Murchison Falls National Park is located in the northern section of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the massive Bunyoro escarpment gives-way to the enormous Acholi plains. This is one of the oldest wildlife conservation areas, and was in 1926 first gazetted as wildlife reserve to protect the beautiful savannah which Winston Churchill termed as Kew Gardens plus a zoo put together on an infinite scale during his visit in 1907.
The beautiful park has over the years received a number of notable foreign visitors like Winston Churchill who visited in 1907 to see the waterfalls as he explored River Nile, Theodore Roosevelt who visited in 1909 during a hunting safari in the park.
In 1951, during the shooting of the famous movie – The African Queen directed by John Huston, the beautiful Murchison waterfalls offered a background for the film which was shot along river Nile near Lake Albert and the Murchison falls. A number of royal personalities from Britain have likewise visited this park among who are the Queen Mother and the Prince of Wales.
The least happy celebrity guest was Ernest Hemingway in 1954 who pretty much dropped in.
He had intended to just fly over the waterfall however his plane cut an old telegraph-wire put up across the gorge and he wheeled down into the verdant forest.
Hemingway together with his wife were eventually rescued and driven to Butiaba hospital where yet again their rescue plane crashed at takeoff.
The Victoria Nile which runs the first 80km of the white-water rapids before dropping over 40 meters below over the rift valley wall at Murchison Falls (the centre-piece of this national park), cuts across the Murchison Falls National park. These powerful yet beautiful waterfalls in this park were given its name by Samuel Baker an early explorer in back in 1864. He considered it as the most important feature along River Nile’s course. The beautiful waterfalls are very powerful merging from the calmly flowing waters of the Victoria Nile, and thunderously dropping several meters below into a wider stream that also a couple of meters from here calmly flows across the Rift Valley floor to Lake Albert. This section of the river offers the most remarkable views of wildlife on your Uganda Safari along the Nile. Among the animals you are guaranteed to see here are: hippos and giant crocodiles of the Nile, plus visiting buffaloes, elephants, antelopes and giraffes.
Weather in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is on an area of 3893 sq km and it is Uganda’s largest wildlife protected area. Today, it’s a section of the bigger 5072sq km Murchison Falls Protected Area which includes Karuma and Bugungu wildlife reserves which are nearby. The Albert Nile corridor which is Uganda’s lowest area at 612m at Delta Point experiences a maximum mean temperature of 29°C. The hottest months in this area are from December to February and then from June up to July. April and November on the other hand receive most rainfall.
How to get to Murchison Falls Park
The park can be accessed by either road or air
By road: It is 305km about 5 hours drive from the capital Kampala with river Nile crossing at Paraa, within the park
Paraa is 85km from the town of Masindi along a direct route. However there is a longer alternative route through Budongo forest (135km) that offers beautiful views over Lake Albert. Also Paraa can be reached from the northern direction through Chobe Gate found near Karuma Falls, also through Tangi Gate near Pakwach, as well as through Wankwar Gate found near to Purongo.
The Ferry at Paraa runs hourly each day and on this you will be able to cross along with your vehicle to the other side of the Nile.
By Air: there are charter flights to the airstrips close to the park which are: Pakuba airstrip in the north just 19km to Paraa and Bugungu in the south 13km to Paraa.
Where to Stay in Murchison Falls Park
In and around the park are various accommodation options ranging from budget, mid-range and luxury. Below is a summary of some of them.
Luxury Accommodation: Paraa Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Camp and Chobe Safari Lodge
Mid Range Accommodation: Murchison River lodge, Fort Murchison Safari Lodge, Sambiya River lodge and Pakuba Safari Lodge
Budget accommodation: Sambiya River lodge bandas and Red Chillies,
Wildlife in Murchison falls National Park
This park has a large number of wildlife habitats which include: savanna, wetlands, tropical forest, the river and woodland, and these are home to over 70 mammal species and 450 types of birds.
The wildlife in the park can best be viewed during game rides and boat rides. The best time to enjoy game drives is in the early mornings and in the late afternoon. Lions, Uganda kobs, leopards, oribi, elephants, warthogs, hippos, Rothschild’s giraffes, hartebeests, Cape buffaloes and the giant Nile crocodiles (the biggest population in Uganda) are some of the animals you will see. Along the river banks you will see a variety of bird species like the rare shoebill stork.
Then moving on into Kaniyo Pabidi forest you will have an opportunity to track chimpanzees as well as see several other primate species plus birds.
Around the park
The establishment of this park in 1952 the Wildlife Department mentioned that, The best attractions within this park were the exceptional beautiful Murchison Falls and River Nile whose banks are filled with giant crocodiles and hippos, along with several other animals that visit the river-banks to drink water
Today the highlight of a Uganda Safari to Murchison is the launch boat cruise on the Nile to see the waterfalls and wildlife on the banks of the river. The boat rides begin at 09.00 am as well as at14.00 daily. The boat cruise takes 3 hours. There are other boat rides downstream from Paraa to the papyrus delta close to the entrance of the Nile into Lake Albert; these take 4 to 5 hours.
The water below the Murchison Falls offers thrilling challenges to all anglers as well as an opportunity to catch the huge Nile Perch (which can grow to 108kg). Fishing is limited to specified areas for reservation purposes.
Visit the ‘Top of the falls’ for the most breathtaking views of these waterfalls
Rabongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forests
The trails in Kaniyo Pabidi forest, offer the opportunity to see different primates as well as track chimpanzees in one of Uganda’s largest remaining mahogany forest. Birding is excellent and some species you will see include: the hornbilla and the yellow-footed flycatcher along with Ituri bats. Furthermore, there are great Nature walks in Rabongo forest which you can enjoy.
The Buligi area – the best for seeing some savanna wildlife is majorly a grassland wilderness found between the Victoria Nile and Albert Nile with amazing views to the western side of the rift valley over L. Albert in direction of the D.R. Congo.