Murchison Falls in Uganda

Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda‘s first National Park. It is also its largest protected area. Covering 3,893 sq km. The adjoining Karuma and Bugungu wildlife reserves; all now form part of the even larger Murchison Falls Protected Area. Making it a total of  5,072 sq km.

Murchison Falls lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley. Where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is home to 76 species of mammals and 451 birds.

The 1951 film “The African Queen” starring Humphrey Bogart; was filmed at Lake Albert and the Nile in Murchison Falls.

Murchison Falls National Park Safari

The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile. Which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls.  The centerpiece of the park and the final event is an 80km stretch of rapids. The mighty cascade drains the last of the river’s energy. Transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles.

The park is home to four of the “Big Five”. With huge herds of buffaloes and elephants, well-camouflaged leopards, and a healthy population of lions. It is also known for its giraffes; because in Uganda, these can only be viewed here and in Kidepo Valley.

Other species viewed regularly include Jackson’s hartebeest, bushbucks, Uganda kob, waterbucks, and warthogs. Resident Nile crocodiles and hippos. As well as other visiting wildlife along the river.


Olive baboons are common along the roadsides. Be sure to keep car windows and doors shut if you don’t want to lose your lunch! In the forested sections, you’ll find the Blue and red-tailed monkeys and black-and-white colobus. Additionally, the savanna-dwelling patas monkey; which is only found here and in Kidepo Valley National Park. Around 800 chimpanzees live in the Kaniyo Pabidi and Budongo Forests.

Murchison Falls National Park Birds

The varied habitats of Uganda’s largest park make it home to a variety of birds. The list includes:
The Shoebill Stork,
Goliath Heron; the largest heron in the world
Pairs of elegant Grey Crowned Cranes; Uganda’s national bird.
Also seen along the banks of the Nile are:
The Blue-headed Coucal,
Swamp Flycatcher,
Squacco Heron,
African Jacana,
Denham’s Bustard,
Black-billed Barbet,
Black-headed Gonolek,
Eastern Grey Plantain-eater,
Weaver Birds,
Pied, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers,
Red-throated Bee-eater,
White-browed Sparrow Weaver and the Speckle-fronted Weaver,
African Quail-Finch.

Rare Shoebill bird
Shoe-billed stork

What to do

Regular launch trips to the base of the falls offer fine game viewing and bird watching. Boat trips to the Lake Albert delta provide the best chance in Africa of sighting Shoebills. Chimp tracking at Rabongo Forest, and en route from Masindi in the Budongo Forest.

Areas of interest inside Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls

The Murchison Falls waters violently compress through a narrow gorge, spraying misty droplets along their wake over a 50m radius. This creates a permanent rainbow and causes a continuous roar. From Baker Point on the southern side, you can also view the Nile splitting into the smaller Uhuru Falls. Which was created in 1962 when the river burst its banks.

A boat ride along the Nile to the foot of Murchison Falls is a rewarding experience for nature lovers. As the northern bank teems with a variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Guided nature walks along both the north and south banks; are another refreshing activity and fishing is also possible here.

Murchison Falls National Park fishing
Murchison Falls National Park fishing

Nile-Lake Albert Delta

This wide, calm stretch of water, where the Victoria Nile flows into Lake Albert; is a key area for bird watchers. Its papyrus-lined banks are bursting with birdlife, including Goliath Herons, Great Egrets, and African Fish Eagles. The most sought-after species here is the rare Shoebill.

Buligi Game Tracks

The Buligi game tracks, stretch between the Victoria and Albert Niles. They are the Murchison Falls National Park’s most popular safari destination. At around 120-170km in length, they pass through open savannah grassland, woodland, acacia, and riverine vegetation. You will find most of the park’s wildlife, especially during early morning and early evening tours.


Paraa, meaning home of the hippo in the local Luo language, is the park’s tourism hub. And most activities launch from Paraa. A passenger ferry links the northern and southern banks.

Karuma Falls

The roaring Karuma Falls on the Victoria Nile, in Chobe, which is in the northeastern sector of the park. A series of natural rock formations; cause the waters to ripple and give them a white, foamy appearance. It is an ideal area for sport fishing.

Kaniyo Pabidi Forest

In the south of Murchison Falls Conservation Area; the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest ecosystem contains black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys, and olive baboons. There is also a habituated chimp group. These can be tracked. Elephants, buffalos, lions, and leopards are also frequent visitors. Forest birds include the chocolate-backed kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill, and Puvel’s Illadopsis. These can be viewed here and nowhere else in East Africa.

Rabongo Forest

Surrounded by savanna and covering just 4km2; Rabongo Forest is considered a birders’ paradise. Because of the endangered species found here.

Areas of interest outside Murchison Falls National Park

Budongo Forest

The Budongo Forest, bordering the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest, is southwest of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Budongo is astonishingly biodiverse, with 24 mammal species, over 360 birds, 289 butterflies, and 465 plants. All the forest’s tree species are on display along the “Royal Mile”. A beautiful stretch of road highly regarded for its bird watching. With around 800 chimpanzees; Budongo is also known for its primate population. Forest walks are possible at Busingiro Ecotourism Site on the Masindi-Bugungu route to Murchison Falls National Park.

When to visit Murchison Falls National Park

During the day, the temperature is around 25-32°C, making this one of the hottest regions in Uganda. Nights are cooler, dropping to around 18°C, and there is little rain – though when it arrives it can be torrential!

The best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park is during the dry seasons. From December to late February and from June to September. This is when the animals congregate around water bodies making them easier to observe. The best time for bird watching is January until March. Which tends to have plenty of bird activity with fewer tourists.

How to Get to Murchison Falls National Park

By road, the Nile river crossing at Paraa, is approximately 5hrs drive from Kampala (305km). This is in the center of the park. Paraa is 85km from Masindi town by the direct route. A longer (135km) alternative route passes through Budongo Forest. It enjoys spectacular views across Lake Albert from the rift valley escarpment above Butiaba.

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