Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment drops into vast, palm-dotted savanna. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda’s largest and oldest preservation area, having 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.
The park is split by the Victoria Nile, which pushes 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids. The great cascade drains the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a wide, placid stream that flows gently across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most amazing wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
The main areas of interest in the park include;
Boat Ride along the River Nile
A boat ride along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls is a satisfying experience for nature lovers, as the northern bank teem with a variety of mammals, birds and reptiles. Guided nature walks along both the north and south banks are another stimulating activity, and sport fishing is also possible here. Rafting started in 2012.
Nile-Lake Albert Delta
This wide calm stretch of water, where the tranquil Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert, is a key area for bird watchers. Its papyrus-lined banks are bursting with birdlife, including Goliath Herons, Great Egrets, and African Fish Eagles. The most sought-after species here is the rare Shoebill.
Paraa, meaning home of the hippo in the local Luo language, is the park’s tourism center. All the park’s access roads meet here as the northern and southern banks are linked by a passenger ferry, and several accommodations are located nearby. in addition, a museum and gift shop can be found on the north bank, and most game drives launch trips and nature walks start here.
The Karuma Falls are located in Chobe, in the northeastern sector of the park. These roaring waterfalls on the Victoria Nile are made up of a series of natural rock formations which cause the waters to swell and give them a white, foamy appearance. It is an ideal area for sport fishing.
Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
In the south of Murchison Falls preservation Area, this forest ecosystem contains black-and-white Colobus and blue monkeys, olive baboons, and a habituated chimp group which can be tracked. Elephants, buffalos, lions and leopards are also frequent visitors. Many forest birds can be viewed here, including the chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill and Puvel’s illadopsis which is found nowhere else in East Africa.
Kaniyo Pabidi has a campsite, cottage accommodation, forest walks and excellent bird watching.
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 areas of interest nearing the park include;
Budongo Forest, which is next with the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest, lies south west of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Budongo is amazingly biodiverse, with 24 mammal species, over 360 birds, 289 butterflies and 465 plants. All the forest’s tree species are on display along the “Royal Mile”, a beautiful stretch of road highly regarded for its bird watching. Budongo is also known for its primate population, which includes around 800 chimpanzees. Forest walks are possible at Busingiro Ecotourism Site on the Masindi-Bugungu route to Murchison Falls National Park.
Activities in Murchison falls National Park
Both the game drives and the launch trips offer a chance for one to come across different birdlife, including savannah forest birds, water birds and Albertine Rift endemics. The park’s main birding attraction is the Shoebill, best sighted in the dry season from January-March.
Active dancers from Mubako carry out around lodge campfires, making for a magical African experience at dusk. Boomu Women’s Group offers lodging, a craft shop and village tours, revealing the realities of life in this rural community.
Game drives in Murchison falls
A game drive around the Buligi game tracks on the northern bank with a trained ranger guide is an incredible way to see and photograph the wide range of animals in the Nile Valley. Your guide will have a good idea where the lions are hiding, and you may even spot a leopard at dusk!
Hiking and Nature walks
The vast landscapes and varied scenery of Murchison Falls National Park and the surrounding preservation area can be searched on foot. Trails through Kaniyo Pabidi and Rabongo Forests provide sightings of many primates and birds, while around the Nile Delta, 2-4 hour guided swamp walks offer possible Shoebill sightings.
Launch trips in Murchison
The launch trip upstream from Paraa presents an amazing display of wildlife and ends with the memorable frontal view of the falls. Recommended for birders is a morning cruise downstream to the Nile-Lake Albert Delta. Alternatively, a tranquil sundowner cruise offers the classic view of an equatorial sunset reflected on the river.
Sport fishing in Murchison
The banks of the Nile below Murchison Falls provide exciting challenges to anglers. Living within strong currents and highly oxygenated water is the Nile perch. There is the chance to land a massive catch – the record is 108kg!