What is Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park, also known as Kabalega National Park, is Uganda’s largest and oldest safari park. Aptly named after its most popular landmark, the Murchison Falls, the park was established in 1952 by the British administration but was originally gazetted as a wildlife preserve in 1926.
The park has a territory that spreads out about 3,893 square kilometers and because it’s bisected by the Victorian Nile, the park is home to 76 different mammal species and about 451 different bird species. The 80 km long stretch of rapids ends at the seven-meter narrow gorge and magnificently plunges down the valley 45 meters creating a powerful sight of mother nature. The flowing water then streams across the valley floor and finally to Lake Albert.
How to Get to Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is located in the western part of Uganda in the Masindi District which is about 305 km north of Kampala. You can reach the park either by land or by air.
Most people can reach Murchison Falls National Park in a 4WD vehicle as part of a safari tour package. The ride will last roughly 5 to 7 hours from Kampala so be prepared for the journey.
If you can spend a little more money and is short on time, you can take a flight to Chobe Airstrip to reach the park from Entebbe National Airport in Kampala. It’ll probably take around an hour before you reach the airstrip. I do recommend only take flights to the park if you’re part of a group though, as it can get expensive.
In our case, we flew from Kidepo National Park too Murchison Falls, This is where things got delayed since they had to deal with the weather but everything still worked out fine—you should just be flexible and expect things like this— I mean, as in any travels, it can happen.
Read : 22 Travel Tips while Visiting Uganda
Murchison Falls Highlights and Where to See It
Seeing the Murchison Falls is truly a magnificent sight and the journey to witness this powerful force of nature is equally thrilling. There are two options for tourists to get close to the falls.
By Boat Cruise:
The boat cruise starts downstream at Paraa dock. You’ll be ferried to the falls upstreams and the boat upstream for which takes about 2 hours. You can get a 360-degree view of the falls and the river from an elevated deck of the boat. You’ll also get to see hippos and crocodiles in the river and other animals by the water.
This costs approximately 32 USD for adults. You’ll also have the option to disembark at launch in Fajao gorge to hike up the top of the falls which would take up to an hour. You can then walk back down to the boat or ride a vehicle on the way down. All with an expert guide, of course.
You can also take a three-hour drive up to the falls with a hike around it which would take about 2 hours. I personally love going by this route more. There were really pretty views and much more variety of game to be spotted by the river throughout the drive.
Be prepared that for the hike up the falls, you will be wet. The force of the water is so strong the water is sprayed on certain areas on the falls nonstop. I felt like the Murchison Falls sheer strength is stronger than Niagara falls and the Elephant Falls in Da Lat, Vietnam. The guide joked that rain always pours on certain areas of the trail nonstop. The trail will be slippery so wear proper shoes.
Costs in Murchison Falls National Park
The entrance fee to the park for a nonresident foreigner costs 40 USD and 100 USD per vehicle to enter the park.
Where to Stay in Murchison Falls
I got a wonderful chance to stay at Chobe Safari Lodge which has a beautiful view of the River Nile and a luxurious five-star accommodation. It has every convenience that you would expect from a hotel of this caliber but you’ll always be reminded that you’re out in the wilderness with the beautiful view of the river.
My favorite part of the lodge is definitely its three-level pool that faces the river. It creates this wonderful infinity effect and each pool increases in depth at each level. You can swim in full view of the rivers and the swimming hippos.
The lodge has a gym, free internet, great food and all of its 36 guest rooms, 21 luxury tents, 4 suites, and presidential cottages are elegantly designed with its own balcony or terrace to take in the majestic landscape outside.
The lodge has a campfire every night which we always take advantage of. During the night, you need to be accompanied by lodge guards if you want to venture outside as there’s wildlife all around. Hippos can sometimes venture on the grounds because of the lodge’s close proximity to the river banks so it’s up to the guards to shine a light on them to send back to the water.
It’s great staying in Chobe Safari lodge as wildlife is all around, we can spot giraffes right away when we venture outside during the day. The con is that it’s 2.5 hours away from Murchison Falls. If you want to stay nearer the falls, you can check-in at Paara Lodge.
What to Do in Murchison Falls
Chobe Safari Lodge offers its guests many fun activities to its guests which includes visiting the Murchison Falls and fishing at the Nile River.
The lodge offers its guests a trip up the Murchison Falls by either boat or land which you can see the details above.
The lodge also offers its guests a great game drive experience to nearby game trails. They have a selection of safari vehicles perfect for different numbers of people. They start their game drives in the morning at 7 am and evening game drives start at 4 pm. The surrounding wildlife is astounding to see tas Murchison Falls National Park has huge numbers of big animal species that are so cool to spot.
Murchison National Park supports an astounding 451 different bird species so birding or bird watching are some of the top activities to do in the park. Its different species of birds are best viewed during the morning, many of which are spotted near the banks of the river.