The Murchison Falls National Park (pronounced Murshon, by the locals) is located in the north west of Uganda. It’s about a 6 hour drive from Kampala. It is bordered by Lake Albert and the Victoria Nile. The park is named after the geologist Roderick Murchison.
The road into the park was recently renovated, not to make it easier for tourists to enter the park, but for construction of a controversial oil pipeline from Uganda to the coast of Tanzania.
The parks has hippos, crocodiles, lions, buffalo, elephants, giraffes and plenty of antelopes.
There are no zebras or rhinos. If you want to see rhinos, however, you can pass by the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Rhinos in Uganda had been completely wiped out by poaching. The sanctuary was established in 2005 and 6 rhinos were imported. Due to a breeding programme, there are now 33 rhinos in the park. You can see the rhinos on a guided tour which costs $US50 (at the time of writing).
There is also a forest near the southern entrance of the park called Budongo where you can “track” Chimpanzees. It costs about $US300. The chimpanzees are located quite close to the main road and I was lucky enough to see one crossing.
The best time to go on safari is early morning (get up around 05:30) or late afternoon. This is because many preditors hunt at night and you might be lucky enough to come across them on their way home to bed. Also, it gets pretty hot during the middle part of the day (it was 40 degrees when I was there) and the animals are generally taking shelter and not roaming around. So, best to use that time period to chill by the pool at your lodge to cool down.
You can make a boat trip up Lake Albert to see the Murchison Falls.
Safaris in Africa are not cheap. I paid around 1000 € for four days and I organised everything myself. Expect to pay more on an organised tour. I hired the Salim, the driver of my friend in Kampala, who lent me his Toyota Landcruiser. I recommend taking his tour as he is very experienced, knowledgeable and trustworthy.
I stayed at the Murchison River Lodge. The lodge has a nice restaurant area for with view of the Victoria Nile and pool for chilling. I went with the River Tent with full board. The food was incredible, but the tent was super hot at night as there were no fans and it made sleeping very difficult.
One thing I didn’t like about this lodge and Uganda in general was the treatment of the drivers. The drivers have separate accommodation and food and are not allowed into the restaurant or pool areas. At the Murchison River Lodge this meant dorm style accommodation with no air con or fan. Food is very basic (rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner). At least WiFi was available, so the drivers could communicate with loved ones back home. Salim told me later there was a big fight between the drivers and staff when only rice and cabbage was served!
When on safari, don’t get out of the vehicle. Where long clothing to protect against Tsetse flies, which can spread sleeping sickness, a pretty nasty parasitic infection which can result in death.
Don’t walk around the banks waterways at night without being accompanied by an armed ranger. Hippos come out of the lake at night to feed. They are vegetarians, but kill more humans than any other animal in Africa. They will stomp you to death or crush you in their huge jaws, especially if you startle them or get between them and their young.
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