Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls is 45 m high - the Nile is funneled through a cleft in the rocks in Murchison Falls Park, Uganda

Murchison Falls National Park Uganda

Murchison Falls National Park is the best game park for wildlife safari tours in Uganda. This beautiful Uganda safari park boasts a huge diversity of wildlife that is easier to see compared to other savannah national parks of Uganda.

Murchison Falls National Park gets its name from the magnificent Murchison Falls – the world’s strongest waterfalls on the Nile River. The falls were named by Sir Samuel Baker during his exploration tour of Uganda in the 19th Century.

Baker named the falls Murchison after the famous British geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, who incidentally believed Africa to be a geologically boring continent.

As the largest Uganda wildlife safari park, Murchison Falls National Park is home to over 76 mammal and 450 bird species! Almost all of the major African wild animals like Giraffes, Elephants, Buffalo, Leopard, Hippo, Crocodile, and Chimpanzee can be sighted here while on game drive, boat cruise, or walking tour.

Notable visitors to the park include Ernest Hemingway, President Theodore Roosevelt and several British royals. Sir Winston Churchill also visited Murchison Falls which may have been what led him to declare Uganda the ‘Pearl of Africa’.

A Pod of hippo in the Nile River in Murchison Falls National Park
A Pod of hippo in the Nile River in Murchison Falls National Park

Location: Where Is Murchison Falls National Park?

Murchison Falls National Park is located in northwestern Uganda.

The park is approximately 300km by road from Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.

It covers 3,840km2 of wilderness on both sides of River Nile west of Karuma Falls and east of Lake Albert. It’s part of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area.

To the south, west and east, it adjoins Bugungu Wildlife Reserve (782km2), Budongo Forest Reserve (825km2), and Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserve (720km2).

These reserves are diverse ecosystems in their own right, but serve a vital function as buffer zones between the game park and the nearby local communities.

Landscape & Scenery

Herd of buffalo between the borassus palms in Murchison Falls National Park
Herd of buffalo between the borassus palms in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park has many varied and beautiful landscapes.

The park is divided by a stretch of the Nile – the longest river on Earth, creating the northern sector and southern sector. The northern section is features tall grasslands interspersed with beautiful Borassus palms, acacia trees, and riverine woodland.

The southern half has wooded savannah and dense tropical forest. In the west, where the Nile enters Lake Albert, there’s an extensive wetland.

Throughout the park, the view is beautiful and at times surprising. Murchison Falls National Park is a great place for landscape photographers to flex their muscles.

The Murchison Falls are of course the park’s its most distinctive geographical feature. But also of particular note are the riverbanks and the Nile Lake Albert delta, both of which teem with waterbirds, waders and other wildlife.

Nile River In Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
Nile River In Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

A Short History Of Murchison Falls Park

In the first half of the 20th century, Murchison Falls National Park and its surroundings was a hunting playground for the rich.

In 1909 – President Theodore Roosevelt visited Murchison Falls National Park as part of the most lavish hunting safari of all time. By the end of his year-long East African safari, the Smithsonian-Roosevelt Africa Expedition had killed and collected 11,400 animal specimens for the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1952 – hunting activities became regulated. As animal populations recovered, the then Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve became Murchison Falls National Park.

In 1960s – it was one of the premier destinations wildlife safaris in Africa, receiving more than 60,000 visitors every year.

In 1972 – with the rise of Idi Amin’s despotic reign, however, the populations of wild animals in Murchison Falls National Park were greatly reduced by poaching and uncontrolled hunting. Rhinos were killed off entirely and other animal numbers suffered equally at the hands of desperate civilians and soldiers.

In 1979 – although Amin was overthrown, it was to be another 20 years before the Uganda Wildlife Authority was able to restore the core tourism area of Murchison Falls National Park. Recovering visitor numbers supported the painstaking work of restoring the park to its former glory.

Top Attractions In Murchison Falls National Park

1. The Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls is 45 m high - the Nile is funneled through a cleft in the rocks in Murchison Falls Park
Murchison Falls is 45 m high – the Nile is funneled through a cleft in the rocks in Murchison Falls Park

In the middle of Murchison Falls NP is its star attraction: Murchison Falls.

These dramatic falls are a jaw-dropping sight to behold. They have been described as the most spectacular thing to happen to the Nile River along its entire 6,700 km length.

Here the world’s longest river, River Nile which about 50 meters wide is forced through a narrow gorge just 8 meter wide.

It then plunges 45 meters to what has been termed as the devil’s cauldron below, forming a plume of spray marked by a thunderous roar and a permanent rainbow.

2. Animals In Murchison Falls National Park

The restoration efforts have proved exceedingly successful for much of the animals in Murchison Falls National Park.

And if you take a Uganda wildlife safari to the park, you’re like to find yourself overwhelmed by the variety of life on display. There is over 76 mammal, 450 bird, 51 reptiles and 51 Amphibian species.

Popular Animals In Murchison Falls National Park

Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus in Murchison Falls National Park
Hippopotamus in Murchison Falls National Park

During your Murchison Falls safari in Uganda, you have a great opportunity to see plenty of hippos. These massive Uganda animals live in groups called “pods”. They can most often be found lazing in the water of the Nile.

Nile crocodile

In Murchison Falls National Park, hundreds of enormous crocodiles of up to 6 meters long glide silently through the water of the Nile River. The Nile crocodiles are biggest freshwater predators in Africa.

Nile Crocodile In Murchison Falls National Park
Nile Crocodile In Murchison Falls National Park

Rothschild’s Giraffe

If you want to see the tallest land animals on Earth on your Uganda safari, Murchison Falls is the best place to visit. The park has about 1,250 Rothschild’s giraffes, more than half the global population of this localized subspecies.

Herd of Rothschild's Giraffes in Murchison Falls National Park, Wildlife In Uganda
Herd of Rothschild’s Giraffes in Murchison Falls National Park, Wildlife In Uganda
Common Warthog

Made famous by the character Pumba in the Lion King, warthogs are considered a sight many hope to see on safari to Uganda. They’re mud lovers and remain in nearby marshy areas and watering holes of Murchison Falls National Park.

Warthog in Murchison Falls National Park
A common Warthog in Murchison Falls National Park
Olive Baboon

Also known as the Anubis baboons, Olive baboons are common primates you can see on your Uganda safari tour in Murchison Falls National Park. You can spot them almost everywhere in the park.

A Female Olive Baboon with a baby in Murchison Falls National Park
A Female Olive Baboon with a baby in Murchison Falls National Park
Spotted Hyena

During your wildlife tour in Uganda Murchison Falls National Park, you’re likely to fall asleep to a distant, whooping serenade of spotted or laughing hyenas.

A Spotted Hyena in Murchison Falls National Park
A Spotted Hyena in Murchison Falls National Park
Patas Monkey

Patas monkeys are the fastest primates in the world; they can run up to 55 km (34 miles) per hour! Murchison Falls National Park is also one of the best places to see these unique ground-dwelling monkeys. They live here in large numbers.

They’re social primates and live in large troops of up to 60 individuals!

Africa’s Big 5 Animals Murchison Falls Park

Hundred years ago, Africa’s Big 5 animals (lion, rhino, leopard, elephant and buffalo) were the most sought-after animals to hunt. These days they’re the most sought-after animals to see and shoot with cameras, not guns. Murchison Falls Np offers its visitors the opportunity to see four these incredible creatures.

African Buffalo
A herd of Buffalo in Murchison Falls National Park
A herd of African Buffalo in Murchison Falls National Park

More than 10,000 buffalos call Murchison Falls National Park their home. Despite how many you’ll see throughout your Uganda trip here, be sure to keep your safe distance as the African buffalo. They are considered one of the most dangerous animals you can encounter.

African Bush Elephant

Murchison Falls National Park is also well-known for its huge herds of African elephants. Over 1,330 individuals live in the park and are at an increase.

This means that you have a very good chance of seeing them on your Uganda wildlife Safari to Murchison Falls National Park!

African Elephants Playing In The River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park
African Elephants Playing In The River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park
Lion

Against the backdrop of Murchison Falls National Park’s magnificent scenery, lion, the indisputable king of the African bush stalk herds of Ugandan kob.

Lions prefer to frequent wide, open spaces where they can easily access their prey. They do however; always remain close to a source of water and shade.

African Lion in Murchison Falls National Park
African Lion in Murchison Falls National Park
Leopard

Leopards are slightly more elusive to find on a Murchison Falls National Park tour, but with a little luck and good timing you should be able to see them. It is well worth scanning the crown of the huge sausage trees in the hopes of a spotted cat draped across a branch.

Leopard In A Tree - Murchison Falls National Park
Leopard In A Tree – Murchison Falls National Park
Rhinos
Southern White Rhino In Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary Near Murchison Falls National Park
Southern White Rhino In Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary Near Murchison Falls National Park

These majestic creatures have yet to be reintroduced to the Murchison Falls National Park, but you can easily track them on foot in the neighboring Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The sanctuary is currently home to 32 White Rhinos.

Antelopes In Murchison Falls National Park

A herd of Waterbuck in Murchison Falls National Park
A herd of Waterbuck in Murchison Falls National Park

There are many species of antelopes in Murchison Falls National Park, including;

  • 35,000 Uganda kobs – the Uganda national animal
  • Waterbucks
  • Bushbuck
  • Oribi
  • Sitatunga
  • Jackson’s Hartebeest
  • Grey duikers
  • Bohor reedbucks.

Chimpanzees In Budongo Forest

Chimpanzee in Budongo Forest in Murchison Falls National Park
Chimpanzee in Budongo Forest in Murchison Falls National Park

The adjacent Budongo Forest is home to 600-700 chimpanzees, our closest relatives. Some of the communities have been researched and habituated for the past 30 years. It is one of the best places for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda.

3. Birds In Murchison Falls National Park

Over 450 bird species can be found in the Murchison Falls NP! Because of this incredible diversity, the park is one of the best places Uganda birding safaris.

For birders and non-birders, the prehistoric Shoebill is high on the list of must-sees, and the swampy Nile Lake Albert Delta is one of the best places to spot one.

Sheobill with a lungfish in Murchison Falls National Park
Sheobill with a lungfish in Murchison Falls National Park

Here is a list of some exciting Uganda birds to see in Murchison Falls Park.

  • Shoebill
  • African Darter
  • African skimmer
  • Abyssinian ground hornbill
  • African fish eagle
  • African Dwarf Kingfisher
  • Brown twinspots
  • Black-headed Gonolek
  • Blue-throated roller
  • Beaudouin’s snake-eagle
  • Blue swallows
  • Cassin’s spinetail
  • Chocolate-backed kingfisher
  • Great blue Turaco
  • Goliath heron
  • Grey-crowned crane
  • Nahan’s francolin
  • Northern carmine bee-eater
  • Pel’s Fishing Owl
  • Red-winged Grey Warbler
  • Rock pratincole
  • Red-throated Bee-eater
  • Saddle-billed stork
  • Senegal Coucal
  • White-thighed hornbill
Grey Crowned Cranes in Murchison Falls National Park
Grey Crowned Cranes in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park Entry Fees

Fees per Person 2022-2024

  • Foreign Non-Residents – USD$45
  • Foreign Residents – USD$35
  • East African Citizens – UGX 25,000

Activities To Do In Murchison Falls National Park

There are lots of incredible safari activities to experience in Murchison Falls National Park. Learn about the costs involved in these activities below.

1. Boat Cruise To The Bottom Of Murchison Falls

A safari boat cruise is a special experience that few parks are able to offer. Murchison Falls National Park offers boat safaris on the Nile that provides the perfect opportunity to see and photograph the animals.

The safaris start Paraa, which means ‘the place of hippos’ in Luo.

The most popular option is the relaxing three hour boat cruise to the base of the Murchison Falls, which starts in afternoon. You cruise past hundreds of hippos, Nile crocodiles, and water birds, as well as elephants, buffalos and giraffes quenching their thirsty in the world’s longest river.

Then, finally, you pause a short distance from the bottom of the mighty Murchison Falls – the world’s most powerful waterfall!

Boat Cruise Fees per Person

  • Foreign Non-Residents – USD 30
  • Foreign Residents – USD 25
  • East African Citizens – UGX 30,000
Boat Cruise On River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park
Boat Cruise On River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park

2. Nile Delta Lake Albert Boat Cruise

You can also go on a boat cruise about 20 km (5 hours) downriver to the delta where River Nile enters Lake Albert.

The area is a magnet for birdlife, as well as game, and is incredibly lush and pretty. It offers one of the best chances anywhere in Africa to see the rare Shoebill and it is highly recommended for visitors on Uganda birding tours.

Scheduled delta area cruises with a “breakfast on board” option are offered in the mornings departing from Paraa at 07.00 am. Your trip can also be tailor-made with a private boat and timings to suit your interests.

You can even opt for a fishing boat cruise if you want. The boats have roofs, which is handy for protecting you from the sun.

Fees – US$55 per adult

3. Day Game Drives

Game drives take place on the northern side of Murchison Falls National Park, where many of the animals can be spotted easily roaming in the palm dotted savannah grasslands and between the woodlands. A 4X4 safari vehicle is advised.

A typical day game drive lasts 3 to 4 hours. It usually starts at 6 am as the sun comes up. Sunrise is the best time for game viewing as animals tend to be the most active during the “golden hours”, when the first rays of sun come to rest on the savannah.

You can also enjoy an evening game drive, starting at around 4.00 pm.

Day Game Drive Fees per Person

  • Foreign Non-Residents – USD30
  • Foreign Residents – USD 25
  • East African Citizens – UGX 30,000

4. Night Game Drive

Murchison Falls is also offers night game drives to watch nocturnal action on the plains.

Guided by armed rangers, night drives set out for the dark plains at about 19:00 and lasts for 2 hours. You can spot out the nocturnal creatures like hyenas, lions, leopards, civets, genets, porcupines, bush babies, nightjar, and hippos.

Night Game Drive Fees Per Person

  • Foreign Non-Residents – USD 40
  • Foreign Residents – USD 35
  • East African Citizens – UGX 40,000

5. Top of Murchison Falls Visit

The visit to the top of the Murchison Falls is another exciting adventure to do in Murchison Falls National Park. It is at the “Top of the falls” from where you have a perfect view of the impressive falls and the river snaking below.

Top of Murchison Falls Visit fees per Person

  • Foreign Non-Residents – USD10
  • Foreign Residents – USD 10
  • East African Citizens – UGX 10,000

6. Bird Watching

If you are bird lover then Murchison Falls National Park cannot miss out on birding trip in Uganda. Birding will produce savannah species in the northern part, water species along the Nile and the Lake Albert. And the forest species in Budongo Forest!

Male Abyssinian Ground Hornbill In Murchison Falls National Park
Male Abyssinian Ground Hornbill In Murchison Falls National Park

Bird Watching Fees per Person

  • Foreign Non-Residents – USD 30
  • Foreign Residents – USD 25
  • East African Citizens – UGX 10,000

7. Chimpanzee Tracking

Chimpanzee tracking in Budongo Forest is a perfect inclusion to the big game safaris in Murchison Falls National Park.

After the safaris in the hot northern savannah plains, crossing over to the south in the cool and serene Budongo Forest Reserved is very refreshing and unwinding.

The chimp trek offers unforgettable encounter with our closest relatives. You also get to see plenty of life in the forest such as monkeys, baboons, birds, butterflies, huge Mahogany trees, and a variety of plants and shrubs.

Chimp Trekking Permit Fees per Person:

  • Foreign Non-Residents – USD 130
  • Foreign Residents – USD 120
  • Uganda Citizens – USD 85

Where To Stay In Murchison Falls National Park?

Nile Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park
Nile Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park offers basic yet pleasant camping sites and lodges for the more budget-restricted traveler. There are also a handful of lodges that offer mid-range and luxury accommodation and facilities.

  • Paraa Safari Lodge – Luxury
  • Bakers Lodge – Luxury
  • Nile Safari Lodge – Luxury
  • Chobe Safari Lodge – Luxury
  • Murchison River Lodge – Midrange
  • Pakuba Safari Lodge – Midrange
  • Parkside Safari Lodge – Midrange
  • Fort Murchison Safari Lodge –Midrange/Budget
  • Red Chill Rest Camp – Budget
  • Hornbill Safari Lodge – Budget
  • Heritage Safari Lodge – Budget

The Best Way To Get To Murchison Falls National Park

Uganda safaris to Murchison Falls National Park usually start from Entebbe (the entry point to Uganda) or Kampala (the capital city of Uganda). Here are the two best ways you can get to Murchison Falls during your safaris in Uganda:

1. By Car

The drive to Murchison Falls National Park from Entebbe or Kampala will take approximately 6 to 7 hours.

However, you will enjoy some incredible scenery en route! When visiting Murchison Falls we highly recommend exploring the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, a protected area that is home to Uganda’s only wil-d rhinos.

2. By Plane

The fastest way to get to Murchison Falls National Park is by taking a small plane from either Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip in Kampala to a small airstrip located directly inside the park. The flight takes about 1½ hours.

Best Time To Visit Murchison Falls

Weather-wise, Murchison Falls National Park has something to offer all year round.

The dry seasons from June to September and December to February offer the best wildlife viewing, and the entire park will be accessible.

The Nile is also relatively low, making the dry season the best time to view the falls. This may sound counter-intuitive, but spray due to high water levels can obscure the view entirely and force the sightseeing boats to stay further away.

The rainy seasons are best enjoyed by the more relaxed traveller, content on enjoying lower rates, a quieter park, green surroundings and the best birding.

Murchison Falls National Park Rules

  • Do not camp or make campfires except at designated sites
  • Do not drive off the tracks.
  • Do not disturb wildlife by sounding motor horns.
  • Do not bring dogs or other pets into the park.
  • Do not litter.
  • Do not bring firearms or ammunition into the park.
  • Do not pick flowers or destroy any vegetation.
  • Do not exceed the speed limit of 40km per hour (25mph)

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