Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park lies on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. The Rwenzori Mountains are to the southeast of the park, while Lake Albert is to the park’s north. The park lies within the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the East African Rift. The park is located in Bwamba County, a remote part of the Bundibugyo district in the southwestern region of Uganda. This captivating tourist destination is one of the new national parks recently established in Uganda covering an area of 542 square kilometres.

Semuliki National Park is situated on a flat to gently undulating landform that ranges from 670 to 760 m (2,200 to 2,490 ft.) above sea level. The park experiences an average rainfall of 1,250 mm (49 in), with peaks in rainfall from March to May and from September to December. Many areas of the park experience flooding during the wet season. The temperature at the park varies from 18 to 30 °C (64 to 86 °F), with relatively small daily variations.

The park borders the Semliki and Lamia Rivers, which are watering places for many animals. The park has two hot springs in a hot mineral encrusted swamp distinguished as male and female hot spring located in different directions. The male hot spring refered to as Bitende squirts its hot water at a force of 12 meters while the female-Nyasimbi, the most loved hot spring by tourists; it squirts out hot water at a distance of 2 meters. These hot springs attract a large number of shorebirds and provide salt licks for many animals.

Semuliki National Park has beautiful vegetation cover, which is a habitat to numerous wildlife species, the park consists of attractive short open savannah grass, and the evergreen Semuliki forest cover, which is an extension of the ituri forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park has more than 400 bird species, including the Iyre tailed honey guide, red-billed dwarf hornbill, black throated Coucal, white billed kingfisher, long tailed hawk, spot breasted ibis, Nkulengu rail, African Piculet, blue-billed malimbe and many more.

The park is a habitat to over 60 mammal species, including blue duiker, African buffalo, leopard, African elephants, pygmy squirrel, water chevrotain among others The park has eight primate species such as the black and white colobus monkey, chimpanzees, olive baboons, red tailed monkey, blue monkey, vervet, galagos and pottos. 30 species of butterflies have been identified including; 46 species of forest swallowtails and charaxes (75%­of Uganda’s total) plus the least 235 species of moth are classified as restricted.

The park has various trails, which can be followed as you tour the park these include;

Kirumia trail; 13km long trail best known for birding. The trail takes visitors through Semuliki forest to Semuliki River where many bird species habit.

Sempaya nature trail; a 8km long trail, it takes visitors through Semuliki forest and leads them to the magnificent Sempaya hot springs, while on this trail visitors can encounter primates such as red tailed monkeys, grey checked mangabey, black and white colobus monkey among others.

Red monkey trail; this 11km long trail takes visitors through the park’s eastern border to the Semuliki River. Visitors on this trail have sights of primates such as the rare De Brazza’s monkeys and the red-tailed monkeys.

What to do in Semuliki National Park

Hiking to Sempaya Hot Springs

The Sempaya Hot Springs are Semliki national park’s most famous attraction; these are located at the edge of the great lturi forest. Visiting these amazing hot springs is an exciting thrill one should not miss their safari in Uganda. The park has two hot springs, male and female hot. The female hot spring-Nyasimbi is the most loved hot spring by tourist; it squirts out hot water at a distance of 2 meters and the male hot spring- Bitende squirts hot water at a force of 12 meters.

The trail leading to the male hot spring last for one hour and it rewards visitors with sights of primates like red-tailed monkey, grey checked mangabey and the black and white colobus monkey while the trail leading to the female hot spring takes about 30 minutes. Tourists can pack a few raw eggs and plantain, which they cook on arrival at this hot spring.

 

Guided Nature Walks

Guide nature walks is another exciting activity Semuliki national park offers to its visitors. The activity allows visitors to get up close to some wildlife species like mammals, birds, butterfly species and primates that cannot be seen during game drives. Look out for mammals such as African buffaloes, leopards, African elephants, pygmy squirrel, water chevrotain, primates such as the black and white colobus monkey, chimpanzees, olive baboons, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, vervet, galagos and pottos. Bird species like white bellied kingfisher, red Iyre tailed honey guide, red-billed dwarf hornbill, black throated Coucal, white billed kingfisher, long tailed hawk, spot breasted ibis, Nkulengu rail, African Piculet, blue-billed malimbe and many more.

The park has different trails used for nature walks and these include;

Kirumia trail; 13km long trail best known for birding. The trail starts from Kirumia, which is just about 8 kilometres from the park headquarters-taking visitors through Semuliki forest to Semuliki River where many bird species habit. The trail has a good forest canopy recommended for bird and butterfly watching as many varieties of butterflies do breed on this trail. Bird species such as black and white casqued hornbill can be spotted on the trees alongside the trails.

Sempaya nature trail; an 8km long trail and takes 3 hours starting from morning or afternoon. It takes visitors through Semuliki forest and leads them to the magnificent Sempaya male and female hot spring, while on this trail visitors can encounter primates such as red-tailed monkeys, grey checked mangabey, and black and white colobus monkey among others. The route to the main hot spring has a provision of a boardwalk, which give visitors a great chance to view the mountain Rwenzori ranges on the background and the view of Semuliki valley.

Red monkey trail; this 11km long trail takes visitors through the park’s eastern border to the Semuliki River. The walk starts from the Sempaya tourism site and do stretch into the forest giving provision to reach the Semuliki river and end up from the park headquarters. Visitors on this trail have sights of primates such as the rare De Brazza’s monkeys, the red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkey, grey checked mangabeys among others. Other wildlife species that can be seen on this trail include duikers, elephants, buffaloes, antelopes among others.

The trail is muddy due to the fact it is a tropical region suited in the Congo basin with many trees having the roots just on the ground surfaces as a breathing means.

 

Game Drives

Game drive and wildlife viewing is one of the most done activities in Semuliki national park and can be done in three tracks across the savannah and grassland of Toro Semuliki wildlife reserve. Game drives in the wildlife reserve can be done either in the morning, afternoon and even in the night which may give a great chance to spot some nocturnal species such as the slender mongoose, bush babies, hares, little collard fruit bat and target rat among others. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with buffaloes, waterbucks, Uganda kob and warthogs. On a lucky day one can see leopards and elusive bush babies, which can be seen at night on forest trees.

The game drives will give you a great experience to enjoy the beauty of the park and the various animal species like hippopotamus, pygmy scaly-tailed flying squirrel, African civet and so much more. One can also enjoy sights of birds like the rare shoebill stork on the shores of Lake Albert, yellow-throated Nicator and white-crested hornbill among others.

 

Birding

Situated in a remote corner of southwestern in the Albertine rift valley, low land forest and an extension of the larger Ituri rainforest of the Congo basin. Semuliki national park is one of the top birding destinations in Uganda with over 450 bird species, with a total of about 40% of the bird species living in Uganda, 66% represent half number of the country’s forest bird species. The park also has 46 Guinea-Congo biome species, found nowhere else in East Africa and 32 of these are only found in 2 to 3 other parts of Uganda. The park is rich in bird species as it also has the 5 Albertine Rift endemic species hence making it a birders paradise in the pearl of Africa.

Birding watching in Semuliki National park is done in different trails especially at the edge of the forest reserves of Bundibugyo, Kirumia river trail, and Sempaya hot springs. Birding around the hotsprings offers sights of the spectular freckled nightjar, African pied, Ayres hawk eagle, the tiny red-billed dwarf, great sparrow hawks, the elusive Nkulengu rail calling at night and the African wood owl among others.  Other bird species to look out include, African Piculet, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Blue-billed Malimbe, Yellow-throated Nicator, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Nkulengu Rail, Piping Hornbill, blue-billed malimbe, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Leaf-love, red-eyed puff back, long –tailed hawk, Congo serpent eagle and the red-bellied malimbe among others.

Most of the tourists visit Semuliki national park purposely to spot the rare shoebill stork, which can be opted while using a boat ride with a help of a local guide who takes you through the lake to search for this unique bird.

For all your birding encounters to Semuliki national park, please contact Hotana Safaris for all the information you need.

 

Cultural Encounters

While at Semliki National Park, you will encounter Africa’s rich nature through interacting with the indigenous Batwa people. These people were hunters, gathers who were entirely dependent on the Semuliki forest for food, shelter, firewood and medicine before it was gazetted into forest reserve in 1932 and a national park in 1993. With the development of tourism, their livelihood shifted from the forest, but instead they display their fading ancient ways and cultures through dances, music and drama.

They originated from Ituri Congo forest in the Congo basins. They are short in height and do speak click language, they are social people who also have a political leadership style of kingship.

They currently stay in Buhoma-cultural village in Nabisoli at Ntandi near the park headquarters where they have been given residence with a move to improve on their standards of living. They are allowed to access the park anytime for their cultural ceremonies, collection of resources such as firewood, water, herbs and other food materials that would be got from the forest however, they are restricted from hunting. It is from this site that the Batwa can demonstrate how they lived during the ancient times.

Tourism offers an alternative source of income for the Batwa, and gives them the opportunity to maintain and display their rich cultural history through music and dance performances at Ntandi. They also produce intricate handcrafts for sale.

Besides the Batwa, Semuliki national park is surrounded by different communities such as: the Karugutu-Kyabandara community, the Ntoroko fishing community, Rwebisengo community, Kasesenge-kyakabaseke community

WhEN TO VISIT Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National park is open throughout the year and can be visited any time. It is advisable to visit the park in dry seasons like from June to early September and from December to February than during the rainy season (March to May and August to November) because some places flood with water since it is the park is in the valley, this can give some difficulty to do certain activities.

HOW TO GET To Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park found in the southwestern corner of Uganda in Bundibugyo district can be accessed by both road and air transport. Semuliki national park can be accessed from all major tourist cities in Uganda and while on a combined safari to other parks like Queen Elizabeth national park, Kibale national park.

By road, there are a number of routes leading to the park from Kampala by either public or private means.

Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Fortportal-Kasese route is about 465 km (7 to 8 hours). The route rewards with beautiful sights of tea plantations, rolling hills and peaks of mountain of the moon-Rwenzori.

Kampala-Mubende-Fortportal route is about 180km (4 to 5 hours). It is a shorter route and offers a chance to make stopovers to Lake Mburo national park, Queen Elizabeth national park, Kyambura wildlife reserve, Rwenzori Mountain national park.

Semuliki national park can also be accessed from the following nearby towns and parks

From Fortportal town, it is approximately 33 kilometres to the park

From kasese town it is approximately 74 kilometres to the park

From Mubende town at a distance of 168 kilometres to the park

From Bundibugyo town it is an estimated distance of 15 kilometres to the park

From Queen Elizabeth national park, it is an estimated distance of 11 kilometres to the park

From lake Mburo national park at a distance of 189 kilometres to the park

From Kibale national park it is at a distance of 55 kilometres to access the park

From mountain Rwenzori national park it is approximately 59 kilometres to the park

From Semuliki wildlife reserve at a distance of 36.6 kilometres to the park

 The park can also be accessed by Air; there are companies like Aero Link and Fly Uganda offering domestic flights from both Entebbe international airport and Kajjansi airstrip to Semuliki airstrip.

 

Contact Hotana Safaris about Semuliki National Park travel guide and things to do