Murchison Falls National Park – animals, activities, lodging, safaris

wildlife murchison falls uganda

Murchison Falls National Park is the oldest and largest park in Uganda. It was gazetted in 1952, covering an area of 5,072 square kilometers along the might River Nile. The spectacular Murchison Falls located on the Nile are found within the park and give the park its name.

Murchison Falls has diverse habitats which harbor a wide range of flora and fauna. In a nutshell, her species diversity includes 87 mammals, 650 bird species and 14 reptiles. The north of Murchison Falls is mostly grassland and acacia savannah looking like the typical safari area. This is the area with the largest volume of animals and almost all animal viewing occurs in this area. The Nile hosts many water animals and birds and also attracts a lot of big game which can be observed during a boat safari on the Nile. The southern area of the park spans a big chunk of Budongo Forest which harbors many primates including Chimpanzees.

Murchison Falls Park is located about 300km by road to the north of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The main access route is via Nakasongola – Masindi, thereby entering the park through the Kichubanyobo Gate. You are ushered by lots Baboons and Vervet monkeys in Budongo Forest. This journey is roughly 6 hours.

Flights to the park are also available, setting off from Entebbe Airport and Kajjansi Airstrip, and land in two places in the park either at Pakuba which is located in the north of the park or Bugungu Airstrip located in south of the park. There is another airstrip at the super luxurious Chobe Safari Lodge normally used by visitors to stay at the lodge. Normally it is a one hour flight to the park.

Murchison Falls Animals

For a safari in Uganda that will enable you see as many animals as possible, Murchison Falls Park produces the biggest animal count. A list of the animals in the park includes: Lion, Leopard, Hyena, Elephant, Crocodile, Hippo, Giraffe, Buffalo, Jackson’s Hartebeest, Oribi, Uganda Kob, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Reedbuck, Baboon, Chimpanzee, Pattas Monkey, etc…

Activities on a Murchison Falls Safari

Game Drive

Game drives take place on the northern side of the park after crossing the Nile from the southern part. The northern area of Murchison Falls is where many of the animals can be spotted easily roaming in the short savannah grasslands and between the woodlands. Game drives start as early as 6am which is the best time to catch the elusive nocturnal and the cats which are by now hunting the antelopes that are only waking up by to graze. Common animals seen during the morning game drive include: Elephants, Giraffes, Lions, Buffaloes, Pattas Monkey, Baboons, Warthogs, and so many species of Antelopes.

Afternoon Boat Safaris on River Nile

boat safari uganda

One of the activities which standout Murchison Falls Park among the major safari parks in East Africa is the boat safari on River Nile. All the popular parks will offer the big game safari from game drives but none offers a big game safari from a boat ride like Murchison Falls. The boat safari offers sightings of plenty of water wildlife and many animals which come to drink, bath, and cool off in the Nile.

On any Murchison Falls safari, the afternoon boat/launch ride is a highlight and a must do adventure. There are large boats with a carriage capacity of up to 40 or more which are shared by many tourists and these operate on schedules, but there are also smaller boats (albeit expensive) available for those who prefer to have own private boat safari and explore at own pace. The boats are taken at the ferry crossing point near Paraa at 2pm. From there you will ride upstream, enjoying wonderful sights of the park and observing an array of wildlife along the Nile. Water animals such as Crocodiles and Hippos are a common sight throughout the ride, while other animals such as Elephants, Buffaloes, and Antelopes come to eat fresh grass along the Nile and drink from the Nile. Water birds are in plenty and some of the sightings will include Herons, Fish Eagles, Kingfishers, Crakes, Bee-eaters, Pelicans and occasionally the Shoebill among others. The boat rides upstream for 2 hours before reaching the base of the spectacular Murchison Falls. Enjoy is this wonderful sight for a few minutes and then turn back, ride for one hour before getting back to the starting point near Paraa. Alternatively when the boat gets to the base of the falls you can disembark and embark on a one hour hike up the Murchison Falls. This option should have been communicated prior with the tour driver who is supposed to have driven round to wait for you at the top.

Top the top of the Murchison Falls Hike

murchison-falls

This is another exciting adventure to do in the park and it is also a big highlight of a Murchison Falls safari. When you take the afternoon boat safari thereby observing hippos, crocodiles, elephants and a ranger of other wildlife along the Nile for close to two hours, the boat will wind up at the base of the Murchison Falls. Those set to the top of the falls hike will leave the boat and set off on a light trek of roughly one hour on a neat trail about 2km up the rocks adjacent to the waterfalls. This is the best activity to experience this spectacular waterfall, which is also the strongest waterfall in the world. The entire Nile squeezes through a small gap between the rocks measuring about only 7 meters only to emerge with such a roaring explosion, splashing into the whirlpool about 42 meters down where the crocodiles have their jaws open all the time for an easy catch of fish and other elements unfortunate to have been squashed by the raging waterfalls. The hot sunny creates magical rainbows into the splashing droplets. While you trek in the heat cool droplets from the waterfall will land on face and body to sooth you. The waterfalls offer such beautiful photo moments. When you get to the top, the tour driver will be there waiting for you and drive you back to the lodge.

Chimpanzee tracking in Budongo Forest

Chimpanzee Uganda

 

Chimpanzee tracking in Budongo Forest is a wonderful inclusion to the big game safaris in Murchison Falls. After the safaris in the hot savannah in the northern part of the park, crossing over to the south in the cool and serene Budongo Forest is very refreshing and unwinding. The Chimpanzee trek offers a memorable encounter with man’s closest relatives and you will also get to sight plenty of life in the forest such as monkeys, baboons, forest birds, butterflies, rare creatures such as the cicada, some of the biggest Mahogany trees, and a variety of plants and shrubs. The Chimpanzee tour is carried out at the Kaniyo Pabidi Eco Site which is located 30 minutes drive from the main entrance (Masindi Kichubanyobo gate) of the park, and about one hour drive after crossing over the Nile from the northern side (Paraa). Kaniyo Pabidi is home to a big community of over 100 Chimps which was habituated for tourism. The trekking trails start from Budongo Eco Lodge which is also the visitor’s information center of Kaniyo Pabidi. A night at Budongo Eco in the heart of the forest is an awe-inspiring jungle experience. The forest becomes alive with loud screams of the tree hyrax, pant-hoots of the Chimps, calls of birds, and rare sounds from the dwellers of the forest. It is such a unique feeling for being so close to nature.

Birding

The different habitats of Murchison Falls Park host many bird species. Birding in Murchison Falls will produce savannah species in the northern part, water species along the Nile and the Lake Albert, and the forest species in Budongo Forest.

Murchison Falls Park Safari Lodges

Budget: Red Chilli Safari Camp, Global Village Guest House,

Mid-range: Fort Murchison Lodge, Murchison River Lodger, Kabalega Wilderness Lodge, Budongo Eco Lodge

Luxury: Paraa Safari Lodge, Baker’s Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge

Murchison Falls Safaris

3 Days Big Five Safari Murchison Falls

4 Days Murchison Falls Wildlife Safari and Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest

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