Gazetted in 1932, the 220sqkm Park sits on the rift valley floor from 670m to 760m and was upgraded to park status in 1993. Located in the western part of the country west of Rwenzori Mountains the forest tract has an extension of the Ituri forest of DR Congo which is one of the oldest and biodiversity-rich forests and this makes Semiliki forest a unique one. This has made the park one of the richest bird hot spots in the region as it mixes the species in Uganda with the Guinea-Congo forest biome species. The park also has 53 recorded mammal species which include a number of primates like the De Brazza’s monkey, Olive baboons, Red-tailed monkey, Vervet monkey, grey-cheeked Mangabey among others with chances of encountering the Elephants, Buffaloes, duikers, antelopes among others. Of the 305 species of trees in the park, 125 are limited here together with a number of butterflies. The park is famous for the hot springs boiling at 103 degrees Celsius bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years and are the major feature in this park.
Semuliki National Park is known for its endemic bird species and the mixture of the Congo-Guinea biome species that meet with the savanna of Tooro-Semliki wildlife reserve. The park hosts 441 recorded bird species and is nicknamed “the birder’s haven”. The species include Blue Swallow, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Congo Serpent eagle, Gabon Woodpecker, Babblers, flycatchers among others.
Birders who drive through the winding roads to the valley of Semuliki are blessed with some of Africa’s best forest birding experience. Sempaya and Ntandi areas offer excellent viewing of the birdlife in the park. A walk along the Kirumia River is another spot good for tracking water birds and the shoebill can be seen on Lake Albert.
There are a number of trails that start from Sempaya for those that would love to experience the forest in depth. Nature and birding walks can be done to the hot springs as well as night walks for nocturnal primates. The Kirumia Trail runs through the forest to the Semuliki River is perfect for bird enthusiasts and those interested in forest photography. The Red Monkey Track which follows the park’s eastern border is a stronghold of the rare deBrazza’s monkey. The 8km Sempaya Nature Trail enables you to view the hot springs and primates.
Visit the hot springs
Semuliki’s most famous attraction is the ‘male and female’ hot springs found near the park office at Sempaya. The female one is a boiling geyser that spills bubbling water and steam up to 2m high. Visitors to the park always carry eggs and bananas which they boil from the hot springs.
Game drives are done in the Tooro-Semliki Game reserve. A small network of game tracks explores the grasslands of the reserve. Elephants, both Savanna, and forest are seen regularly, along with Buffaloes, waterbucks, dwarf crocodiles, warthogs, and Uganda Kobs. With luck and patience as you search you can encounter predators like lions and leopards, also bush babies.
Meet the Batwa, former hunter-gatherers who used to live in the Semliki forest as they display their culture and history through performances of music and dance at Ntandi.
Two Major roads lead from Kampala to Fort portal town which is 80km from Semliki following a scenic Bwamba road.
Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende is 290km about 5hrs, Kampala to Fort Portal via Mbarara and Kasese is 8hrs however if offers worthwhile diversions to Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth, and the Rwenzori Mountains National parks.
Chartered flights can land at an airstrip in Toro Semliki Wildlife reserve.
There are a few upmarket lodges near Semliki and these are Ntoroko Game lodge and Semliki safari Lodge. Also, visitors can use Kirimia Guest House and the national park Bandas and campsite. In Bundibugyo, Hotel Vanilla, Picfare Guesthouse, and Semliki Guesthouse or one can stay in Fort Portal and at dawn drive to the park about 80km.
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