Waterfalls to Visit in Uganda
The most visited waterfall in Uganda is Murchison Falls. PHOTO/DESTINATION UGANDA

Currently covering 3,893 square kilometres, the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, home to Murchison Falls National Park, is Uganda’s oldest and largest protected area (PA).

The Murchison Falls Conservation Area, home to the Murchison Falls National Park, is Uganda’s oldest and largest protected area (PA). It covers an area of 3,893 square kilometres.

This Hostory

Bugungu Wildlife Refuge (501 square kilometres) and Karuma Wildlife Refuge (678 square kilometres) are next to the park and serve as buffer zones. 

Additionally, there is the Budongo Forest Reserve, which encompasses portions of both wildlife reserves and comprises an additional 591 square kilometres.

This totals 5,663 square kilometres of space that is protected in some way through controlled use. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) manages the national park and two wildlife reserves commonly termed the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA). 

The National Forestry Association manages the Budongo Forest Reserve, except for sections that overlap with UWA-managed land.

The area that is currently known as Murchison Falls National Park dates back to 1862 when European explorers John Speke and James Grant visited Uganda. 

Following this visit, Samuel Baker and Florence Baker conducted a thorough exploration of the park in 1863-1864 as part of their Uganda adventure safari journey in quest of the Nile River’s source. 

Sir Samuel Baker called the park Murchison in honour of geologist Roderick Murchison. Murchison served as president of the Royal Geographical Society in the United Kingdom.

Between 1907 and 1912, an area of 13,000 square kilometres was emptied of its inhabitants due to sleeping sickness carried by tsetse flies. 

This cleared the way for the Bunyoro Game Reserve to be established in 1910, which was encircled by a rugged portion of the Nile’s south bank that is now part of the Masindi district’s National Park.

The park was established in 1926 as a game reserve, making it Uganda’s oldest and largest conservation area (3893km2)

As the first park to be gazetted, it might be described as “the first piece of the jewel of Africa’s breathtaking beauty to be acknowledged.” The boundaries were extended north of the Nile River into the modern-day Nwoya region in 1928, renaming it the Bunyoro-Gulu wildlife reserve. 

Following the establishment of Uganda’s national parks act by British officials in 1952, the reserved area was renamed Murchison Falls National Park. 

By the 1960s, Murchison Falls National Park had established itself as the premier safari destination in Uganda, owing to its diverse species and stunning environment bordering both banks of the Nile River. 

The park was teeming with species at the time, including 14,000 elephants, 26,000 buffalo, and 14,000 hippos.

Murchison Falls was renamed Kabalega Falls during the Idi Amin dictatorship in the 1970s, after Omukama (King) Kabalega of Bunyoro, although this was never formally propagated. 

Following Amin’s demise, the name was returned to Murchison Falls. It is still referred to as Kabalega Falls on occasion.

The home to the world’s most powerful waterfall

Murchison Falls, the world’s most powerful waterfall, is located in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, the country’s largest and most popular safari destination. 

Murchison Falls’ water gushes over an 8m wide gorge that serves as its course. 

The water then flows 45 metres over the residual rift valley wall and into what is also known as the Devil’s cauldron, resulting in nature’s most artistic artwork.

Frequently, the waterfall is embellished with an all-day signature rainbow. Are you aware of the process by which this rainbow is formed? Even if you were unaware it existed, continue reading below to learn everything you need to know;

Each rainbow is formed by millions of tiny rain droplets that act as a light reflector. Water droplets form at Murchison Falls as a result of the splashing waters colliding with the rocks, creating water spray in the air.

Each water droplet receives white light and emits one of the spectrum’s colours. The sun’s rays strike the water droplet at a certain angle, and the droplet splits the white light into a rainbow of hues. 

This is a constant angle between your eye and the sun.

Although the rainbows create a complete circle, only half of them are visible. Since the horizon only permits us to see half of the rainbow circle, we only see an arc. This is because raindrops fall at varying distances and velocities.

The rainbow at Murchison Falls is one of nature’s magnificent works of art, appearing as a multicoloured bow generated by the interaction of water and sunlight. 

The all-day rainbow is feasible because Uganda is spanned by the equator, which means that the sun shines nearly every day.

On a Ugandan adventure safari, always keep the sun at your back and the water out in the distance in the path of your shadow when looking upward at a 40-degree angle. 

Murchison Falls will not disappoint; simply visit within the optimal period, which we shall cover next time.

The following are the best things to do and see in Murchison Falls National Park

birds at Murchison Falls (1)
Murchison Falls National Park is home to 450 types of birds, including the shoebill. PHOTO/UWA
  1. Safari drives in Murchison Falls National Park provide opportunities to witness a wealth of species, including antelopes, elephants, giraffes, and lions.
  2. The Nile boat safari at the base of the falls is an incredible three-hour boat journey. There are different types of boats utilised, but the finest one has a top deck where you may stand and photograph the animals. Ascend to the bottom and you’ll hear the deafening noises of the water flowing down.
  3. The hike to the top of Murchison Falls takes approximately an hour or less (depending on the fitness of the hiker). It is not tough and is broken into three sections. Although the climb is strenuous, it follows a well-defined track with handrails at several points. Descending, on the other hand, takes caution due to the path’s extreme slickness.
  4. Hot air balloon safaris: There are several ways to experience flying in a hot air balloon in Murchison Falls National Park.
  5. Safaris on hot air balloons at sunrise and after sunrise
  6. Safari with hot air balloons at sunset
  7. For large parties and students, they provide short rides.

This trip provides breathtaking vistas of the savannah area and a bird’s eye perspective of herds of animals roaming across the plains.

Additionally, nature treks, birding, and fishing for Nile perch on the Victoria Nile are available.

Abyssinian_ground_hornbill at Murchison (1)
The park is home to a variety of birds, such as the Grey-crowned crane (Uganda’s national bird), Giant Kingfisher, Giant Heron, Shoebill stork, Abyssinian Ground Hornbills (Pictured). PHOTO/Ariadne van Zandbergen

Accommodations in and around the Murchison Falls National Park

There are numerous options for housing in this area, ranging from basic to luxury.

  1. Budget-friendly options include Red Chili Camp, tents at Fort Murchison Lodge, and the Heritage Lodge.
  2. Options for the moderate traveller include Pakuba Safari Lodge, Fort Murchison Lodge, and Murchison River Lodge.
  3. The luxury range includes the Paraa Safari lodge and the Bakers lodge.

Check out our guides to the Sipi FallsItanda FallsLake Mburo National ParkKibale National Park, and Semuliki National Park for a complete Ugandan experience.