Murchison Falls, at a glance
Murchison Falls National Park is a premier safari destination in north-west Uganda and is just under a 5-hour drive from Kampala.
It was first visited by explorers John Speke and James Grant in 1862 and was named by a British explorer, Sir Samuel Baker, in 1864.
It became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952, and still remains one of the largest protected parks in the area.
Murchison Falls National Park is bisected by the Nile, which plunges 43 metres, through a 7-metre gap in the gorge, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls that give the park its name.
People travel from all over the world to witness the diverse wildlife. Notable past visitors include: Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and The Queen Mother.
Wildlife on Safari at Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest conservation area in Uganda, home to an abundance of wildlife. Living at the park are four out of the “Big Five” – elephants, lions, buffaloes, and leopards (though the leopards have an elusive reputation, so are rarely seen).
Down by the water, you’ll find hippos, hartebeests, warthogs, oribis, waterbucks, Uganda kobs, grey duikers, and crocodiles.
Hyenas live at the park, but as they’re generally nocturnal, they’re hardly seen during the day.
The Victoria Nile is a magnet to a large variety of bird species, including the prehistoric shoebill stork, goliath heron, grey crowned crane, black-headed lapwing, Abyssinian ground hornbill, and Senegal thick-knee.
The critically endangered Rothschild’s giraffe can also be found at Murchison, with approximately 1,450 living north of the Nile, and 45 to the south. The park is home to about 50% of the Rothschild’s giraffe population.
Ways to Safari
Kick-off your safari trip with a cruise on the Nile. Take The Albert Delta, heading away from the fierce Murchison falls, down the calm stretch of water before the Nile bisects and meets Lake Albert. This cruise departs early morning, a tranquil experience of floating past papyrus-lined riverbanks, spotting birds (including the prehistoric shoebill stork) en route.
In the afternoon, spot animals on the sides of the riverbank over a 4-5 hour trip, and relax as dusk descends.
The second cruise, The Launch, leaves Paraa and parades towards the thundering Murchison Falls. En route, you’ll spot animals coming to the water's edge to cool off, and to search for fresh, green grass to snack on along the banks.
As you reach the falls, you may get a glimpse of the all-day rainbow, which is a trademark of this safari. Uganda is crossed by the equator, meaning the sun is almost always shining. The water from the falls interacts with the sunlight which creates a natural, colourful masterpiece above the falls.
The cruises leave at 9am and 2pm each day. You’ll likely come across hippos, crocodiles, elephants, buffaloes, and giraffes down by the water.
Jump into the 4x4, and a guide will take you towards tracks leading into the savannah grasslands to find wildlife.
Buligi Peninsula is the most popular track, and during this trip you’ll pass savannah, woodlands, and riverine vegetation, before reaching the dream triangle spot of grassland connected to the Victoria Nile as it meets Lake Albert.
An experienced guide will tell you about the history of the park, the savannah, as well as the wildlife you’re searching for. The Buligi Peninsula has a great viewing point to enjoy refreshments while appreciating the views of hippos and crocodiles bathing in the distant water.
The flat savannah plains offer clear views of animals, and the drives last between 2-4 hours, starting at both 7am and 4pm.
Hot Air Balloon
Hot air balloon safaris are the most recent introduction to Murchison Falls National Park. The trips are handled by Dream Balloons, who were registered and fully certified in 2011. 8 passengers are permitted to fly in a balloon, ages 6 years old and up.
As you arrive, you’ll be taken to the launch site near Paraa where you’ll witness the assembling team doing the final preparations. You’ll be handed a refreshing beverage as you listen to the safety briefing.
The ride takes 1 hour, and you’ll get an incredible aerial view of the savannah. As you drift into the sky, you might spot wildlife hiding away on roads, as well as in Lake Albert and the Nile.
The weightless mode of transport also offers a sunset slot. Head up into the warm air and see miles of wildlife and grassland lit by the mellow orange evening light.
The trips take off at 5am and 4pm respectively. There’s a 50% discount for children under the age of 12. The cost includes the one-hour flight, certificates to confirm your trip, and refreshments before and after.
When is the best time for safari at Murchison Falls?
The best time to visit Murchison Falls National Park is during the dry season, which falls from December to February.
Throughout this period, animals are drawn closer to the water due to the heat, making it easier to spot them on game drives.
The park is hot all year round, but the weather in January and February is scorching, so if you’re visiting then, make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen with you on safari.
The peak time for visitors is from June to September, as the temperature is milder, and there’s little chance of rain. Permits and accommodation can be harder to come by during this period, so you’ll need to book well in advance.
For birding, it's best to go during the wet season, when there’s the most rainfall and migratory birds arrive.
3 Day Murchison Falls Safari
A typical 3-day safari, starting and ending in Entebbe.
You'll be collected from Entebbe airport by your guide, and start your 5-hour jouney north to Murchison Falls.
En route, you can stop at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda. With the help of a guide, you'll track the rhinos and observe them in their natural habitat. Before travelling on to Murchison, you'll have lunch at the rhino sanctuary.
On arrival at Murchison, you'll be dropped off directly at your lodge.
You'll start the day with an early breakfast in your lodge, before heading out for a game drive along the northern bank of the Nile. On the tracks of Builigi, you may spot four of the "Big Five".
In the afternoon, you'll be dropped off at Paraa for a cruise along the Nile. When you reach the Murchison Falls, you'll get off at 'The Baker Point', where you'll start a guided 45-minute hike.
The gentle hum of the birds is overpowered by the roaring of the falls, which follows you throughout your trip before you're completely immersed in the noise as you reach the top of the falls.
You'll look out over the 43-metre drop as it plunges to the bottom, creating a spectacular splash.
Wake up early and have breakfast at the lodge before heading to Paraa for a hot air balloon at 5am.
From here, you'll ascend over the savannah plains, watching the animals awaken - a wonderful sight to end your trip.
After your hot air balloon ride, you'll start the 5-hour journey back to Entebbe.
What else can I do at Murchison Falls?
You’ll meet your guide at 7am, and shortly after a safety briefing, you’ll set out on a 3-hour trek through the depths of the mahogany tree-lined trails, leading you to the chimpanzees.
Once reaching them, you’ll stay tight in your group as you observe them for an hour, watching them play, groom, and feed their young. Along with chimpanzees, your journey may uncover olive baboons, white and black colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and blue monkeys.
Only 16 permits are sold per day, and you'll need to book well in advance if you are coming in peak season. You need to be over 15 years old to buy one.
Where can I stay?
Paraa Safari Lodge, established in 1954, is located in north-west Uganda and overlooks the Nile. Paraa Lodge is the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, offering a choice of luxury accommodation.
The lodge includes 54 rooms, with balconies and en-suites. If you’re looking for a more authentic experience with a superb finish, try the safari tent, which is within walking distance from the main lodge.
Budongo Eco lodge
For a budget-friendly trip, you can stay in one of the four dorm rooms on offer.
This lodge is the perfect location for forest walks and spotting birds.
Sambiya River Lodge
Sambiya River Lodge is located 20 minutes from the top of Murchison Falls.
The lodge includes 26 charming double rooms in traditional thatched cottages with en-suite bathrooms and private verandas which enjoy the sights and sounds of Africa.
There are also 12 affordable basic bandas available to hire.
What should I pack for my safari adventure?
When booking through us, we’ll send you a full kit list of things to pack before your trip. In general, we recommend you pack clothes that are lightweight, but will provide you with enough protection from the blazing sunshine.
Along with this, bring a dry bag to keep your electronics safe on the Nile and a comfortable pair of boots for hiking. Insect repellent and sunscreen are also both a must! The key is to pack light, but smart. All you’ll need are things to protect you from the African elements.
Popular Safaris to Murchison Falls
The tours below showcase just some of what is possible. Use these itineraries as starting points, or to draw inspiration. Then get in touch, and let our expert team help craft the perfect itinerary for you.
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