Murchison Falls National Park Uganda
The National park is one of the largest National parks in the country with 76 different animal species count and about 450 bird species. Located in the North-western part of the country, the National park is under the authority of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Murchison Falls National Park covers the Rift valley in the Albertine region crossing different districts including Buliisa, Kiryandongo, Nwoya, and Masindi which make up the Murchison falls conservation area.
Murchison Falls Safari Packages
Murchison Falls National Park is the second most visited park in the country. It is the oldest National park and was opened up in 1952. It was named after Roderick Murchison in 1862 by Sir Samuel Baker. Home to different species of wildlife and the famous big five, River Nile, and several bird species, Murchison offers some of the best sceneries in the country. The park is managed by the Uganda wildlife Authority and falls under the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Murchison Falls Conservation Area covers Murchison national Park, Karuma Wildlife Reserve, and the Bugugu Wildlife Reserve.
Entry fees for Murchison Falls National Park
Foreign residents are people who live and have a working permit in the country, the foreign non-residents come from different countries for safaris and East African citizens are people who live in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, Kenya, and DRC.
Foreign non-residents adults $40
Foreign residents adults $20
EAC citizens’ wildlife clubs 2000shs
Students (primary and secondary) 3000shs
College students 5000shs
How to get to Murchison Falls National park
Getting to Murchison Falls National Park is very easy as it is easily accessible by both air and road transport. Murchison can easily be accessed using different routes and this is possible because different gates are used to access the park and these are the southern gated and the Northern gates.
Tourists can use air or road transport to get to Murchison Falls National Park depending on what they are comfortable with. When using road transport, you can either use public means although some prefer private drives because of their comfort and privacy. Private drives can easily be arranged through the local tour companies. Murchison Falls is 5 to 6 hours from Kampala by road and about 305 kilometers.
Air transport is expensive but the best and fastest way to travel to Murchison Falls National Park. The reason as to why many tourists use road transport is that you get to see various tourist attractions along the way unlike when you use air transport.
Accessing the park from the South
Two main gates are used in the south and these are the Bugungu gate and the Kichumbanyobo gate. The Kichumbanyobo gate can easily be accessed from Masindi town through the Kaniyo Pabidi forest to Paara and the Bugungu gate is also accessed from Masindi through the Budongo forest.
Accessing the park from the North
Several gates are found in the Northern part of Murchison including the Tangi gate, Chobe gate, Mubako, gate and Wankwar gate. These are easily accessed from the Kampala to Pakwach road across the Karuma Bridge. These gates are best used by tourists travelling to Gulu from Gulu. For tourists using air transport, a flight can be chartered from Kajjansi air filed or Entebbe International Airport. The flights can land in the different airstrips around the National Park like the Pakuba Airfield in the North, Bugungu near the falls, and Chobe in the southern part of the National Park.
Tourist attractions in Murchison falls National Park
Murchison falls National Park is a basket full of interesting things to see and the top attractions include the following:
This is the longest river in Africa and a top attraction within the National Park. The River flows through a series of countries that include Egypt, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. River Nile’s source is Lake Victoria and it is useful to all the countries that it passes through. The River has helped in agriculture, acts as a water source for both humans and animals, and is used in the generation of electricity. Activities carried out along the River Nile in Murchison include Game viewing, sport fishing, and boat cruises. Exploring the Nile River will take about 2 o 3 hours on a boat cruise and it is considered to be one of the best ways in which tourists can view the animals at the River banks.
Kaniyo Pabidi forest
The Kaniyo Pabidi forest is adjacent to the Budongo forest and is one of the few places in the National Park where primate tracking especially chimpanzees takes place. It is about 8 kilometers away from the Kichumbar gate offering a view of different bird species, blue monkeys, elephants, olive baboons, and lions all living in some of the oldest mahogany trees in the country.
The Karuma falls are located on the Eastern side of the National Park and can be viewed from the Masindi-Gulu highway along the bridge. The stunning view it depicts is stunning and they are home to the Karuma dam where electricity is generated from. The water Falls are surrounded by different animals like antelopes, baboons, hartebeest, and buffalos among others.
Budongo forest is worth visiting because it is where chimpanzee trekking takes place. It is located in the south-western part of the National park in the conservation area and is close to the Pabidi forest. The forest covers about 825 square kilometers and is filled with over 98 different tree species. It is home to chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, over 360 bird species, and other animals. Trekking through Budongo forest will take you about 2 to 3 hours.
The Buligi trail is the most visited part of Murchison national park because it has a wide range of animals living in the woodland and the open savannah grasslands in the area. It is found in between the Albert Nile and the Victoria Nile and can best be explored while on a game drive. Buligi area is also home to the Paara which is found next to the banks of the River Nile. Paara is where most of the activities are launched like boat cruises, and game drives and it is also where the famous luxurious Paraa safari lodge is located.
The Murchison Falls
These were named after the National Park and should be checked out while on your safari. They can be viewed from the boat cruise or you can hike up to the top of the falls and watch them as they fall into the abyss below. It is a beautiful place to be and see the beautiful scenery surrounding the national park.
Activities carried out in Murchison
Several activities are carried out in Murchison Falls National Park and these can be done all year round. The activities that you can carry out while on a safari to Murchison include the following:
Boat cruises in Murchison Falls are carried out along the River Nile which divides it into two that is the southern and northern banks. Two boat cruises are carried out in the Murchison and these are the boat cruise to the Victoria Nile delta and the boat cruise to the Murchison Falls. The boat cruise to the Victoria Nile Delta and Murchison Falls all start at the Paraa jetty landing site with each cruise having different sessions.
The boat cruise to the Falls has two sessions with the first one starting as early as 9:00 am and the second one at 2:00 pm and both sessions take about 2 to 3 hours. The Nile Delta cruise takes about 4 to 5 hours and unlike the one that goes to the bottom of the Falls, this one has several sessions. Both boat cruises will allow you to see various wildlife for example warthogs, crocodiles, buffalos, Uganda Kob, waterbucks, hippos and bird species that include the yellow-footed kingfisher, giant kingfisher, African Jacana, Blue-headed Coucal, goliath heron, open billed stork, African Fish Eagle, and the Senegal thick-knee among others.
Nature walks will give you an insight into the landscape of the National Park and also get closer to the animals and different parts that tour vehicles cannot reach. Nature walks to Murchison are only allowed in gazette areas and in the presence of an experienced tour guide and an armed ranger. While trekking through Murchison, you will have to follow a few guidelines like walking in a line behind the tour guide, do not make noise so that you can easily blend in with the wild, putting on neutral colors, and do not approach the animals.
A hike to the top of the falls is one that you should try out, especially if you are an adrenaline junky. The waterfalls are a spectacular view, especially from above and after the boat cruise, you can hike up and get to see the beautiful scenery from a different point of view. It will take you about an hour before you reach the top and note that it is best done during the dry season when the hike trails are not slippery.
Nature walks are also carried out in Rabongo forest and Kaniyo Pabidi forest which is home to different primates and bird species. While on a nature walk through the forests, you get to see a variety of monkey species, chimpanzees on a small scale, and birds. The time taken on these walks normally depend on your strength and speed.
Sport fishing in Murchison
There are two main sport fishing sites in the National Park and these are at the Karuma Falls and Murchison Falls. The management at Murchison allows tourists to carry out fishing along River Nile banks and the rocky surfaces as well and some of the fish you should expect to catch include Tiger fish, Nile perch, catfish, and mudfish. The sport fishing expedition will not take more than an hour but as the rules of sport fishing go, you are to put all the fish back into the water.
The best time to go for sport fishing is between January and April when the water levels are low and it should be carried out either in the morning or evening. A sport fishing expedition costs about $50 per day and we advise that you carry the essentials like insect repellents and fishing equipment. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers and sunscreen. All the fishing rods carried should at least be 8 to 11 feet while fishing. Look out for the crocodiles and hippos that are always in the water.
Budongo forest which is located in the National park is where the chimpanzee trekking takes place. The chimpanzees in Budongo might not be as many as those that are found in Kibaale National park but they are worth tracking plus other primates like red-tailed monkeys, black and colobus monkeys, and many more others. Chimpanzee trekking in Murchison can be done all year round but the best time is during the dry season when the track trails are easily accessible. The chimps are always on the move in search of food and it might take you a few hours before you get to one family. The most credited months (90%) of getting to see the chimps are February to April and September to early October.
Balloon rides in Murchison
Hot air balloon rides are one of the activities that you should participate in while in Murchison. At an extra hot, balloon rides start very early in the morning with a briefing from the tour guide before you get into the basket and start ascending into the air. This is one other way of exploring the park from a different point of view. Do not forget to carry a camera and binoculars to take amazing photos of the animals and the landscapes around. After the ride, you will be served a heavy bush breakfast and toast to champagne. Note that hot air balloon rides are done either in Murchison Falls National park or Queen Elizabeth National park. There are two balloon rides offered in Murchison with the first one in the morning and the last one starting at around 4:00 pm but do not expect champagne and a bush meal after the afternoon ride. Each ride carries a maximum of 8 people only and children who are 6 years and below are not allowed on the balloon rides it costs about $390 per person with the ride taking only an hour.
Game drives in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls has main game drive schedules and these are morning game drives and evening Game drives. All these Game Drives last about 2 to 4 hours with the morning game drives starting as early as 6:30 am or 7:00 am if your lodge is a bit far. The morning games start early because many of the animals are up in the morning looking for what to eat. The evening game drives start at around 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm and end by 6:30 pm.
Note that all the Game drives in Murchison Falls National park are best carried out in the Northern Part of the River Nile (Northern Banks). This is because the Northern banks are covered in savannah grasslands which attract a wide range of animals making it the best place for wildlife viewing. So if you are staying on the southern side of the river, you need to wake up early so that you do not miss the ferry that will take you to the Northern bank.
Game drives in Murchison National park are carried out all year round and this is because the animals can be viewed all year round since they rarely migrate. The best time to go for game drives is during the dry season (January to February and June to September) when the grass is scarce and short making it easy to view the animals. And whereas you can go for game drives during the wet season, the grass is greener and taller which hinders wildlife viewing.
Night drives in Murchison start at either 6:30 pm or 7:00 pm and go for two to three hours. A spotlight will be used to help you see the nocturnal animals that are found in the National Park. This is the best opportunity of viewing animals like bush babies, leopards, hyenas, the nightjar, waterbucks, lions, and civets among others. Animals are curious and you might find one or two approaching your vehicle. Some of the things that you might carry while on a game drive include a scarf and sweater, water, and gloves to keep you warm.
Murchison Falls National park has several trails that you can use to get around the National park and the main routes used include Buligi, Albert trail, and Victoria trail with the Buligi trail which leads to the Mweya peninsular being the most used.
You can use different vehicles to get around Murchison but the recommended vehicles are 4×4 vehicles because they get around the dusty and bad roads in Uganda easily. You can either use land cruisers or get tour vans for larger groups of tourists.
The National Park has over 450 bird species Murchison Falls National Park is a good birding destination for tourists. These can be found in the different habitats around the National Park like the swamps and Rivers, woodland, forests, and savannah grasslands. Some of the bird species found in Murchison include Red-throated Bee-eater, silver bird, Grey plantain-eater, swampy Flycatcher, Blue-headed Coucal, African Quail Finch, Goliath Heron, white-browed sparrow, Denham’s Bustard, Malachite Kingfishers, black-billed Barbet, Squacco Heron, elegant grey crowned cranes, African Jacana, and red-throated bee-eater among others. Birding in Murchison Falls National Park is best done from April to May during the wet season when the migratory birds join the endemic birds. Some of the things that you should carry on your bird safari in Murchison include binoculars, hiking boots, sunscreen, and insect repellents, bottled drinking water, a guide book also known as the observation book, a camera, and neutral-colored clothes to blend in with the wild.
Packing list for Murchison
The packing list for a safari to Murchison is the same as what you pack as you get to other destinations. To enjoy your trip, we advise that you pack the following.
Sunscreen and a sun hat
Neutral colored clothes
Strong hike boots
Weather and climate in Murchison falls
Due to its proximity to the equator, the National Park has roughly the same climate throughout the year with two seasons that is the dry season and the wet season with slight variations in temperature due to the different altitudes that are found in the National Park. Temperatures in Murchison range between 31 degrees Celsius during the day and 18 degrees Celsius at night although this changes during the dry season when it becomes a little hotter than usual.
The dry season
The dry season in Murchison is experienced in two phases that is from December to January and June to September. December, January, and February have temperatures of about 33 degrees Celsius during the day and at night it goes down to 18 degrees Celsius. Note that these temperatures can change due to different factors and these are just close approximations. These are also known to be the driest and hottest months in Murchison Falls National Park.
The wet season
The wet season in Murchison Falls National park starts in March and goes on to November with dry seasons in between. The wet season does not mean that it’s going to rain every day but it means that there are will be light showers, heavy showers, and no showers at all on the different days till the dry season sets in. August to November are the wettest months with October receiving the highest rainfall. March is the beginning of the rainy season and by April the rains have set in with temperatures of about 32 degrees Celsius. June and July are dry months with an average temperature of 30 degrees Celsius during the day.
The best time to visit Murchison
The best time to visit Murchison is during the dry season. The dry season is also the peak season because this is the time when the park sees more tourists due to the large crowds of animals that can be seen. The grass is shorter and scarce during the dry season which makes the animals more visible and due to the heat experienced during this time, the animals converge along the River Nile banks to cool off. The peak season is mainly experienced from June to September and during this time the cost of everything is increase and therefore you need to make your bookings early if you are planning on taking your safari during these months.
Wildlife can be viewed by taking Game drives or nature walks and this is best done during the dry season when the roads are not flooded, muddy and passable. Activities done during the dry season include game drives, cultural trios, nature walks, and primate trekking.
Accommodation in and around Murchison Falls National Park
Because the National Park receives a lot of visitors throughout the year, several accommodation facilities fit every style and budget of the different tourists. Accommodation is categorized into three that is budget, mid-range, and luxury accommodation facilities. The lodges in Murchison cost between $4o to over $500 per person per day and depending on the facility you’ve chosen, some offer their guests different activities to keep them entertained. The accommodation facilities that we recommend include the following:
Most basic accommodation facilities are a good way to save especially for tourists who are on a budget. They offer basic facilities to their guest and in some, you will find that you share some facilities like bathrooms and a dining area. Basic facilities here include the following:
Budongo Eco lodge
Sambiya river lodge
Murchison River lodge
Red chili Rest camp
Boomu women’s group Banda
Mama Washindi lodge
New court view Hotel
Pakuba safari lodge
Amuka safari lodge
Fort Murchison safari lodge
Heritage safari lodge
Budongo Eco lodge
Geo lodges Nile safari lodge
Murchison Tree house
Luxury accommodation facilities are for tourists who are not worried about their budget and want a luxurious safari while in Murchison. The luxurious accommodation that we recommend includes:
Paraa safari lodge
Chobe safari lodge
Nile safari lodge