Semuliki national park is one of Uganda’s smallest and newest national parks covering an area of 219 square kilometers in the remote plains of Bundibugyo district in western Uganda. It was strategically established within the rich natural plains of the west in the wake of the Rwenzori Mountain range and Lake Albert along Uganda’s border with the DRC.
It is a famous destination among travelers owing to its diversity in the eco-system; displaying various species of birds, animals, butterfly species, plants and trees. This is mainly because it lies within the Albertine rift; the western arm of the East African Rift Valley. In addition, Semuliki National park remains the dwelling place of East Africa’s only lowland tropical rainforest.
Fully nourished by Rivers Semliki and Lamia, Semuliki national park provides favorable conditions for animal populations in form of water and green lush pastures. In fact; rainfalls in the Semliki valley goes up to an average of 1,250mm a year and this causes some low plains within the park’s boundaries to flood.
How to get there:
Semuliki National Park can be easily accessed by road from Kampala to Bundibugyo through Mubende and Fort Portal on a 4 -5 hour’s drive. This route is often shorter although the terrain is hilly and one would need to drive carefully and also use a 4*4 wheel vehicle. An alternative route is the Kampala to Mbarara highway to Fort Portal through Kasese. This route is longer and will take about 7 -8 hours.
Hike through the forest to meet Semuliki’s hot-springs which are often referred to as the “male and female springs”. Reaching the male hot-springs takes about an hour’s hike while to get to the female hot-springs; you might need about 30 minutes if you are physically fit for a hike. The scenery around the springs is breathtaking with a hot geyser boiling at 100 degrees Celsius.
Sempaya – Ntandi road:
The sempaya – Ntandi road is a 6k stretch of natural beauty and wonder in the park. Although it is a public road, many safari activities like birding, nature walks and photography are often conducted here. Either sides of the road are covered in moist evergreen forest creating a rare feel of walking on a street in “wonderland”.
River Semliki is a 160km long stretch of fresh water running from the Rwenzori Mountains through Lake Albert and eventually to the River Nile. The river banks are covered in riparian forest and soggy swamps where water birds like the Shoe bill stork are often found. The pools of water scattered around the swamp are home to Sitatungas, Hippos and Crocodiles.
Toro – Semliki Wildlife Reserve:
The Toro – Semliki Wildlife Reserve is Uganda’s oldest reserve located just outside Semliki National Park. The reserve is dominated by tropical rainforest dotted by wild savannah grassland. The flat plains of the reserve are made of deep river valleys. The reserve is greatly diversified in wildlife as it has central African forest mammals and Key East African species.
Semuliki National Park has a bird count of 441 bird species and it provides refuge to about 60% of Uganda’s endemic bird species; making it a top birding choice in the country. Birding safaris in the park are often executed during the day and in the night for nocturnal treats. Birding spots include; the forest, Sempaya and Ntandi trail, Kiruma River trail and the shores of Lake Albert.
Birding specials include; Shoebill stork, White crested Hornbill, Great blue Turaco, Red rumped Tinkerbird, African Piculet, White throated Blue Swallow, Cassin’s Spinetail, Crested guinea-fowl, Grant’s Bluebill, Red eyed Puff back, Chestnut flanked Goshawk, western Bronze napped Pigeon and Forest Francolin among other birds.
There are about 60 mammal species in Semuliki. Following some diverse game tracks, find animals though the open tree savannah plains, around the hot-springs and in the swamp stretches along the river’s edge. The choice majorly lies with you to embark on a night or day game drive to see some Uganda Kobs, Warthogs, Buffalos, Bush Pigs, Antelopes, Elephants, and some primates.
Indulge in a memorable cultural tour on the batwa trail outside Semuliki National Park. The Batwa are an ancient tribe that has taken quite a liking to the forests in south western and western regions of Uganda. Learn about their traditions and customs on this safari by meeting the local traditional healers, tasting the local cuisine and perhaps grooving to some traditional music on drums.
Hiking and Nature walks:
Fasten your hiking boots as you tread this land of beautiful natural Ugandan scenery. Guided nature walks are executed over a series of safe trails through the park normally taking off early in the morning and lasting half a day or the entire day depending on what visitors prefer. Forest hikes are a great way to meet forest birds and primates.
Accommodation (where to sleep):
Accommodation facilities in Semuliki National Park include; Semuliki Safari lodge, Tooro Resort, Fort Motel, Rwenzori Traveler’s Inn, Mountains of the moon hotel and National Park Bandas and Campsites among others. Choosing your lodge will entirely depend on the nature of your trip; whether its luxury or budget and what you would prefer.