Self drive trip through Uganda – part 2 – Murchison Falls

We made a 16 day trip to Uganda in June 2022, a trip we had planned for the fall of 2021, but some virus decided otherwise. We chose to self drive and stay multiple days in each national park. I organised and planned the whole trip myself, read up a lot in guide books and travel blogs, asked advice from other travellers on Tripadvisor forums, booked a flight and all the lodgings, rented a car, renewed some vaccinations, got malaria prophylaxis and put a medical first aid kit together. I finally stressed out a bit cause this was our first trip to Eastern Africa, and apart from North Africa to Africa as a whole. But we really loved the country, its people, its beautiful nature, its wildlife, the lodgings and the food! So for everyone planning a trip to Uganda I share my travel diary in several parts.

We packed up after our breakfast at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and got on our way towards Murchison Falls. In Masindi we stopped to fill up our tank, and change some dollars for Ugandan shilling. Here you find Shell and Total stations, and two banks. 

From Masindi you reach Kichumbanyobo gate at the Southern section of Murchison Falls national park. Before entering you pay the entrance fee per person and per car per 24 hours. ( 40 euro pp for foreigners and 30000 UGX per car registered in Uganda)

Our lodge was actually outside the park, near Mubako gate, but to reach that going around the park takes a 4 to 5 hours extra drive. We used the remaining time of the day to visit the top of the falls of the Murchison waterfall. From the top of the fall you can make a 20 min. walk following the Baker’s trail, unfortunately you now have to pay 15 dollars to follow the trail. (bummer)

From the waterfall we continued to Mubako gate, where a ranger checked our permit for the day. We checked in at Murchison River Lodge, were welcomed with a juice by Immaculata who also informed us about the meals, and made a booking for us for a boat ride on the Victoria Nile to the base of the falls for the next day. Our thatched safari tent with adjoining bathroom looked amazing! Since we were hungry we immediately went to the restaurant for our 3 course dinner. You can choose between a meat/fish dish or a vegetarian option. The food is of outstanding quality. 

Tired we went to bed early, and woke up a bit before 6 AM. We had something from the breakfast buffet (continental breakfast between 5:30 and 7 AM, and full breakfast from 7 till 10 AM) and collected our packed breakfast we had ordered the night before. 

We got in the car a bit before 7 AM and drove towards the bridge over the Nile that now replaces the ferry. We made a game drive following the popular Queens track up till the Albert Nile. We spotted Rothschild giraffes, buffalo, hartebeast, duiker, Ugandan kob, vultures, all kinds of birds, hornbill, … After reaching the Albert Nile we returned the same way to be on time for our boat ride. We decided to make another more relaxed game drive the next day since we didn’t get the chance to see the delta area. 

We checked in at Wild Frontiers and paid 32 euro pp for a 3 hour boat ride. They are located on the South side of the park on the right hand side of the bridge. We were with 2 other couples and one captain/guide on a small boat. We managed to sit on the left side of the boat, facing the North bank on the way to the falls, for the best views of the wildlife on the North bank. We saw loads of hippos in and out of the water, lots of crocodile, many elephants, warthogs, buffalo, hartebeast and bok and a wide variety of birds, fish eagle, different kinds of king fisher, … At the end you get a fantastic view of the waterfall before heading back to the jetty. If you are not travelling in a group and booking as individuals ask for a small boat!

We returned to the lodge, but first paid for our entry for the next day in the park at Mabuko gate. The park opens at 7 AM, but they let people in as early as 6:30 AM. The booking office at Mabuko gate to pay your entrance only opens around 7:30 or 8 in the morning, and we didn’t want to wait that long the next morning before starting our morning game drive. You can pay mobile or with credit card.  

We had a late lunch at the hotel, showered and headed to the swimming pool for some relaxing and cooling down. In the lodge you only have Wifi connection around the pool. Between 4 and 6 PM the lodge offers complementary coffee or tea. We would have loved to book a balloon flight, but unfortunately they didn’t operate any flights when we were there. The weather was quite unpredictable, with scattered rain showers, the dry season hadn’t really completely started yet. 

The next morning we entered the park around 6:30 AM, the earliest possible entry into the park. We drove to the North side of the park. This time we chose the Albert track for the start of our game drive. We did not meet anyone else on this track. The first part is pretty smooth, the second part is much more uneven. On the first part we saw most of the game we had also seen the day before on the Queen track. Somewhere halfway you get to a very bushy area were you see no more large mammals, but a lot of birds, and even a turtle. Downside is that it is infested with Tsetse flies. So we had to keep the windows closed to keep them out. Luckily the aircon of our car worked! At the end we followed the track just next to the water, but it came to a dead end so we had to turn back. The road continues and joins the end of the Queen track. A bit further you reach a campsite where we ate our packed lunch. We continued towards the delta point where you find toilets, the only ones on this side of the park and a lookout place over the water. This is where you can get out of the car. 

We followed the track along the water towards the Buligi track. We saw some beautiful birds and a group of meerkat and the view over the water is really beautiful. We had some trouble finding the right track, tourism was still slow after Covid, but with the help of some other cars found the right way. The Buligi track is quite a long track and after it veers away from the water not very interesting when it comes to seeing game, but just when we thought we wouldn’t see them, we saw a large herd of elephant, on the right side of the road, with two calves, ready to cross the road. We slowly drove past them and then observed them while they crossed the road behind our car, from a safe distance. The male elephant seemed to warn us twice to keep enough distance, both times we drove a bit further as not to disturb them, and not put ourselves in danger. (a year earlier a man was killed who had gotten out of his car and walked up towards the elephants, he got trampled, do not try this!)

We returned to the main Paraa road, and took the road at the other side to see the East side of the Northern section. Here we also saw elephant and some huge ground hornbills. 

Around the time of 4:30 Pm we decided to call it a day and return to the lodge for a swim, we had been away almost ten hours by then.

We enjoyed the sunset on the raised platform next to the water and had dinner before turning into bed. We got up a bit later, and checked out after a really good breakfast. 

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