Murchison Falls National Park is the largest national park in Uganda for safaris with an area of 3840km. The park is also commonly known as Kabalega National park and it is considered one of the prime destinations for Uganda wildlife safaris and tours where the mighty river Nile flows through a narrow gorge of 7m into the ‘Devils Cauldron’ to create an ever-present rainbow.
Murchison Falls National Park is destined in the northern part of the Albertine Rift Valley where the Bunyoro escarpment connects with the vast Acholi plains; bestriding the current districts of Nwoya, Buliisa, Kiryandongo and Masindi. The park spreads inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile, up to the Karuma Falls. Murchison Falls National Park is also adjacent to the Masindi-Gulu Highway and the Karuma Falls with a power station which will produce 600 megawatts.
Murchison Falls National Park is blessed with over 76 mammal species and hosts four member of the African big fives that is to say lion, leopards, elephants and Buffaloes. Tourists looking to encounter the big fives on their journey to Murchison falls have an opportunity to visit Zziwa Rhino sanctuary for Rhino tracking before or after exploring the park. Other species in the park include babaoons, several monkeys, bushbucks, Uganda kob, waterbucks and warthogs, giraffes, Jackson’s hartebeest, hyenas and along the shores of the Nile, you will see lots of hippos and crocodiles.
Murchison falls is also home to over 450 bird species and 23 Albertine rift endemics including the rare shoebill stork. Notable bird species in the park include; Abyssinian ground hornbill, Giant kingfisher, Goliath heron, Speckle-fronted weaver, Squacco heron, Swamp flycatcher, White-browed sparrow-weaver Malachite kingfisher, African jacana, African quailfinch, Black-billed barbet, Black-headed gonolek, Black-headed lapwing, Blue-headed coucal, Denham’s bustard, Eastern grey plantain-eater, Palm-nut vulture, Piapiac, Red-throated bee-eater and Silverbird.
Murchison Falls national park is blessed tropical and hot climate. Temperatures are relative uniform throughout the year with average daytime temperatures being 31°C and 18°C at night. The park experiences wet season in March and November, drier period happens in June & July. There is little rainfall received from December to February.
Dry season of Murchison falls national park
December, January & February: These are the driest and hottest months characterized by sunny and clear skies with average temperatures of 33°C in the afternoon and 18°C at night.
Wet season of Murchison falls national park
March, April & May: Rain falls normally starts in March with more cloudy skies. During April and May, Murchison falls national park experiences more rainfall. The Average daytime temperatures is normally 31°C and 20°C at night.
June & July: There is always drier spell however rainfall is always expected. The average daytime temperatures go for 30°C.
August, September, October & November: These are the wettest months in the year at Murchison falls It doesn’t rain every day but when it does, it is at times characterized by heavy storms.
Murchison Falls national park is located 305km north of Kampala city and the driving distance is about four to five hours, depending on your preferred park entrance gate ie Chobe, Wankar and Tangi gates in the north while Kichumbanyobo and Bugungu gates are located in the southern part of the park.
Chobe, Wankwar, Mubako and Tangi gates of Murchison falls national park can be reached using Kampala-Pakwach highway road that crosses the Nile at Karuma Falls Bridge in the northeastern corner of the park. These gates are also convenient for visitors travelling to & from Kidepo Valley National Park.
Visitors using Kichumbanyobo gate have easy access to paraa from masindi town. The distance from Masindi town to this gate is just 85Km through Kaniyo Pabidi forest while Bugungu gate is 135km away from Masindi town, passing through Budongo forest-home of the chimpanzees. This route also takes you through the impressive rift valley escarpment and views of Albert mountains in Democratic Republic of Congo.
There is a possibility of flying from/to either Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airstrip to/from Murchison falls national park through different airfield of the park ie Pakuba Airfield, Chobe and Bugungu airstrips.
The boat cruise safari in Murchison falls national park gives you an opportunity to encounter solitary wildlife and aquatic animal species such as hippos, crocodiles among others with spectacular views of the falls. The plunger pool of the falls is a fantastic spot for bird watching activities due to high concentration of different bird species such as shoebill
The boat ride starts from 9am and 2pm on a daily basis and takes 3 hours full of ultimate exploration of the longest river in Africa
A tranquil sundowner boat rides at 5.30pm gives an opportunity for a breathtaking view of an equatorial sunset that reflects on the river.
Game drives and boat cruise in Murchison falls give an opportunity for tour safaris to view a lot of bird species for example shoebill- a highlight attraction for birders in park, you will watch a number of water birds, savannah forest bird and among others.
The popular bird species found in the plains are Black-bellied Bustards, Marabou stork, secretary birds and open-billed storks
Birds are also found along the river where there are more thickets and woodlands, the commonest bird species include the Red- throated Bee-eaters, swallow- tailed, francolin, Hornbill and among others. There are also plovers, geese, stilts and ducks on river banks.
The best birding attraction in Murchison falls is shoebill and can be best encounter in the dry season from January to March.
Game drive safaris in Murchison falls national park can be done in several designated game viewing areas. These areas include, the Buligi Peninsula, the southern sector which is also known as the heart of Murchison and the Delta region with high concentration of lions.
The Buligi Peninsula is a triangle of grassland surrounded by the Nile entering Albert and at the same time; the Albert Nile flowing out of it. In this area visitors can see buffaloes, antelopes, elephants, leopards and lion on their safaris in Murchison falls. The game track network converges at Delta point where the Nile flows out of Albert; this is the best place to stop for refreshment and see hippos and water birds from a distance.
This southern part of Murchison falls national park is covered by forests and bushes with huge number of herds of Uganda kob. This area is also known as a major site to spot lions. In 2016, 15 giraffes were translocated to this area and now one can spot giants on the honey moon road.
Murchison falls national park and the surrounding conservation area can be walked on foot. Tracks over Rabongo forest and Kaniyo Pabidi gives sightings of bird species and primates like chimpanzees. During swamp walks, tourists can see shoebill on Albert Nile when the water level is low and this can take 2- 4 hours, you can also hike 45 minutes through woodland to the top of Murchison falls.
This is an experience that brings all the minds into play when watching the waves of white water fall hypnotically through this six- meter gap, taste the spray on your face and feel the rock shake beneath your feet, listening to the roar, sheer sensory overload! If you do not hike to the top of the falls, you can stop at north bank during your game drive and walk down a set of steps to stand within a meter of the waterfalls.
Africa Adventure Vacation can take you for short walks starting from Mubako junction and Sambiya River lodge on the south banks or along north banks. All walks take the same time like 1- 2 hours.
Mubako performs around lodge campfires, Boomu Women’s group give accommodation to make a magical African experience at dusk. Local communities run craft shops and arrange village tours to revile the realities of life in the community.
Mubako Cultural Campfire Performances
Mubako is located nearby the sprawling savannah of park. The community is a group of traditional people who reside in thatched shelters and normally gather together during midday sun under the shade of a tree.
The Mubako community participate directly and indirectly in tourism through making crafts such as handwoven and carved wooden sculptures. At dusk, the villagers perform energetic dances and songs around the campfires of local camps, accompanied by the attractive sound of the Adungu- a local drum made from this region, this instrument is made of twine and cowhide
In Murchison falls national park, spot fishing is fairly rewarding for the passionate angler and there are great opportunities to land on a large cat fish, Nile perch, Tilapia, Electric cat- fish, Tiger fish and among others. The largest cat-fish was 45kgs landed around Nyamusika cliffs and the largest Nile perch was 113kgs landed at the water scale.
Africa Adventure Vacations guides are available to lead you to the best spot for fishing. However, wild frontiers operate a fishing business in Murchison falls national park and they can be contacted privately.
Permits for fishing are required at a cost of $50 per day. A discounted rate of $150 are offered to visitors interested in sport fishing for 4 consecutive days and park entrance fees are paid separately
Are you looking for the best time to visit Murchison falls in Uganda? Well, the park can be visited throughout the year! However, game viewing is always better during dry seasons between June to September and December to February. In months of March, April, May, October and November, rains are always heavy and at times affect tourism activities with slippery roads, animals tend to hide into the shrubs and some accommodation get closed temporarily due to low season.
Accommodation and Lodging facilities in and near Murchison Falls National Park on safaris are classified based on budget, midrange and luxury properties;
Murchison falls national park entry fees are regulated by the Uganda wildlife authority and these tariffs allow you to access the park to explore its rich resources. The park fees are charged based on individual person, air crafts, vehicles, boats among others. Below are most common fees levied on guests;
Individual Park entrance fees: $40 to Adult Foreign nonresident, $30 to Adult Foreign residents and UGX 20000/- to Adult Ugandans and East African residents. However; children are charged $20, $10 and UGX 5000/- to foreign nonresidents, foreign residents and East African citizens respectively. These rates are charged per person and park entrance permit is valid for 24hrs.
Foreign residents and East African residents may apply for annual park entry permit with Uganda Wildlife Authority at a cost of 350 USD and UGX 150000/- respectively. More still, foreign residents with maximum number of four members may apply for the same permit at a cost of $700 and UGX 300000/- for East African citizens.
Annual park entry fees for a corporate group or company go for $1500 USD for foreign resident and UGX 2500000/- for East African citizens.
Safari guides and drivers are charged UGX 10000 as annual park entrance fees in the park however, the tour company driver guides are exempted from any entry charges to Murchison falls national park and any other national park in Uganda.
Safari tour operators who are foreign residents are entitled to pay $50 as annual park entry fees and UGX 125000/- to east African tour operators.
Vehicle and aircrafts park entry fees: This is based on the type and size of the equipment and time to be spent in the park. Saloon cars for foreign nonresidents are charged $40, $5 for foreign residents and UGX 20000/- for East African registered vehicles
Mini buses for foreign non-residents are charged $50, $10 for foreign residents and UGX 30000 for East Africans. Pick-ups are charged $50, $15 and UGX 30000/- for foreign nonresidents, foreign residents and East African residents respectively.
Aircrafts are charged UGX 50000/- for parking in Murchison falls national park. The same fee cuts across to all national parks in Uganda.
Visitors should also note that all activities done in Murchison Falls national park are charged based on per person. This may apply to accommodation services as well. Accommodation managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority is much way cheaper compared to lodges owned by private sector.
Wildlife viewing during safaris is generally very safe in Murchison falls if you follow rules and regulations set by Uganda Wildlife Authority which are implemented by guides and all visitors. Below are some general safety safari guidelines and travel tips;
Always listen and follow your guide’s instructions and guidelines
Always stay together as a group close to your guide on a walking safaris.
Avoid running or jogging in wildlife area as it attracts predators to attack you
Keep your voice as low as possible when close to animals
Stay in the car during game drives except at a few selected areas where you are allowed to get out
Avoid wearing bright and colorful clothes on walking safaris because such colors attract insects and at times scare away animals
Avoid wearing dark colored clothes in Murchison falls national park due to presence of tsetse-fly. Such clothes attract these stinging flies.
Put on warm clothes during morning game drives in Murchison falls national park
Avoid standing up in the car, hang out of the window or sit on the roof of the vehicle
Avoid driving too close to animals more so if you are on a self-drive safari and back off if the animals seem charged.
Avoid driving between elephants in a herd, especially females and their young
Avoid walking between a hippo and water because it may panic and charge due to blocking of its safety route to the waters
Avoid leaving food in your tent because it may attract wildlife during safaris in Murchison falls
Use insect repellent to protect against mosquitoes and cover your arms and legs in the evening
Put on a hat, use sunscreen and carry enough water during your safaris in Murchison falls
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