Visit MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK

Uganda’s largest conservation area is Murchison falls national park located in northwestern Uganda. The national park is home to over 76 mammal species one of which is the big four among the big-five mammals – lions, leopards, elephants and buffaloes. Other mammals include Uganda kob, warthogs, hyenas, and bushbucks among others. As you sail through the shores of the river Nile, you are able to see Nile crocodiles and various hippos.

Well, the national park is also home to primates like baboons and monkeys. Murchison falls national park is also a bird haven with over 450 different bird species including the rare shoebill stork offering one of the best bird-watching safaris, the 23 Albertine rift endemics are usually found in the western arm of the rift valley.

Murchison falls national park covers an area of 3,840 square kilometers making it the biggest national park because of its biggest numbers of animals, birds, and vegetation like savannah woodlands, and swamps that also act as home to various species. Because of its varsity, it provides one of the best game drives where you are able to see animals such as lions, elephants, waterbucks, buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, and warthogs among others. Apart from game drives, you can as well enjoy viewing the mighty waterfalls, bird watching, and hiking to the top of the falls among others.

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ATTRACTIONS IN MURCHISON FALLS

Murchison falls national park has the biggest number of animals which is a total of about 144 mammals. The park is also home to the big four of the big five mammals of Africa that is to say lions, elephants, leopards and buffaloes. Some of the other mammals that are spotted are giraffes, hippos, antelopes, warthogs, grey duikers and bushbucks.

Home to over 556 different bird species all at one’s disposal to see and take excellent photos for memories. These range from endemic species that fill up the park’s flourishing vegetation as they sing and whistle.

Some of the birds that can be sighted are the rare shoebill, papyrus gonolek, great cormorant, lapwing, African jacana, little stint, and Egyptian goose.

Ziwa Rhino sanctuary is located along the way to Murchison falls national park. During your stay in Uganda, this is the only place where you can see the rhinos when they are in the wild.

This place was gazetted to bring back the lost white rhinos and as of now there is a total of 32 white rhinos, this place rewards you with the thrilling activity of rhino trekking. In this place, you can as well get to see different antelope species, monkeys and crocodiles.

The beauties of these falls are also known as the Devil’s Caldera. These falls divide the park at about 100km streaming to the north-west and then southwest towards lake Kyoga and Albert. The Murchison Falls can be seen if one takes a boat cruise to the down parts of the falls, climb to the top of the falls and if they take a top view at the falls.

These are regarded as the strongest waterfalls and when one is here, they are able to see the Nile intersecting in an 8-meter gorge escarpment as well as seeing different animals such as hippos, elephants, and antelopes.

ACTIVITIES TO DO IN MURCHISON FALLS

The national park is home to over 76 mammals and 451 bird species that you will encounter on your 3 to 4 hours’ game drive. These game drives usually take place in the northern part of the park since it is covered by open savannah grasslands that enable you to view the animals in an open place.

You will find the Albert Delta flooded with birds, crocodiles, lions and buffaloes. The Buligi peninsula is always filled up with animals such as giraffes, leopards, elephants and hippos.

 Murchison falls national park offers two types of boat cruises that happen along the Nile cutting through the park. The first cruise is the Albert Delta which starts from Paraa as you slope down the Nile to the shores of Lake Albert. This cruise is 4-5 hours which is a distance of approximately 29km.

When on this particular boat cruise, during the morning hours is when you are able to enjoy the bird-watching safari experiences, one is able to encounter the rare shoebill stork.

The afternoon cruise is also available in case you missed the one that happened in the morning, an afternoon cruise involves watching the sun setting ahead the borderless grasslands.

The second boat cruise involves leaving Paraa and ascending to the bottom of the falls. Get to encounter the water passing through a small 7 m gorge once you reach this point as the water seems to splash through the boat. You are also able to see gig numbers of hippos and the elephants, birds and the crocodile that come to this place to sunbathe which will spice up your safari trip without you getting bored.

Bird watching is one of the rewarding activities carried out in Murchison falls national park. Home to over 556 bird species, this should be one of the biggest bird spots in Uganda. This activity is best done in the morning when birds are leaving their respective nests to go and hunt for food. Some of these birds that are spotted include shoebill, papyrus gonolek, great cormorant, African darter, long-toed lapwing, Egyptian goose, black crake, grey crowned crane, African jacana, and little stint. 

This rewarding activity takes place mainly in Budongo forest, home to over 200 chimpanzees in the forests. Budongo is as close as a 30-minute drive from the Kichumbanyoba gate entrance that is part of Murchison falls national park. Chimpanzee trekking is best done in the morning because this is the time of the day when these primates are active.

The adventure starts with a briefing in the morning conducted at the headquarters of the Kaniyo-Pabidi eco site. Chimpanzee trekking demands one to go down the trails of the forests till they get to encounter chimpanzees, once you get to see them you will be given one hour to spend with them as you watch them feed and gather fruits and leaves for food.

During the trek, you are able to see other primate species such as blue monkeys, olive baboons, Vervet monkeys, red-tailored monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys.

How to Get to Murchison Falls?

Are you worried about how to get to Murchison falls national park? since the park is located in the northwestern direction, you can use private means through the Kampala route to the park taking about 5-6 hours.

When is the Best Time To Murchison Falls National Park

The park’s scenery is usually stunning during the dry season which ranges from the months of June to October. The park can also be visited during the wet season ranging from the months of March to May however November and December are also favorable months for bird lovers.

SAFARI ACTIVITIES IN UGANDA

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

After reading about the mountain gorillas, meet them physically and watch the silverback protect its family, mothers nurse and youngsters play. Half of the total population of the mountain Gorillas call Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park home.

Mountain Gorillas are only found in the pearl of Africa, around the vast Virunga chain of mountains which spans through Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo. All trekkers must be 15 years and above, with a valid Gorilla trekking permit which can only be used once-the date of the activity.

Gorilla trekking permits are purchased from Uganda wildlife Authority, or through a licensed tour agency and costs 700Usd for foreign non-residents, 250,000ugx for East African residents and 600$ for foreign residents. 

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzees trekking is done in Kyambura gorge, Kibale national park, Kalinzu forest and Budongo forest. This is one of the must-do safari activities in Uganda, and thus one of the best for holiday goers. Get to experience the silence of the jungle, know what the forest has, and encounter other forest inhabitants.

The Gorilla trekking experience is done in the morning and afternoon hours, taking about 1-4 hours on foot. It is open for only persons aged 16 years and above in groups of not more than 8 persons. One can combine chimpanzee trekking with other activities like game viewing, boat cruise, hiking, birding and more. At Kibale forest National Park, you will visit Isunga community for the top of world hike and coffee experience.

Game drives and camping safaris

Akagera national park is the only place where game drives are done in Rwanda. The park is located in the eastern part of Rwanda, with a wide range of flora and fauna, cool weather, and classic lodging options.

Game viewing in Akagera National Park is rated as one of the best in the continent, and offers high chances of encountering among others; the African elephants, cape Buffaloes, lions, leopards, Rhinoceros, forest genet, zebras, wild dogs and more. There are birds, plants and more to explore during your stay in the park. Game drive is best in the morning and late evening hours.

Boat cruises

Boat cruise experiences in Murchison falls national park, Lake Victoria, Lake Mburo, Bunyonyi and Kazinga channel are quite unmatched. The best way to explore water, and uncover the aquatic world. Get closer to Nile crocodiles, hippos, kingfisher, water duck, shoebill stock and more, the papyrus swamps, and cool water breeze. This experience takes about 1-3 hours, in either morning or afternoon hours.

Bird watching tours.

Uganda is a host to 10% of total bird species in the world. Birds are found across the country, in the swamps, lake shores, mountains, river shores, and forests. For bird enthusiasts, you get to learn of these birds by name, and character.

Take time to capture numerous photos of the many species notably; Turacos, eagles, Kori bustards, shoe bill stock, cranes, francolins, Albertine owlets, kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori Turacos, regal sunbirds, mountain masked Apalis, Red-billed quale, western nicator eagles, African Jacana, eastern black korhaans, lover birds, guinea fowls and more.

Hiking and Mountaineering activities.

Nature walk and hiking are some of the best safari activities done in your holiday. It is an activity where everything is within your presence, notably; the birds, plants, water and more. It is a much practical way of uncovering Mother Nature and doing physical exercise.

Spend a few nights above the ground, by hiking to the summit of Mount. Rwenzori; one of the tallest mountains in the continent of Africa. Other destinations include; Mountain Elgon which offers a scenic view of the magnificent caldera, coffee plantations and more.

Other activities in Uganda include; City tours, cultural tours, night life, and religious tour.

F.A.Q.

There is no standard price for Uganda, Rwanda or Congo gorilla permit –each country has its rates. In Uganda, the charges vary depending on the visitor category. The foreign non-residents are charged USD 700 to have their gorilla permits booked, USD 600 for foreign residents and Ugandans (East Africa citizens) pay shs. 250,000 per person. To have a gorilla permit secured/booked, you need USD 1500 for Rwanda and this is most ideal for luxury/high-end travelers interested in visiting the endangered mountain gorillas.

When booking a gorilla permit, it is also a good thing to have a destination of your desire in mind. The key places to consider a must-visit on gorilla tour include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park –these are gorilla trekking destinations for tourists on a tour in Uganda. In Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is where you can locate habituated mountain gorilla families and crossing the D.R. Congo, you can explore Virunga National Park.

It is a good thing to also understand when best to book your gorilla permits to avoid having issues on actual date of gorilla trekking. Considering our experience, we always recommend our clients to have their permits booked early enough at least 2-4 months. This can save you from last minute stress, especially if you plan to travel during the dry season also considered to be the peak season. The peak months of the year fall around June, July, August to September, and December, January to February.

Gorilla permits are among the relevant documents visitors must have to be allowed to track gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Not any gorilla permit should be presented on actual gorilla trekking adventure but a valid one. Booking gorilla permits is part of making the entire gorilla trip complete and should be done early enough before the actual visit to see mountain gorillas or eastern lowland gorillas.

To have your gorilla permit booked, there is a process one should undergo through and is generally tedious. Considering your tight schedule back home, you may wonder how easier you can have your permit booked in advance to avoid last minute stress.

The easiest way to secure your gorilla permit in Uganda or Rwanda is by dealing with a recognized tour operator/company on the ground. This is where our reservation team comes in. As part of your gorilla safari requirement, our team being on ground will ensure that your permit is booked early enough and everything else that is needed for gorilla trekking is put together.

The beauty about dealing with local safari company such as ours is that we have knowledge on the different gorilla groups and surrounding communities plus various accommodation facilities for your night stay. This is in addition to making the entire gorilla permit booking process easier on behalf of our clients.

There is also an option of booking the permit directly through the reservation team of respective park authorities. But the challenge is that you must undergo through the long process to have your permit booked and this may not favor you depending on your schedule. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is an organ in charge not only for conservation of wildlife in the Pearl of Africa but also sets prices for tourism activities in the parks including gorilla permits. In Rwanda, you can contact Rwanda Tourism Board/Rwanda Development Board to have your permit booked.

The East African tourist visa is a joint visa that permits one to travel to specific countries within East Africa, namely Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda only. A joint tourist visa can be used several times for various purposes as long as it’s not overdue. 

Tourists should therefore find it important to always remember that the tourist visa lasts for only 90 days.  Processing the tourist visa takes a maximum period of two working days. It is also important to note that the tourist visa prohibits employment.

The process of applying for a tourist visa has been made easier since it can be done with the help of a tour operator or by the individual themselves online through the Ministry of Internal Affairs immigration portal. Visitors are required to log in to the portal, go ahead and accept the terms and conditions for the tourist visa, select the Visa / permit type, the subcategory and category, complete the application form and upload the required documents. 

A reference number will be generated and sent to you through your email, submit it and proceed to payment. It’s important to note that the payment can be made using Visa cards.  An approval letter will be sent to your email after the above process.

Report at the immigration office or border post for the biometric capture with all the necessary documents, receipt of payment, approval letter and your passport. Visitors should regard it as important to enter through the home country issuing the visa.

The East African tourist visa costs a fee of $100 only, meaning that it can be obtained by all travelers ranging from the budget to luxurious ones.

  • Persons aged 15 years and above are allowed to trek gorillas.
  • Avoid sneezing in the presence of gorillas.
  • Always stay away from gorillas by observing distance
  • Do not try to feed gorillas
  • Do not chew in the presence of gorillas
  • Do not take photos with flash light on.