This Park is situated in the distant corner of South-western Uganda (on the Uganda-DRC border), in the extreme West of Uganda in Bundibugyo district and shelters the Eastern extension of the massive Ituri forest and forms part of the continuous forest that extends across DRC to River Zaire. Due to its comparatively stable forest refugium during the harsh climatic conditions of the Pleistocene, this is one of the luxuriant areas for forest bird species in African continent. Semuliki National Park boasts of a vast range of colorful wildlife that cannot be spotted elsewhere in Uganda. It is nestled at the foothills of the Northern Rwenzori Mountains.
Established in 1993, Semuliki National Park is one of the recently gazzeted parks and covers an area of 220 square kilometers. This Park is rich with biodiversity and endowed with both flora and fauna, and especially homes a wide range of Central African species that cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa and they include Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk and Black-wattled Hornbill among others.
Everything about this Park is so impressive and interesting because it has got extraordinary scenery comprised of tropical forests, hot springs (for example Sempaya Hot spring), river meanders and other spectacular attractions. There are two hot springs found in the wide area of hot mineral covered swampland and is richer with beautiful birds, mammals and insects. The hot water jet as two meters (at 130 Celsius degrees and a pool (12 meter diameter) of flowing boiling water (106 Celsius degrees) which can oil egg in its natural boiler within 5 minutes. The jungle of Semuliki is astonishing especially with primates, birds, and butterfly and plants.
What to see and do in Semliki National Park
Semliki National Park is a home to over 63 mammal species including 27 large mammal species such as Elephants, Forest Buffaloes, 9 species of duikers for example Bay duikers, diurnal primates for example Guereza Colobus, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Chimpanzees, De Brazza’s monkeys, Black and white colobus monkeys, Olive Baboons, Vevert monkeys and Blue monkeys among others. Nocturnal primates include Pontos and Galagos. Other mammals that exist in this Park include spotted hyenas, warthogs, beecrot’s flying squirrels, Dwarf Antelopes, Water Chevrotain, Bush pigs, Sitatungas, Pygmy hippopotamus, fruit bats, Lions, Zenker’s flying mice, leopards and is a home to Uganda’s only pygmy antelope population. The activities that tourists can engage in include Chimpanzee tracking, nature walks, hiking/nature walks, game drives (three tracks exist across the Savanna grassland) and primate walks.
There are 216 species of birds including long tailed Hawk, Western Bronze-napped pigeon, Chestnut-flanked Goshawk, Red Chested owlet, White-bellied and African Dwarf Kingfishers, Gabon woodpecker, Simple and Eastern Bearded Greenbuls, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-throated cuckoo and Red-thighed Sparrow hawk among others. There are also exceptional nocturnal birds in this park and they include African wood owl and the Buff-spotted flufftail among others. This makes Semliki National Park a perfect bird watcher’s paradise.
Sempaya Hot springs
This is an iconic attraction in Semliki National Park and is the main attraction that mesmerizes the tourists. There are two Hot springs found on the lush swamp clearing near the Southern side of the forest. The outer hot spring referred as “Nyasimbi” locally translated as female ancestors is just few minutes’ walk from the Park headquarters. Its waters boil up to 2 meters high and its steam can be seen from as far as 2 kilometers away. The inner hot spring known to be the male one is known as “Bintente” is about 30 minutes walk from the Park headquarters, it is broader with its water stream measuring up to 12 meters in diameter. The most interesting thing about these hot springs is that they are believed to possess some healing powers. Some locals are often seen bathing in the hot springs and it is said that some of them have been healed from ailments especially skin diseases.
The locals who live around this Park are mainly bakonzo and the Bwamba who are both farmers. The Bwamba cultivate and live along the base of the Rwenzori Mountains while the Bakonzo live and cultivate on the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains. The Batuku who are normally cattle keepers live on the open plains. The Batwa who are hunter-gatherer are the most interesting and live close to the forest. They used to occupy the ituri forests before they were displaced when the Park was gazzeted hence they lost their home.
Due to the existence of the Semliki River located on the eastern shores of Lake Albert, boat rides are important activity that allows tourists to spot aquatic wildlife and bird species.
Accommodation facilities in Semliki National park
The accommodation facilities in and around Semliki National Park include Mountains of the Moon Hotel, Semliki Guesthouse, Semliki Safari Lodge, Kirimia Guesthouse , National Park Bandas and Campsite and Hotel Vanilla among others.
How to reach Semliki National Park
There are two routes that can be used to reach Semliki National Park. The first one is 300kms/4-5 hours and involves driving from Kampala-Mubende-Fortportal, then proceeds from Fortportal to Bundibugyo (another three hours on a rough road) to Sempaya gate then to the Park headquarters at Ntandi.
The other route is Kampala to Masaka to Mbarara to Kasese to Fortportal (510kms/7-8 hours).much as it is longer than the first route, tourists can be able to visit the other National Parks including Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park, as you are on your way to Semliki National Park.
In conclusion, regardless of its remoteness, Semliki National Park homes 63 mammal species and over 216 species of birds including those that cannot be sighted anywhere in Uganda. This is the perfect place for the wildlife enthusiasts and a perfect bird watcher’s paradise.