Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park is located in the western part of Uganda in Bundibugyo district along the border of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, park sits on the floor f Rwenzori Mountains on the South Eastern side and bordered by Lake Albert in the north. Semuliki national park is an extension of the Ituri forest in Democratic republic of Congo and along its borders there are two rivers that are Lamia and Semuliki rivers, the park is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa. The Semuliki river forms an international boundary between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Semuliki national park covers an area of 220 square kilometers sitting at the altitude range of 670 meters – 760 meters above the sea level, the park is the only host of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa containing features associated with Central Africa rather than Eastern Africa. The park was initially established as a forest reserve in 1932 and in 1993 it was recognized as a national park with an aim of putting a stop to deforestation activities.

Semuliki national park is a home to 60 mammal species calling the park a home and these include bay duiker, Beecroft’s  Anomalure, flying squirrels, bush babies, bush pigs, civets, Dwarf Antelope, elephants, fruit bats, Fire-footed Rope squirrel, forest buffalos, pygmy hippos, leopards, Little collard fruit Bat,  mona monkeys, pygmy flying squirrel, Red-legged Sun Squirrel, Sitatunga, target rats, water chevrotains, water bucks, warthogs, Uganda Kob, White-bellied Duiker and the Zenker’s Flying Mouse among others. There are also primates recorded to be 8 species and these include blue monkeys, chimpanzees, De Brazza’s Monkeys, Guereza Colobus, vervet monkeys, olive baboons and night primates like the pattos and galagos.

Semuliki national park is one of the top birding destinations in Uganda and East Africa as well with a total of 410 species of birds with 67% of the species being forest birds and 46 Guinea-Congo biome species, which are found only here in East Africa. These bird species 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 and Leaf-love among others.

Safari activities to do in Semuliki National Park

Game drives

Semuliki national park is a home to over 52 mammals making it a very rewarding destination for game viewing experiences, game drives are done in 4X4 wheel vehicles following 3 major tracks running through the savannah plains of the park. Animals to look out for include bay duiker, Beecroft’s  Anomalure, flying squirrels, bush babies, bush pigs, civets, Dwarf Antelope, elephants, fruit bats, Fire-footed Rope squirrel, forest buffalos, pygmy hippos, leopards, Little collard fruit Bat,  mona monkeys, pygmy flying squirrel, Red-legged Sun Squirrel, Sitatunga, target rats, water chevrotains, water bucks, warthogs, Uganda Kob, White-bellied Duiker and the Zenker’s Flying Mouse among others.

Chimpanzee Tracking  

Chimpanzee tracking in Semuliki national park is done in the Toro – Semliki wildlife reserve, before the start of this activity you are briefed about the experience at the research camp where you rules and regulations to follow will be read to you. Then walk towards the Kihura observation point to start the chimpanzee tracking experience, the activity takes approximately 4-6 hours including one hour of being the presence of chimpanzees while watching their behavior and take beautiful pictures.

Bird watching  

Bird watching is one of the main activities offered in  Semuliki national park, with a total of 441 bird species the park is a very rewarding birding destination and this is attributed to its location. The park is located in the Albertine rift valley attracting lowland forest and central African species, the central African bird species  and 46 off Guinea – Congo Biome species can only be found in Semuliki national park in the whole of East Africa. While on bird watching experience in Semuliki national parks, birds to lookout for include  Shoebill, dwarf honeyguide, Yellow throated Cuckoo, yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s turaco, purple breasted sunbird, orange weaver, white crested hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, African Piculet, Swamp Palm Bulbul  among others.

Best birding sites in Semuliki national park include Sempaya, Ntandi, Kirumia trail, Semuliki River , the rare Shoebill is often spotted on Lake Albert during a canoeing activity

Visiting the Hot Springs

The Sempaya hot springs are the major tourist attraction of Semuliki national park, these hot spring are two hot springs (male and female hot springs), the male hot springs are called Bitente with about 12 meters in diameter and the female is called Nyasimbe with a boiling fountain at over 1000C. The hot springs are used by the Bamba people for rituals as a way of communicating to their gods for blessings and protection.

Visiting the hot springs you use a trail passing through the forest and you will get to spot various primates such as red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, and black-and-white colobus monkeys jumping on tree branches.

While at the hot springs you will enjoy watching the boiling geysers gushing out steams and bubbling water several meters high and can be seen from 1 kilometers distance away.

Nature and Hiking walks

Nature and hiking walks are one of the amazing activities done in Semuliki national parks taking you on a walk in the forests of the park, these walks are done majorly of 3 trails running through the park.

  • Red monkey trail

Red monkey trail is a 11 kilometer long trail following the boundary of the park from east ending up at the Semliki River, while walking on this trail you get to spot the rare DeBrazza monkeys.

  • Sempaya nature trail

Sempaya nature trail leads to the Sempaya hot springs, this trail passes through a patch of forest where you will encounter black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabey and abundant of birdlife

  • The Kirumia trail

The Kirumia trail is a 13 kilometers running up to the Semuliki river transverse through the forest, the trail is good for birders and during your walk you will spot many bird species.

Community walks and Cultural experiences

Community walks and cultural experiences in Semuliki national park offers a visit to the Batwa communities who were inhabitants of  the forests and now live on the boundaries of the park.  In the batwa community you will learn more about the lifestyle of the batwa pygmy people, be entertained by local dances and drama, demonstration of hunting skills and purchase some of the beautiful handcrafts made by them.

How to get to Semuliki National Park

Semuliki national park is situated in western Uganda in a distance of 300 kilometers from Kampala city, from Kampala the park is accessed using road and air means of transport. By road transport the park is accessed using the Kampala – Fort Portal route via Mubende taking about 4-5 hours of drive, another route used from Kampala is Kampala – Fort Portal via Masaka, Mbarara and Fort portal. By air means of transport, chartered flights are offered from either Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airstrip to Kasese airstrip.

Accommodation in Semuliki national park

In Semuliki national park there a variety of hotels, lodges and campsites to stay in, these accommodations are found within the park and towns situated close to the park that are Bundibugyo and Fort Portal. These accommodations range from luxury, midrange and budget, inside the park there are campsites and Bandas by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Safari lodges and hotel used in Semuliki national park include Semliki safari lodge, Rwenzori View Guest house, Kyaningi Lodge, Mountains of the Moon Hotel, Ntoroko game lodge, Kirimia Guesthouse, Hotel Vanilla among others.