Home » 9 Best Activities In Murchison Falls National Park-Things To Do
Murchison Falls National Park activities offer a variety of things to do for visitors on Uganda safari tours.
The best tourist activities in Murchison Falls National Park are best undertaken in the afternoon with the sun in the west e.g the 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.
A List of Activities in Murchison Falls National Park to do on Uganda safari trips
- Launch trips to the bottom of the falls
- Morning game drives on the Buligi Circuit
- 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.
1. Murchison Falls Boat Cruise
Notable among the many safari activities in Murchison Falls National Park is the Nile River launch cruise. It is one of the most memorable safari activities in Uganda that shouldn’t be missed by any traveler on a Uganda safari holiday.
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.
UWA and Paraa Safari Lodge only offer Trips to the bottom of the fall. Wild Frontier, however, also operates boat trips to the Lake Albert Delta and bespoke fishing and birding cruises.
Launch Trip To The Bottom Of The Falls, Murchison Falls National Park
The Bottom of the falls boat cruise is the most admired activity by the visitor on Uganda tours in Murchison Falls National Park. It is a 3-hour return boat cruise and it has been the national park’s most famous attraction since 1959 when Queen Mother inaugurated it.
The trip starts from Paraa and the boat slowly cruises eastward along an archetypically African stretch of the Nile, fringed by Borassus palms, acacia woodland, and mahogany stands, before finally docking in a small bay a few hundred meters away from the crashing waterfall.
Wildlife viewing along the way is superb. You will be hundreds of hippos, giant Nile crocodiles, herds of buffalos, waterbucks, and Uganda kobs. Also regularly seen are Rothschild’s giraffes, bushbucks, and black-and-white colobus monkeys. The majestic African elephants are frequently seen playing in water often within a few meters of the launch.
The launch trip to the bottom of Murchison Falls also reliably offers superb bird-watching opportunities. Visitors can look for Goliath herons, saddle-billed storks, African jacanas, African fish eagles, pied and malachite kingfishers, Piapiac, African skimmers.
Other birds here include; the Rock Pratincole, black-winged red bishop, Yellow Mantled widow bird, black-headed gonolek, yellow-backed weaver, and at the right time of the year, a variety of migrants.
The brilliant red-throated bee-eater’s nest in the sandbanks between Paraa and the falls is the best place to see them in East Africa. The top avian prize is, of course, the shoebill, which is spotted here less frequently than it is around the delta but remains a fair possibility in the dry season.
All three boat cruise operators offer daily trips to the bottom of the falls. They all use double-deck boats, follow the same route, take 2 to 3 hours there and back, and charge an almost similar price
Launch Trip To The Bottom Of The Falls Fees
- Uwa Fees
|Visitor Category||Fees (Per Person)|
|East African citizen||UGX30,000|
The costs exclude the park entrance fee. Launch cruise takes a maximum of 45 people
- Paraa Safari Lodge Launch trip fees−US$28 per person
- Wild Frontiers Launch trip fees−US$32 per person (children get discounts)
These three operators can pick up passengers from either side of the Nile River but it is recommended that you arrive on the boat early to get a better seat. The left side of the boat gives a better view of the wildlife-rich north bank on a slower outbound leg.
The boat cruise in Murchison Falls National Park is usually offered in the morning and afternoon.
The morning cruise in Murchison offers better birding opportunities and the Afternoon cruise is better for photography, since the sun is behind you on the outbound leg and when you reach the falls. The morning cruise departs between 08:00 and 9: 00 and the afternoon cruise departs between 14:00 and 15:00.
An advantage of being on the first morning or first-afternoon boat is that it is quite likely to scare offer shyer animals coming down to drink before other boats come past. A keen photographer, however, would certainly want to take the last afternoon departure to capture the best in light.
On that note, Wild Frontiers also offers a daily Falls Sundowner cruise leaving at 15.30 for US$45 per adult. All boats are provided with lifejackets and river guides.
The Nile-Lake Albert Delta Launch/Boat Cruise
The Nile Albert Delta Launch cruise is one the best activities in Murchison Falls National Park for birders undertaking a birdwatching Uganda safari vacation in Murchison.
The launch trip starts from Paraa and the boat slowly sails on the gently flowing Nile waters, after losing its energy from the fall’s plunge pool.
This 20-kilometer cruise downriver to the Lake Albert Delta is favored by birdwatchers as one of the best opportunities anywhere in Africa to see the rare shoebill, particularly during the rainy season.
Scheduled delta area cruises with a “breakfast on board” option are offered in the mornings (subject to minimum numbers) departing from the jetty at Paraa on the South Bank at 07.00 am. Your trip can also be tailor-made with a private boat and timings to suit.
Wild Frontier runs a daily cruise in a shaded 15-seater boat that leaves Paraa at 07.00 am. The return cruise takes between 4-5 hours for US$55 per adult, subject to minimum numbers on board.
2. Game Drives In Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park game drives are the most common activities in Murchison Falls National Park. They 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.
Some of the most common animals to see during these game drives include Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Buffaloes, Giraffes, Uganda Kobs, Warthogs, etc.
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. A 4X4 vehicle is advised; this can be a Van, a small, or an extended land cruiser.
Buligi And The Delta Game Viewing Circuit, Murchison Falls National Park
For travelers on Uganda wildlife safaris, wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park is concentrated in the north of the Nile.
Buligi Area: The established area for game viewing here is a circuit of tracks within the Buligi area. The Buligi area is a 10 km-wide peninsula that divides the Victoria Nile and the Albert Nile as they course in and out of Lake Albert
To access the Buligi area from Paraa, follow the road towards Tangi Gate north of the ferry crossing, then turn left at Te-Bito junction after 7 km.
Queen’s Track: For visitors with little time, the 10km is not only the shortest, but also the smoothest, and usually the most productive for game watching.
Albert Nile Track: The 12km northerly Albert Nile track, branching right at the first intersection, passes through dense acacia forest patches that will be enticing to birdwatchers.
Victoria Nile Track: The 13 km southerly Victoria Nile track, which branches left at the second junction, supports high game concentrations as it approaches the delta.
These three routes merge and the Buligi Track on a grassy peninsula flanked by a delta to the south and the Albert Nile to the north.
A network of interconnecting tracks crosses the delta, which passes through several Uganda kob breeding grounds. A great spot for a stop here is the lookout known as the Delta Point or Hippo Point given the number of hippos that languish in the surrounding water. The convention at the hippo point is to step out of the car and stroll down to the shore to gawp at the profusion of hippos and birds in the reedy shallows.
A high concentration of Uganda kob is a guarantee in this area, as well as small groups of Defassa waterbucks and Jackson’s hartebeests as well as small families of Oribi.
A remarkable feature of the place is the giraffe herds, which often number 50 or more, something that you cannot easily anywhere daily during safaris in Africa.
Significant herds of buffalo are also common around the delta, typically comprising a few individuals whose coloration indicates some genetic input from the smaller, redder forests buffalos of West Africa.
This location is also a good place to look for the tender puppy side-striped jackal and the troops of the localized Patas monkeys
The abundant amount of Uganda kobs has drawn several lion prides to the delta area. The perfect place to look for these languid predators is a long series of short anonymous tracks connecting the Albert Nile and Queen’s Tracks.
At least one lion pride maintains an almost permanent presence in this area, frequently lying out open in the early morning and late afternoon, but usually retreating deep into the thicket during the heat of the day.
The delta area offers some great bird watching. Also, the Delta area offers some excellent bird-watching opportunities. Remarkable ground birds here include the preposterous Abyssinian ground hornbill, the magnificent Gray-crowned cranes, the Saddle-billed stork, the localized Denham bustard, the stunning black-headed and spur-winged lapwings, and the Senegalese thick-knee.
The tall acacia stands that line the Albert Nile Track, immediately north of the junction with the Queen’s Track harbor a host of good woodland birds, including the rare black-billed barbet and delightfully colorful swallow-tailed, northern Carmine, blue-breasted, and red-throated bee-eaters. Herds of grazers-in particular buffalos are often attended by flocks of cattle egrets, Piapiac, and red-billed and yellow-billed-ox-peckers.
Heart Of Murchison Game Drive, Murchison Falls National Park
The Heart of Murchison lies 20km east of the Masindi-Paraa road in the southern region of Murchison Falls National Park.
The wildlife viewing here is less prolific and more skittish than it is on the Buligi and Delta Circuit, so you are recommended to conduct your game drive in the north of the river if ticking off the Big Five is your priority, but the compensation is that very few visitors head out this way, so it has more real wilderness feel.
However, the recently opened honeymoon Track and associated Kob and Hartebeest loops, which run to the east of the main Masindi-Paraa road are particularly useful for the people staying at Sambiya River Lodge and can be useful as an extension to the Top of the falls.
The loop starts at a junction about 8km along the feed road to the Top of the Falls, then runs east through thick woodland for about 15km before arriving at the three-way junction that marks the start of the Kob Track.
Game Drives Times In Murchison Falls National Park
There is room for morning and evening game drives in Murchison Falls.
However, game viewing can best be done in the morning from 6:30 am, and if at all you slept in a lodge at the southern bank, you are required to cross the river at the ferry at around 7:00 am.
There is also another choice of going for an evening game drive that starts around 4:00 pm local time and takes between 3 to 4 hours.
For a thorough game drive within the park, approximately 5 hours can be enough.
Guided Day Game Viewing Fees In Murchison Falls National Park
|Visitor Category||Fees (Per Person)|
|East African citizen||UGX20,000|
The costs exclude the park entrance fee.
3. Top Of The Falls View Point – Top Of Murchison Falls
Murchison falls is an impressive sight from the boat, but hiking to the top of the magnificent Murchison Falls is an opportunity for you to see a lot of nature’s secrets during your visit to Uganda.
In fact for sheer sensory overload, be sure to visit this spectacular south bank viewpoint, which is reached along a sporadically steep and rough 15km road that branches north from the main Paraa road at a signposted junction about 500 meters past Sambiya River Lodge.
From the car park, a short footpath leads downhill to the waterfall’s head and a fenced viewpoint from where one can truly appreciate the staggering power with which the Nile crashes through the narrow gap in the escarpment, not to mention the deafening roar and voluminous spray.
From this main viewpoint, a longer footpath, perhaps 20 minutes walking time, leads to Baker’s View on a ridge looking directly towards Murchison Falls as well as the broader Uhuru Falls hundreds of meters or so to the north.
The face-on view of the two cataracts, separated by a lushly forested hillock- is truly inspiring, but surpassed perhaps by following another footpath down to the base of the short gorge below the two waterfalls.
If you want to check out all the viewpoints, allow at least 2 hours, ideally in the afternoon, when the sun is better positioned for photography.
There is much wildlife in the vicinity of the falls and it is considered safe to walk unaccompanied between the viewpoints, though you may encounter troops of baboons and black-and-white colobus monkeys.
The bat cliff immediately south of the main waterfall visible from Baker’s viewpoint is worth scanning with binoculars for raptors and swallows.
Wait around until dusk and you should see bat hawks soaring around in search of a quick dinner.
After dusk, the drive from the Top of the Falls back to the main road is particularly good for nocturnal birds, including spotted eagle owl and (seasonally) Africa’s three most spectacular and distinctive nightjar species, long-tailed (Mar-Aug); pennant winged (March-Sep) and standard-winged (Sep-Apr).
Although the top of the fall is easily visited by road, the most satisfying way to get there is to tag it onto a launch trip from Paraa. This entails disembarking from the boat at a landing point a few meters below the falls and ascending a tree-shaded footpath through the gorge to the viewpoints at its rim, where you will need to arrange for a vehicle to collect you.
Alternatively, you could be driven to the viewpoint and then walk down in time to be collected by the launch.
Hiking To The Top Of The Falls Fee
|Visitor category||Fees (per person)|
|East African citizen||UGX10,000|
The costs exclude the park entrance fee.
A hiking fee must be paid in advance at the ticket office at Paraa, and a ranger guide will be allocated to escort you on foot between the landing point and Barker’s View.
4. Birding in Murchison Falls
Viewing birds in the scenic landscape of Murchison is among the most interesting activities in Murchison Falls National Park on a Ugandan safari.
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 providing 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. These walks last from one and a half to two hours.
Guided Birdwatching Tour Fees
|Visitor category||Fees (per person)|
|East African citizen||UGX10,000|
The costs exclude the park entrance fee.
5. Sport Fishing in Murchison Falls Park
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.
Methods are by casting lures, spinning, and catching fish on live bait. All anglers are advised to have rods that are between 8 feet and 11 feet with a multiplier reel. While catching smaller species; a 7’ spinning rod is recommended.
Fishing in Murchison can be done any time of the year and the large catfish and Nile perch can be caught all through. Anglers say that the best catches are seen early in the morning and late in the day.
Though the best results for fish are when the water level is low since water is clearer (Mid-January to Early-April). Sportfishing requires expertise; therefore you need assistance from experienced and skilled fishing guides.
A sport fishing permit must be bought from UWA for US$50 for one day or US$150 for four days. The cost applies to all visitor categories and excludes the park entrance fee.
6. Hot Air Balloons In Murchison Falls National Park
If one is to opt for a safari to Murchison Falls, then Hot air ballooning is one of the things you should not miss out on.
It is the latest addition to Murchison Falls National Park’s menu of activities is hot-air balloon safaris operated from the north bank at Paraa by Dream Balloons.
Sunrise and sunset trips are offered to catch the views over the Nile and surround them in the best light.
The Sunrise trips start at 5:00 am.
Visitors staying at the northern side of Murchison Falls are picked up from the Paraa entrance whereas visitors staying at the southern side are transported by UWA speed boats to the northern bank where they are picked up at the river crossing.
The visitors are transported to the takeoff position and enjoy taking photos as they watch the balloon inflation process. They are then briefed on safety regulations by the pilot and start flying around 6:00 am right before sunrise.
The balloon ride lasts for about an hour after which the balloon lands and guests receive their participation certificates. On the way back a mini safari tour is provided depending on the landing position. The trip ends at about 8:00 am.
Visitors enjoying the full package continue to the bush breakfast location prepared by the Paraa Safari lodge chef in the bush, the location is secured by UWA armed rangers. (The full package trip ends at about 9:30 am)
Guests are then transported back to their pick-up location.
The Sunset program starts at 4:00 pm and ends at 6:30 pm (no bush dinner is provided)
Currently, the balloon carries a maximum of eight passengers. No minimum size is imposed at the time.
When up there, you will be able to have a great view of the Savannah below you teaming with all kinds of wildlife.
The excursion costs US$300 per person, but an extra US$80 is charged for an optional bush breakfast (for foreign non-residents).
Foreign residents, Ugandans, and East African citizens pay US$250.
The booking office is in the lobby of Paraa Safari Lodge.
7. Chimpanzee Tracking In Budongo Forest
Chimpanzee tracking adds to wonderful activities In Murchison Falls National Park. This is done in Kaniyo Pabid which supports two chimpanzee communities each estimated to number around 90 individuals. 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, with trackers setting off in up 6 guided groups, each comprising of up to six people, at 8.00 then again at 14.00, though they can be quite flexible departure times when not fully booked.
Tracking at Kaniyo Pabidi is not quite as reliable as it is at Kibale Forest, but the terrain is flatter and easier and the success rate currently stands at 80%, with most groups locating chimps within an hour of setting off, in which case the full activity should take around 3 hours.
It may take longer if the chimps are more difficult to locate.
Permits cost US$100; a full-day habituation experience (6-12 hours, starting at 07.000; max 6 participants) is US$30 per person.
9. Community Tours/Walks Around Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is surrounded by a range of diverse communities that reflect the tribes of Uganda.These for one the unique activities In Murchison Falls National Park
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.
Boomu Village also offers a unique cultural experience. Here you can visit an African village for a few hours and take a village walk.
You can also stay overnight in a traditional African Banda, go into the gardens to pick the things for lunch and dinner, work alongside African women, and sit with a storyteller of old.
Learn how dyes are made from plants and flowers and see them used as the loom is used to create a cloth fabric, learn how to make traditional crafts such as baskets, and more.