The Wild Wonders of Murchison: Exploring Uganda’s Breathtaking National Park
Murchison Falls National Park, part of the larger Murchison Falls Conservation Area, offers breathtaking scenery and spectacular wildlife viewing, including the Big Five animals. The most significant feature in the park is the Victoria Nile that bisects the park, making boat safaris to the magnificent Murchison Falls a highlight of any visit. Visitors get the front-row seat to view a wildlife spectacle featuring hippos, elephants, buffalo, giraffes, and various water birds while gliding along this mighty African river.
The park’s spectacular scenery brags of rolling grassy hills adorned with borassus palms and teeming with plains animals, papyrus swamps hosting the sought-after shoebill stork, and forests inhabited by chimpanzees. The Uganda kob, the primary antelope in the park, is abundant on the north side of the river, and a careful closer look at them will reveal lions lurking nearby.
The afternoon boat trip is ideal for observing animals coming to drink; you could even spot the elusive leopards from the boat. Overall, Murchison Falls National Park is a must-visit Uganda safaris destination for its stunning landscapes and unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities.
Best Time To Go
December to February
June to September
1,483 sq miles
3,840 sq km
- Rewarding wildlife viewing on safari drives
- The scenery is quite beautiful, with the most spectacular waterfall
- One of the few places to watch the shoebill
- Water safaris to the falls and Lake Albert are quite rewarding
- A long drive from the international airport and to other parks
- Some areas of the park have high densities of tsetse fly
Wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park
Wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park includes four of Africa safari’s Big Five animals within the park, with rhinos in the nearby Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Go on morning game drives through the undulating Borassus grassland north of the river, and you’ll be driving through a wilderness haven.
Massive herds of buffalo, Jackson’s hartebeests, oribis, Uganda kobs, the localized Rothschild’s giraffes, lions, elephants, and the unusual patas monkey are more-or-less assured sightings. Although the park has few leopards, visitors have reported numerous sightings around Pakuba Lodge. Troops of the rare patas monkey on the grassy plains are a common sighting.
The southern game-drive circuit between the Nile and Kaniyo Pabidi is a reliable wildlife viewing spot, but the low wildlife densities and high level of tsetse fly activity make it far less enjoyable than the northern game-viewing circuit.
A boat safari from the park headquarters at Paraa to the base of the waterfall is pretty spectacular: giant Nile crocodiles lurk menacingly from the sandbars, hippos grunt away in the shallows, and more often than not, you’ll see a few elephants or buffalos come down to drink.
Visitors can track chimpanzees and several other primates in the neighboring Budongo Forest, south of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
Although you can visit Murchison Falls National Park all year through, the best time for watching wildlife is the Dry Season from December to February, when animals scramble to the Victoria Nile and other reliable water sources.
Murchison Falls National Park’s scenery is highlighted by the very scenic Victoria Nile that reveals a dramatic exit with a stunning waterfall.
Murchison Falls is the most spectacular thing to happen to the world’s longest river en route from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean. A top attraction in the park is at the edge of the rift valley. Here, the Nile funnels through a narrow gauge to create a spectacular waterfall that plunges into the Devil’s Cauldron to form a plume of white water so loud you can barely hear yourself think.
Water safaris from Paraa take visitors to the base of Murchison Falls, where they can see the spectacular waterfall and even hike to the top. The area north of the river is mainly grassland with Borassus palms scattered throughout, while the south is characterized by woodland and forest patches.
Murchison Falls National Park is a prime destination for bird watchers in Uganda, offering an impressive checklist of over 450 species. One of the park’s highlights is the unique and highly sought-after shoebill, a slate-grey-wading bird found along the Nile. Visitors can almost guarantee sightings of this odd-looking bird on a boat safari along the Victoria Nile towards the Lake Albert delta.
In addition to the shoebill, the park’s water safaris, including the popular launch trip to Murchison Falls, provide excellent opportunities to spot various water birds. Whether you’re an avid birder or a casual enthusiast, Murchison Falls National Park is a must-visit destination for its diverse and abundant birdlife.
Bird Watching Specials
Birding specials in Murchison Falls National Park include;
- Abyssinian ground hornbill: a large, black and white bird known for its distinctive, booming call and impressive size.
- Shoebill: has a huge, bulbous, straw-colored with erratic greyish markings shoe-shaped bill, and a stork-like overall form. You’ll likely see it wading the Albert Delta marshes.
- African jacana: with unique long toes and the ability to walk on water lilies.
- African quail finch: a tiny bird known for its striking red and black plumage, making it a sight to behold.
- Speckle-fronted weaver: a common sight around Murchison known for its intricate nest-building skills and constant twittering.
- Squacco heron: a stocky bird with a short neck, short thick bill, and buff-brown back often seen near the river.
- Swamp flycatcher: often seen near swamps and marshes, hunting for insects.
- Black-billed barbet: a commonly seen colorful bird with a distinctive call.
- Black-headed gonolek: often heard before it is seen; it is a striking bird with orange and black plumage.
- Black-headed lapwing: known for its distinctive black-and-white coloring and its habit of nesting on the ground.
- Blue-headed coucal: With its blue head and green body, the blue-headed coucal is a beautiful bird often heard calling in the early morning.
- Denham’s bustard: This large bird is a skilled runner and can often be seen running across the Murchison savannahs.
- Eastern grey plantain eater: it’s a common sight with a distinctive call and love of fruit.
- Giant kingfisher: often seen near water, hunting for fish.
- Goliath heron: the world’s largest heron, with a wingspan of up to 7 feet!
- Malachite kingfisher: A small and colorful bird often seen near the river, hunting for fish.
- Palm-nut vulture: a large bird of prey nearly unmistakable, with white plumage, except for black areas in its wings and tail and a red patch around each eye.
- Piapiac: hard to miss with its distinctive black-and-white coloring and loud calls.
- Red-throated bee-eater: small bird known for its striking red throat and love of bees and other insects.
- Silverbird: a small bird known for its metallic silver plumage.
- White-browed sparrow-weaver: a small, predominantly brown, sparrow-sized bird found n groups of two to eleven individuals with one breeding pair.
Birdwatching in Murchison Falls National Park is good year-round, but the best time is during the low tourist season of January to March when there is plenty of bird activity. You can see migratory birds from November to April.
Weather & Climate in Murchison
Murchison Falls National Park enjoys a consistently hot tropical climate due to its equatorial location, resulting in minimal temperature variation throughout the year. However, temperatures increase noticeably during the relatively short Dry season, from December to February. Meanwhile, the Wet season, which lasts from March to November, brings light rain and occasional storms, influenced by the park’s varying altitude.
Daytime temperatures average around 31°C/88°F throughout the year in Murchison, with nighttime temperatures cooling down to around 64°F/18°C.
December to February is the driest period, with clear skies and average afternoon temperatures of 90°F/32°C. March to May is when the rainy season starts, and there are more overcast skies. April and May are the wettest months, with average daytime temperatures of 88°F/31°C and nighttime temperatures of 68°F/20°C. June and July are drier but still expect some rainfall, with average daytime temperatures around 86°F/30°C.
The Wet season peaks in October, with August to November being the wettest months. Torrential storms may occur during this period, although it doesn’t rain daily. By November, temperatures start to slowly increase again.
Generally, visitors to Murchison Falls National Park should expect a hot and humid climate all year through, with variations in rainfall and temperature depending on the season.
Best Time To Visit
The best time for wildlife spotting in Murchison Falls National Park is during the December to February Dry Season. During this time, animals amass around waterholes, and there is less undergrowth to hide in.
However, bringing a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen is vital to protect yourself from the intense heat. If you prefer cooler temperatures and more manageable rain, you can visit the park from June to September and enjoy safari drives to look for lions, elephants, and other animals.
June to September and December to February (Dry Season): Animals are found more easily. The weather is sunny with very little rainfall, and mosquito populations are reduced, resulting in a lower risk of malaria. However, the heat during January and February can be extreme.
June to November and March to May (Wet Season): The scenery is abundant with green plants and trees. Fewer tourists are around during this time, and the accommodation cost may be more affordable.
Generally, the Murchison Falls National offers good wildlife viewing throughout the year because it lies in a dry part of the country, and the rains rarely interfere with your Uganda safari. However, some game drive roads may become hard to navigate after heavy downpours.
Directions To Murchison Falls National Park
If you plan to visit Murchison Falls National Park, it’s located 190 miles (305 km) north of Kampala. It’ll take 4 to 5 hours to reach the southern entrance gate by car. If you’re coming from tracking chimpanzees in Kibale National Park in the southwest, you’ll have to drive about 170 miles (280 km) for at least 6 hours. Once you reach the entrance gate, most lodges are still about 1 to 2 hours away.
If you’re flying from abroad, you’ll land at Entebbe International Airport (EBB), about 29 miles (46 km) from Kampala, the capital. Your tour manager will usually arrange for your airport pickup and take care of all your transportation needs as part of your Uganda safari package.
Murchison Falls National Park, along with most other parks and national parks in Uganda, is a safe place to visit. If you’re on a guided wildlife tour, you don’t have to worry about anything. However, if you plan to drive independently, we suggest you seek local advice before heading out. To ensure your safety, we recommend checking the government travel advisories for up-to-date information on traveling to Uganda.
Malaria & Vaccinations
Taking measures to prevent malaria risks is crucial when visiting Murchison Falls National Park. You can do this by taking antimalarial medication and using mosquito repellent, especially those containing DEET, which is the most effective. Wearing long sleeves and trousers is also recommended for skin-covering clothes in the evening. Additionally, ensuring you have received the recommended vaccinations for Uganda before your visit is essential.
Safety Measures For Wildlife Viewing
When viewing wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park, you must prioritize safety for yourself and the animals by following your safari guide’s instructions. Here are some of the most common safety precautions to keep in mind:
Always follow your guide’s instructions: Your guide will have extensive knowledge of the park and its wildlife, and their instructions should always be followed.
Keep a safe distance from the animals: It’s crucial to maintain a safe space and never approach or attempt to touch the animals to avoid disturbing them or putting yourself in danger.
Stay inside your vehicle: If you’re on a safari drive, always stay inside your safari vehicle. Animals may see the vehicle as less of a threat than a person on foot.
Please don’t feed the animals: Feeding them can disrupt their natural behavior and create a dangerous situation for you and the animals.
Avoid sudden movements and loud noises: Sudden movements or loud noises may startle the animals, causing them to react unpredictably.
Respect the animals’ territory: Remember that you are a guest in the animals’ home, and respecting their space and environment is important.
By following these safari safety precautions, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience while observing the incredible wildlife of Murchison Falls National Park.