Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the bulky Bunyoro escarpment merges into the vast plains of Acholi land. One of Uganda’s oldest conservation areas, it was initially gazetted as a game reserve in 1926 to protect the wildlife-filled savanna.
The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile which plunges an incredible 40 meters over the remnant rift valley wall at the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park. The mighty Falls drains the last of the river’s energy and transforms it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor for to Lake Albert. This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most memorable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes while hippos and Nile crocodiles are permanent residents.
Size: The park covers 3,893 sq km and is Uganda’s largest protected area.
Things to do in Murchison
- Launch trips to the base of the falls offer fine game viewing and bird watching.
- Boat trips to the Lake Albert delta provide a great chance of sighting rare shoebills.
- Chimp tracking at Rabongo Forest, and en route from Masindi in the Budongo Forest.
- Game drives allow you to take in the vastness of the palm-tree filled savanna, and observe an astonishing quantity of wildlife including the famous BIG 5 game.
- Trips to the top of the falls are the best way to appreciate the immense quantities of water that gush powerfully through the narrow gap in the escarpment – and send spray and rainbows over the viewpoint.
- Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, south of Masindi, is home to Uganda’s only rhinos.
The Park’s residents include elephants, an incredible number of giraffes, buffaloes, warthogs, lions, hippos, jackals the bizarre-looking hartebeest and bushbucks amongst others. Habituated chimpanzee groups live in the neighboring Budongo Forest Reserve, while Uganda’s only rhinos live at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, on the way to the Park from Kampala.
Murchison Falls National Park is home to some of Uganda’s most iconic bird species – including the sought-after shoebill and the grey-crowned crane, the national symbol. Among the other 460 confirmed species in the Park, there are Abyssinian ground hornbills, saddle-billed storks, Goliath herons, weaver birds, African jacanas, and many migrant waders. Nocturnal species include nightjars and spotted eagle owls.
Getting there: By road, the Nile river crossing at Paraa, in the centre of the park, is approximately 5hrs (305km) drive from Kampala, on good roads. The nearest town to the park is Masindi.
Climate: During the day, the temperature is often around 25-32°C, making it one of the hottest regions of Uganda. Nights are cooler, dropping to around 18°C, and there is little rain – though when it arrives it can be torrential!