Established in 1993, Semuliki National Park stretches over a geographical coverage of 220km2 in the county of Bwamba Bundibugyo district, west of Uganda. The park is a habitat for 441 species of birds and 53 mammal species. Semuliki National Park is spread across the Semuliki valley in the Albertine rift in the west of Rwenzori Mountains and its flora is greatly the extension of the Ituri forest from the Democratic Republic of Congo basin. Having managed to survive the last ice age 12 – 18,000 years ago, Semuliki forest is among the diverse and intact ancient forest groupings in Africa. The forest of Semuliki and the National Park in general contain a range of ecology that is inclined towards the central Africa setting rather that the east of Africa. The forest is marked by West African oil palms, the alignment of River Semuliki draws much attachment to the Congo River, and the fauna species have great ancestral attachment to Central Africa while the forest dweller pygmy people are indigenous inhabitants of the Ituri forest. Therefore, one can argue that Semuliki is a duplication of Central African environment in East Africa which gives Uganda safari travellers an opportunity to gain an insight of the central African setting. Semuliki National Park is also a home to the famous Sempaya hot springs a product of the older volcanic processes dating to 25,000 years ago a continuation of the powerful subterranean forces that have shaped the rift valley for 14 million years past.

semiliki-national-park

How to get there.
Semuliki National Park can be accessed from the following points;

Two major routes connect to Semuliki from Kampala, the country capital and the main gateway for Uganda safari undertakers.

  • 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.
  • Aero link operates scheduled flight to Semuliki from Entebbe Airport thus can connected to by air. Other Charter flights can be got from Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe Airport to connect to Semuliki National Park.

Attractions.
Sempaya Hot Springs
This is a great natural attraction in the national park of Semuliki. There are two main hot springs in the southern end of Semuliki in a lush marshy landscape. These include the male and the female hot springs. The male hotspring is locally referred to as Bitente situated at approximately 30 minutes’ walk from the park office of Sempaya marked by a broad natural swimming pool with 12 meter diameter. The female hot spring is referred to as Nyasimbi with in a close range to the Sempaya park office marked by boiling geyser that rises up to 2m high and can be seen at 2km distance. In traditional Africa, the hot springs acted as healing grounds for various skin diseases and fungal infections justifying the indigenous knowledge the local people had regarding the utilization of these resources.
Local People
Semuliki National Park is surrounded by four (4) varying groups of people including the Bakonzo and Bamba who are primarily farmers who thrive at the base and slopes of Mount Rwenzori respectively. Another tribal group called the Batuku thrive in the open plains adjacent to Semuliki and are primarily pastoralists while the Batwa pygmy are forest dwellers who have thrived in the forests of Semuliki and adjacent Ituri for millions of years ago and apparently dwell on the forest margins after being evicted from this protected are. These tribal groups have different setting and alignment of their traditions which makes them interesting to encounter while on Uganda safaris.
Birds.
Semuliki National Park is one of the birding hotspots in Uganda. It is a prehistoric forest thus containing a range of bird species. The park contains 441 species of birds of which 23 are endemic constituting 90% of the Albertine endemics including; Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Other bird species include; the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill.
Vegetation:
The Park of Semuliki is greatly composed of moist-deciduous tropical lowland rain forest that extends from the greater Ituri forest. It contains 336 tree species some of which are endemic to Semuliki and a few other neighboring forests. The tree species include; Lovoa swynnertonii and Cordia millenii which are on endangered list. Other tree species include; Cynometra trees which dominate the center of the forest. The forest margins compose of riverine swamp forests that stretch along River Semuliki and other lush trees in the Sempaya area.
Wildlife.
53 mammal species thrive in Semuliki National Park of which 27 are large mammals. Eleven (11) fauna species are recorded as endemic to Semuliki such as the pygmy antelope and 2 flying squirrel species. Other fauna species in Semuliki National Park include; forest elephants, forest buffalos, hippos and crocodiles dwelling in the Semuliki River, water chevrotain, also known as “fanged deer” and blue duiker. Primate species include the grey cheeked Mangabey, Chimpanzees, central African red Colobus, baboon, black-and-white Colobus, vervet monkeys and Dent Mona monkeys. Nocturnal primates like Pottos and Bush babies are present in Semuliki National Park.

Tourist activities.

  • Game drives.

Wildlife viewing in Semuliki by those on safari in Uganda is done along the three tracks that traverse the savannah landscapes of Toro – Semuliki Wildlife Reserve. The drives expose you populations of savannah and forest elephants and buffaloes, water bucks, warthog, Uganda Kob among other species. The pygmy hippopotami, bush babes and leopard might be spotted on rare occasions. The game drives are best done in the morning, evening and at night lasting for 3 – 4 hours.

  • Birding.

Sempaya and Ntandi areas offer good birding opportunities for birders on Uganda safari. A range of bird species may be spotted including; the White crested horn bill, Yellow- throated Nicator, Piping Hornbill, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, among other bird species. The River Kirimia area is also ideal for birding. The close environs of Lake Albert offer sights of rare shoe bill stork.

  • Nature walks.

Semuliki National Park with its prehistoric forest offers great ecology that is better explored in detail on foot. The park has a range of forest trails such as the 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.  Others include; the Red Monkey Track stretching for 11km traversing the park’s eastern boarder presenting opportunity for spotting rare deBrazza’s monkey up to River Semuliki. The Sempaya Nature trail stretching for 8km takes you to the hot springs and primate encounters in the forest. The springs offer opportunities to boil plantains or eggs that get ready within a couple of minutes. It is 2 – 4 hour adventure best done in the morning and the afternoon.

  • Cultural encounters.  With the four (4) tribal groups adjacent to Semuliki, the cultural encounters are diverse. However, the mostly visited and interesting one is an encounter with the Batwa at Ntandi. After being evicted from the forest they were settled at Ntandi and thus can be encountered from there. Their great cultural heritage featured in their music dance and dram, handicrafts, lifestyle among others alongside their unique body build gives you impressive encounters.

Accommodation.
Sempaya Area.
Kirimia Guesthouse.
Kirimia guesthouse is positioned at Kirimia village 100m from the Kirimia trailhead and 10km from Sempaya heading to Bundibugyo. It offers overnight accommodation and prepares meals for Uganda safari undertakers.
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.
Toro – Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.
Semuliki Safari Lodge.

semiliki-safari-lodge

Semuliki Safari lodge is an upmarket accommodation establishment offering accommodation in its eight (8) luxury rooms featuring en suite ablutions with 18 people maximum occupancy. Every room features a fire place, hot and cold running water in its private bathrooms and the views of the swimming pool. The lodge features laundry, restaurant and bar, swimming pool, gift shop and reading area.

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