Semuliki National Park was established in 1993 covering an area of 220km2 in Bwamba county, Bundibugyo district west of Uganda. The park is a bio- diversity hot spot with 441bird species and 53 species of mammals. The National park of Semuliki stretches across the Semuliki valley overlooking the magical mountains of the moon – the Ruwenzori. Its dense forest is an extension of the great Congo Ituri forest which adjoins the rainforests of central Africa. It is one of the pre-historic forests that survived the last ice age 12 – 18,000 years ago enabling it to join the club of diverse and intact ancient forest tract in Africa. The forest setting of Semuliki National Park draws much attachment to the central African forests unlike those of east Africa. The ecological set up and the species of flora including trees like West African oil palms, the alignment of River Semuliki which resembles that of River Congo, the fauna which have connotation to Central Africa like forest elephants while the pygmy people are traditional inhabitants of the ituri forest. This justifies Semliki’s connotation to Central African ecology. This enables a traveller on Uganda safari to have a chance of encountering the central African setting while in East Africa once him / her visits Semuliki National Park. Semuliki National Park is famously known for its Sempaya hot springs with the female and male hot springs whose formation dates back to 25,000 years ago when the older volcanic processes were at work following powerful subterranean forces that have molded the rift valley for 14 million years past.
How to get there.
Semuliki National Park can be connected to from the following originating areas;
Two routes connect to Semuliki from Kampala the country’s capital.
Kampala to Semuliki via Mubende and Fort Portal 352km about 6 – 7 hours’ drive.
Kampala to Semuliki via Mbarara and Kasese 510 about 7-8 hours’ drive offering opportunity to encounter Lake Mburo National Park, Kyambura wildlife reserve, Queen Elizabeth and Rwenzori Mountains.
The Park can also be accessed by Air travel. Scheduled flights are operated by aero link from Entebbe International Airport. Other Charter flights can be got from Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe Airport to connect to Semuliki National Park.
Sempaya Hot Springs
The Sempaya hot springs are the selling prepositions of Semuliki National Park. The park has two main hot springs which are categorized as male and female in the park’s southern end in a a marshy ground. The Male hot spring which is also locally referred to as Bitente is 30 minutes’ walk from Sempaya headquarters surrounded by a natural wide swimming pool stretching to 12m in diameter. The female hot springs also locally referred to as Nyasimbi is also close to park headquarters at Sempaya and is re-known for its boiling geyser that spurs up to 2m high and can be seen at a distance of 2km. these hot springs traditionally were used for healing skin diseases and fungal infections which demonstrates the indigenous knowledge that traditional people had regarding the natural resource use.
The Park is encircled by 4 tribal groups namely; Bakonzo and Bamba who dwell on the Mount Rwenzori slopes and practice cultivation, the Batuku who thrive in the adjacent plains and practice cattle keeping while the Batwa are forest people that lived in the forest of Semuliki before they were evicted and resettled on the forest margins. These tribal groups have various traditions that make them different from one another. Thus encountering their traditions is such thrilling encounter to have on your safari in Uganda.
Semuliki National Park is among the Uganda’s birding hot spots. Being a pre historic forest, Semuliki Nation al Park has a range of bird species that count to 441 bird species of which 23 are endemic forming 90% of the Albertine endemics among which include; Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Other bird species include; the Common Bulbul, Red-headed Bluebill and African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers.
Semuliki National Park contain moist-deciduous tropical lowland rain forest that stretch from the greater Congo Ituri forest. 336 species of trees thrive in Semuliki National Park some of which are restricted to it and a few other adjacent forests. For example; Lovoa swynnertonii and Cordia millenii which are currently considered as endangered. The cynometra tree species dominate the forest center while the forest margin is marked by riverine swamp vegetation stretching long River Semuliki.
Semuliki National Park has 53 species of mammals of which 27 of these are large mammals. Eleven (11) wildlife species have recorded to be restricted to Semuliki area including the pygmy antelope and 2 flying squirrel species. Other Wildlife species to mention include; forest buffalos, forest elephants, crocodiles and hippos found in River Semuliki along with water chevrotain, also known as “fanged deer” and blue duiker. The Park also has a range of Primates including; the central African red Colobus, grey cheeked Mangabey, baboon, Chimpanzees, black-and-white Colobus, Dent Mona monkeys and vervet monkeys. Semuliki National Park also has nocturnal primates like Bush babies and Pottos.
Three tracks pass through the savannah landscapes of Toro – Semuliki Wildlife Reserve enabling Uganda safari undertakers to encounter a range of wildlife including; savannah and forest elephants and buffaloes, water bucks, warthog, Uganda Kob among other species. On rare occasions, the pygmy hippopotami, bush babes and leopard might be spotted. The game drive activity is ideally done in the morning and evening and at night taking 3 – 4 hours.
The Semuliki National Park offers good birding opportunities considering its 441 bird species of which 23 are endemic forming 90% of the Albertine endemics. The parts of Sempaya and Ntandi areas present good environment for birders. Bird species that may be encountered include; the Yellow- throated Nicator, White crested horn bill, Piping Hornbill, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, among other bird species. The River Kirimia area is also ideal for birding. The shoebill stork can be explored in close environs of Lake Albert.
Semuliki National Park can also be explored on foot in detail. The various forest trails are designed to enable you explore the park. These include; 13km Kirimia trail that traverses the center of the forest down to River Semuliki about 8 hours round trip encounter commencing at 8am with good birding encounters. Other forest trails include; 11km Red Monkey Track traversing the park’s eastern boarder presenting opportunity for spotting rare deBrazza’s monkey up to River Semuliki. The last one is 2 – 4hour Sempaya Nature trail that extend for 8km taking you to the hot springs and primate encounters in the forest. At the hot springs, you can boil plantains and eggs for a few minutes to experience the thermal power of geysers. This is well done in the morning and in the afternoon.
The 4 tribal communities that live around Semuliki National Park offer opportunities for cultural encounters. The most amazing are the Batwa of Ntandi that enables you to explore the last surviving species of the short people. You enjoy their music, dance and drama, arts and crafts, values and customs among others. Accommodation.
National Park Bandas and Campsite.
This is operated by Uganda Wildlife Authority offering accommodation in its basic cottages. It is positioned at Bumaga about 2.5km from Sempaya. The meals are offered on order while clients interested in self-catering can hire the catering equipment and facilities.
Located in the village of Kirimia, 100m from the trailhead of Kirimia and 10km from Sempaya towards Bundibugyo provide overnight stay with meals.
Toro – Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.
Semuliki Safari Lodge.
Semuliki Safari Lodge has eight luxury, en-suite tented rooms with a maximum capacity of 18 people. Each has a fireplace, private bathroom and hot water with a magnificent pool area where guests can relax between and after activities. Staying under canvas is one of the most romantic and exciting things to do on safari in Uganda. Tents are protected by a thick thatch roof and feature en-suite bathrooms with hot showers running water and toilets that flush. The morning cup of coffee or tea is drawn closer to your room to enjoy while lying on your bed or sit on your veranda and drink in the view before the day begins.