Semiliki National Park is situated in the remote corner of extreme west of Uganda, in Bundibugyo District. It lies on Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border within the western arm of the East African Rift Valley. To the southeast are the Rwenzori Mountains, to the west is DRC and to the north Lake Albert. Semuliki National Park covers an area of 220 km2, gazette in October 1993, is one of Uganda’s newest National Parks.
Formerly known as the Toro Game Reserve this large reserve adjoining site of the Sempaya Hot Springs has a large variety of plains game including giraffe that have made this part of the Nile their regular watering hole. Lake Albert and the northern base of Rwenzoris is a rich mosaic of grassland, savanna, forest & wetlands. Of 400 bird species recorded, Shoebill are regularly spotted. Both of these secluded wildlife areas are of prime importance to bird enthusiasts, and therefore a major destination for visiting ornithologists from around the world.
You can travel to Semuliki National Park by road. There are two major roads from Kampala to Fort Port Portal: Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende is about 300kms (about 4-5 hours drive) while Kampala to Fort Portal via Masaka, Mbarara, and Kasese is about 510kms (7-8 hours). While the Kampala-Fort Portal via Mubende is much shorter, the Kampala – Fort Portal via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese gives you opportunity to see or visit Lake Mburo National Park, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The park provides a campsite with basic cottages at Bumaga, 2.5km from Sempaya. Meals can be prepared to order. Cooking facilities are also available with utensils available for hire. Hotels and guesthouses are available in Fort Portal and Bundibugyo.
ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES IN SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
Flora and fauna
Classified as Moist Semi-Deciduous forest, Semuliki is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa. The centre of the forest is dominated by Cynometra (Ironwood) but the edges are attractively varied, with riverine swamp forest along the Semuliki River and beautiful mixed forest around Sempaya.
A spillover from the Ituri of the Congo basin, Semuliki contains 336 tree species. It also supports an exceptional variety of mammals, birds and butterflies. This is attributed to the forest’s great age, its transitional location between central and eastern Africa, and to a variety of habitats, notably forest, swamp, and savannah woodland.
Birdlife is especially spectacular with 441 recorded species that represent 40% of Uganda’s total of 1007. 216 of these are forest species – 66% of the country’s forest bird list – while the list is expanded by the riverine habitat and a fringe of grassland in the east of the park. There are numerous rarities.
46 Guinea-Congo biome species are found nowhere else in East Africa while another 35 can be seen in only 2-3 other places in Uganda. Five species are endemic to the Albertine Rift ecosystem.
The forest is home to 53 mammals, of which 27 are large mammals; duiker-sized and above, several are Central African species found nowhere else in East Africa. Forest elephant and forest buffalo are smaller versions of their savanna relatives. Hippos and crocodiles are found in the Semliki River while the forest is remarkably rich in primates.
Chimpanzee, black and white colobus, central African red colobus, blue monkey, red-tailed monkey, de Brazza’s monkey, vervet monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, baboon, and Dent’s Mona monkey are present. Nocturnal primates include potto and bush baby.
Local communities around Semuliki National park
There are four ethnic groups living around the pari Bamba and Bakonjo are found in the valley and mo slopes respectively and are agriculturalists who pn cash crops such as coffee and cocoa while food crops that include bananas, rice and potatoes are also grown on a subsistence scale. The rift valley plains are occupied by pastoralists. The smallest group in the valley is comprised of the Batwa (Pygmies). Traditionally, these were forest… hunter gatherers originating from the Ituri. Their life is now changing due to interaction with other local communities and the impact of tourism. The Batwa have migrated to the forest edge at Ntandi. They now support them by small scale cultivation and contributions from various tourists.
Sempaya Hot Springs
The Hot Springs at Sempaya are Semuliki’s most fc attraction. Two main springs are set in a lush Sl clearing close to the south-eastern corner of the fore~ outer spring is just a few minutes’ walk from the Ser park office. This is dominated by a boiling geyser (1 which spurts up to 2m-high from a white, iced cake-like of precipitated mineral. Water also bubbles in small p< which eggs can be cooked.
The more distant inner spring is reached by a 30 minutes that leads through beautiful palm forest before crossil swamp on a boardwalk. This spring is a broad, steep pool about 10m across.
Sempaya – Ntandi road
The 5km section of public road between Sempaya and I village runs through one of the loveliest tracts in Uganda and provides clear views up into the forest c to spot birds and monkeys. The pretty Mungiro Falls lie in the North Rwenzori Forest Reserve, just off the Bundi road 500m beyond the park office.
The Kirimia Trail leaves the main road near the iron bridge at Kirimia, 10 km from sempaya and runs for 11km to the Semliki River, fording the Kirimia stream a couple of times on the way. The 3-4 hour walk to the river is a must for Birders seeking Semuliki Specials.
The Red Monkey trial runs from Sempaya to reach the river as it emerges from the forest. The 6 hour round trip provides opportunities to sight grassland as well as forest birds. In dry weather it is possible to drive past the homesteads of the Batuku pastoralists east of the park to within 10-15 minutes walk of the river to look for crocodiles and water birds.