Murchison Falls National Park, part of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA), offers excellent wildlife viewing. The Victoria Nile bisects the park and boat trips to the spectacular Murchison Falls are a highlight – especially if you hike to the top where the immense power of the fall is best appreciated.
Four of the Big Five can be seen, but the rhino is absent. Huge herds of elephant and buffalo are common and the lion is quite easily spotted. Antelope include Jackson’s hartebeest, waterbuck, and Uganda kob. Large herds of Rothschild’s giraffe are a specialty. Chimpanzee and several other primates can be tracked in the Budongo forest in the south of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
The park supports four of the Big Five; only rhinos are absent. Buffalo and elephant are particularly common. There is a very healthy population of the lion that likes to prey on the abundant Uganda kob. Other antelope found here are Jackson’s hartebeest, Defassa waterbuck, grey duiker, and bushbuck. The Victoria Nile teems with crocodile and hippo.
Large herds of the localized Rothschild’s giraffe are found in the park and leopard, though far from numerous, is most likely to be seen in the vicinity of Pakuba Lodge. Troops of the rare Pata’s monkey can sometimes be spotted on the grassy plains and chimpanzees can be tracked in neighboring Budongo Forest.
Murchison Falls National Park can be visited throughout the year, but the best time for wildlife viewing is the Dry season (from December to February) when animals congregate around the Victoria Nile and other reliable water sources.
Murchison Falls NP is one of the best places in Africa to find the prehistoric-looking shoebill stork. Sightings of this bird are almost guaranteed on a boat trip on the Victoria Nile towards the Lake Albert delta. This boat trip, as well as the more popular ‘launch’ trip towards Murchison Falls, are, in fact, great for checking off many water-associated birds. The park’s impressive checklist contains more than 450 species in total. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
The birdlife in Murchison Falls is good year-round, but at its best from January to March. This is the low tourist season, but there is plenty of bird activity. December to February has the least rain, while April to May and August to October has the most rain. The heavy rains might result in delays due to impassable roads and slippery hiking trails and can limit your bird-watching time. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Watching wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park is generally good and at its best during the Dry season, from December to February. However, January and February can be very hot and the scenery is more beautiful during the Wet season from June to November.
The climate in Murchison Falls is tropical and hot. Temperatures are quite uniform throughout the year. Daytime temperatures of around 31°C/88°F are common, with it cooling down at night to around 18°C/64°F.
The Wet season runs from March to November, with a drier period from June to July. There is little rain during the Dry season (December to February).
Dry season –December to February
December, January & February – These are the driest months. It is mostly sunny with clear skies. These are also the hottest months, with average temperatures of 33°C/91°F during the afternoon. It cools off at night to about 18°C/64°F. The heat is dry and doesn’t feel overly oppressive.
Wet season –March to November
It doesn’t rain that much in the Wet season, but occasional heavy storms can be expected.
March, April & May – By March the rains are starting, and there are more overcast skies. April and May experience more rainfall. Daytime temperatures average 31°C/88°F, while at night they average 20°C/68°F.
June & July – This is a bit of a drier spell, but rain should still be expected. Average daytime temperatures are around 30°C/86°F.
August, September, October & November – These are the wettest months, reaching a peak in October. It doesn’t rain every day, but when it does, it tends to be torrential storms. Temperatures start to slowly increase by November.
Murchison Falls NP is located 305km/190mi north of Kampala. The drive to the southern entrance gate takes four to five hours. Coming from the southwest, the 280km/170mi drive from Fort Portal takes at least six hours. Allow another hour or two from the entrance gate to most of the lodges.
It is also possible to fly to the park by chartered or scheduled aircraft service from Entebbe International Airport (EBB) or Kajjansi Airfield near Kampala. Pakuba Airfield is the most convenient point of arrival for the main cluster of camps and lodges around the park headquarters at Paraa. Other options are Chobe or Bugundu.
When flying from abroad, you’ll arrive at Entebbe International Airport (EBB). It is located at 46km/29mi from the capital (Kampala). Your local tour operator will usually arrange for you to be picked up at the airport and will take care of all further transportation as part of your safari package.
Charter flights are also available. As part of your tour package, domestic flights between Ugandan parks are usually arranged by your tour operator. Regularly scheduled, domestic flights are run by:
Murchison Falls NP is safe to visit, in our opinion, as are most of the other parks and reserves in the country.
Murchison Falls has a reputation as the highest risk of Uganda’s national parks for malaria. Taking measures to avoid malaria risks is very important. You should take antimalarial medication as well as pack plenty of mosquitos repellent (those containing DEET are most effective). And long sleeves and trousers are good for covering up exposed skin in the evening. Ensuring you have the recommended vaccinations for Uganda is also essential.
Wildlife viewing naturally comes with some risks. Avoid them easily by following the advice and instructions of your guide. Also, read the ‘wildlife viewing safety precautions’ below. In case you go chimp trekking in Budongo Forest, we recommend reading the ‘Chimp Trekking Safety Precautions’ as well.