Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park protects an extension of the Ituri forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo is located in the western region of the Republic of Uganda, on the floor of the Rwenzori Mountains to the south-east of the park and Lake Albert to the north of Semuliki. The Park lies in the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley. The Park covers 220 square kilometers with an altitude that ranges from 670-760m above sea level. The Park is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in the whole of East Africa.
Gazetted as a Uganda national park in 1993, Semuliki National Park is one of the richest protected areas with flora and abundant bird and butterfly species. The Park is regulated and protected by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The Park also borders Semuliki River and Lamia River which both provide water to the abundant wildlife in the park. Semuliki National Park Park has two hot springs, which attract large numbers of shorebirds. The hot springs are really hot, that you can even boil eggs in them.
Attractions in Semuliki National Park
- Hot Springs: The hot springs of Semuliki are one of the top attractions in the park that tourists come to spot. The ‘male’ hot springs known as Bintente measure about 12m in diameter and are set in a lush swampy clearing. The ‘female’ hot spring Nyasimbi which literally translates to “the female ancestors” is a boiling geyser that can go as high as 103 degrees Celsius, with the steam being seen not so far off. You can actually boil eggs from here.
- Wildlife: The Park inhabits over 53 mammals which tourists can spot while visiting the park. These include among others crocodiles, hippos, buffaloes, chimpanzees, central African red colobus, and red-cheeked mangabey. 11 mammals in Semuliki National Park are endemic to the park, and they include pygmy flying squirrel, Beecroft flying squirrel, target rat, bay duiker, forest buffaloes, Mona monkey, and water chevrotain among others.
- Birds and butterflies: This Uganda National Park has 441 bird species recorded to inhabit the park. Semuliki National Park’s riverine and grassland nature is a great habitat for birds, thus high numbers recorded. Bird species in Semuliki that tourists should look out for include the African Piculet, Maxwell’s black weaver, yellow-throated Nicator, black dwarf hornbill, Sassi’s Olive Greenbul, piping hornbill, yellow-throated Cuckoo among so many others. The rare shoebill stork is usually spotted on Lake Albert during a canoe ride. The Park has about 460 butterfly species.
- Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve: Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve is the oldest reserve in Uganda with grassy savannah and flat plains as well as deep river valleys. The diversity of wildlife in Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve is purely attributed to the unique vegetation cover and geography of the area. With chimpanzees present here, chimpanzee tracking is possible.
Activities in Semuliki National Park
Game drives: This Uganda National Park has three tracks that cross the savannah grassland of the park to Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve thereby giving travelers amazing and various wildlife game viewing experiences. Game drives can be done throughout the day, as well as night game drives to spot those nocturnal wildlife species like the white-tailed mongoose.
Guided Nature Walks/ Hiking: The Park has hiking trails that travelers visiting the park can take to explore the park extensively. Guided nature walks or hiking trails in Semuliki National Park can take from 2 to 8 hours, taking travelers through some of the best and well developed trails. The 13km Kirumia trail is perfect for birders for it takes them through the forest to the Semuliki River. Nature walks are a great way to always explore more of the area.
Visiting Sempaya Hot Springs: Travelers visiting Semuliki Park can also visit Sempaya hot springs to watch them at their best. You may even carry some eggs for boiling, just to prove that the hot springs actually do burn that much.
Bird Watching: Travelers who get to visit Semuliki National Park for bird watching are rewarded with some of the best birding experiences. With over 441 bird species, Semuliki National Park is a must visit for all the bird lovers, to get to spot a variety of bird species. The shoebill stork is a common sighting in the Park.
Primate tracking, boat safaris on Semuliki River and the Batwa cultural experience are other activities that travelers can do in Semuliki National Park.
Getting to Semuliki National Park
Getting to Semuliki can be done by both road and air. By road, travelers can take the Kampala-Fort Portal city-Semuliki National Park route. The Park is 52km from Fort Portal. The roads can be quite hard to use especially after a rainy day, so use of a 4WD is advised. By air, travelers can take scheduled and chartered flights from Entebbe or Kajjansi to Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.
Planning on taking a Uganda safari to visit Semuliki, accommodation can be got from the Semuliki Safari Lodge, local shoe string lodges, the Uganda Wildlife Authority campsite as well as the Ntoroko Game Lodge. Travelers need to spend at least 2 days to explore Semuliki National Park. Combining Semuliki with other Uganda destinations like Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park or Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Rwenzori Mountains National Park could be a great decision that will have you exploring Uganda extensively. Get in touch with a reputable tour operator to help you put together an amazing Uganda safari tour.