Murchison Falls National Park, located is in north-western Uganda, spreading inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile, up to the Karuma Falls, is Uganda’s largest National Park, covering about 3 893 km2. The Park, which straddles the districts of Masindi, Buliisa, Kiryandongo and Nwoya, is split by the Victoria Nile from the east to the west, for a distance of about 115 km. It is the site of the Murchison Falls, where the Nile waters surge through a narrow gorge of only 7 m wide before plummeting 43 m down.
Together with the adjoining Karuma Wildlife Reserve and the Bugungu Wildlife Reserve the Park forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
Murchison Falls National Park offers an awe-inspiring landscape of the Murchison Falls, a riverine forest, palm-dotted hills, fertile swamps and the Park’s chief feature, the Victoria Nile, running through the wilderness before tumbling 45 m down through a narrow gorge at the Murchison Falls.
Murchison Falls National Park and the adjoining Bugondo Forest Reserve play host to 76 mammal species as well as Uganda’s largest population of the Nile crocodile. It is also is home to large herds of the Buffalo and the Elephant, a good population of the Lion and the Leopard as well as the Grey Duiker, the Ugandan Kob, the Oribi and Jackson’s Hartebeest. The Giraffe is also found in the Park as is the uncommon ground-dwelling Patas Monkey.
Bird life is prolific in the Park with 450 bird species recorded. These include the endangered Shoebill Stork, the Dwarf Kingfisher, the White-thighed Hornbill, Goliath Heron and the Great Blue Turaco.
The Park can be accessed by road. From Masindi, one needs to take the direct route via the Kichumbanyobo gate or the longer route to Lake Albert then enter the Park through the Bugungu gate.
As there is no direct public transport into the Park, the cheapest way in is to get to Bulisa or Wanseko, where minibuses run to and from daily from Hoima and Masindi. One would need to get as far as Bulisa, from where they can get a boda-boda to Paraa where the Park Headquatres are.
The Park can also be accessed by air as there are available regular flights from Entebbe to Murchison’s Pakuba airstrip via Aerolink. Fly Uganda also flies to Pakuba, Bugungu and Chobe airstrips from the Kajjansi airfield between Entebbe and Kampala.
Accommodation options in and around Murchison Falls National Park range from campsites, lodges, hotels and guesthouse. The Paraa Safari Lodge, located at a site where it overlooks the River Nile on its journey from its source at Lake Victoria to join Lake Albert, has on offer an exclusive combination of comfort, leisure and adventure. The rooms on offer are fully equipped with all amenities including a balcony and a private bathroom.
At the Sambiya River Lodge, located 15 minutes from the top of the Murchison Falls, visitors have access to 26 double rooms designed as individual and family thatched cottages equipped with en suite bathrooms, screened doors and windows, fans, mosquito nets, and a veranda offering amazing views. There are also twelve basic bandas available for guests.
Visitors to the Park might also seek accommodation in Masindi. There is Masindi Hotel which offers rooms that are equipped with a wardrobe, a private bathroom fitted with a shower and free toiletries as well as a restaurant, a bar, a shared lounge, garden and a terrace. Another option is the New Court View Hotel which features every rooms furnished with the basics including a desk and a private bathroom. Also on offer is a restaurant, a bar, a garden, and free WiFi throughout the property. At the Country Inn Masindi, guests have access to rooms fitted with writing desks and private bathrooms. The Inn also offers a restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar and shared lounge.
Best time to visit
Murchison Falls National Park is open for visitors all year round. However, the best time to visit the Park is during the dry seasons from December to late February and from June to September where vegetation is thinner, the grass is shorter and when the animals congregate around water bodies, making them easier to spot.
For the keen bird watchers, the best time to visit is from November to April where migratory species would be in the Park. The Falls also look breathtaking during the rainy months, when the river is at its fullest.
Weather and Climate
Murchison Falls National Park is located in one of the hottest regions in Uganda and experiences temperatures of around 25-32°C during the days and around 18°C during the nights. Little rainfall is received and when it is received, it is heavy.
Other safety considerations
Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for visitors wanting to experience Murchison Falls National Park and Uganda as a whole. Other precautionary measures to be taken by visitors against malaria include using insect repellent sprays, sleeping under treated nets and covering bare skin at dusk.