Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savannah. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.
The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centrepiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids. The mighty cascade drains the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. At Murchison Falls, the Nile squeezes through an 8m wide gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the “Devil’s Cauldron”, creating a trademark rainbow.
This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
What do In Murchison Falls National Park
A game drive around the Buligi game tracks on the northern bank with a trained ranger guide is a fantastic 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!
Both the game drives and the launch trips offer an opportunity for one to come across distinct 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.
HIKING AND NATURE WALKS
The vast landscapes and varied scenery of Murchison Falls National Park and the surrounding Conservation Area can be explored 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.
The launch trip upstream from Paraa presents an astonishing display of wildlife and culminates 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.
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!
Energetic dancers from Mubako perform around lodge campfires, making for a magical African experience at dusk. Boomu Women’s Group offers accommodation, a craft shop and village tours, revealing the realities of life in this rural community.
How to get to Murchison Falls National Park
A number of routes can be used to reach the Nile at Paraa at the heart of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. The river is crossed here using a vehicle ferry which runs at roughly hourly intervals throughout the day.
Southern Entrance Gates
Two southerly approaches to Paraa lead out of Masindi town, which is a 4 hour drive (305km) from Kampala. Along the way to Masindi is the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda. You can track them on foot and support this important initiative to reintroduce rhinos to protected areas. Visit www.rhinofund.org for more information.
A longer but more scenic alternative runs for 135km from Masindi to the park’s Bugungu gate, The route includes a passage through Budongo Forest and a memorable descent of the rift valley escarpment with views across Lake Albert towards the mountains of the Congo.
Northern Entrance Gates
Murchison Falls National Park can also be entered via the Chobe, Wankwar, Mubako and Tangi gates north of the Nile. These are reached from the Kampala-Pakwach Road which crosses the Nile at Karuma Falls Bridge in the northeastern corner of the park, 260km from Kampala. These gates are convenient for visitors travelling to/from Gulu town and Kidepo Valley National Park.
Pakuba Airfield, 19km from North Paraa, can be reached using chartered aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield near Kampala. Other airfields in the park include: Chobe to the east, and Bugungu near Murchison Falls to the south.