Murchison Falls National Park is one of the best safari destinations in Africa. It has four of the Big 5. It’s one of the only places in Uganda where you can see giraffes. And the landscapes and namesake waterfall are stunning.
For backpackers visiting Uganda, Murchison Falls is also one of the more difficult national parks to visit. Public transportation can only get you as close as a 90-minute drive from the camps. And you can’t safely take a boda (motorbike taxi) into the park due to the risk of animal encounters.
Luckily, the backpacker haven Red Chilli Hideaway offers budget safaris to the park from Kampala. For just $320, you can go on a three-day trip to Murchison Falls without any of the hassle of planning the trip yourself. It’s one of the best deals on the continent.
In this post, I’ll provide an honest review of my experience on my Red Chilli Murchison Falls safari. I did not receive any freebies or compensation from Red Chilli to write this post — I paid for my own safari just like you would, and at no point did I tell any of the staff that I’m a travel blogger. I also don’t have any affiliate links in this post so I won’t make any money if you book. I’m only writing this review because it’s difficult to find information about tour companies in Africa, and I want to help you can decide whether this safari is right for you — and hopefully have a great experience just like I did.
Communication and booking: 10/10
I started planning my trip to Uganda years before I bought a plane ticket. I read all the travel guides and the limited information I could find online, and it was clear that Murchison Falls National Park was one of the highlights of the country. So I knew I was going to book a Red Chilli Murchison Falls safari months in advance.
As soon as I had dates nailed down, I emailed Red Chilli through their website contact form. Much to my surprise they responded within 12 hours. They sent me all the details about the different safari options, prices, inclusions and exclusions, and booking process. I followed up with quite a few additional questions, and they were all answered within a day.
Red Chilli requires a 50% deposit on your safari in order to reserve your place. I paid through their online credit card portal, which was hassle-free and allowed me to avoid hefty wire transfer fees. They sent me an instant confirmation.
A few weeks later, I ended up needing to change my dates. They again responded within a few hours and made the change, with no additional fees or need to re-process my payment.
Overall, the booking process was the easiest I’ve ever experienced with a tour company in Africa. Even though I booked from my home country, I paid the same as people booking in Uganda. The staff was responsive, helpful, and highly organized.
But if you can’t plan your trip as far in advance as I did, no worries! One of the other women on my safari had booked less than 12 hours before we left. She paid the same price as everyone else and had no problem getting a spot on a tour.
The Activities: 10/10
Red Chilli Murchison Falls safaris include three activities: Hiking to the Top of the Falls viewpoint, game drives, and a boat trip on the Nile River. Some safaris also include chimp tracking or visiting Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
All I can say about the activities is they’re amazing. I haven’t been to the Masai Mara or Serengeti, but those two iconic East African parks would be hard-pressed to compete with Murchison Falls.
The first activity my group did was the hike to the Top of the Falls. It may not be Victoria Falls or Niagara, but all I can say is, wow. Murchison Falls is a seriously impressive waterfall. The hike itself was fun (if a bit longer than I expected and very hot), and the guide we had for it was great. Aside from the falls themselves the highlight was walking out on some rocks in the middle of the river and seeing crocodiles lazing on all the other rocks around us.
Next up was an early-morning game drive on the Delta Circuit. We saw everything you hope to see when you go on safari — tons of elephants, a lioness in a tree, very close giraffe viewings, and plenty of typical plains wildlife. The wildlife is amazing, but it’s even better because there are no crowds. My car was one of only three around the lioness! (Compare this to Queen Elizabeth National Park, where there were some 30-odd vehicles surrounding the lion pride we found.)
Then, in the afternoon, we did the boat trip on the Nile River. This has to be one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences in all of Africa. My group saw entire herds (yes, plural) of elephants, more hippos than we could count, and crocodiles — and those were just the highlights.
Most people then do a final game drive on their last morning before heading back to Kampala. I opted instead to do the rhino tracking tour at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. It was another highlight of my time in Uganda — standing less than 20 meters from a 5,000-pound white rhino, with no barrier between you and its horn, is an experience you’re not likely to forget.
Staying at Red Chilli Murchison Falls Safari Camp: 8/10
As part of your Red Chilli safari, you’ll stay for two nights at the company’s own camp. The camp is on the bank of the Nile in an area called Paraa. It’s a ten-minute walk from the boat launch and a quick ferry hop across the river for game drives.
Included in the tour is accommodation in a permanent tent. You’ll share with one other person on your tour. Tents have two twin beds and small nightstands. They do not have electricity. They’re properly insulated from the weather and have small seating areas in front.
The entire camp shares two bathroom/shower blocks. The reason I docked this portion of the review by two points is because the shower blocks leave a bit to be desired in high season. Water pressure isn’t great and there aren’t enough sinks for everyone. The showers aren’t hot. Overall the Red Chilli Rest Camp bathrooms rank among the worst I found during my month in Uganda, but they were still significantly better than most hostel bathrooms in the rest of the world.
But the reason the camp doesn’t get a lower rating is because it also offers one of the best safari experiences in Africa — wildlife viewing from your tent! The camp has resident warthogs, baboons, and hippos who frequently wander through. I’ve been on quite a few safaris at this point, but I can honestly say having a hippo graze one meter from my tent at night was the coolest experience I’ve ever had in Africa.
Of course, with big wildlife comes big safety issues. Remember to keep a torch/flashlight with you at all times — even if just walking 50 meters to the bathroom. You do not want to surprise a hippo.
The Food: 7/10
You’ll eat very well on your Red Chilli tour — whether you’re vegetarian or a carnivore, if you like local dishes or prefer international cuisine, and regardless of your budget.
Your first day begins with breakfast at Red Chilli in Kampala. They have a special “early riser” breakfast menu to accommodate safari customers. Lunch on Day One is on the road. Red Chilli in Kampala can supply you with a sandwich and some fruit.
But the best food of the trip comes once you reach Red Chilli Rest Camp in Murchison Falls. The camp offers nightly vegetarian, white meat, and red meat dishes for 13-20,000 shillings. I ordered the veggie dishes both nights I was there and they were delicious. Usually they have more of an international bent to them (like pasta with veggies, or barbecue chicken).
For your mornings on safari, you’ll need to order a packed breakfast and eat on the way. This means instant coffee and cold food. I recommend sticking with the samosas, boiled eggs, and fruit. The egg sandwich was not very good. Prices range from 1,000-5,000 shillings depending on what you order.
For lunch, you order off a large menu of local and international dishes. I had beans and rice for just 6,000 shillings. Others in my group ordered delicious-looking avocado salads, burgers, paninis, and curries. You can also get proper coffee with your lunch.
The camp also has a full bar with a decent refrigerator for beers and sodas. They stock the coveted pineapple soda and all the usual local soft drinks, beers and gin.
Food is the only thing not included in the price of your tour with Red Chilli. But because the food at the camp is pretty affordable, you can easily get by on a budget of $20 for three days — less if you’re a vegetarian and opt for simple meals. I spent $12 total on food.
The Driver/Guide: 6/10
When you go on safari with Red Chilli, you won’t travel with a typical safari guide. Instead, you’ll have a driver and pick up various guides from the Uganda Wildlife Authority along the way in the park.
On my safari, all the UWA guides were outstanding. The guide for the boat trip was particularly good — he taught us all about animal behavior and got us really close to a couple hard-to-spot crocodiles. We also had a guide for one of our game drives, who found a lioness in a tree for us.
Unfortunately, my driver wasn’t as good. Fred was a nice enough man — quiet, but generally friendly and pleasant. But he also wasn’t the most organized guy and he drove a little more like a maniac than I would’ve liked.
My biggest complaint was on our last day, Fred offered to take us to Kalabega Diner after rhino tracking at Ziwa. But he turned the wrong way on the highway and didn’t realize it for almost 20 km. At that point we decided to just grab Rolex’s in a small village, but I’m slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to try the great diner because Fred forgot where it was.
Fred also didn’t really explain what the plan for each day was — he just hoped we figured it out. This was mostly fine, since everyone at the camp was leaving for game drives at the same time. But on the last day it was a little annoying that he didn’t even tell us to order packed breakfasts until it was almost too late.
Finally, while I understand that road safety is a major issue everywhere in Uganda, I would’ve preferred Fred keep speeds under 100 km/hour. At times he hit 140, and he drove way too fast on the dirt roads in the national park itself. It never felt super unsafe, but I was very aware of how much he was speeding.
The Safari Vehicle: 8/10
Compared with every other vehicle I traveled in in Uganda, and compared with my past experiences with vehicle breakdowns on safari, my safari car with Red Chilli was pretty awesome.
The car could fit eight people, but there were only four of us on my tour. So we each got an entire row of seats to ourselves — a huge perk when the park was a six-hour drive from Kampala in each direction.
The car also had a pop-up roof for game viewing. This is absolutely essential to getting the best photos of wildlife. You don’t want to have to shoot through windows the whole time. And the nice thing about this safari car was that you didn’t have to stand on the seats to see through the roof. This made it easier to stand for the whole game drive, even when the vehicle was in motion.
Additionally, the car had a large roof rack where you could sit. This came in handy when we went to the Nile Delta and got really close to some hippos and elephants. You never want to get out of the car around large wildlife like that, but by sitting on the roof, we could get unobstructed views.
The car did have some mild mechanical trouble before we even left Kampala. But our driver stopped and sorted it out with a local mechanic before we got out of the city. This was a slightly annoying delay (it would’ve been nice if they’d checked the car the night before), but at least we didn’t get stranded in the bush due to a breakdown.
Value for Money: 9/10
Safaris are one of the most expensive activities in Africa. So at $320 for three days, the Red Chilli Murchison Falls tour is a steal!
Don’t go on this tour expecting high-end luxury. You won’t have a hot tub overlooking the bush, or your own private driver, or three-course meals with wine.
But the real joy of going on safari doesn’t come from those luxuries. It comes from seeing the wildlife and landscapes. And on that front, Red Chilli and Murchison Falls National Park deliver in a big way.
Sure, there are cheaper safaris in Uganda — you can reach both Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo on public transport. But accessibility also means crowds. Murchison Falls, on the other hand, is gloriously un-crowded.
The wildlife-watching in this park was the best I experienced in Uganda. I’d never seen huge herds of elephants before. And I have a serious soft spot for giraffes, which are hard to find in this country. Plus, the boat trip dripped with East African atmosphere.
As long as you’re prepared to share bathrooms with lots of people and endure some of the other minor hassles of budget travel, a safari with Red Chilli is a great way to see wildlife on a budget.
Overall Experience with Red Chilli Tours: 8/10
Overall, my Red Chilli tour was one of my favorite activities in Uganda. It was hands-down the best traditional safari I’ve ever done.
My only complaints are relatively minor — the driver could’ve been more organized and safer, the packed breakfasts and lunches could’ve been better, and the restrooms at the campsite could’ve been cleaner.
But when it came to the activities, I was blown away by how great this trip was. I wasn’t expecting to love the waterfall hike as much as I did. I thought I’d be bored after one game drive — instead I was itching for more. The boat trip was the best three hours on safari I’ve ever experienced. And since I added rhino tracking onto my tour, I also got to have the unforgettable experience of seeing white rhinos on foot.
If you’re thinking about visiting Uganda and aren’t sure how to go on safari on a budget, I’d highly recommend taking a tour with Red Chilli!
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