Uganda’s largest park, the wild and beautiful Murchison Falls National Park offers breath taking scenery of palm-dotted hills, swamps, riverine woodland and forest, East Africa’s most dramatic waterfall, and a remarkable diversity of wildlife on land and in the Victoria Nile, which teems with hippos and crocodiles. The park is home to large herds of buffalo and elephant and a good concentration of lion as well as leopard and several antelope species from grey duiker and Ugandan kob to oribi and Jackson’s hartebeest. It’s one of the few places in Uganda where you can find giraffe, and on the plains you may be able to spot the rare ground-dwelling patas monkey. Birding is excellent, and the top highlight is a sighting of the endangered shoebill stork, a rare creature that sits at the top of many birders’ wish list. You’re most likely to see them between January and March on the Delta cruise boat ride.
Murchison Falls National Park is part of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area, which incorporates the Bugungu and Karuma reserves, as well as Kaniyo Pabidi forest, where you can go chimp trekking.
The park’s main feature is the Victoria Nile, which cuts through the wilderness and cascades 45 metres down through a narrow gorge at Murchison Falls, the world’s most powerful waterfall. Boat cruises along the river take you to see the thunderous waterfall, but they’re also a chance to spot pods of grunting hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes and bathing elephants. Not to be missed is the short hike up to the top of the falls where you’ll have several viewpoints to see the take in the majestic waterfalls (and spot some monkeys and baboons along the way).
In addition to the boat cruise to the falls, another highlight is the boat ride down the river to the delta where the Victoria Nile merges into Lake Albert for beautiful scenery and wildlife and excellent bird watching.
The park’s 450 species of birds will have twitchers excited: there are water birds to be seen from the river, as well as savanna birds and endemic species from the Albertine Rift Valley.
You can visit Murchison Falls National Park throughout the year, but the best months for spotting wildlife are the dry ones – from December to February and June to September, when you can find animals congregating around water sources.
Birdwatching is also good year-round, but it’s best between January and March. Migratory species are in the park from November to April. March to May and October to November are the rainiest months when some roads become impassable, but during these months there are few visitors to the park which means discounts on lodging. The falls are also at their most dramatic during the rainy months, when the river is at its fullest.
While you can do self-driving safaris in Murchison Falls National Park, it’s a good idea to hire a UWA guide to help you navigate the roads and find animals that would be hard to spot on your own.