Murchison Falls national park also known as the world’s greatest waterfall lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment merges into a vast, palm-dotted savannah. It spreads inland from the shores of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile up to the Karuma falls together with the adjacent Bugungu and Karuma wildlife reserves thus the formation of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
Murchison Falls National Park locally known as Kabalega National Park was first gazette as a wildlife reserve in the year 1926 and elevated to a national park in 1952. Its Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area located northwest of Uganda in Masindi district covering an area of 3840 square kilometers.
This national park is known for having the world’s most powerful waterfall that releases large volumes of water about 300 cubic meters per second at a very powerful pressure that leads to the trembling of the surrounding. At Murchison Falls, the Nile squeezes through an 8 meters wide gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the devil’s cauldron, creating a trademark rainbow.
The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile from East to West which plunges 45 meters over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80 kilometer stretch of rapids. The northern part of the park contains riverine woodland, acacia trees, and savanna and borassus palms while the southern is dominated by woodland and forest patches.
It’s a home to over 76 mammal species including four of the big five; lions, elephants, buffaloes and leopards as well as Uganda’s largest population of Nile crocodiles. In addition to this, the park has got three quarters of the world’s population of Rothschild’s giraffes not forgetting a large population of herbivores including the Uganda kobs. There also various primates living within the park’s verdant forests such as the Budongo forest which is a home to over 610 chimpanzees. Besides mammal and primate species, Murchison falls is also a home to over 450 bird species including 23 Albertine rift endemics.
In 2022, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline was built which included the construction of a feeder pipeline, the ten oil well pads and a refinery in and around Murchison Falls National Park.
What to do at Murchison Falls National Park
Game drives in the park are conducted very early in the morning, evening and night times along the Albert, Buligi and Queen’s tracks found north of the Nile River and led by an experienced guide. During these drives, you will marvel at herds of buffalos, parade of elephants, lions, leopards, warthogs, towers of giraffes, Uganda kobs, bushbucks, duikers, oribis, spotted hyenas, warthogs, Jackson’s hartebeest, reedbucks to mention but a few. Don’t forget to carry for cameras to capture memories to take back home.
Just like noted above, the park is a home to over 450 bird species that have been recorded making it a birder’s paradise for the bird lovers. Some of the species are specific to the Albertine region while others are common species in the East African region which include; the rare Shoebill stork, Grey crowned crane, Black-bellied bustards, Goliath heron, Secretary bird, Blue-headed coucal, Open-billed stork, Swamp flycatcher, Widow bird, African skimmer, Green-winged ptyilia, Spotted mourning thrush, Nightjars, Silver bird, Long-toed plover, Blue-napped mouse bird, White-rumped seed eater, Vetelline masked weaver, Spotted owls, Black-headed gonolek, Black-headed batis and many more.
Boat cruise/ Launch trips on Victoria Nile
This is an astonishing display of wildlife and culminates with the memorable frontal view of the Murchison Falls. This activity takes approximately 3 hours and it can be carried out twice a day; morning and afternoon sessions. The boat will ride you to the bottom of the falls giving you an opportunity to see animals that come to the banks to quench their thirst, not forgetting those that are residents of the water including; crocodiles, elephants, hippopotamus, monitor lizards and a number of water birds such as Kingfishers, Shoebill stork, Bee-eaters, Wild ducks, Fish eagles, Cormorants not forgetting the Herons. So, don’t forget your cameras and binoculars to capture memories to take back home.
Guided nature walks
These are conducted by a knowledgeable ranger and always happen through Kanio Pabidi and Rabongo forests where you will have opportunities of watching the primates such as Chimpanzees, black and white colobus, vervet monkey, baboons, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkey and numerous birdlife. Tourists can also encounter butterfly and plant species while on these guided walks.
Chimpanzee tracking in Murchison Falls National Park is carried out Kanio Pabidi forested area within the Budongo wildlife reserve in the southern sector of the park. This is where you will get to track these chimpanzees in their natural habitat with the help of a ranger. During this activity, you will also come across other primates and bird species so, don’t forget your cameras to take pictures for memories.
A visit to the Top of the falls
A number of people wonder how these scenic falls would actually be, but once you are on top of them and see the entire Nile going through a small gap, it will finally make sense to you why so many visitors travel here because the thunderous spectacle and noise made by the water as it passes through the tiny hole is magnificent. While here, you will have a great time admiring the unfading rainbow, rolling hills, varied vegetation, birds and getting a closer view of the narrow gorge.
Hot air balloon
This activity is only carried out only in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. Enjoy an aerial view of the park’s beautiful landscape and large numbers of wildlife. The scenes up there are spectacular with fresh and soothing air. Hot air ballooning is perfect for those on a honeymoon, adrenaline junkies and those seeking for once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Note: Only eight passengers are allowed to fly up in the balloon at a time. Children of 6 years and below are not allowed.
A visit to the Boomu Women’s Group offers you an opportunity to interact with the locals who live around Murchison Falls National Park. The women’s group organizes village tours and also have a shop for African art where visitors can buy souvenirs to take back home as a way of supporting the women with their livelihood. For a more memorable and fun experience, you can decide to join these women in their village chores such as taking care of domestic animals, cooking, gardening and more.
Best time to visit
Murchison Falls National Park can be visited throughout the year but the best time is during the dry season when the vegetation is thin in that game drives are not interrupted because during this period, wild animals get out of their hideouts and converge at different water sources.