Things to Do
Falls River Safari
Murchison’s signature experience is the boat cruise upriver from Paraa to the Falls. Best enjoyed in the afternoon, when the western sun illuminates the spray, this can be a return trip of about 3 hours. Or, you can be met by your driver-guide at the Falls and travel back to your lodge by road. This works particularly well when you are staying on the south bank.
The boat journey is a stately procession in either a double deck boat or a smaller motor cruiser. Seated comfortably, without any of the bumps associated with game drives, you will pass close to the river bank, seeing the large mammals, crocodiles and birdlife that frequent the shoreline. There is something wonderful about watching a totally relaxed six tonne bull elephant drink from a distance of just a couple of metres.
The boats cannot stop at the foot of the Falls themselves, it is just too dangerous. Instead, for those wanting to reach the top, visitors disembark at the foot of a cliff before the water begins to boil too ferociously. Met by a guide, you then walk through riverine forest, along the cliff face and up onto the break of the Falls, stopping at different viewpoints along the way. The spray will probably soak you, but the experience is worth it.
Lake Albert Delta River Safari
Going downstream, and this time often in the morning, the Lake Albert Delta river safari is in many ways a continuation of the Falls cruise experience, but with the Delta as your target. There you have a high chance of seeing Shoebill stork as well as other large congregations of aquatic birdlife. Although similar to the Falls cruise, the experience isn’t just about the wildlife sightings. The feeling of moving from the river towards the wide open waters of the lake is also rather special and produces some lovely photographs.
The waters of the Victoria Nile hold some massive fish, making Murchisona a rewarding destination for the avid angler. Adventurous fishermen target the large Nile Perch, known locally as mputa and cat fish, semutundu. Other fish include tiger fish, electric cat-fish and tilapia.
The record for the largest Nile perch is a 113 Kgs monster landed at at the water gauge opposite the crocodile pool. The largest cat-fish was 45 Kgs, landed near the Nyamusika Cliffs.
Permits are required to fish and you must be accompanied by UWA rangers.
Seeing wildlife from the river is delightful, but it can’t beat the excitement of a game drive. The feeling that comes from placing yourself in the middle of a resting pride of lion; watching a tower of giraffe browse peacefully from acacia tops; or the excitement of rolling slowly through thick bush never sure when you will meet the elephant cannot be matched.
The majority of game drives in Murchison are enjoyed on the Buligi Peninsula where 170km of tracks cross through open savanna grassland, woodland, acacia and riverine vegetation. Driving in the early morning (first south/north ferry crossing at Paraa is at 07:00) and late afternoon, you can expect to see elephant, buffalo, antelopes and giraffe. Lion are increasingly seen with the majority of the Parks prides found here predating on Ugandan kob. You may even see a leopard. The tracks converges at Delta Point where the Nile flows north out of Lake Albert. This is a convenient place to stop for refreshments whilst viewing waterbirds and distant hippos offshore.
Less visited, but available for intrepid explorers is the southern ‘Heart of Murchison’. This is a recently opened section of the Park, developed with the intention of easing visitor pressure on Buligi. While much of the southern part of Murchison is covered by bush and forest, a lovely tract of savanna rolls down to the river from the Rabongo road in the very centre of the park. Substantial herds of Uganda kob have made this a prime location for lions. In January 2016 15 giraffes were translocated to this area making it now it is possible to spot these giants on the Honey Moon track.
Hot Air Balloon flights
If you have taken boat cruises and game drives, but would like another special way to see Murchison, then take to the sky with a hot air balloon flight. This is a recent innovation for Murchison and provides an exciting - yet peaceful - way to experience the Park around Paraa.
Of the two chimpanzee communities of around 90 individuals each found in the wider conservation area, the group closest to Budongo Eco-Lodge has been habituated to human contact since the late 1990s. Up to six guided groups of three people on each track the chimps each morning and afternoon. With a contact rate of about 80%, the chance of seeing the chimps is not as high as at Kibale, but it is greater than at Kyambura. An additional benefit is that the terrain at Budongo is flatter and easier than the other two destinations. Contact is normally made after only an hour’s walking, meaning that the excursion as a whole last about 3 hours. A full day habituation experience is also available here for those looking for a more in depth experience. Finally, due to the centre’s historical association with the Jane Goodall Institute, the interpretive guides at Budongo are extremely good at telling the wider story of the chimps and the forest, not just leading you to a contact.
The southern forests of Kaniyo Pabidi are also one of the best birding sites in Uganda - making for incredible bird walks. Like in Kibale, the best place to look for birds is on the fringes of the canopy, close to the lodge and on the road verges.