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Murchison Falls National Park is one of the most scenic national parks in Uganda.Situated within north-western Uganda, Murchison Falls National Park is one of the top tourist destinations within the Pearl of Africa due to its diverse ecosystems-inform of savannah and forests, wildlife and bird species in addition to the powerful and breathtaking Murchison Falls from which it derives its name. Established in 1952 and extending for 3840 square kilometers, this Park is obviously the oldest and largest Conservation Area in the country.

Murchison Falls NP – Location – Getting There – Attractions – Activities

Guide to Adventure in Murchison Falls National Park

Getting There
This park is located in the northwestern part of Uganda, sprawling inland from the shore of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile. It derives its name from the Murchison Falls, a beautiful water fall formed at a point where the mighty River Nile explodes through a narrow gorge and flows down to become a placid river whose banks are patronized by hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks, and buffaloes. The vegetation is mainly savannah, riverine forest and woodland. Wildlife includes; Lions, Leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, hartebeests, oribis, Uganda kobs, chimpanzees and many bird species including the rare shoebill.

History of the Park

It is comprised of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Refuge and Karuma Wildlife Refuge. This park is believed to be the oldest protected area in Uganda. The park has received many tourists including nobles and celebrities who have taken Uganda safari trips to see this amazing place! It covers a total area of 3,893km2, with Bugungu Wildlife Refuge, Karuma Wildlife Refuge and Budongo Forest Reserve covering 510Km2, 678Km2, and 591Km2 respectively. While the National Park and the two wildlife reserves are under the auspices of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Budongo Forest Reserve is managed by the National Forest Association. Sleeping sickness decimated the inhabitants of an area of approximately 13,000Km2 during the period of 1907 and 1912.

This paved way for the establishment of the Bunyoro Game Reserve in 1910, which is now part of the National Park in Masindi District. With time, the boundaries were extended into Gulu district, north of the river, and the resulting protected area became known as the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve in 1928.

Established in 1932, Budongo Forest Reserve became the first commercial logging concession in Uganda and is one of the most intensively studied “working” Forest in the world to date.

The frontiers of this forest continued to expand over the next thirty years until their reached the current size of 825Km2. As the locals continued to lose hand, a lot of animosity was created as people never quite knew where the boundaries ended due to the frequent changes. Because of the reduction of hunting in the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve, the animal population increased, which justified upgrading the reserve to Murchison Falls National Park. In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. By the mid 1960’s, Murchison Falls had become the prime safari destination in all of East Africa, with well over 60,000 visitors annually.

When the sleeping sickness outbreak was put into check, people began to populate the areas around the new park. It was deemed prudent to establish a buffer zone of controlled-use lands around the park, to mitigate encroachment and poaching pressures. In 1963, the Karuma and Bugungu Controlled Hunting Areas, which were later upgraded to game Reserves, were established. Karuma was upgraded in 1964 while Bugungu in 1968. The establishment if the National parks Act led to the forced eviction of come of the villages and new moratoriums on hunting.

From the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, the increasing number of mammals came to an abrupt end as Amin and later Milton Obote’s armies started shooting animals either for target practice or for food. A combination of political mayhem and decreasing numbers of animals in the 1970’s and 80s, led to a sharp decline in the number of visitors. But the numbers are now steadily increasing due to political stability.

Murchison falls is a park, which is surrounded by lands that are not suitable for farming, which has availed less chances of converting the protected area to farmland except in the Karuma Wild Reserve. This gives it a unique position. Since the population around here is still low, a pro-active and inclusive approach can be devised to involve the locals in wildlife management.

Things to See in the Park

It is popular for offering shelter to over 75 species of mammals including four of the big five animals (lions, leopards, elephants and buffaloes), Rothschild giraffes, warthogs, Antelopes such as Uganda kobs, Oribis, topis, waterbucks, Jackson’s heart beasts, bushbucks and elands, primates (vervet monkeys and olive baboons), hippos and many others in addition to reptiles such as Nile Crocodiles as well as over 450 species of birds including the aquatic birds like the elusive shoebill storks and others like the great blue turaco, white-thighed hornbills, dwarf kingfisher, Goliath herons and many others.

The park is a viable breeding population of many rare mammals and bird species which will continue to draw tourists and yet the populations are still well below the carrying capacity of the land. There has been a period of over 20 years of very low impact by animals on the ecosystem due to political mayhem. This means that the park will grow and at the same time create an excellent laboratory to study the resilience of faunal species after a rapid decline, as well as vegetation succession patterns. This is necessary because almost no ecological research is being done in the conservation area currently.

Things to Do in Murchison Falls National Park

Wondering about the best things to do in Uganda? Here are the top adventure activities that one should not miss during a Uganda safari through the famous Murchison Falls National Park.

Boat cruise in Murchison Falls National Park

Boat trip takes you to the bottom of Murchison Falls. On the way, expect to see water loving birds and animals like hippos, crocodile and so on. You can choose to do a sunset cruise to boat trips up stream to view the Murchison Falls themselves.

Cultural Encounters in Murchison Falls National Park

Energetic dancers from Mubako perform around lodge campfires, making for a magical African experience at dusk. Boomu Women’s Group offers accommodation, a craft shop and village tours, revealing the realities of life in this rural community.

Nature walks in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls is a vast and varied wilderness that in places can be explored on foot – this is an incredible experience for birders and the adventurous alike! You can board a boat to the bottom of Murchison falls and then hike to the top of the falls, the Rabongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forests give hikers the chance to see a wonderful array of birds and mammals, including primates.

The guided swamp walks in the Nile and Lake Albert Delta present opportunities for budding and serious bird enthusiasts to see the strange-looking shoebill stork, although it is worth keeping in mind that this is only possible when water levels are low.

Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest

Budongo forest keeps about 700 individual chimpanzees and three habituated groups, the reserve includes one group that’s particularly approachable. This is the Kaniyo-Pabidi community, whose members have been habituated by the Jane Goodall Institute.

Interesting Points of the Park

There are some specific phenomenal places within Murchison Falls National Park that will always capture the attention of tourists. The most interesting points include;

The Nile    

River Nile is the World’s second longest River (extending for 6853 kilometers) and is a home to some of the World most adventurous activities such as whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, kayaking, sport fishing, boat rides and river surfing among others, and interestingly, the Murchison Falls National Park offers much more than you can ever expect in a destination.

Top of the waterfalls

In most cases, majority of the activities within Murchison Falls National Park begin with the visit to the top of the Murchison Falls where tourists get the once in a lifetime chance of feeling and seeing the World’s most powerful waterfalls as the water of the River forcefully passes through a 7-meters wide gorge before plunging about 14 meters into the Nile as it proceeds its journey north. Visit this Park and enjoy the wonderful feeling of the thundering waterfalls as its waters gush on your skin and you take pictures with your colleagues or family members.

Kaniyo-Pabidi Forest

This Ecotourism site is specifically found within Budongo Forest Reserve (also within Murchison Falls National Park) and most tourists who visit this Park explore this site due to the fact that it offers shelter to chimpanzees as well as other primate species (such as olive baboons, vervet monkeys and black and white colobus monkeys among others) thus making it an ideal spot for primate tracking during Uganda safaris. Not only that, you will be able to encounter other animals that visit the Forest such as elephants, buffaloes and leopards among others.

Buligi Game Tracks

Anyone who has visited Murchison Falls National Park will agree that Buligi Game Tracks offer the best chance of spotting some of the Park’s Wildlife Species such as herds of buffaloes, elephants, Rothschild giraffes, warthogs, lions, antelopes especially Uganda Kobs, Oribis and Topis in addition to several bird species.

Mubako Village

Are you interested in unforgettable cultural encounters during the Uganda safari? Then don’t miss visiting the Mubako Village because while here, you will get immersed in the Luo culture as you enjoy the sound of Adungu local string instrument in the evenings during Campfires as well as folk songs. Not only that, you will interact with the locals and learn about some of the traditional norms, way of life and history of the Luo people.

Murchison Falls National Park is a phenomenal tourist destination due to the beautiful Places such as Buligi Game Tracks, Mubako Village, Kaniyo-Pabidi Forest, Top of the Murchison Falls and the Nile River among others.