Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley and it is Uganda’s oldest and largest conservation area, covering 3800 Km² and home to over 451 bird species (including the highly sought after and rare shoebill stork) and 76 different mammal species, including giraffes (which cannot be viewed in Queen Elizabeth National Park). Other game sightings regularly include lions, elephants, hippos, leopards, buffalos, hyenas, warthogs and various antelopes. The northern section of the park contains savanna and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland whereas the south is dominated by woodland and forest patches. The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 43m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Falls and a trademark rainbow, where it derives its name Murchison Falls.
Activities in the park
Game drive: The mighty Nile River divides the Murchison Falls National park into its north and south sections and most of the park’s wildlife is found north of the Nile, so all game drives take place on the tracks in the northern section. The Buligi game tracks offer the most amazing game drive experience in Murchison falls, the game track stretches over 160 km passing through different types of vegetation including savannah grasslands, acacia, riverrine and woodland vegetation. All of them are well designed targeting various wildlife species like elephants, lions, buffalo, rothchild’s giraffes, hartebeasts, waterbucks, Oribi, bushbucks, bohor reed bucks, hyenas, and on rare cases leopards.
If you are sleeping in the south section keep in your mind that you have to take a small ferry at Paraa ferry Terminal to cross the Victoria Nile river and get to the northern section. The first ferry is at 7.00 a.m. but you should get there at least 40 minutes in advance because the ferry can loads around 8 vehicles. If you sleep around the north boundary of the park, you can enter through the Wankwar and Tangi gates.
Launch cruise and trek to the top of the falls: a 2 hrs and half boat cruise (starting from paraa ferry terminal) along the Victoria Nile river gives you a guarantee to see the falls from the bottom angle. As you make your way upstream through a breathtaking scenary to the thundering base of the falls, you’ll be passing a wide variety of aquatic bird species including goliath herons, Egyptian geese, pelican bee-eaters, kingfishers, Hornbills, cormorants and if you are lucky the rare shoebill stork, but also hippos, antelopes and numerous giant Nile crocodiles since the park is important as a breeding zone for them.
At the end of your way upstream, on the right side of the river, it starts a trail (called ”top of the falls”) lining the shore through woodland that reach the top part of the falls where you can enjoy from a few meters the the powerful water going trough the narrow gorge and its roar, taste the spray on your face and feel the rock shake beneath your feet. It a bit challenging just in a short part and it takes you around 1 hour. Probably the most challenging thing is the strong heat. Ended up your visit, you’ll go back by car, your driver will be waiting for you at the car park next to the top of the falls. If you don’t like hiking to the top, stop off at the south bank during your game drive, and walk down a set of steps to stand within meters of the rapids.
Sport fishing: during the dry season (December to March and June to October) you can challenge the Nile river and try to catch the big Nile perch, cat fish and a various smaller species including Tiger fish.The fishing is either from the rocks on the bank of the river or slightly lower down stream in the pools from a boat.
Entrance fee: 40$ x day. Activities: If you are traveling with a local tour operator they’ll arrange everything for you, otherwise book your boat cruise at Paraa lodge, at the main gate of the park or at http://wildfrontiers.co.ug/murchison-falls-boats/waterfall-cruises-murchison-falls/.
The boat cruise costs 30$ and the “hike to the top of the Falls” 15$. If you like spending a day fishing get more information at http://wildfrontiers.co.ug/murchison-falls-boats/fishing-safaris-murchison-falls/
Where to sleep: there is a wide range of accommodations in the park and around its boundaries. I slept at Fort Murchinson Lodge in the northern section of the park, only 10 km from the Tangi gate. Inside the park there is the Paraa lodge, an expensive and very beautiful lodge next to the Victoria Nile and the Paraa ferry terminal, and where you can also book your boat cruise. If you sleep in the south section, keep in mind that you have to take the small ferry (at Paraa ferry terminal) to cross the Victoria Nile and get to the north section where the games drive take place. The first ferry is at 7 a.m. and this small boat can loads around 8 vehicles, then it’s very important to be there in advance.