Semuliki National Park lies on the floor of the Albertine rift valley 670 -760 m above sea level gazette in 1932 and upgraded as a national park in 1993 covering an area of 220 square kilometers, it is the only true low land tropical forest in east Africa representing the eastern limit of the Congo’s ituri forest having the Congo guinea species the Semuliki valley lies between lake Edward and Albert on the rural western side of Rwenzori mountains shared between Uganda and the democratic republic of Congo the Ugandan side protects the Semuliki National Park and the Toro – Semuliki wildlife reserve.
The park is located in several climatic and ecological zones with a high diversity of flora and fauna it is a true haven of birds best for birding safaris, out of the 441 recorded bird species,216 are true forest birds for example dwarf honey guide, purple breasted sunbirds, Congo-guinea biome species found nowhere else in east Africa, it has a rich biodiversity partly because its forest cover is very old being one of the few patches of refugia that predate and persisted through the days of the ice age about 1800 years ago. The Park contains evidence of the older processes which include hot springs bubble up from depth raising up to 2m above the ground.
The park contains 53 mammal species, including primates all of which have been found within 6km of Sempaya, five species of large mammals and 7 species of small mammals have not been recorded in any other national park of Uganda besides Semuliki. For example, the dents Mona monkey, water chevrotain, central African red colobus.
Semuliki National Park has beautiful catchments and attractions to begin with the Sempaya hot springs, believed to be both female and male ones, their water is so hot in that it can even boil an egg, they are believed to have medicinal purposes and local women commonly visit the female hot spring for fertility blessings these are enclosed by the forest and with a striking Rwenzori backup.
Activities like nature walks, night hikes within the forest in search of nocturnal primates, birding safaris, game drives are popular with in the park area, the drives go through two game tracks to explore the grass land of the Toro Semuliki animals like the waterbuck, warthogs, kobs, primate walks ,boat cruise on lake albert which offer a great opportunity to see the rare shoe bill and hippos with an extension to the Tooro – Semuliki Game Reserve, this lies 20km east of Semuliki National Park keeping some of the parks species especially birds in fact the park over shadows the game reserve
The park can be visited anytime all throughout the year but best during the dry seasons December –January and late June –September it relatively receives rainfall in the year with a small variation in temperature. It’s advisable to carry long sleeved shirts and trousers, boots on nature walks, insect repellants for safety purposes.
Semuliki National Park is located in western Uganda approximately 4-5hours drive from Kampala passing via fort portal-Mubende road or alternatively one can pass via Mbarara-Kasese 7-8 hours’ drive this route offers an opportunity to adjoin the journey together with Lake Mburo National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Chatter flights can be organized from Kampala (Kajansi) or Entebbe to land on the wildlife reserve.
Accommodation is available ranging from luxury to budget the Semuliki Safari Lodge, Ntoroko Game Lodge, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) offers bandas and camp sites at Ntoroko.
About Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is situated in the southwestern side of Uganda at the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountain, it is an extension of the eastern part of the great Ituri forest of the Congo basin one of Africa’s unique biodiverse ecosystem well known for its large number of old ancient species most of which are endemic to the region, the forest is one of the few that survived ice age period that last occurred 0ver 18,000 years ago. The Semuliki river forms an international boundary between Uganda and the democratic republic of Congo, Semuliki National Park was gazette in 1932 declaring it a national park by 1993 on an altitude of 670-760 above sea level.
The 220 square kilometer national park dominates a number of species of the central Africa compared to the eastern Africa, this implies that you can adventure the central while in Uganda. Semuliki has been accumulating species over 25 thousand years ago, living with evidence of old occurrences like Hot springs together with the western arm of the rift valley, over 300 species of trees are present in the national park most of which are endemic to the region extending to the Ituri forest.
The parks vegetation is dominated by ironwood biologically known as cynometraalexandii, spotted with a riverine swampy forest along river Semuliki at the boundaries, flora of the national park is attractive includes a flower based ground, the endemic tree species are shared in the neighboring state forests the Ituri forest, these make the park to standout a different destination as compared to the other parks of the country.
Semuliki is a habitat several mammal species most of which are shy species like the grey checked mangabey, red tailed monkey, Mona monkey, blue monkeys, elephant6s, African buffalo, dwarf antelope, sitatunga, bush pig, squirrel are present, the park is well known for a great number of bird list some of which include the crested guinea fowl, African wood owl, yellow throated nicator, yellow throated cuckoo, long tailed hawk, black colored love bird, dwarf hornbill, blue kingfisher to mention a few.
The hot springs of Sempaya are well known of the park, their temperatures rise up to 100 degrees celicious, reflecting to the formation of water from underneath the surface being heated by magma, this come through small rock cracks oozing to the surface, the ones here can be found in two places, local people keep referring to them as female and male hot springs, leading through the forest, the water is hot to the extent that it can boil an egg, and the water specially from the female hot spring is used for medicinal purposes, local women believe one can give birth in case they were barren from the blessing of the water.
The forest is runs across the floor of the Semuliki rift valley at the western side of the Rwenzori mountain, it cuts across four indigenous tribes live around the nation park and these include the Bakonjo cultivator, Batuku and the pygmies believed to have originated from the Ituri forest in Congo, some more of this kind live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Semuliki National Park has several tourism attractions that present an opportunity to do popular activities like game drives, visiting the hot springs, guided nature walks, hikes, boat rides along the Semuliki river, this will give you a chance to see the animals of the park, birding, primate walks, through several trails.
Tourism Attractions In Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is located in the western corner of Uganda it stands out to be the only geo park in the country a representative of the Ituri forest of Zaire Congo, it is situated in the district of Bundibugyo on Uganda’s border with democratic republic of Congo, it was gazette as a national park in 1993 as a way of curbing deforestation by man that had become the order of the day, endangering endemic tree species in fact some of them went extinct, the forest is one of Africa’s unique biodiverse ecosystems it is well known for its large number of old species , old patches of physical evidences like hot springs that prove it having survived the last ice age period. It lies at an altitude of 670-760 above sea level. The park contains various features associated with central rather than the eastern Africa.
Attractions of the park begin right from its flora and fauna, known for unique bird species, hot springs, Semuliki National Park is dominated by a vegetative cover known iron wood, it has a high biodiversity of plant and animal species at an amalgamation of several climatic zones with a medium altitude, moist evergreen forest, the park boosts with 60 species of mammals including over 400 birds, animals like hippos, buffaloes, Mona monkeys, grey checked mangabey, elephants, are present within the national park, on the 400 birds, 21 of which are true forest animals and are restricted to the east African region, examples include red sided broadbill, blue headed fly catcher, yellow throated cuckoo, pale fronted ant pecker to mention a few the national park is famous for being home to the largest population of kobs and birds.
The national park is home to the breath taking Sempaya hot springs they are both female and male hot springs separated a few meters away from each other, it is one of the biggest attractions of the national park that catches the eye of almost every traveller, the hot spring rises up to 2meters above the ground level they are believed to have medicinal purposes by the local people, the hot springs temperature is high to even boil an egg guided walks on short trails from the Sempaya center lead to the hot springs while on the path, you can encounter primates like the red tailed monkey, black and white colobus monkey, grey checked managabey, and it’s a very good birding spot notably the blue breasted king fisher, yellow throated tinker bird, and honey guided greenbul.
Semiliki river runs all way through from the Rwenzori mountain to lake albert this has made many geographers to believe that the source of the Nile is from the mountains of the moon deep within the heart of Africa, its home to crocodiles and hippos the river meanders beautifully along the rift valley flowing in from the forest.
The Semuliki National Park consists of savannah grasslands, low and tropical forest with approximately 300 species of trees 3 of which are restricted to the Semuliki area, the national park stretches on the floor of the western side of the rift valley along the Rwenzori mountains its surrounding areas are occupied by the Bakonjo, Batuku and the batwa from the Ituri forest.
Semuliki National Park is located in Bundibugyo district receiving an annual average rain fall, of up to 1250mm, its well situated in a tropical climate within a high biodiversity ecological zone, which can be visited all year round but best in the dry seasons of December –February and June to mid-September, its approximately 7 hours’ drive from Kampala Uganda’s capital, there is available accommodation around the national park ranging from budget to luxury implying that that there is at least something for everybody. Chatter flights can be organized to the national park from Entebbe or Kajansi to the national park.
Tourism Activities in Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is located in Bundibugyo district in western Uganda occupying an area of 220 square kilometers, it’s one of the oldest national parks gazette as a conservation area by 1993 as a way of protecting the tree species and deforestation of the time, it’s an eastern extension of the Ituri forest in the democratic republic of Congo along the floor of the Albertine rift valley, the park is evidenced to have survived the last ice age period, old happenings like tree species, hot springs clearly explain its elderly existence. The national park is placed at an altitude of 670-760 above sea level.
Game drives in Semuliki National Park conducted on three game tracks the kirumia trail, red monkey trail, and the Sempaya nature trail that cross the savannah grassland by an experienced guide, within the forest are a number of animal species which include elephants, buffaloes, Uganda kobs, waterbucks, visitors can sight hippos, crocodiles along the Semuliki river, these are normally conducted in the morning hours to catch the early morning birds primates like the black and white colobus monkey, olive baboon can sighted and birds of different kinds of species. Night game drives can be conducted at an extra cost in order to see the nocturnal animal species like pottos.
Semuliki National Park is one of the best places to go for a Ugandan birding safari over 400 species of birds call it home 24 of which are typically forest birds some of which have been restricted to the Semuliki region, for example the whited crested hornbill, yellow throated nicator, red billed dwarf horn bill, white throated yellow swallow, Congo serpent eagle, long tailed hawk, black wattled horn bill, Maxwell’s black weaver to mention few, popular trail for birds is the Sempaya trail.
Visiting the Sempaya hot springs, is a miss not activity in the national park, the hot springs are both female and male hot springs they are one of the locally most visited hot springs in the country the male is known as the Bitende rising up to 2meters above the ground and the female Nyasimbi the water of the pool boils at 100 degrees celicious and can even boil an egg the water from the hot spring is believed to be for medicinal purposes especially by the local traditional women who believe that a bath from the female water cures infertility this surprises most travellers that come to visit the national park.
Guided nature walks, hikes and community walks in Semuliki National Park happen deep in the forest with an experienced game ranger from the Uganda wildlife authority, walks are taken on majorly three trails, inside the park, animals especially primates could be sighted along the way community walks popularly go to the batwa community that live around the park, cultural experiences are conducted they have demonstrations of how they lived in the forest from gathering and hunting fruits perform music and cultural dances
Primate walks in Semuliki National Park takes 3-4 hours in search of different kinds of species such as the black and white colobus monkey, the baboon, grey checked mangabey, vervet monkey, the central African colobus, dents Mona monkeys, red tailed monkey blue monkeys can be seen playing on the trees, the activity is done in the morning hours tracking primates may be tiresome but interesting as you get to meet and identify one by one aided by your guide of the day.
Boat ride along river Semuliki; the river runs to 160 kilometers in the national park from the Rwenzori mountain to the lake albert and the river Nile world’s longest river this gives chance to see the few rare species like the sitatunga, pygmy hippos, crocodiles along the banks of Semuliki river.
The park is situated approximately 7 hours’ drive from Kampala chatter flights can be organized to the national park from Entebbe or Kajansi by air, its best visited in the dry season of December –February and June –mid September when there is little or no rain fall, Uganda is a tropical country whose weather changes all the time so it can rain even during the most dry season.it is advisable to carry warm clothes, boots, light long sleeved shirts and trousers, and any other personal material needed on safari. There is available accommodation ranging from the best budget to luxury.
Where to Stay in Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is located in western part of Uganda, is an extension of the Ituri forest of democratic republic of Congo along the western floor of the Albertine rift valley, known for its unique species of the central Africa restricted to the Semuliki region, the park is evidenced with old findings like hot springs it’s the only place that survived the ice age period home to a number of Uganda kobs and birds species there are more than 400 species that exist 24 of which are true forest birds. It lies at an altitude of 670-760m above sea level.
Accommodation in Semiliki national park ranges from luxury to the best budget Semuliki Safari Lodge is a high end facility it is one of the first luxury facilities to be built in Uganda. The lodge was built out of local materials, making it appear very traditional with a magnificent feeling of luxury and comfort in large canvas tents with permanent thatched roofs each tent with endowed crafts, Persian carpets and soft fleece blankets on each bed, every room consists of en-suite bathrooms having water plus private verandas offering great views a stay at the lodge is like taking you way back in time inspiring discovery.
The lodge is with 18 guest rooms accompanied with excellent service and attention to detail meeting up first impressions that go an extra mile having plenty of space in the lounge area, books to read, early morning tea of coffee with food finest of Uganda locally made.
The Kirimia Guest House lies 10km from the Sempaya hot springs, offering a best encounter of the Semuliki National Park it’s possible to see primates like the black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, birds of different species around the lodge it’s a budget facility in Semuliki National Park guests have a choice of staying at the lodge it’s easy to track primates, visit the hot springs, do nature walks while from the lodge.
The Ntoroko game lodge is in Semuliki National Park on the shores of lake albert in the forest, it’s a luxury facility providing accommodation for up market and mid-range clients the rooms are comfortable with inbuilt bathrooms, flush toilets, and a positioned in the magnificent views of the forest and lake so many great moments are shared while at the lodge like watching sunset, birds among others, the staff go an extra mile to ensure guest satisfaction.
The Semuliki National Park has the Uganda wildlife authority bandas and campsites offering accommodation to mostly budget clients, researchers and students that come to the national park, its situated a few kilometers from the Sempaya hot springs ,Despite the available few lodges in Semuliki National Park, it should be noted that there is little of where to stay and bookings need to made in advance, accommodation can also be found in Bundibugyo town of fort portal a few kilometers away from the national park.
The park can be visited all year round but best visited in the dry seasons of December –February and June to mid-September, these are regarded friendly months but doesn’t guarantee the fact that Uganda’s rainfall is unpredictable, it rains anytime even in the dry seasons, different activities like birding, game drives, visiting the hot springs, primate walks can be conducted here, its approximately 7 hours’ drive from Kampala by road to Semuliki chatter flights can be organized from Entebbe or Kajansi to the national park, it’s advisable to carry long sleeved shirts and trousers, boots for the hikes and nature walks, insect repellants and any other recommendable personal material for the travel.
Best Time to Visit Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is located in Bundibugyo district in western Uganda, its known for its high population of Uganda kobs and birds second after queen Elizabeth national park, the conservation area was one of the first national parks to be gazette in Uganda in 1993 as a way of protecting the endangered species in the area, it’s an extension of the Ituri forest in Zaire Congo along the floor of the Albertine rift valley covering an area of 220 square kilometers, it is evidenced with old findings of the central Africa this implies that one can actually meet species in the central Africa while in Uganda. It is elevated at an altitude of 670-760m above sea level.
The 220 square kilometer national park is dominated by iron wood, savannah, forest, swamps and rivers, they are habitats of 60 mammal species including Uganda kobs, elephants, sitatunga, buffaloes, primates like the black and white colobus monkey, olive baboons, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, are present in the national park, over 400 species of birds call here home for example the Congo serpent eagle, long tailed hawk, black wattled horn bill to mention a few, its most famous attraction are the hot springs called Sempaya they are both female and male located a few kilometers from each other, the water boils at 100 degrees celicious and can even boil an egg, most visitors are amazed by the story that is attached to the hot springs by the local people.
The Semuliki National Park is accessible all year round but best during the dry season there are two dry seasons throughout the year in the months of December –February and June –mid- September, it’s during these months that the park trails are less slippery and easy to hike through the forest, routes to the Sempaya hot springs are accessible during this period, the dry season is a tourism peak season in Uganda most of the travellers prefer this time of the year.it should be noted that the dry season is not completely dry as stated the Ugandan weather is unpredictable so it’s possible to have rain during this time.
The park can be visited during the wet season as well, it’s the best time to see birds as they keep migrating and breeding, it’s during this time that the park is extremely beautiful, however it may be challenging to see animals and may require patience to see them, the park receives an annual average rainfall of 1250mm, this happens in the months of March-April and late September-November in these months, the trails are much more slippery and difficult to pass through especially during activity like game drives, primate walks, hikes and guided nature walks among others.
Semuliki National Park is 7 hours’ drive from Kampala Uganda’s capital, it can be accessed all year round chatter flights can be organized form Entebbe or Kajjansi, there is available accommodation ranging from budget to luxury although there ae a few facilities within the national park, one can opt to stay in fort portal town or Bundibugyo, adjoined trips to Semiliki and Kibale forest national park for primates are very possible.