Murchison Falls National Park is in Northern Uganda. The park covers approximately 3840 km², and the River Nile passes through. Rabonga Forest in the southeast has large populations of chimps and the Nile has a lot of hippopotamuses and crocodiles.
Named after the president of the English Royal Geographic Society in 1862 by Samuel Baker.
Part of the Albertine Rift. The White Nile flows through this park from east to west, before turning north when it contacts Lake Albert. At the spectacular Murchison Falls, the Nile squeezes much of its water through a 7-m wide cleft. Less know is the Uhuru Falls, adjacent to Murchison Falls. "Uhuru" means "freedom" in Swahili - these falls broke through the rock in the year of Uganda's independence.
Flora and fauna
Elephants, Rothschild's giraffe, nile buffalo, lelwel hartebeest, oribi, waterbuck, bushbuck, warthog, lion, leopard, hippo, nile crocodile, olive baboons, mongoose, honey badger, monitor lizards, black and white colobus, vervet monkey, chimpanzee and a wide array of bird life including the rare shoebill stork.
Tropical, rains April/May and Oct/Nov. Good to visit all year
Basically you either must bring your own car or rent one to enter Murchison. There is no public transportation through the park and reaching it from Masindi will probably require following one of the steps below.
Take an early bus to Masindi (USh 15,000 with Link Buses taken from Kampala city bus station at 7AM, 9AM, noon (Jan 2012)) and then try to arrange for transport to bring you to the park. With some luck you could get a free ride with the rangers, or you could arrange with a safari guide to drive you out to the park from Masindi. Yebo Tours , owned and operated from Masindi, is one of the most affordable options.
Another low-budget safari is offered by the Red Chili, which can be book out of their hostel in Kampala. Many safari companies offer safaris into this park. They operate the nearby River Safari camp. You can fly into nearby Arua Airport from Kampala (daily flights with Eagle Air) and this company will send a safari vehicle to get you.
You can stay with Boomu Women's Group who are just outside Kichumbanyobo gate, the main gate to the park. You can get transport to there from Masindi. After your stay you can go to the park gate, metres up the road and try to get a lift to your destination in the park. Or you can ask the staff to arrange for a taxi to take you to your destination. If your destination is chimp trekking in Pabidi, staff at Boomu Women's Group can help arrange transport to this site.
In short, access to the park is best with an organised safari tour or a self-drive vehicle. Tracks are basic, so vehicles should engage 4wd and lock hubs, and drivers should keep below the park limit of 40 km/h. For travellers relying on public transport, it's best to join a budget group tour from Kampala or travel by bus to Masindi and then try and arrange a 'special hire' (private taxi) to take you into the park. The latter will cost up to US$100 one way, so a group tour inclusive of all fees etc, can often be the more affordable option if you are travelling by yourself.
Fees and permits
For non-residents, a one day permit costs US$40, for East African residents, US$30.
Your best bet is to either hire a car or go on an organized safari. Don't even bother hitching or taking a bus. It is very difficult to get around in the park without your own transportation. You might get lucky and have a safari opportunity with someone, but you might not.
This park offers plenty of different ways to enjoy primates, wildlife and a variety of birds. Chimp trekking and birding takes place in the southern reaches, in Budongo Forest, but the core park activities are centered around the river Nile, and the dramatic Murchison Falls. Launch cruises can be taken to the base of the Falls, offering a relaxed way to enjoy the scenery and the wildlife which comes to the water's edge, including elephant, buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, Nile crocodile and hundreds of hippopotamuses. The falls are only modest in their height (approximately a 43 m drop) but what they lack in height they make up for in power. The entire Nile river explodes through a 7-m (23-ft) wide crevice. It is said that up to 300 m³ of water per second rush through this narrow rocky gorge.
The bird life is also excellent in this area, but to spot the famous Shoebill, it is best to take a Delta cruise in the opposite direction, to where the waters of the Victoria Nile and Albert Nile meet and mingle at the northern end of Lake Albert. The delta area is a network of watery channels with papyrus islands, where plenty of aquatic birds can be spotted, and quite often, the pre-historic looking Shoebill is found fishing for frogs and lungfish. The park also offers game drives around the Buligi circuit in the delta area, or further east and north towards Karuma Falls or Pakwach and Wangkwar gates. The game is not as plentiful as that found in the large national reserves of Kenya and Tanzania, but the wildlife encounters can be more intimate, as Uganda is 'off the beaten path'. Frequently spotted game includes lion, leopard, elephant buffalo, the endangered Rothschild's Giraffe, Jackson's Hartebeest, Defassa Waterbuck, Uganda Kob and the dainty Oribi.
Game drives, chimp walks, birding, boat trips
Community tours that offer a chance to see the local community, understand issues faced by rural Ugandans and learn about local food are offered at Boomu Women's Group. This group also offers a chance to see how local handcrafts are made.
Local crafts, drinks, snacks and simple meals can be purchased from Boomu Women's Group. As this is a community tourism project all sales directly help the surrounding community.
- Nile Safari Lodge. offers luxury tents and wooden cabins overlooking the Nile River. Quaint and rustic, but with good service. Closed for renovation until 1 July 2019.
- Paraa Lodge. on the "animal-side" of the Nile River is a colonial style hotel with a very good buffet.
- River Lodge. located outside of the park. But the operators regularly take the clients to Murchison as part of a package. Bungalows, pre-pitched tents and campsite available. US$15 - US$185.
- Red Chilli Rest Camp. is on the southern bank on the Nile River with good food at breakfast but lunch and dinner don't have a lot of choice. The accommodation is 'banda style' with tents also available.
Red Chili Guest House is the cheapest option at Murchison Falls. Pitch your own tent for USh 5000 or hire one of theirs for USh 5000 more. The nearby village allows for local atmosphere and cheap local food.
Wild camping inside the park is possible with a game ranger available through arrangements with park headquarters. This provides the deepest immersion in the wildlife.
If you stay to the roads with a safari vehicle, there is no danger. However do not go off the marked roads.
- Masindi - approx 90 km.