Most Exciting Activities And Breathtaking Sites In Murchison Falls National Park

Most Exciting Activities And Breathtaking Sites In Murchison Falls National Park

February 20, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

Are you looking for Most Exciting Activities And Breathtaking Sites In Murchison Falls National Park? The park was established in 1952 and is one of the very first wildlife game parks to be gazette in Uganda. It offers some of the most exciting activities and attractions. As its name describes it, the park will excite you with the site of the river Nile as it squeezes itself through an 8-meter-wide gorge, plunging with a thunderous roar into the “Devil’s Cauldron” as it is commonly referred to. The site will look like rainfall while at the magnificent Murchison Falls National Park.

The Park is the oldest and largest game park in Uganda as it was first gazette as a game reserve in 1926. It lies in the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley positioning it in the western and northwestern parts of Uganda. The Park is characterized by different types of vegetation in the different parts of the park. For example, the northern sectors of the park are dominated by savannah grasslands, acacia trees, Borassus palms, and riverine woodland. Whereas, the southern sectors are dominated by mainly woodland amidst forest patches.

Given the different available vegetation types and species, the park is home to 144 mammal species, 51 reptiles and 51 amphibians, and 556 bird species. According to statistics by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the number of animals is continuously increasing for example African elephants have increased from roughly 900 to over 1,330 individuals, Furthermore, in the northern sector of the park, Giraffes have increased and are everywhere in the north of the park. Kob populations have increased to over 35,000 individuals while the Buffalo populations have also spiked to over 10,000.

The Park also consists of an exciting portion of the great River Nile which is the longest river in the world. This part of the Nile River is called the Victoria Nile and it plunges forty-five meters over the remaining rift valley wall. This creates the magnificent rapid Murchison Falls which are among the major tourist attractions in the park. After the falls, the last of the river’s energy is drained after the mighty cascade transforms into a broad calm stream that flows quietly to Lake Albert which is found at the floor of the eastern rift valley. The Victoria Nile River banks are often visited by buffaloes, giraffes, and elephants. The river also has permanent residents such as Nile crocodiles and aquatic bird species such as the Shoe Bill Stork, the Swallow-Tailed and the Red-Throated Bee-Eaters mainly found in the Nyamusika cliff woodlands and hippos.

The Park is popularly known for the 1951 film “The African Queen” where Humphrey Borgat starred. This movie was filmed at Murchison Falls National Park. Furthermore, the park has also received notable visitors such as Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway.

The most exciting activities and sites in Murchison Falls National Park include the following;

  • Top of the falls hike.

    Hiking to the top of Murchison Falls is not as strenuous an activity as other hiking trails in other parts of the country. This is because the trail to the top of the falls is not so steep and can easily be by anyone. This hike is a soft adventure good enough for stressing out your joints and proper blood flow. Hiking to the top of the falls takes roughly 45 minutes. The hike is always a two-in-one activity for one gets the best time to tick their birding list as they will be able to view different types of birds from aquatic birds like the Red–throated Bee-eater, the Shoe Bill  Stork is a common sight during the hike to the top of the falls. On the other hand, one should also expect to view the spectacular landscapes, of the Victoria Nile. As one approaches the top of the Murchison Falls, they experience a tranquil feeling as the water droplets fall on your face to cool you off after the hike. Reaching the top of the falls will expose you to one of Mother Nature’s wonders commonly known as the Devil’s cauldron. This gorge is the most exciting view in Murchison Falls National Park as you will observe the huge masses of water squeezing themselves through the narrow 8-meter gorge. The thunderous roars and vibrations from the force of the water are extremely magnificent, and breathtaking and expose the beauty of mother nature in The Pearl of Africa.  The trail to the top of the falls is called the Winston Churchill trail so one should get ready for the stories about how Winston Churchill used the same trail in 1907 as he explored the top of the falls. Remember to have the right gear for hiking such as light clothes and sneakers since it’s a tiresome activity to hike.

  • Game Drives

    Game drives in Murchison Falls National Park are among the most enjoyed activities in the park as this exposes visitors to the very many different wildlife species most of which are observed depending on the time one chooses to enjoy the game drive. Game drives occur in three categories and these offer different experiences to travelers as certain species of wildlife can only be viewed at particular time settings. for example, Leopards are best viewed during Night and morning game drives. One should expect to see the big five such as the Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Buffaloes, and Rhinos though these are on their way to the game park at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. These are as follows

African Savannah Elephants

Early morning Game drives– This is one of the most rewarding game drives in the park as one will get a chance to view the wildlife species when they are most active. Also, during this early morning activity, one should be sure to spot the rarely seen Leopards and Lions which are up and down in search of the morning hunt. Other commonly seen animals include Elephants, Buffaloes, Antelopes especially the Uganda Kob, Warthogs, Jackson’s Hartebeest, Waterbucks, Giraffes, Oribi, and Bushbucks which will be busy grazing in the savannah plains. Famous bird species to be spotted in the morning are:
After Noon game drives – At this time, the park is experiencing hot temperatures hence game viewing is not as rewarding as at cooler times of the day. This is because the majority of the big five and the big cats are hiding from the sun, therefore, making it difficult to be viewed. Some animals and bird species will be viewed such as Antelopes, Elephants, and Buffaloes among others.
Evening and Night game drives– These are the most rewarding game drives in the game park. In the evening, you will get a chance to enjoy the beautiful wilderness of Murchison Falls National Park while enjoying the sunset too. Night game drives are extremely rewarding and exciting to get involved in. This is mainly because one gets a rare opportunity to view unique nocturnal species both birds and animals such as Lions, Leopards, Genets, Hyenas, Civets, Night jars, Porcupines, and Bush Babies. Night game drives are extremely safe and secure to carry out though they are slightly more expensive than the day game drives.
Some of the major tracks used for game drives in Murchison Falls National Park are situated in the northern parts of the park mainly because it is where the largest concentrations of wild animals are situated. The track is Buligi track which is commonly most rewarding to birders and it is found north of Paraa. Some of the common bird species are Weavers, Bee-eaters, Gonolek, Fish Eagles, African skimmers, Kingfishers, Herons, and Grey-crowned Cranes. The other track is the Victoria track next to where boat rides take place on the Victoria Nile. Be sure to spot a variety of wildlife species along this track as they drink and graze along the shores of the great River Nile. The Albert track is the final track located next to the Albertine Delta.

  • Boat cruise at Murchison Falls National Park.

    The Murchison Falls type of boat cruise is unique and extremely interesting. The kind of boat cruise experience can only be found in the Murchison Falls National Park in the East African region. This is because of the two different types of boat cruises that are carried out such as The Bottom of the Falls boat cruise which is also the link, to the hike to the top of the falls. During this boat cruise, the trip starts from Paraa and sails upstream, passing through several schools of hippos, the Nile crocodiles, and other animals on the river banks like elephants, warthogs, oribis, and several bird species such as kingfishers, pelicans among others until it reaches the falls. Although the boat does not go so close to the Devil’s cauldron, reaching the bottom of the falls is such a spectacular experience. The other type of boat cruise is The Albert Delta Launch cruise which also just like the Bottom of the Falls launches its sailing journey from Paraa. This type of Boat cruise and track is very favorable for those interested in viewing birds such as the prehistoric shoe bill stork. Unlike the bottom of the falls, the cruise boat sails down the river until where it splits into papyrus floating Islands. The cruise is also referred to as the “sundowner’s “trip down the stream. The sailing trip is carried out in the evening which also makes it a perfect romantic cruise as the sun sets down the sky hence a perfect moment for capturing unforgettable memories on the Great River Nile.

Papyrus Gonolek

Chimpanzee tracking in Budongo forest

Budongo Forest is the largest natural forest in the East African region and is found in Murchison Falls National Park. From Kichumbanyobo gate, it is a 30-minute drive to the forest visitor center. In the forest, the chimpanzees are managed by the Jane Goodall Institute for research. Apart from chimp tracking, chimp habituation takes place in the forest but this is usually during the low season of tourist arrivals. The forest also is a habitat for other animals such as Lions, Leopards so every tracker is advised not to isolate themselves while tracking the chimpanzees. Tracking is carried out twice a day that is in the morning at around 7 am and in the afternoon at around 3 pm. The activity takes place for about three hours and it involves finding/tracking and interacting with the apes. Other primates are also seen around the forest during the activity such as the Black and White Colobus monkeys among others. Note that chimpanzee tracking permits are few, so early bookings are advised as only 16 permits are issued a day and only 8 are issued per tracking shift.

  • Birding in Murchison Falls National Park

    Murchison Falls National Park comprises a wide range of habitats that harbor over 400 different bird species therefore the park is a birder’s pride given its numerous superb birding spots. Birds of Murchison Falls game park are categorized into three according to their adopted habitats and they include the Albertine birds around the Albert delta such as the Martial Eagle, African- Fish Eagle usually in the woods and the Papyrus Gonolek, the aquatic/ water birds usually around the river Nile and Murchison Falls and these include the Swallow-Tailed and Red-Throated Bee-Eaters, the Malachite Kingfishers, Hornbills, Grey Heron, Warblers and Darters and the Savannah birds found in the open savannah grasslands and these include Black-bellied Bustard, Secretary Birds, Widow Grey-headed and Pygmy Kingfisher, the migrating Abdim’s Stork, Abyssinian Roller, Black-headed Gonolek, Rattling Cisticola, Vitelline and Lesser Masked Weaver, Denham’s Bustard, Spotted Thick-knee, Northern Red Bishop, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Black-rumped Waxbill and the Abyssinian Ground Horn Bill. Don’t forget the notable prehistorical Shoebill Stork only found along the Nile areas and Albert Delta.

Malachite Kingfisher

What is the best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park?

The Park can be visited any time throughout the year but it is a more rewarding experience visiting the park during the dry seasons which are usually from June to September and December to January. This is because all parts of the park are accessible during the dry season given any means of transport used. Also, the vegetation will be thin hence a clearer view of the wild animals, furthermore, different animals converge around particular water sources during the dry season which is a great opportunity to view and take pictures of animals in large concentrations. For birding, the best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park is during the wet season between May and November since the park will have fewer crowds and it is fruiting season so different birds be feeding.

How to get to Murchison Falls National Park?

Murchison Falls National Park can be accessed by tourists either by road or air. The different entry gates into the park include the Wankar gate, Chobe gate, Mubako gate, Tangi gate, Kichumbanyobo gate, and the Bugungu gate. By road, the park can be accessed from Kampala via Masindi and also the Kampala –Karuma -Pakwach route. The Park is 305 kilometers from Kampala the capital city of Uganda which is a 5–6-hour drive to the park. By Air, the park contains airstrips such as Pakuba Airfield and Bugungu airstrip where domestic and chattered flights are available. For example, Fly Uganda and Aero Link Uganda.

Where to find accommodation around Murchison Falls National Park?

Some of the favorable accommodation choices around the park include the luxurious Chobe Safari Lodge, Budongo Eco Lodge, Murchison River Lodge, Paraa Safari Lodge, Pakuba Game Lodge, Hornbill Wilderness Lodge, Twiga Tales, Kabalega Wilderness Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Simbiya in the very south center and Fort Murchison among others. One should note that accommodation around the park caters to all travelers whether luxurious, mid-range or budget visitors.