Make sure you allow enough time with us to make the most of your safari and experience the uniqueness of Murchison Falls National Park. The conservation area, which includes Karuma and Bugungu Forest Reserves, is over 5,000 square kilometers, one of the largest Parks in East Africa! There are so many things to do, that we recommend at least a three day or more stay if you want to have a leisurely relaxing safari. The Lodge is centrally located in the Park and thus is a good base for the following activities:
Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times to see and photograph animals and birds. By 10-11am many mammals look for refuge from the heat under or in trees! Leisurely drive on the new game circuit in the “Heart of the Park” that Uganda Wildlife Authority has put in on the South Bank. The Honeymoon Circuit is about a 10 minute drive from Sambiya (the turn off is on the way to the Top of the Falls). It has loops off the road to Rabongo, where clients rarely miss seeing lions! Numerous other wildlife can be seen including giraffe that were translocated from the North Bank in February 2016! Other wildlife to be seen include Cape buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck, Uganda kob, Jackson’s hartebeest, warthogs and forest elephant if you are lucky! Birdlife for the twitchers: bee-eaters, eagles, buzzards, kestrels, vultures, plovers, doves, shrikes, flycatchers, widowbirds, nightjars, cuckoos and coucals abound.
To take the traditional game drive on the North Bank, one has to take their vehicle on the Parra ferry operated by UWA to cross the River Nile. The ferry usually operates on the hour at 7am, 8am, 12 noon, 2pm etc. It is best to check the ferry schedule upon entering the Park since it has been known to change without giving us notice! The ecology of the North Bank is tropical savannah which makes it easier to see animals. Drive through a rare Borassus palm forest to the Buligi Circuit which has 6 tracks that can be used on game drives to view Rothchild giraffe, lions, Cape buffalo, leopard, Uganda kob, Bohor reedbuck, waterbuck, oribis, dik-diks, duikers, bushbucks, hyenas, jackals, and various primates as well as numerous birdlife. Game checklist cards are available at the Reception desk for our guests.
Boat cruise/hiking to the top of the Falls?
A number of boats provide cruises up and down the Nile. One trip offered is from the landing at Parra (approximately 25 minute drive from the Lodge depending on good road/weather conditions) traveling up the River Nile to the base of the renowned Falls. The Uganda Wildlife (UWA) boats usually start their trips at 9am and 2pm. There is an abundance of hippos, crocodile, Cape buffalo, elephant and numerous species of birds to be seen, including the rare shoebill stork if one is lucky! Visitors can get off the boat and hike up to the top of the Falls for a $15 fee payable to the Park authorities. Arrangements to hike need to be made prior to getting on the cruise boats with Park authorities. The hike takes about 40-60 minutes and one should be in relatively good shape. The trail can be steep and slippery in places, with rails to hold onto in some spots, but offers stupendous views (Bakers Rock, Bakers View and Devil’s Cauldron) of the Falls on the hike up! Arrangements need to be made in advance with drivers, to meet hikers at the top of the Falls. Hikers should go with hiking shoes/trainers, water and bug spray. Other boats also offer cruises at a slightly increased fee to the base of the Falls and to the Delta area, where shoebill stork might be found.
Top of the Falls?
This historic site can only be reached from the South Bank and is a 15-20 minute drive from Sambiya River Lodge. Lion, Cape buffalo, elephant, Uganda kob, wart hogs, hyena, and waterbuck have all been seen on this road as well as numerous birds! The dramatic waterfalls plunge 45 metres through a narrow 6 metre canyon of boulders. Visitors can understand why the Falls were traditionally called “PAJOO? meaning home of the spirits. Once there, they will understand why in 1907 Winston Churchill walked from Masindi town to view the Falls, completing the last three days of his hike in a beekeeper’s veil & gloves to protect him from tsetse flies! It is one of the views that led him to declare Uganda as “the Pearl of Africa? From the top of the Falls there are fantastic vantage points that the Falls can be viewed from and photographed. Rock pranticoles, go away birds, African harriers, white headed turacos, and palm nut vultures have all been sighted at the top of Murchison Falls.
If you decide to stay at the top of the Falls until dusk (7-7:15pm) you can see thousands of bats exiting the Bat Caves in the area. Birds of prey, like Bat hawks wait for the bats as they fly out and provide exciting bird watching! Monitor lizards, snakes and monkeys also can be seen here.
Chimpanzee tracking and/or Forest Walks?
Chimp tracking and walking through the forest at Kaniyo Pabidi is a favorite activity of clients. A forty-five minute drive from the Lodge, visitors are led by knowledgeable guides and learn about the fascinating tropical rain forest: home to different species of huge mahogany trees, tropical flora, wild fungi, primates (including the entertaining chimps), 360 bird species and a myriad of butterflies and moths…just to highlight a few. Advance bookings for the various activities are recommended, especially during high seasons. Minimum age 13 years.
Murchison Falls National Park is a veritable paradise for bird watchers. Over 450 species have been recorded and Park rangers claim Sambiya is one of the richest areas for viewing birds in the Conservation Area. Up to forty-five species have been recorded in one hour. Because different spots at Sambiya support a mixed habitat near the Sambiya River, a vast variety of bird species are present year around as well as migratory birds from October through April. The acacia trees in the valley below the main lodge building is populated with various weavers, ibis, gonolek, kingfishers, guinea fowl, kites, hawks. Along the river ibis, storks, heron and eagles have been sighted. Going out on an early morning birding safari on foot from the Lodge with a ranger guide can be an exhilarating experience! Walking out to the main road one sees swifts, swallows, cordon bleus, cistocolas, buntings, bulbuls, bishops, tchagras, warblers, whydahs, kestrels…just to name a few! Bird and Game check lists are available.
Sambiya has a resident UWA ranger guide who is happy to take guests out on walking safaris. Guides are knowledgeable concerning flora and fauna of the area. It is best to make arrangements 24 hours in advance to avoid disappointment. Early morning and later afternoon walks are cooler and more comfortable. Guests can experience, feel and see the vastness of Africa as the early explorers did! Lion, buffalo, kob, waterbuck, wart hogs, colobus monkeys, baboons and numerous bird species are just some of the wildlife that have been seen in the past.
Being the Lodge closest to the top of the Falls and the best fishing pools, Sambiya gets many fishermen as guests. A “regular?recently wrote of a different world destination, “I can’t tell you how many times one or all of us reminisced how nice it was to have a shower and clean sheets a la Sambiya River Lodge after a day’s hard fishing.”?
Arrangements can be made to collect international visitors from the airport in Entebbe and bring them to the Lodge. A Lodge vehicle can be hired to take them to the Top of the Falls in the morning (for the walk down to the fishing pools) and collect them at the end of the day’s fishing. The Lodge can arrange for fishermen to hire a boat to fish from, although casting from the bank with spinners and lures has brought the most success in the past. Huge Nile perch, aggressive tiger fish and electric cat fish are to be caught. Fishermen enjoy submitting photos of their biggest catch to go up on our “Sambiya Fishing Hall of Fame?board!
Coffee or tea on your cottage verandah, watching the sun come up; having a relaxing day resting at the Lodge; cooling off in the pool after a day full of activities; excellent meals, sundowners around the Lodge bar and after dinner drinks by the camp fire are also part of the Sambiya experience.
Whatever activities you choose to enjoy, come visit Sambiya River Lodge for a magical African adventure! We look forward to welcoming you!