Murchison Falls National Park can be found in north-western Uganda. It’s the biggest park in Uganda but the main attraction are the Murchison Falls themselves. This is where the Nile is pushed into a 6-meter wide gorge which results in the spectacular falls. The Nile is one of the most important rivers of Africa, is about 6.000 kilometers long and flows from Lake Victoria towards Egypt.
How to get there?
There are multiple ways of getting to the park. If you’re driving from the south you’ll have to take the road to a town called Masindi. From there you’ll take several dirt roads to the Kichumbanyobo Gate. This is where you can buy your ticket to the park. After that you’ll drive through the Kaniyo Pabidi forest. An alternative route along the Rift Valley Escarpment and Lake Albert can also be taken. If you’re coming from Kidepo Valley National Park the Murchison Falls can be accessed through one of the Northern gates being Chobe, Wankwar, Mukbako and Tangi.
Crossing the Nile!
The Nile splits the park into two sections. The Southern part is mainly thick forest without that much animals. In the Northern Part you’ll find plenty of animals and the vegetation consists of savannah with palm trees, a really peculiar sighting to be honest. To get to the North you’ll have to cross the Nile with a pontoon! How cool is that! Paraa is the only location in the park where you can take the ferry. Below you’ll find the ferry crossing time table. If it’s busy they will increase the number of times they go back and forth until the queue is gone. You’ll have to buy a ticket near the ferry departing point.
Murchison Falls Ferry crossing schedule:
– 7.00 – 14.00
– 9.00 – 18.00
– 11.00 – 19.00
Special game in the park
76 different mammals and 451 bird species can be found in the park. There’s a big chance you’ll see elephants and buffalos while in the park. Less frequently spotted are lions, leopards and hyenas. The great thing about Murchison Falls are the special species that live there such as the Rothschild Giraffe. It’s the tallest giraffe in the world and the colors are quite cool as well. The pattern consists of dark brown and orange patches and stops just above their knees. Other special species are Jackson’s hartebeest, Uganda kob, oribi and the patas monkey. One of the rarest birds is the Shoebill. This huge bird looks as if he comes straight from the era when dinosaurs used to live.
In the Kaniyo and Budongo forests there are over 600 chimpanzees. In Kaniyo Pabidi there are two groups of about 90 individuals each. One of these groups is habituated and thus can be visited with a guide. You can book a trip with the Budongo Eco Lodge. They’ve got 18 spots per session and there are two trips per day. One starting at 8.00 and the other at 14.00 o’clock. It’ll take about three hours. During the Chimpanzee tracking you might encounter other species such as the Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys and Red-tailed Monkeys.
What else is there besides spotting game or birds? Well, what do you think of a boat cruise on the Nile towards the Murchison Falls? This gives you an opportunity to spot some game along the river in parts you’ll never ever reach with your car. You’ll also see the Murchison Falls from a different perspective. While we don’t really like booking things in advance it’s advisable to do this when it comes to the boat cruise. There are three companies that run boat trips but when we were it was that busy that we barely managed to get on a boat.
If you want to get closer to the falls you can also drive up there. This gives you a great impression of how fast the water is actually flowing. Another option is doing a boat trip towards Lake Albert (so away from the falls). This will give you a good chance of seeing the previously mentioned Shoebill.
Best time to visit the Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls is one of the hottest regions of Uganda. At daytime it’ll probably be somewhere between 25 and 32 degrees Celsius. At night it’s about 18 degrees. The best time to visit Murchison Falls is between December and February and from June to September. Even in those drier periods there is some chance of rain. If it rains it’ll become muddy pretty much instantly.
Murchison Falls costs and tickets
If you’re a foreigner you’ll have to pay 40 USD per person and 20 USD per child. Then you’ll have to add the admission fee for your car as well. The costs for your car depend on the size of it and where your car is registered. Check out the UWA website for their tariffs.
Accommodation in Murchison Falls
After all that game viewing you need a proper lodge. There are a couple of them but be sure to check out their location. Depending on what you want to do it might be good to be on a specific side of the Nile. The first ferry only runs at 7 AM for example.
On the road from Masindi to Paraa:
Sambiya River Lodge
Budongo Eco Lodge
If you’re staying in one of these lodges, you can visit the Kaniyo Pabidi forest but you won’t make it to the other side of the Nile for an early morning game drive.
Paraa Safari Lodge
Camping in Murchison Falls
Another option is camping. Delta Camping is inside of the park. There aren’t any fences so you’ll sleep in the wild. If you want to sleep here you have to go to the reception first since you have to ‘book’ a ranger which will accompany you. Another campsite is Shoebill which is part of a rather luxurious lodge. This means you can use their facilities which is a bonus. Another more adventurous way of camping is also an option but you’d better read this blog post before doing that.