Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda's largest National Game Park, comprised of the Bugungu and Karuma Wildlife Reserves and covering about 3,840 square kilometers of protected area. The park gets its name from the sensational Murchison Falls, where the longest river in the world, the Nile, forces through a tiny chasm of about 7 meters wide to explode into a violent tempest in a whirlpool about 43 meters below. It becomes a calm river that attracts lot of wildlife along its banks including many buffalos, waterbucks, elephants, and hogs that throng the river banks to drink fresh water, cool off the scorching heat, and eat fresh grass. The Nile is also home to one of Africa's densest hippo and crocodile population plus many water birds including the world's most accessible wild population of the rare shoebill stork.
The Murchison Falls vegetation is comprised of lush Savanna grasslands, riverine forest and woodland. This vast chunk of untamed African savanna is immersed with a lot of wildlife and is the favorite national park in Uganda for wildlife safaris. Some of her wildlife includes lions, baboons, buffalos, giraffes, Uganda kobs, oribis, Jackson's hartebeests, hippos, elephants, leopards and many bird species including the red throated bee eater, skimmers, African fish eagles, and cattle egrets among other. Rabongo Forest situated southeast of the park is home to several rainforest creatures including chimpanzees, baboons, monkeys and forest birds.
The Nile divides Murchison Falls National Park into two sections, the North and South. The southern section was heavily poached during the 1980s and saw a significant reduction in animals to the extent that some like the rhinos were completely phased out. The northern section experienced less poaching greatly due to the Nile that limited access. It acted as some sort of barrier to the poachers thus preventing them from easily accessing the Northern side. For that reason this section has more wildlife compared to the south and is favored for game viewing and wildlife adventures.
The northern section of the park is favored for game drives due to its significantly more wildlife than the south. When you access the park via the southern section you shall have to get to the ferry crossing at Paraa and cross to the Northern side to start your game drive. The best time to start the game drive is early by 7.00am. Explore the Albert and Queens tracks for a great chance to catch the nocturnal and hunters before they retire to their hideouts including lions, hyenas, leopards, and hippos. Catch the elephants, buffalos, giraffes, and a variety of antelopes feeding in the lush borassus grassland of the northern section. The game drive lasts about four hours.
The afternoon launch trip from Paraa to the base of the Murchison falls is the biggest highlight of any safari to Murchison Falls National Park. A relaxing ride of about three hours, expect to view lots of hippos and crocodiles and an abundance of elephants, waterbucks, hogs, buffalos plus a variety of birds including skimmers, cattle egrets, African fish eagles, red throated bee eaters, cormorants, and luckily the rare shoebill stork.
From the boat landing at the bottom of the Murchison falls you hike around to the top and get close to the narrow gorge to watch the entire Nile force through a narrow gorge of 7 meters wide to explode into these magnificent waterfalls. It is a 45 minutes to 1 hour hiking to the top with great sights of the violent smoky-looking falls and the rainbow cutting through the falls, while feeling cool drops from the waterfalls landing on your skin. While at the top you can picnic and camp. Endeavor to apply an insect repellant before the hike to ward off the tsetse flies.
Kaniyo Pabidi is an undisturbed area of natural forest within Budongo Forest Reserve. This area is popular for chimpanzees and chimpanzee tracking is the main activity. To track the chimps you require a chimp permit issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The area is also a great birding spot with a number of forest birds that may not be see anywhere else in East Africa including chocolate-backed kingfisher, the white-thighed hornbill, and Puvel's illadiposis. Kaniyo Pabidi is located on the Masindi-Paraa road 8 kilometers from Kichwamba Road.
Nature walks are a great way to explore the beautiful wildlife of Murchison Falls National Park on foot. You get to track and quietly and closely observe a number of animals, birds and other features. Nature walks can be done in a number of areas some of which include Rabongo Forest, Kaniyo Padi, Chobe around Chobe Safari Lodge and the hike to the top of the falls.
Sport fishing can be done in river Nile below the Murchison falls and at Chobe Safari Lodge. The river is rich in Nile perch and tiger fish. To do sport fishing one requires a spot fishing permit issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The park is located approximately 300 km, by road, northwest of Kampala, Uganda's capital and one can
get there through three different routes.
- Kampala through the historical Luwero triangle to Masindi to the park
- Kampala through Hoima road to Masindi to the park
- Kampala - Karuma - Pakwach - to Porong gate to the park
One can also access the park via a private air charter from Entebbe airport to airstrips north of the Nile at Pakuba (19km from Paraa) and south at Bugungu or at Chobe airstrip.