While you plan to travel to Uganda for the mountain gorillas in Bwindi or chimpanzees in Kibale forest, be aware that there is an amazing place to watch hotspring water boiling eggs in the shortest time of 5-10 minutes just before consuming them. Semuliki National Park is not frequented by many of the travelers to Uganda but is surely one of the most beautiful destinations you need to explore in the Pearl of Africa.Combining a chimp trekking safari with a visit to Semuliki National Park would be a good way of maximizing the trip to this region since the parks are about an hour and a half away from each other.
Semuliki National Park covers the Semuliki valley and the eastern part of the great Ituri forest of the Congo Basin which is the only true low and tropical forest in Uganda and among the few remaining forest in the country. The borders of the forest are so green and beautiful watered by River Semuliki to create a swampy vegetation. Visitors have a lot to discover in the differing vegetation of the park. The north east is covered by Savannah grasslands which host a large population of Uganda kobs. Semuliki National Park records 336 tree species and 3 of these are considered endangered while 7 species are endemic. It is home to 53 mammals including forest elephants, buffaloes, hippos, waterbucks, to list but a few. Primates in the park include chimpanzees, Central African red colobus and red-cheeked mangabey among others.
Unlike most of the popular national parks of Uganda, Semuliki is a small game park covering only 220sqkm with an altitude from 670m to 760m above the seal level. Regardless, it is a birder’s haven with about 441 bird species inclusive of the rare shoebill stork. This is a hidden paradise with a lot to offer for nature lovers.
Historical background of Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is one of the oldest wildlife reserves in Uganda and it was initially managed as a forest reserve by the colonial government. Semuliki Forest Reserve was upgraded to national park in 1993 by the government of Uganda to protect the forests as an integral part of the protected areas of the Albertine rift valley.
Location of Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park is located in the far western part of Uganda in Bundibugyo district. It is situated in the Western rift valley on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.Lake Albert is to the north of the park and the Rwenzori Mountains to the south. It is also bordered by River Semuliki which meanders between Uganda and the DRC and River Lamia. The terrain of Semuliki National Park ranges from flat to undulating ranging from 670m to 760m above the sea level.Whether you need to hire a saloon car or 4×4 vehicle, the terrain is calm and a variety of vehicles can be effective for the tour.
Ethnic groups living near the park include the Bamba, Bakonzo, Batuku and the Batwa pygmies.
Tourist activities in Semuliki National Park
Some of the exciting things to do and what travelers see during these activities in Semuliki include the following;
Visit the hot springs
The Sempayahotsprings are the major attraction in Semuliki national park.There are two hotsprings-the male and female springs situated a walkable distance from each other.They are one of the most incredible things in the region. The female hotspring, locally known as Nyasimbe has a fountain gushing out water boiling at over 1000 C and visitors have an opportunity to boil eggs and plantains which get ready in 10 minutes or less and they can enjoy them as they continue with the walk. The trail to the hotsprings passes through a forest that hosts grey-cheeked mangabyes, red-tailed monkeys and black and white monkeyswhich are often spotted along the way.
The park’s strategic location in the Albertine rift valley, presence of the lowland forest and some species of Central Africa attract a variety of bird species that are rarely found elsewhere in East Africa. It has 40% of Uganda’s total bird species out of the 441 bird species it hosts and 66 % of the forest bird species in Uganda. Five species are endemic to this Albertine rift ecosystem. It is a wonderful destination for bird lovers. Look out for a number of bird species like the Red-billed dwarf Hornbill, White-throated hornbill, African Piculet, Yellow throated Cuckoo, Lemon-bellied crombec, White-throated blue swallow, red-rumped tinkerbrid and Piping hornbill among others. Visitors interested in seeing the shoebill stork take a canoe ride areas close to Lake Albert where it is often spotted. Birding safaris in Semuliki national park give extremely cheerful birding experiences.
Nature walk and hiking
Walking around the different trails in this area is a great opportunity to explore its beauty. There are three major trails;
Sempaya nature trail, that takes visitors to the popular Sempaya hot springs via a rich and beautiful forest with various wildlife especially monkeys and birds. On arrival at the hotsprings, there are interesting folktales of local people to listen to from the guide and how they are treasured.
Red monkey trail, which is along the park boundary towards the east to River Semuliki. It is about 11 km long and tourists have a chance to sight the DeBrazza monkeys along the way and a number of hippos and other animals at the river.
Kirumia trail, this is a 13km trail and is one of the best for birders. A lot of interesting bird species I large numbers display themselves here. It is an entertaining trail for bird watching and goes up to Semuliki River.
Join the guide and trek through the forest to search for primates living in this area. The forest is home to chimpanzees, grey-cheeked mangabye, black and white colobus monkey, DeBrazza monkey, Dent’s mona monkey, vervet monkey, the Central African red colobus and baboons among others and chances of sighting most of these come with a trek through the forest. Primate tracking lasts for 4 to 6 hours.
If you are planning to visit Semuliki National Park, consider some time and a permit for a boat cruise. The boat cruise is an adventure of the unreachable beauties of this destination. It rides over a distance of about 160km with breathtaking views of the Rwenzori Mountains while cruising on the Semuliki River to the bottom of Lake Albert.Attractions seem during the boat cruise include crocodiles, hippos, waterbucks and sitatungas among others. On a lucky day, the elusive shoebill stork can be foundon the swampy shores of Lake Albert.
There is a lot to see in the Savannah of Semuliki ranging from birds to mammals. It is a whole mixture of attractive wildlife including pygmy antelopes, forest elephants, buffaloes and predators like leopards on rare occasions. With safari vehicles such as a safari van and other 4WD cars, you can navigate along number of trails and explore the most adventurous sites of the park.
Batwa cultural experience
The Batwa are originally forest dwellers and they are currently living on the edge of the Ituri forest. Theyare traditionally hunters and gatherers. Encountering these pygmies is the best way to get an insight of howthey lived in the forest before eviction for conservation purposes, they share with tourists about their ancient life and culture. Go with them through a short trail and see how they gathered in the forest, how they constructed their houses and many more practices, just before leaving Semuliki.
Lodging and accommodation in Semuliki National Park.
Travelers to Semuliki can choose to stay at any of the few but cozy lodges close to the park or stay in Fort Portal which is located about an hour’s drive from the park. Semliki safari lodge, Ntoroko Game lodge, Kirukia Guesthouse and the National park Bandas and campsite are nearest to the park with the best accommodation facilities. Lodges in Fort Portal perfect for a travelers’ stay are Kyaninga lodge, Rwenzori View Guesthouse, Fort Motel and many others.
Climate of Semuliki National Park and the best time to visit
This area receives an average rainfall of 1,250mm with high rainfall in from March to May and mid-August to October. These wet seasons sometimes lead to flooding of some areas of the park which limits tourism during such days. The dry season from December to February and June to Septemberis the best time to visit Semuliki national park. It is also the high seasonand visitornumbers are higher. However,people who wish to travel on cheaper budget can plan to visit this park during the low seasons when accommodation prices are lower.
The best time for birding in Semuliki is late January to March, but migratory birds are available in the wet seasons. Chimp tracking is at its best during the dry season.
Getting to Semuliki National Park
The park can be reached by road through Fort portal town byusing either Kampala-Mubenderoad or Kampala- Masaka-Mbarara road. Passing via Mubende is the shorter route that takes about 6 hour to arrive at the park while the other takes about 8-9 hours. The park is 50km west of Fort Portal town.Book for a car with a driver for the best experience of a guided safari which includes visits to some of the places not to miss out on in Fort Portal such as the Amaberega Nyina Mwiru caves and the craters.
Alternatively, you can use air transport to Kasese airfield and connect to Bundibugyo by road along the meandering road on the slopes of the Rwenzori ranges. This reduces travel time to about 3 hours.
If you are planning to travel to Uganda and have interest to do any of the above activities in Semuliki National Park, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +256-700315510 to organize for your safari.