Semuliki National park
Semuliki National Park is situated in the western part of Uganda. This national park is located in Bwama County in Bundibugyo district. It lies on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The national park is neighbored by Rwenzori Mountains to the south-east and Lake Albert to its north. The park is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority, a government parastatal which is in charge of overseeing all the national parks and game reserves in the country.
In October 1993, it was gazetted as a national park thus making it one of the newest national parks in Uganda. Semuliki national park is among the smallest national parks in Uganda covering an area of 220 square kilometers, with an altitude of 670-760 meters above sea level.
Previously, the park was referred to as Semuliki Forest Reserve which was created in 1932 and later upgraded to a national park. The park is one of the richest biological areas on the African continent, with a wide variety of flora and fauna species.
Semuliki national park in Uganda lies within the Albertine Rift, located in the western arm of the East African Rift Valley. The park experiences temperate tropical climate, with an average rainfall of 1,250mm. The park receives a lot of rainfall between March- May and from September- December, with many areas of the park experiencing flooding during this period.
The national park is close to Semliki and Lamia rivers which are watering places for wildlife animals in the park. There are two hot springs in the park called Mumbuga and Sempaya hot springs. Both tourists and locals flock these areas in order to take baths and collect water for drinking and cooking from here. The hot springs also attract quite a number of birds and provide salt licks for many animals.
Semuliki national park is home to about 441 recorded bird species, as well as 53 mammal species. There are four different ethnic groups that live near the national park, and these include; Bwamba farmers who live along the foothills of mount Rwenzori, the Bakonjo who reside on the slopes of the mountain, the Batuku cattle keepers who stay in the open savannah plains and lastly, the Batwa pygmies who live on the edge of the forest.
Major areas of interest within Semuliki National Park.
There are three major attractions in this national park, and these include;
Sempaya Hot Springs:
The most famous tourist attractions in Semuliki national park are the Sempaya hot springs. The hot springs have both a “male” and “female” spring. The male hot spring is known as ‘Bintente,’ and measures 12 meters in width, located in a lush and swampy area. The female hot spring is called ‘Nyasimbi,’ which means ‘the female ancestors’ in the local language. The water in the female hot spring boils at a temperature of 103°C; spurting bubbling water and steam two meters high. Visitors can see the steam cloud from as far as 2 kilometers away. The Sempaya hot springs hold a cultural significance to the native people living near the national park.
The national park has quite a number wildlife animals which visitors can see on a visit to the national park. There is a 6km stretch of public road which runs through a forest and rewards travelers with lovely sights of wild animals like birds, monkeys, forest elephants, hippos, potto, bush babies and crocodiles among others. Visitors can even sight chimpanzees in the forest reserve areas of the national park.
The Semliki River in Semuliki national park is another unique tourist attraction in the national park. This river is 160km long and runs from the Rwenzori Mountains to Lake Albert and finally the Nile River. The river is home to a large number of hippopotamus and crocodiles which visitors can sight during a visit to the national park.
There are also other areas of interest outside the national park such as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, which is the oldest reserve in Uganda. Visitors are able to do chimpanzee tracking from here.
Activities in Semuliki National Park.
Hiking to Sempaya Hot Springs:
Travelers visiting Semuliki national park can embark on hiking expeditions to Sempaya hot springs. The trail leading to the ‘male’ hot spring takes visitors through a relatively large forest where you will be able to see primates like; the red-tailed monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, and the black & white colobus monkeys. Hikes to the male hot spring last only an hour.
The trail leading to the female hot spring takes about 30 minutes, and takes tourists through a palm forest. Visitors can pack a few raw eggs and plantain which you can cook on arrival at this hot spring.
The national park offers visitors guided nature walks with scenic attractions. The Kirumia trail is a 13km long trail which takes visitors through the heart of the forest and climaxes at Semliki River. Hiking activities on this trail start at 8am and take 8 hours to and from. It is ideal for birders.
Another trail that visitors can use is the Red monkey track, which is 11km long and takes visitors through the park’s eastern border to the Semliki River. Visitors hiking this trail are rewarded with sights of primates such as; the red-tailed monkeys, and the rare DeBrazza’s monkeys.
The Sempaya Nature Trail is 8km long and takes visitors to the hot springs at Sempaya. Hiking expeditions on this trail take place in the morning and afternoon, taking between 2-4 hours.
Travelers visiting Semuliki national park can take part in bird watching activities offered by the park. Birding activities take place in Sempaya and Ntandi, and offer visitors splendid views of forest birds such as; the White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, the Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, and the Yellow-throated Nicator among others. Visitors can also do birding in Kirumia River, and birders can spot the rare Shoebill stork on the shores of Lake Albert.
Game drives in the national park are conducted within Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. During game drives, visitors are can sight wildlife animals like; forest elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks, crocodiles, warthogs, and the Uganda Kob among others. On a lucky day, visitors can sight unique wildlife like the pygmy hippopotami, leopards and bush babies during a day game drive.
Visitors on a cultural tour or community visit are able to visit local Batwa homesteads just outside the national park. Visitors can interact with the local people in these communities, learn about their cultural history, and also watch dance performances from the locals.
Accommodation in Semuliki National Park.
Visitors looking for accommodation in Semuliki National Park can do so in the following lodging facilities; Kirimia Guesthouse, UWA Bandas and Campsite in Sempaya, and Semliki Safari Lodge. There are other accommodation facilities outside the national park like Hotel Vanilla, Picfare Guesthouse, and Semliki Guest House in Bundibugyo.
How to get to Semuliki National Park.
Semuliki National Park is located about 180km from Kampala via Mubende and 465km via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese. The national park is located 59km from Fort Portal and the park’s headquarters at Ntandi is situated 6km further along the road.
Most tour operators choose to combine a trip to this national park with gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park, game drive and chimpanzee tracking in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Take a short trip to Semuliki national park and get to experience the best of what nature has to offer you. Visit the hot springs at Sempaya and trek chimpanzees in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.