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Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park sits on the shore of Lake Albert, in northwest Uganda. It’s known for Murchison Falls, where the Victoria Nile River surges through a narrow gap over a massive drop.

Park wildlife includes elephants and hippos, and there are chimpanzees in the Kaniyo Pabidi mahogany forest. The Lake Albert Delta is home to rare shoebill storks. There are game fish in the cascades of Karuma Falls.

The distance from Kampala to Murchison falls is 305 km and it is just a five hours drive from the city center when you use the private transport means.

Coming from the southwest, the 280km/170mi drive from Fort Portal takes at least six hours. Allow another hour or two from the entrance gate to most of the lodges.

It is also possible to fly to the park by chartered or scheduled aircraft service from Entebbe International Airport (EBB) or Kajjansi Airfield near Kampala.

Pakuba Airfield is the most convenient point of arrival for the main cluster of camps and lodges around the park headquarters at Paraa.

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 scenery is more beautiful during the Wet season from June to November.

Murchison Falls, also known as Kabalega Falls, is a waterfall between Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert on the Victoria Nile in Uganda. At the top of Murchison Falls, the Nile forces its way through a gap in the rocks, only 7 m wide, and tumbles 43 m, before flowing westward into Lake Albert.

The outlet of Lake Victoria sends around 300 cubic meters per second of water over the falls, squeezed into a gorge less than 10 m wide. Samuel Baker and Florence Baker were the first Europeans who sighted them. Baker named them after Roderick Murchison, the President of the Royal Geographical Society.

The falls lend their name to the surrounding Murchison Falls National Park. During the regime of Idi Amin in the 1970s, the name was changed to Kabalega Falls, after the Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro, although this was never legally promulgated.

The name reverted to Murchison Falls following the downfall of Idi Amin. It is still sometimes referred to as Kabalega Falls. Ernest Hemingway crashed a plane just downriver from Murchison Falls in 1954. In August 2019, Uganda rejected a hydropower project by South Africa’s Bonang Power and Energy.

What to do in Murchison

A boat safari at the bottom of the Murchison falls national park is one of the highlights of this national park and should not missed. At the stunning Murchison Falls, River Nile which is the world’s longest river forces itself through a narrow cleft before dropping 43m down with a thunderous roar.

River Nile divided Murchison Falls National park in North and south sectors and attracts a huge number of animals which come to drink from the river. A boat safari to the bottom of Murchison falls offers visitors an opportunity to see and photograph animals that come to drink especially during afternoon or evening hours.

Apart from the animals, the river attracts huge numbers of birds. You will see Nile crocodiles relaxing at the river bank, hippopotamus splashing waters, elephants, giraffes, antelopes among others.

Birds include pied king fisher, fish eagles, saddle billed storks and beef eaters. Boat safaris in Murchison falls national park happen in the morning, in the afternoon and early evening.

A hike to the top of the falls with a constant rainbow is breath taking. This activity by all means should not be missed while in the park and it can also be done by children. The hike offers stunning views of the falls and the green scenery surrounding them.

The hike is an easy one and takes about 30 minutes for people who are really fast and about an hour for people who are less fast and with stopovers for the guide’s briefing on some of the stop points. The hike trails are well developed although the steps are quite steep on some point.

A traveler will have great views of the Uhuru falls too and you will have some of the best photographs taken from here. The hike starts from the bottom of the falls and your driver guide MUST wait for a visitor at the top of the falls.

Take a river boat trip to the Nile Delta. This is where the Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert and a boat trip here is a must for bird watchers. The banks of the Nile Delta are famous for the weird looking shoebill stork which is rare and pre-historic.

The shoebill stork is one of Uganda’s highly sought after birds on every bird watching safari. Apart from the shoebill stork, look out for other birds like the giant Kingfisher, beef eaters, pelican and other storks. You will see many Nile crocodiles, some elephants and numerous antelopes.

Go for a sunrise, sunset or night safari, in the Northern part of River Nile where most wildlife of the national park are. Travelers who stay at Paraa Safari Lodge and Pakuba Safari lodge do not need to cross the ferry for the game drives since they are located in the North where the activity starts from.

On these game drives expect to see lots of elephants, giraffes, Africa cape Buffalo, lions, leopards, primates,  and different types of antelopes that include the oribi and the water buck.

Bird watching is available and the park’s main attraction is the shoebill stork, best sighted on the Nile Delta boat safari. The best time to see the shoebill stork in Murchison Falls National park is January to March. Bird watching can be done during game drives.

The most common birds sighted are the Abyssinian ground hornbill, black bellied Bustards, open billed storks, secretary bird. On your boat safari at the bottom of the Murchison falls you will see the kingfishers, hornbills, the Grey heron, fly catchers and beef eaters among others.

At the Nile river bank, you will also see stilts, plovers, and geese. Birding watching can also be done from Budongo Forest for forest birds and along the royal mile.

A hot air balloon safari gives a visitor in Murchison Falls National park a bird eye’s view of the national park. Hot air balloon safaris are only possible in the morning, and they are wrapped up by a bush breakfast.

One sees lots of animals from above and the safari also offers beautiful views of Lake Albert, River Nile and colorful sunrises.

Tour Budongo Forest, Murchison Falls NP

The forest is home to different types of primates that include red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, the dog shaped olive baboons but the star are the chimpanzees.

A visitor can combine a wildlife safari to Murchison falls national park and chimpanzee tracking of habituated chimpanzees in Budongo forest.  Chimpanzee tracking can be done in the morning or in the afternoon. For keen bird watchers, includes bird watching a long the Royal Mile track which is one of the best bird watching places.

Sport fishing which requires a special permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority. Sport fishing are done at the bottom of river Nile and Nile Perch is the most common fish caught by anglers doing sport fishing on River Nile. The other types of fish caught are cat fish and tiger fish.

Most anglers agree that sport fishing in the wild Murchison Falls is one of the most challenging and clients are always provided with expert guides for safety and for successful fishing.

All fish caught during sport fishing is released back to the water. The best months for sport fishing are the dry months of December to March and June to October.

Where to Stay in Murchison

Paraa Safari lodge is one of the oldest safari lodges and was established in 1954. The lodge has perfect views of River Nile and is located in the Northern part of Murchison Falls National park where most of the activities like game drives, boat safaris and sport fishing take place.

Each room at the lodge is en suite and has a private veranda. Some rooms have beautiful views of River Nile. It has a swimming pool, a restaurant and bar, a gift shop and a conference Centre.

Chobe Safari Lodge

This is a perfect safari lodge with a modern touch. There are 36 en suite rooms on one block each with a private bathroom and shower, a ceiling fan, hair driers and with a private balcony that offers stunning views of River Nile.

Activities one can go for while staying at Chobe Safari lodge are fishing, safari game drives, boat safari on River Nile and a boat trip to the Nile Delta.

Baker’s Lodge is located on the southern bank of River Nile, a great location to explore the Murchison Falls. The lodge derives its name from English Sr. Samuel Baker.

This exclusive private lodge has a fabulous setting with luxurious rooms, great food and service and it is in the middle of Murchison Falls National park.

The lodge has 8 spacious thatched safari suites each raised from the ground on decks, overlooking the Nile.  Each room has a fan, a mosquito net, locally crafted furniture, en suite bathrooms with solar hot water.

The restaurant, lounge and bar are raised on wooden decks too, allowing guests to have a sunrise kissed breakfast and a sunset in the evening over the river.

Pakuba Safari Lodge– Located at the Eastern bank of the Albert Nile, Pakuba Safari Lodge is tastefully designed and offers comfort to travelers who stay here while in Murchison Falls.

Travelers can enjoy different activities of Murchison Falls National park which include game drives, hikes to the top of the falls, bird watching and boat safaris at the bottom of the falls.

The lodge has 46 rooms which are en suite with a private bathroom and flushing toilets.  The rooms are clean, comfortable and with mosquito nets.

The food is nice, and the stuff is excellent and friendly. Many animals especially giraffes come right to the lodge to graze.

Murchison River Lodge– Overlooking Murchison Falls from the southern bank of River Nile, Murchison River Lodge is a comfortable and relaxing mid-range lodge in Murchison Falls National park.

It has accommodations for all budgets. It has en suite thatched cottages, self-contained thatched safari tents, and comfortable camping tents. You may also bring your own tent to hitch.

The lodge has a swimming pool, a restaurant and bar. The accommodation is simply stunning and the restaurant is set on the most photogenic spot.

Fort Murchison lodge– Designed in a Swahili kind of style, Fort Murchison Lodge is located on the Eastern banks of River Nile.

It offers money for value accommodation from mid-range to budget options. The mid-range rooms are 12 self-contained with spacious bedrooms and comfortable beds. Each room has a private balcony

The restaurant has Swahili décor and guests are served 4 course menus. The bar on the roof top has great views and is perfect for a sun downer.

Fort Murchison tents– Fort Murchison has a budget option and offers non self-contained tents that have 2 single beds, mosquito nets, all linen, a bed side table and a power socket for charging your electrical equipments.

The tents are under grass thatched roofs with a private terrace. Visitors who stay in tents have shared showers and flushing toilets.