of the falls: This activity commences at the Paraa jetty leading you slowly to the upstream while viewing the variety of animals along the river banks like the hippos, buffalos, Nile crocodiles, elephants among others and water birds like fish eagles, king fishers among others. This launch trip takes about 3 hours on a round trip and approximately 2 hours on a one way. When on the one way, you disembark from the boat at the bottom of the falls and take a 45 mins-1 hour hike to the thrilling top of the falls. The top to the spectacular top of the falls marks a highlight of visiting the park.
Delta cruise: This trip is highly recommended for the bird watchers. it starts at the Paraa jetty taking you downstream to the Nile-Albert Delta which is approximately 20km. this trips takes about 4-5 hours on a return journey and you will spot a number of bird species like the rare shoebill stork among others.
Hot air balloon wildlife safari: This is a different kind of game viewing by a hot air balloon. This activity offers one an expansive great view of the park as you watch the wildlife from above and also glance at the Victoria Nile and Lake Albert.
Sport fishing: This activity requires one to have a permit and once the permit has been obtained you will be enjoy fishing on the Victoria Nile. During fishing, you will have great opportunities of catching the Nile perch, catfish, tilapia, and tiger fish among others
Community tourism: This activity takes place along the ferry crossing landing area and you get to enjoy cultural dances and songs by the Acholi and Alur people surrounding the park.
WHEN TO VISIT
All year round. Because the animals within the park are not migratory one can choose to travel to the park in any season of the year.
However for an excellent birding experience, March – May and October – November are best for that activity since the birds be active and the migratory birds from Europe are escaping the harsh winter.
WHERE TO STAY
Murchison falls offers a wide range of accommodation options one can choose from ranging from budget, mid-range and luxury. The accommodation options located within the park include the following;
Southern part of the park
Northern part of the park
At an affordable price, you can book a safari to Murchison Falls National Park with Signature Tours and Travel Limited and have a lifetime experience.