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11 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Murchison Falls

11 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls (Kabalega Falls) is one of Uganda’s biggest tourist attractions & one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls.

Murchison Falls on the Victoria Nile in Uganda has been on my bucket list for a long time. Recently, I got the chance to witness the sheer force of this waterfall on my trip to Uganda and learned so much from my visit.

For example, did you know that the water flows no wider than the length of a large SUV? Or, that Murchison Falls is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, which spans over 3,840 square kilometers (1,483 sq mi), making it the largest protected area in Uganda.

In this guide, I’ll reveal 10 things that I wish I had known before visiting, detailing practical information like the different ways to explore the falls and the best times to visit.

Olly gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler & adventure photographer for 6 years with 700+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.

1. Murchison Falls Could Be the Most Powerful Waterfall in the World

While many claim that Murchison Falls is the most powerful waterfall in the world, the truth is that it depends on how you measure 'power'.

If considering the volume of water per second and the height of the fall, other waterfalls like Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls, and even Niagara Falls might contest this title based on criteria such as width, flow rate, and sheer volume of water.

Most experts measure the power of a waterfall in terms of its flow rate and the height from which the water falls. At Murchison Falls, the Victoria Nile River forces 300 cubic meters (10,594 cubic ft) of water per second thundering through the Devil's Cauldron, an extremely narrow gorge barely 7 meters wide (23 ft) before plummeting 43 meters (141 ft) below, eventually flowing into Lake Albert.

Water flushing through the devil's cauldron at murchison falls

So, is Murchison Falls the most powerful waterfall in the world?

It turns out that Murchison Falls is the most powerful waterfall based on the volume of water forced through a constricted space. However, in terms of flow rate, Inga Falls in the DRC is the most powerful– if you consider it to be a true waterfall and not a rapid.

From my experience, standing beside Murchison Falls definitely feels like it's the most powerful flow of any waterfall I've ever visited!

Murchison falls waterfall from above

2. You Can Take a Boat Cruise to the Bottom of Murchison Falls

By far, one of the best ways to witness the might of Murchison Falls is by taking a boat cruise along the Victoria Nile to the base of the falls.

Additionally, these boat cruises are one of the best wildlife spotting experiences you can have in the park, getting up close and personal with hippos, Nile crocodiles, and numerous bird species like the African fish eagle and water birds like the Malachite kingfisher.

  • Departures: Heritage Marina in Paraa is the main departure point nearby Red Chilli Rest Camp.
  • Timings: Cruise options for morning, afternoon, and even for sunset.
  • Duration: Trips run for 2-3 hours return.
  • Booking: Directly at Paraa at the Heritage Marina. Walk upstairs in the main building and there is a desk to book & pay.
  • Cost: USD 30 for foreigners (UGX 30,000 for Ugandans).
Boat cruise on the nile river to murchison falls

We chose to do the boat safari to Murchison Falls in the afternoon before some game drives in the national park and this was a great time to do it as we could witness the permanent rainbow in full force above the falls!

Along the riverbanks, we made frequent stops to spot hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of birds and the trip included very informative commentary. At the end, our driver stopped the boat behind a large rocky outcrop where we could enjoy the view without getting pushed downstream by its force.

Hippo on the nile river in uganda
Bottom of murchison falls in uganda

3. Or, Hike to the Top of the Falls

If you really want to witness the true power and might of Murchison Falls, I highly recommend hiking to the top! While you used to be able to hike to the top from the end of the boat cruise, this is temporarily closed.

So, to do this hike now, you will need to drive to the large car park directly above the falls. Our guide Nathan from Elyson Adventures (highly recommend) took us here in the early morning before departing the park.

Parking Location: Parking

Aerial perspective of murchison falls with the car park nearby

From the parking lot, the hike is fairly easy, only taking around 10 minutes to walk the 500 meters to the first viewing platform for incredible views of the waterfall spilling down the Victoria Nile.

Girl at the murchison falls viewpoint

From this viewpoint, we continued back up for 300 meters before a fork leading left. This trail leads down to the very top of the waterfall, which is the best place to get close to the Devil's Cauldron and the permanent rainbow!

Permanent rainbow at murchison falls, uganda
Olly and haylea standing above murchison falls in uganda

4. Nile Crocodiles Bask Beneath the Falls

For wildlife lovers, one of the most thrilling sights at Murchison Falls is the presence of large Nile crocodiles that often sit beneath the waterfall.

These ancient creatures sit waiting to feast on fish stunned by the forceful plunge of the falls.

Tip: If you take the boat cruise, there is a very high chance of spotting these crocodiles! I wasn't able to spot any from the top of the falls since it was too far away.

Nile crocodile resting in the bushes
Murchison falls from above
Can you spot any crocodiles?

5. The Waterfall is Located Within the Oldest & Largest Safari Park in Uganda

No, it's not just all about the waterfall! The Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda's largest conservation area and also one of the oldest, founded way back in 1926.

Due to the vast size of the park, you'll find a wide tapestry of diverse ecosystems and landscapes, from savannah, woodland, and riverine forest, to wetlands, split by the mighty Victoria Nile.

So, when planning a visit to the waterfall, make sure to plan some game drives! After visiting other wildlife parks like Kibale, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi, and Lake Mburo National Parks, I still think this one is one of the most unique and biodiverse in Uganda!

Plains of murchison falls national park from above
Elephants and uganda kob in murchison falls national park

6. This is One of the Best Wildlife Safari & Game Drive Locations in Uganda

Spanning over 3,840 square kilometers, the park's vast landscapes are home to four of the "Big Five" including lions, leopards, elephants, and buffalo. Unfortunately, while the southern white rhino used to roam the park, the last truly wild white rhino in Uganda was killed by poachers in 1983.

We spotted four of the Big Five on our trip. But, that was just the beginning– the park is home to over 556 species of birds, 144 mammals, 51 reptiles, and 51 amphibians according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Giraffes in murchison falls national park
Lions in murchison falls national park, uganda
Giraffes at sunrise in murchison falls national park, uganda

We spotted many large mammals including the Jackson’s hartebeest, olive baboons, Uganda kob, white colobus monkeys, and giraffe. Bird watching we also spotted many species including the Abyssinian ground hornbill and goliath herons. Unfortunately, we didn't spot the Shoebill but it is possible to do so here.

Girl in safari vehicle in murchison falls national park, uganda

This was over 2 full days exploring the park. I highly recommend staying at least a night or two to get the most out of the wildlife experiences after visiting the waterfall.

Tip: If you want to spot white rhinos, the last of the Big Five in Uganda, you can do so at the nearby Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

Sitting in a char near a safari truck in uganda
On Safari with Elyson Adventures!

7. You Can Stay Near the Waterfall in a Safari Lodge

Did you know that there are hundreds of lodges in the national park, with options ranging from budget lodges to luxury options?

Many accommodations offer stunning views of the River Nile and provide easy access to park activities and departures for game drives.

Here are the top 3 safari lodge picks in Murchison Falls National Park, with options for every budget.

Murchison falls bamboo village bedroom

1. Bamboo Village Luxury

Comfortable and stylish hidden amongst the National Park. With luxury glamping tents, a la carte breakfast, and an unbeatable swimming pool it is worth the extra money.

Murchison giraffe camp bedroom layout

2. Murchison Giraffe Camp Top-Pick

Located within the National Park it allows for up-close encounters with wildlife and incredible views over the river. With an outdoor fireplace and family rooms. It's a top pick due to its location and price.

Nkundwa nile view lodge 1

3. Nkundwa Nile View Lodge Mid-Range

25 minutes drive from the National Park gate this is a great choice for those looking for a relaxing stay. Boasting a pool, BBQ area, and free Wifi . Great for those looking to save money.

8. The Dry Season is the Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Uganda and Murchison Falls National Park is in during the dry seasons from December to February and June to September.

During these months, the weather is much more favorable, with significantly less rainfall. The result is better wildlife viewing and boat cruises and hiking to the falls are more accessible and enjoyable.

Furthermore, during this season, animals typically congregate around water sources which increases your chances of spotting a rare mammal, bird, or reptile on boat cruises or game drives.

River nile and lake albert from above, uganda
River nile during the dry season

Importantly, and something I didn't know before my visit is that during the dry season, reduced mosquito activity makes this period much more comfortable and reduces the risk of malaria significantly.

But is the waterfall as powerful as the wet season? The reduction in rain does not significantly affect the power of the falls due to the vast catchment area in the northern end of the Albertine Rift Vallley of the Nile River. While Murchison Falls is more powerful during the wet season, it's still a very impressive sight in the dry season, as you can see from my photos.

Flowing water at murchison falls, uganda

9. The Elephants of Murchison Falls are Bigger Than Other Parts of Uganda

Another great reason to visit, the elephants in Murchison Falls National Park are typically larger than those found in other parts of Uganda!

This size difference is due to the park's abundant and diverse vegetation that provides a rich diet for the hundreds of elephants that roam here. The size of the park allows the elephants to roam freely and feed on a variety of nutritious food sources, which in turn makes them larger on average.

No wonder that just over fifty years ago, Murchison Falls had the highest number of elephants per square kilometer in all of Africa!

Elephant resting under a tree in uganda

10. Murchison Falls is Just 4-5 Hours from Kampala

With such wild, untouched nature, you'd think Murchison Falls was as remote as the Rwenzori Mountains! The truth is that there is a convenient highway making Murchison Falls very easily accessible from Uganda's capital, Kampala.

In fact, Murchison Falls was one of the first parks we visited on our long safari circuit around Uganda, just after the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

Water flow at the top of of murchison falls, uganda
Lake albert in uganda

11. Budongo Forest Chimpanzees Trekking Is Located Near the Waterfall

Do you want to trek with Chimpanzees in Uganda? While I recommend Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale, it's also possible to do this relatively nearby Murchison Falls. Murchison Falls Conservation Area but distinct from the main park areas, which could affect travel planning.

The Budongo Forest lies within the broader Murchison Falls Conservation Area and is a vast mahogany forest home to one of East Africa's largest populations of wild chimpanzees, with over 600 individuals during the time of writing.

If you're driving into Murchison Falls from the south, you will pass this forest on the way, which is great if you want to combine this experience with your trip to the waterfall.

Chimpanzee of kibale national park
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel journalist & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Your feedback & updates are crucial to keep my guides factual & current. Got new info or updates? Drop a comment below or contact me directly.

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I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you.

Lauren Maker

Monday 26th of February 2024

I loved this article, thank you for sharing such detail! Its on my bucket list

Olly Gaspar

Tuesday 27th of February 2024

Thanks for letting me know, glad you liked it and found it helpful.