Located in North-west Uganda, Murchison Falls National Park is arguably one of the most diverse safari destinations in Uganda – in terms of both wildlife and the activities on offer for visitors. From cruises down the River Nile to game drives, nature walks, birding, and even chimpanzee trekking in the neighbouring Budongo Forest Reserve, Murchison truly delivers a myriad of experiences!
Nile river cruises
From sunset cruises to boat trips up stream to view the Murchison Falls themselves, there are numerous ways for visitors to this national park to explore the River Nile. For example, scheduled boat trips depart daily from Paraa Safari Lodge at 9:00am and 3:00pm. Paraa is situated above the falls, so travellers can enjoy amazing views down the river. However, for the best experiences by boat, it is worth booking a private expedition with Baker’s Lodge, on the south bank of the Nile.
Sunset cruises are a fantastic start to any stay in Murchison, particularly for visitors who have arrived by road – what better way to ease into your safari than with a cool drink on the world’s longest river? Cruises to the waterfall lay bare the sheer power of the Nile as it thunders through a mere 7 metre gap, which is the narrowest point along the entirety of this mighty river!
Murchison Falls National Park is home to 76 species of mammal, including four of the Big Five, a huge variety of primates, and over 450 species of bird. Game drives here deliver a hugely varied and often completely unique experience!
Although rhino are not present in the park, visitors can certainly look out for the big cats, Uganda cob, and the endangered Rothschild giraffe, to name but a few of the mammals in residence. The savanna-dwelling Patas monkey, which is endemic to Murchison and Kidepo Valley National Park farther to the north, is another great sighting while out on a drive, while keen birders are likely to see crowned crane, ground hornbills, and Goliath heron on their day-to-day excursions.
Nature walks and hikes
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!
River cruises can culminate in a 45 minute hike through lush woodland to the top of the falls, while trails through the Rabongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forests give hikers the chance to see a wonderful array of birds and mammals, including primates.
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.
Uganda has long been considered a birding Mecca, attracting twitchers from all over the world to see rare species such as the shoebill stork and green-breasted pitta. While Uganda as a whole is home to over a thousand avian species, Murchison itself boasts in excess of 450 of our winged friends!
The park’s incredibly diverse landscape provides habitats for an amazing range of species. Birding enthusiasts can catalogue a huge variety of birds over just a few days – from herons, ducks, terns, and cormorants that thrive in the waters of the Nile and its surrounding deltas, to bustards and cranes that grace the open plains, Murchison really has a bit of everything!
Chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forest Reserve
While not strictly a part of Murchison Falls, the neighbouring Budongo Forest Reserve is easily accessible to guests staying in the national park.
Currently home to some 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.
While Kibale Forest has long been the go-to area for chimp fans, Budongo offers a considerably quieter experience in terms of visitor numbers, while the terrain here is also a lot less challenging than Kibale!
Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris. Yellow Zebra Safaris is an award-winning luxury and adventure travel company specialising in ‘Safari Africa’.