Murchison Falls National Park Map
Murchison Falls is not only the largest National Park in Uganda but also the oldest. The history of the park goes back to 1907 when the inhabitants of an area of about 13,000 km² were evacuated due to sleeping sickness spread by tsetse flies.
In 1910, the Bunyoro Game Reserve was created south of the River Nile. In 1928, the boundaries were extended north of the river into the modern-day Nwoya District.
In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. The area described above became Murchison Falls National Park.
Explorers John Speke and James Grant were the first Europeans to visit Murchison Falls Conservation Area in 1862. It was more thoroughly explored by Samuel and Florence Baker in 1863–4. Baker named the falls Murchison Falls after the geologist Roderick Murchison, then the president of the Royal Geographical Society.
However, the original name of Murchison Falls is “Pajok” a Luo word meaning the “place of spirits.” It is a place where sacrifices were offered to the gods of rain, to victory in wars, and to protect people from sickness.
How Big Is Murchison Falls Park?
This largest Uganda safari park covers an area of about 3,840 square kilometers. Together with the adjacent 750km² (289 miles²) Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and the 720km² (280 miles²) Karuma Wildlife Reserve, the park forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
If you wondering in which district is Murchison Falls National Park located, It is surrounded by Masindi, Nwoya, Kiryandongo, and Bulisa districts in north-western Uganda at the northern end of the Albertine rift valley floor, spreading inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile, up to the Karuma Falls.
The Nile divides the park into two parts of a comparable area. North of the river, the vegetation broadly consists of tall green grassland interspersed with isolated stands of Borassus palms, acacia trees, and riverine woodland.
South of it, dense woodland gives way to the closed-canopy forest around Rabongo Hill (the park’s highest peak) in the southwest and Kaniyo Pabidi on the Masindi road.
Weather And Climate
Though Murchison Falls National Park spans an altitude of 619 to 1,292 meters above sea level, the park is mostly quite low by Uganda stands and often experiences very hot weather, with average daily temperatures peaking at 32 to 33°C (90 to 91°F) through December to March.
Murchison Falls National Park’s wet season runs from March to November, with a drier period from June to July. The average annual rainfall is about 1,082mm. December to February is the dry season in Murchison Falls Game Park.
Attractions/What to see
There are a variety of Murchison Falls National Park attractions including;
- 76 species of mammals including four of the Big Five, Giraffes, Hippos, & Crocodiles
- 451 bird species including the shoebills
- The River Nile – the world’s longest River
- Murchison Falls, – the world’s most powerful waterfall
- The Nile-Lake Albert Delta is the best place in Africa to see the rare shoebill storks.
- Buligi peninsular, an area of rolling grassy studded with Borassus palms teeming with plain animals
- Paraa, the park’s tourism hub
- Kaniyo Pabidi forest, the home to chimpanzees, monkeys, and a variety of birds
- The Karuma Waterfall
- Cultural centers
- Budongo forest
River Nile – The Longest River In The World
Murchison Falls National Park’s most important geographical feature is the Nile River which bisects it for around 100 kilometers as it flows in a northwesterly and then southwesterly direction between Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert.
River Nile is one of the Natural Wonders of Africa and is famous as the world’s longest river with its source beginning at Lake Victoria in Jinja in Uganda.
The Nile is approximately 6,650 km long and its drainage basin covers 11 countries. It is because of its fascinating history that many people visit Uganda.
The perfect way to get a closer feel of the great Nile is by joining in on a Nile cruise to the bottom of the Murchison falls.
The Murchison Falls/Devil’s Cauldron
Murchison Falls is the most powerful waterfall in the World and it is the most spectacular thing to happen to the world’s longest river en route from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea. It is not only the most visited spot in Uganda but in the entire African continent.
Here in Murchison Falls Park, you can hear, see, and feel the power of Nature as the historic River Nile; is squeezed into a narrow gorge-6 meters wide, dropping down 45 meters to the rift valley escarpment and then continuing its journey to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Top of the Falls View Point
The great Murchison Falls is a stunning sight while on a boat cruise, but for sheer sensory overload, be sure to tour this spectacular southern bank Murchison waterfall’s head at a fenced Baker’s viewpoint on a ridge looking directly to the Murchison Falls as well as the broader Uhuru Falls about 100 meters to the north.
From where you can truly appreciate the astonishing power with which the Nile thunder through the narrow gap in the escarpment, with a vociferous roar.
Animals & Wildlife
There are a variety of animals in Murchison Falls National Park to see for travelers planning their safari to Uganda, This park hosts plentiful and diverse wildlife species and is home to over 76 mammal species. Among them are four of the Big Five including; Lions, Elephants, B uffaloes, Leopards, Chimpanzees, Jackson’s hartebeest, Defassa waterbuck, Giraffes, Hippopotamus, Duiker, Patas Monkey, Waterbuck, Oribi, Bushbucks, Elands, Olive baboons, Wat Hogs, etc.
Birds of Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park is home to over 451 bird species. The checklist is headed by the shoebill, the main motivating fact behind many ornithological tours to Uganda.
Sightings of the shoebill in Murchison are almost guaranteed on a boat trip on the Victoria Nile towards the Lake Albert delta. Other top birds in this park include:- Abyssinian ground hornbill, African jacana, African quail finch, Black-billed barbet, Black-headed gonolek, Black-headed lapwing, Blue-headed coucal, Denham’s bustard, Eastern grey plantain-eater, Giant kingfisher, Goliath heron , etc.
The Nile-Lake Albert Delta
Lake Albert delta is found on the southwestern side of Murchison Falls Game Park. It is an expanse of lowland where the Nile River enters Lake Albert.
It is recognized as a Ramsar site and it is a significant area for safaris in Murchison Falls National Park. It is home to a lot of bird species and is significant as a hotspot for birding tours in Uganda.
A boat cruise downriver from Paraa to the Lake Albert Delta is one of the best opportunities for African safaris to see the rare shoebill, especially during the rainy season.
The Paraa Region
Paraa means a ‘place of hippos’ in the ‘Luo’ local language. The place is found at the southern bank of the Nile River.
Paraa is the main tourist hub in Murchison, where most of the Uganda safari activities including game drives, launch trips, and nature walks commence.
It is also where all park access roads converge as the northern and southern banks are linked by a passenger ferry.
The park headquarters lies also in Paraa, as does the park’s reception/ticket office.
The Buligi Game Tracks
This is a triangle of grassland crossed by game viewing tracks, bounded by the Victoria Nile entering Lake Albert, and the Albert Nile flowing out of it. This is among the best game viewing areas in Murchison Falls National Park.
Though this area is known as Buligi today, it was formerly known as Buligi, in reference to the far-carrying ‘bugle‘ reveille that routinely awoke General Gordon’s troops at nearby Fort Mugungo in the 1870s.
The area is characterized by scenic open savannah grassland studded with tall Borassus palms, woodland, and patches of whistling thorns, acacia, and riverine vegetation.
Karuma Falls are located in the northeastern sector of Murchison Falls National Park in Chobe. 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.
The first plunge is an 80-kilometer long stretch of rapids ending at Murchison Falls. The Karuma actually represents a burst in the banks allowing the Nile to occur its present-day course towards the Rift Valley.
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest is found in the south of Murchison Falls National Game Park. It covers an area of approximately 28 square kilometers within the middle of Murchison Falls Kichumbanyobo gate.
It hosts Uganda’s densest population of chimpanzees, recently estimated at around 6.5 individuals per square kilometers
Kaniyo Pabid is essentially a northeastern extension of Budongo Forest Reserve. It’s Mahogany and ironwood trees harbor; Black and white colobus monkeys, Blue monkeys, Large troops of Anubis baboons, Red-tailed monkeys, and Vervet monkeys.
Budongo Forest Reserve
Covering an area of about 435 square kilometers, Budongo Forest is contiguous with the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest and lies south of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
Budongo is the biggest Mahogany forest found in the whole of East Africa. The forest is astonishingly bio-diverse, with 24 mammal species, over 360 bird species, 289 species of butterflies, and 465 plant types.
Budongo hosts one of Uganda’s largest populations of chimpanzees. The forest is home to about 800 individuals.
Other primates resident in Budongo Forest include; Red-tailed monkeys, Blue monkeys, Black-and-white, colobus monkeys, Potto, and various species of galagos
Rabongo Forest is found in the far southeast of Murchison Falls National Park. Surrounded by savanna and covering just 4km2, Rabongo Forest is considered a birders’ paradise because of the endangered species found here.
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.
The forest also harbors chimpanzees, baboons, Black and white Colobus monkeys in addition to the red tailed-monkeys.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
A traveler who is interested in seeing all the Big Five animals during the Uganda wildlife tour to Murchison, should visit Ziwa Rhino sanctuary. Ziwa is the only place in Uganda where you will be able to see rhinos in the wild.
Ziwa is a not-for-profit project established to revive the population of the white rhino in Uganda following the intense poaching that happened during the 1990s that totally depleted this species from the Murchison Falls and Kidepo National parks where these animals previously lived. Today there are 22 southern white rhinos found at this sanctuary.
It is conveniently located about 100 miles north of Kampala on the Gulu highway toward Murchison Falls.
People and Culture around the park
Murchison Falls Park is situated in an area of a diverse group of people in Uganda. The eastern area of the park is dominated by Acholi people; the Alur people are found in the northwest and the Banyoro people of Bunyoro Kingdom are found in the southern region of the park.
All these people have unique cultural beliefs and travelers on an adventure safari in Uganda can have a thrilling encounter with these communities.
Activities/What to do
The best tourist activities in Murchison Falls National Park are undertaken in the afternoon with the sun in the west. You will enjoy a thrilling return boat trip that follows the Nile from Paraa to the base of spectacular Murchison Falls, the world’s most powerful waterfalls.
The launch trip to the bottom of the falls is followed closely by a must-do morning game drive on the Buligi Circuit, a network of game-viewing tracks across the 10 km-wide peninsula that divides the Victoria Nile and the Albert Nile as they course in and out of Lake Albert.
Other highlights of a Uganda safari trip to Murchison Falls Park include;
- Heart of Murchison (southern sector) game drive
- Guided bird-watching tours,
- Top of the Murchison Falls hike,
- Early morning hot-air balloon safari out of Paraa,
- Chimpanzee tracking of forest birding at Kaniyo Pabidi, and
- The boat trip downriver from Paraa to the bird-rich Nile-Lake Albert Delta.
Day & Night Game Drives
Murchison Falls National Park game drives are conducted early in the morning as well as in the early evening; offering you a chance to enjoy up-close views of the different Uganda safari animals such as elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes, giraffes, Uganda kobs, and warthogs.
A game drive in Murchison Falls can be enjoyed in several designated game viewing areas. The main areas are the Delta where there are great chances of seeing the Lions in wait for prey as they go to drink, the Buligi Peninsula, and the southern sector, famously known as the heart of Murchison.
Different vehicles can be used but a 4×4 safari land cruiser or A 4X4 safari minibus/van is the best due to the nature of the routes.
The Boat Cruise/Launch Trip
Murchison Falls National Park offers two types of Nile boat cruises. There is a cruise that goes upstream to the bottom of the falls and takes you to the area where Ernest Hemmingway’s plane crashed, from which you are sure to see spectacular views of the waterfalls; and then there are cruises that take you downstream; known as the Nile-Lake Albert Delta Launch cruise.
Launch trips to the bottom of the falls are operated by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Paraa Safari Lodge which operates on the north bank, and Wild Frontiers Nile River Safari on the south bank immediately west of the Paraa ferry jetty.
Birding in Murchison Falls
Bird watching can be done during the launch cruise, game drives, and nature walks. Murchison Falls is one of the best places in Africa to find the prehistoric-looking shoebill stork.
However, some trails pass through Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo Forests provide sightings of many birds, while around the Nile-Lake Albert Delta, two- to four-hour guided swamp walks offer possible sightings of the Shoebill when the water level is low
Birders and nature lovers can also enjoy short treks starting from Sambiya River Lodge or Mubako Junction, both on the south bank, or a walk along the north bank from Paraa, passing the Emmy River.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Budongo Forest
Kaniyo Pabid supports two chimpanzee communities each estimated to number around 90 individuals and the one centered closest to Budongo Eco-lodge has been habituated for tracking since the late 1990s.
Up to 36 permits are issued by the lodge daily for Budongo Forest chimp trekking setting off in up 6 guided groups, each comprising of up to six people, at 8.00 and then again at 14.00, though they can be quite flexible departure times when not fully booked.
Sport Fishing on River Nile
There is good fishing along the Murchison Nile, with the large Nile Perch and Tigerfish offering the main challenge.
The record for rod and line in Murchison National Park was established by Kevin Nicholson in 2013. His mammoth catch weighed 114kg; just eclipsing Tim Smith’s 113kg catch in 2009, but far heavier than the previous official record of 73kg, set by C D Mardach in 1959. Local fishermen claim to have netted specimens weighing up to 160kg.
For those interested in sport fishing during the tour to Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, they will need to carry their fishing equipment and keep in mind all fish caught is not killed it’s laid back in the water alive.
Community Tours & Walks
Murchison Falls National park is surrounded by a range of diverse communities that reflect the tribes of Uganda.
The Banyoro in the South, the Alur in the Northwest, and the Acholi in the Northeast have diverse cultural backgrounds that can be encountered by travelers.
The Mubako energetic dancers offer impressive cultural dances and sometimes they can be called to perform at the respective lodges in the park. There is performance is accompanied by the beautiful sound of the adungu mainly done at dusk.
What to pack for your Murchison Falls safari?
- Have a camera which has big storage for taking some photos for feature remembrance or people at home.
- A pair of binoculars if you can have access to one
- Sunglasses to protect your eyes from the strong tropical sunlight
- Park some light clothes since this is a tropical park in Uganda
- Have light long-sleeved shirts and long trousers
- A hat also will protect you from strong scorching sunlight
- Have comfortable and light hiking shoes
- Move with some drinking water like 2 liters
- Don’t forget a sunscreen
- Park insect repellents since some areas especially around Albert delta might be having biting insects.
- A back bag to keep your properties safe like cameras is vital.
Lodges & Accommodation
For travelers planning their safari to Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, there are several Uganda safari lodges and hotels around the park that they can consider for their accommodation based on their budget in the following categories;
- Budget safari lodges,
- Mid-range safari lodges
- Luxury safari lodges
How to get there
The park can easily be accessed easily by air and road. When flying from abroad, you’ll arrive at Entebbe International Airport (EBB).
Entebbe Airport is located 40km from the capital (Kampala). Your local Uganda tour operator will usually arrange for you to be picked up at the airport and will take care of all further transportation as part of your Uganda safari package.
How Far Is Murchison Falls From Kampala?
By Road, the distance from Kampala to Murchison Falls National park is 305 km (189.518 miles) and it takes approximately 4-6 hours to drive to the Park headquarters at Paraa, which is 85km from Masidi.
The distance from Entebbe to Murchison Falls park is 343.8 km (213.6). It takes approximately 5-6 hours to get from Entebbe to the park.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Murchison Falls?
Watching wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park is generally good and at its best during the Dry season, from December to February.
However, January and February can be very hot and the scenery is more beautiful during the Wet season from June to November. The best time for bird watching is from January to March. This is the low tourist season, but there is plenty of bird activity. The heavy rains might result in delays due to impassable roads and slippery hiking trails and can limit your bird-watching time.
Park Rules & Regulations
- Do not camp or make campfires except at designated sites
- Do not drive off the tracks.
- Do not disturb wildlife by sounding motor horns.
- Do not bring dogs or other pets into the park.
- Do not litter.
- Do not bring firearms or ammunition into the park.
- Do not pick flowers or destroy any vegetation.
- Do not exceed the speed limit of 40km per hour (25mph)
- Retain all official receipts for verification
- Park gates open between 7 am to 7 pm
Other notable Uganda safari parks to visit
Because of its ideal location, most of the visitors to this great park often come from other destinations say Bwindi Impenetrable National Park after a Gorilla Trekking Tour or after visiting the capital of primates-Kibale National Park.
This safari can also be combined with a safari to other neighboring country safari options like Rwanda gorilla tours, or Kenya and Tanzania safari.