TOURISM: Inside Uganda’s Spectacular Murchison Falls National Park

A country’s tourism industry can be best marketed by the natives and citizens who have learnt and appreciated all there is to see in specific areas like National Parks, treat cities, mountains and other various tourist attractions.

In Uganda however, until recently, it has been hard for locals to market tourism since it had been conceived as something meant for only foreigners (Read whites).

Just a handful of Ugandans have actually taken a step to visit National Parks, Lakes and other tourist sites in the country despite the fact that tourism remains among the top contributors to Uganda’s revenue.

In a move to woo Ugandans to embrace domestic tourism, following the World Tourism Day celebrations that were held in Mbarara, players in the private sector launched the Uganda Travel Month, a campaign that rallies Ugandans to visit different Tourist sites in the country, at a subsidized price.

People line up to board buses before departure at Garden City Mall on Saturday
People line up to board buses before departure at Garden City Mall on Saturday

The campaign was further boosted by the launch of the MTN Uganda Guide App, a mobile application that provides a traveller with details of the different tourist sites in Uganda, different places that offer meals and accommodation among others.

The App also has details of the six different trips that will be taken during the whole campaign.

Currently, only two trips have been completed, one to Queen Elizabeth National Park and the most recent one to Murchison Falls National Park.

I was part of the group that went to Murchison Falls on the weekend of October 8th to 9th. The group consisted of businessmen, public servants, tour operators among many other different professionals. There was also a team of Travel writers in the country which included yours truly.


We set off from one of Kampala’s biggest shopping centers, Garden City Mall on Saturday and drove through the smooth roads amid the chilly morning weather. It’s a five hours drive from Kampala up to the Park entry gate, thanks to the good roads.

Women headed to their work places in Kalerwe, Kampala on Saturday morning
Women headed to their work places in Kalerwe, Kampala on Saturday morning

At the entry gate, we were required to register before entering the park and being a large number, the exercise took us some time.

The sun was shining bright and the place was so hot that beans of perspiration started forming on people’s skins. This however didn’t last too long before we entered the astonishing wild.

The immediate part of the park is covered by a forest (Budongo forest) with various tree species that have survived despite human encroachment on the forest.

Driving through the forest, for the first about 40 minutes the silence is too loud, conversation on the bus stops for a while, everyone in expectant. We could be the only souls around.

A view of tree cover in Budongo Forest
A view of tree cover in Budongo Forest

The only wildlife we see as we drive through the impenetrable thorn thickets are ground squirrels in suicidal dashes across the road.

Driving further into the forest, we start spotting impudent baboons that won’t leave the road irrespective of how closer the bus comes to them.

In the heat of the day we are finally in the middle of the Park. It is bisected by the Nile and we have to wait for two hours for the ferry to take us across.

Boat Ride on the Nile

The group was split into two, with one half going for a game drive while the other group took a boat ride on the River Nile.

Our guide, a one David explained to us that the animals that could be spotted while on the boat included Crocodiles, Hippos and the various bird species. The Park has over 460 bird species including Shoebill storks.

Group one takes a launch drive on the Nile
Group one takes a launch drive on the Nile

I however was much interested in the animals so I chose to take the game drive first.

Safari Drive Through the Park

At around 4pm, we set off for a safari drive that lasted atleast 3 hours, exploring the different fauna in the plains of Murchison falls National Park.

Among the animals spotted while on the drive were the different species of antelopes, Water buffaloes, Elephants, giraffes, Warthogs, Kobs among the different species of birds.

Giraffes in the plains of the park.
Giraffes in the plains of the park.

Along the way, we met different tourists also taking drives through the park before one of the guides alerted us about a place where a lion was spotted.

Slowly we drove ahead, mutely so as not to cause alarm that would scare ‘Mr. Simba’ away. Across the road, he lay, legs spread out, head to the ground, this was the biggest highlight of the drive.

David, our tour guide explained that it was luck spotting a lion in the heat of the day saying that lions are always out hunting in the morning and resting in the evening, probably the reason why Mr. Simba lay sketchily.

Mr. Simba Relaxing across the road.
Mr. Simba Relaxing across the road.

As he turned, I was still trying to get a better shot of him before the two ladies started pushing the car window to close, as if to say, Simba was about to jump through the window coming for them.

Further we drove, through to the While Nile where we got a good view of sunset.

Night Camp at Nile Safari Lodge

After a long, tiresome, yet interesting day, we camped at Nile Safari Lodge for a fan filled night, a few metres from the Nile.

Enroute to the campsite, the narrow way is surrounded by tall bushes and local ‘tadooba’ kerosene lamps provide light to scare away baboons and guide the way for people walking through.

'Tadooba' Kerosene lamps on the sides of the path to the camping site
‘Tadooba’ Kerosene lamps on the sides of the path to the camping site

We were treated to a massive poolside party hosted by Deejay Simples, and free drinks all through the night before I jumped into my tent for some rest.

Tales from Murchison Falls

Early in the morning, we woke up, lazy after the long night but cheerful as we were waiting to travel to the falls.

A heavy breakfast for me, was a requisite as I had to carry my heavy equipment up some hills until we reached Murchison falls.The water moves at a terribly high speed, splashing up to form a rainbow.

As we were appreciating the beauty of the scenery, one of the people we had travelled with, proposed to his girlfriend right in front of the falls, the excitement was taken a notch higher.

At the end of it all, it could be seen that Ugandans had actually appreciated the beauty of their country and they could tell how Uganda’s tourist has come of age. They will have many tales about their experience of being in the wild.

Some of the group members pose for a photo in front of Murchison Falls
Some of the group members pose for a photo in front of Murchison Falls

Many will undertake personal initiatives to explore other exciting features in the different tourist sites that Uganda is endowed with and will encourage their friends who could have missed out on the trip.

Sharing their experiences both on Social media, blogs and use of word of mouth will be a very great tool for marketing Uganda’s tourism both locally and across borders.

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