Semuliki National Park is one of Uganda’s most pristine national parks with untold wealth of wildlife, Set strategically within Semuliki valley, western part of the Rwenzori mountain range. It is a true hidden gem sprawling just at edge of western Uganda and featuring the eastern extension of the expansive Ituri forest. It was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932 and later upgraded its status into a national park in 1993. It straddles between altitude 670 and 760 meters, comprising of the only track of lowland tropical forest in East Africa with more than 441 bird species, powerful hot springs, 53 mammal species, 11 unique antelopes and 2 flying squirrels and others. It covers an area of about 220 square kilometers.
Semuliki National Park features wide range of tourist attractions most of which are linked to central rather than eastern Africa. The Semuliki River itself is a miniature version of the Congo River while its forest cover refuges variety of Central African wildlife and the Batwa pygmies originated from the Ituri. More than 441 bird species including the forest birds like the Sarsi’s olive greenbul, forest ground thrust, 9 hornbills plus shoebill stork among others are all confined within this forest park. Over 53 mammal species also do thrive within Semuliki National Park the 9 duikers, hippos, elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, warthogs, buffaloes, pygmy flying squirrel, chimpanzees, red cheeked mangabeys, vervet monkeys, red colobus monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, Dent’s Mona monkeys, bush babies and others. There are over 374 butterfly species and moths and others. This park features distinct habitats ranging from the forest swamp, grassland and extensive system of hot springs as well as the savanna woodland.
About 4 ethnic groups do reside adjacent Semuliki National Park. They include the Bamba and Bakonjo that live around the valley and mountain slopes. They depend largely on farming mainly on cash crop growing especially coffee, cocoa and food crops. The Batuku do live around the rift valley floor, north of Semuliki National Park and they are pastoralists. The Batwa pygmies on the other hand-are renowned hunters and gatherers and they are found around the Ituri side. This group depended much on Semuliki forest for survival.
Activities to do Semuliki National Park
Semuliki Valley National Park is best explored while on Ugandan wildlife viewing safari that takes you through its lush savanna grassland. While here, the key wildlife species to look out include the African elephants, Sitatunga, waterbucks, warthogs, buffaloes, leopards and others.
Semuliki National Park is one of Uganda’s most significant birding sites. A birding tour in this park gets you the best sights at varied bird species such as blue billed malimbe, white crested hornbill, yellow throated nicator, swamp palm bulbul, great blue and Ross’s turacos, red billed dwarf hornbill, Maxwell’s black weaver, orange cheeked waxbill, red rumped tinker bird, black throated coucal, purple glossy starling, piapiac, red throated bee-eater, black casqued wattled hornbill, Rufous sided broadbill, Northern bearded scrub robin, chestnut breasted negrofinch, snowy headed robin chat, Gabon woodpecker, white bellied kingfisher, Xavier’s greenbuls, blue headed crested flycatcher, piping hornbill, the long tailed hawk, blue shouldered robin chat, common stonechat, western nicator, black saw wing, capped wheatear, little grey greenbuls, crested malimbe, African piculet, white thighed hornbill, a mention but a few.
Exploring the hot springs
Semuliki Valley National Park features the dual Sempaya hot spring that comprises of male and female. The female is called Nyasimbi and male-Bitende. This hot spring is known for its powerful boiling rate which reaches up to 100 degrees Celsius.
With nature walks, you have a chance to discover the hidden treasures within Semuliki National Park. Nature walks in Semuliki National Park take you through the Kirunda trial which stretches for about 13 kilometers. The trail leads you to the center of the forest to the Semuliki River and it is equally significant site for birding. While on this amazing experience, you can also come across the Bambuti pygmies-one of the smallest tribes in Uganda compared to even the Batwa pygmies. As well, you can interact with the Batwa pygmies here and have a chance to explore more on their daily way of doing things, cultures, traditions and many others.
You may also opt for sports fishing which is conducted around the river and interested visitors need to come with fishing gear for this thrilling water sport.
Where to stay in Semuliki National Park
The available safari lodges for overnight stay in Semuliki National Park include Ntoroko game lodge, Kirumia Guesthouse, Bumuga campsite, Semuliki lodge and many others.
How to get to Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is 387 kilometers away from Kampala capital city center and can be reached through 2 main routes. One of the routes takes you from Kampala-Fort Portal-Mubende and this may take you about 4 to 6 hours’ drive. You may take the Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese route and this may take you some good time but comes with incredible thing for instance a stopover at equator for photo taking. En-route, there are variety of touristic site for you to make stopovers that will make part of your experience. A road trip to this park requires you to have a 4wheel drive safari vehicle. In Fort Portal, you will take 2 to 3 hours’ to drive to Bundibugyo where you will connect to Sempaya gate.