Located at some distance from the cluster of national parks in Uganda’s far west, Murchison Falls is usually offered as an add-on to a trip involving any of Bwindi Impenetrable, Queen Elizabeth, and Kibale Forest. It is usually accessed from Kampala, the country’s capital city, with travellers making the journey of almost 300 kilometres by road, or by air from Kajjansi Airfield. Alternatively, it is certainly a sound standalone destination, featuring many areas of interest and plenty of wildlife.
The history of Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls N.P. is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, with the wildlife reserves of Karuma and Bugungu. The park covers approximately 3,893 square kilometres, Karuma 720, and Bugungu 748. The first European explorers to visit the area were John Speke and James Grant, in 1862. Just one year later, Samuel and Florence Baker arrived and spent much of 1863–64 getting to know the region.
They named it Murchison Falls for Roderick Murchison, President of the Royal Geographical Society during various periods between 1843 and 1871. This was a considerable honour for Murchison, as the falls are absolutely spectacular. They comprise the dramatic descent of the Victoria Nile from the remnant wall of the Albertine Rift Valley, a descent of 45 metres. Rushing towards the wall, the river forms a stretch of rapids for 80 kilometres. After the drop, the water calms significantly and flows serenely into Lake Albert, which lies on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Murchison Falls achieved national park status in 1952, and today it continues to enjoy a lot of worldwide acclaim.
Activities & wildlife
Naturally the falls are the main attraction of this national park. The most popular activity is a boat trip along the quiet stretch of the river to observe the falls, with exciting opportunities for wildlife watching along the way. This area is home to Nile crocodile, hippopotamus, and a thrilling assortment of waterbirds such as shoe-billed stork, Goliath heron, great blue turaco, white-thighed hornbill, and the endearing dwarf kingfisher. Big game, including elephant, buffalo, and giraffe, is often spotted on the riverbanks, taking a long drink.
The falls are also worth viewing from above. Indeed, the sheer sight of the cascading water enticed quite a series of visits from famous persons throughout the twentieth century. For example, in 1907 Winston Churchill enjoyed boat cruises, hiking, and biking in the area, and the Queen Mother came to admire the falls in 1959. Ernest Hemingway intended to visit in 1954, but unfortunately his plane crashed on the way.
Geographically, it is a region of two parts – savanna, borassus palms, acacias, and riverine woodland in the north, and patches of forest in the south. The savanna supports a wealth of plains species, predated by lion and leopard. Visitors can go on game drives to check out all the animal action. Of the classic Big Five, only rhino are not found here. The forests of neighbouring Bugungu are home to chimpanzee, which may be seen on chimp treks.
With other activities in and around the park including birdwatching, community walks, and excursions to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Murchison Falls is well worth considering for your Uganda safari. Please take a look at our property pages, and contact a member of our team to start planning an exhilarating vacation.