Visiting Murchison Falls national Park in Uganda
Formerly known as Kabalega national park, Murchison falls national park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in East Africa. The park is located on the shores of lake Albert in north western Uganda.
My family and I visited the park on a 3-day vacation, to marvel at some of the features that make this east African country stand out as the pearl of Africa. We enjoyed every moment. I recommend that if you visit Uganda, you should make a trip to the park.
How we got there
We drove from Kampala to Masindi town along the Gulu high way for about 4 hours. The drive takes you through some beautiful green flat landscape, that quickly gets you into holiday mood. A long the way, you could pass by the ziwa rhino sanctuary about 176 kilometers from Kampala. Here you will see rhinos in their natural habitat. This can be a great way to start the adventure.
Public transport is also available by bus from Kampala. You can also access the park by air, or through the northern gates of Chobe, and tangi.
Accommodation around Murchison falls national park
We had booked accommodation at Kolping hotel Masindi in advance. The hotel is a great place to stay. The environment around the hotel is quiet with well-placed cottages to ensure privacy. The rooms are clean, comfortable and spacious, and room service is available. The staff were very welcoming and they helped us find a good tour guide. We had most of our meals here. The onsite restaurant serves mostly local cuisines. I highly recommend the hotel especially for those looking for comfort and not necessarily looking for luxury.
There are other accommodation options around Masindi town like the Kabalega resort. If you prefer to stay inside the park, options include Para safari lodge, Chobe safari lodge and Heritage safari lodge.
Our experience at the park
We started the adventure early the next morning. There were two other families that were heading to the park so we moved together with the same guide.
From Masindi town, we drove about 85 kilometers to the kachumbanyobo gate via a fair marram road.
Our guide was very helpful in getting us to the park and assisted with the formalities such as payment and registration. Entrance fee is Ugx. 20,000 per person for East Africans, while foreign residents pay USD 30. Vehicle entrance fee is ugx 30,000. Make it a point not to lose your receipts as you will need to present them later at the ferry crossing.
It is recommended that you have enough fuel in the car before you drive from Masindi, because most of the touring will be done with a car. We managed well with a 4-wheel drive toyota Noah road tourer. It is important to have a decent breakfast before embarking on the journey, because you will be out there for the whole day and I didn’t see any restaurants or canteen. We were told about this in advance by the guide. We shopped some snacks and drinks before we left town and I must emphasize that they were very necessary.
From the gate we drove about 30 minutes through the Kaniyo papidi forest in the southern part of the park to the Murchison falls. As you approach the falls, you can hear the roar of the waters.
At the Murchison falls
Named after Roderick Murchison, the president of the royal geographical society by sir Samuel baker in 1952, the falls is located on the southern side of the park, between lake Kyoga and lake Albert on the Victoria Nile.
At the falls, the mighty river Nile surges through a narrow gorge, over a massive drop, with a thunderous roar. It is spectacular when seen from the top of the falls. The top of the falls is accessible via a guided 15-minute hike at a fee of Ugx 10,000.
We were welcomed by a friendly male tour guide who showed us around and was very elaborate in detailing the history of the falls. He also guided us to the top of the falls. Once you get to the top, the sight is amazing. You will definitely be awed by the power of the water. The water is so powerful that it steams up several feet into the air, and falls back as rain. You will be wet by the time you are done seeing the falls. But thanks to the East African sunshine, you will dry up quite quickly. From here you can also have a clear view of the Uhuru falls just adjacent to the Murchison falls.
A boat cruise to the delta area just off of the falls offers a great opportunity to see a variety of animals like hippos, crocodiles, birds among others.
Many prominent international visitors have been here. Some of the most remarkable include; Sir Samuel Baker and his wife, and Winston church hill – who later named Uganda the pearl of Africa.
The Game drive through the park
Ounce you have had enough of the falls, the next destination is the northern side of the park for the game drive. For enthusiasts of wild life, the northern side of the park is where you will get a chance to see the animals. If you are lucky, you may be able to see the big cats hunting.
To get to the northern side you must cross the Nile on a ferry. We drove about 45 minutes to the ferry. The road was mostly bumpy but thankfully was under construction. At the ferry, the tour guide helped us through the formalities of vehicle registration. After crossing, the game drive through the park starts.
The park is a true beauty, with vast savanna grass lands and a wide variety of wildlife such as elephants, lions, giraffes, buffalos, among others. It also covers a big part of Budongo forest, which is a hub for chimpanzee tracking.
You are allowed to drive as far as your fuel can take you, but as a rule, it is important to stick to the allocated roads to avoid getting stuck in dangerous places. An armed guard may be acquired, but is not always necessary. It is recommended to move in a group with a tour guide for safety, but also to ensure that you don’t miss the spots with most of the animals. The guides know the best places to see many of the animals.
We did the evening game drive and it was worth every penny. Many people recommend the morning drive since that it is when most animals are out before it is too hot. After the game drive we drove back to Masindi town to rest and to have dinner.
We spent the rest of the holiday relaxing and touring Masindi town. One of the places we visited was the kabalega resort. It is one of the places that can provide great accommodation at fair rates.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Ian Batanda