Murchison Falls is Uganda’s largest National Park crossed by the Nile River, the world’s longest, winds through it meandering through a narrow rock gorge to form the Murchison falls from which the park is named.
The Murchison falls national park is part of the larger Murchison falls protected area that extends some 5,00sqkm to include Karuma and Bugungu wildlife reserves. Rabongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forests Trails through Kaniyo Pabidi forest, 8km inside Kichumbar Gate, provide the opportunity to track chimpanzee and primates beneath Uganda’s largest remaining mahogany.
Murchison Falls is about 50 mtrs wide at this point is forced through a 7 mtr (24 ft) gap and plunges 43 mtrs to the aptly named ‘Boiling Pot’ below. The river then corkscrews through another small gap to cascade 36 mtrs (120 ft) in a thunderous foaming torrent.
Impressive for power rather than size, the Murchison Falls are a spectacular sight, but there is more to this park than the raging river. There is a diversity of habitat – riverine, grassy plains and savannah woodlands and altitudes that vary from above 500 to 1290 mtrs above sea level (1600 to 4200 ft).
The Nile River calms itself after the Falls and the best way to experience the abundance of animal and bird life along its banks is on a riverboat. In this area the Nile is full of unbelievably large Nile crocodiles that sunbathe on the rocks. Occupying the same waterway are thousands of hippos who take defending their territories seriously and can startle you with a sudden mock charge.
Murchison Falls wildlife
As one of the largest national game parks on Uganda National parks safari, Murchison falls park lies at the Albertine rift valley as the escarpment slows interchanges for the grassland plains, river wetlands, tropical rainforests and rocky outcrops creating a diverse habitat for more than 76 animals and 500 different birds.
Buffalo wade nonchalantly through the prolific floating water hyacinth fringing the banks, and huge herds of elephant cool themselves in shallow creeks and graze silently on the lush grasses. The park is also home to giraffe, oribi, hartebeest, waterbuck and Uganda kob. Other animals found in the park include hippos, Rothschild giraffes, hartebeests, oribi, warthog, Uganda kob, crocodiles, elephant and many others.
The river is, of course, a bird lover’s paradise and a good place to see the rare shoebill stork, malachite eagles, fish eagles, ituri batis, white thornbill, yellow footed fly catcher, sunbirds, and many other water birds.
Things to do
Fishing is a fascination on the Nile River and Murchison falls is not an exception. Sport fishing get you catches like record size Nile perch, tiger fish, tilapia and many other types. Fishing is restricted in a few designated places.
Boat trips are also something rewarding with trips to Para and then into Lake Albert giving you the best chance to watch schools of hippos, crocodiles, water birds, buffalos and other interesting lake view scenery.
Chimpanzee tracking is another thing to do while visiting Rabondo forest and also as you return for kampala in Budongo forest in Masindi district.
Best time to visit
June to September is the driest time when most animals remain near water. The hot dry time is January to February and this is a good time to visit. Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time of the year. October to December and March to May are the wettest months and the roads may become impassable. The Nile’s flow is dam regulated so the water levels remain more or less constant throughout the year.
By road from Kampala through Masindi, Murchison falls is 90km from Masindi. To Paraa via Kichumbanyobo gate the park is only 5 hours drive using 4 wheel drive vehicles. There is a ferry that operates around Paraa on along the River Nile. Charter flights are also offered and there is an airstrip at Pakuba 19km north of Paraa.
Murchison Falls hotel and accommodation
There are around 2 exclusive up market Murchison falls safari lodges, tented camps like at Nile Safari Camp, Sambiya River Lodge and Paraa Uganda safari Lodges. Camping is also allowed but in designated sites like on top of the falls, near Rabongo forest and around Paraa with toilets, running water and other basic facilities. Such camps include Red Chillis that offers good meals, drinks and clean accommodation.