Located in Bundibugyo district in the remote Bwamba County, western Uganda, Semuliki national park (also known as Semuliki Valley National Park) is one beautiful destination for every traveler.
It was gazetted as a national park in October 1993 rendering it one of the new national parks in Uganda. The Park spreads across the borders of Democratic Republic of Congo, the Rwenzori Mountains in the south eastern part, and Lake Albert in the northern part of the park and the scenic Albert Rift in the west.
Semuliki national park also borders Lamia River which is a renowned water point for numerous animals in the park. Semuliki national park boasts a lot of eco system that makes it a pride of very many birds and wildlife, its high diversity of plant species found in the Congo basin forest extending to the eastern range of the national park, makes it ever green and superbly attractive.
The park’s vegetation is mainly medium altitude and evergreen making it an absolute home to over 400 bird species, including both the Albertine rift and Rwenzori endemics. It is also amazing that about 9 species of hornbills have been recorded in the park. More to this, the park also delights of over 60 mammal species including Buffaloes, Leopards, hippos, bush babies, elephants as well as more than 8 primate species and 300 butterfly species.
Truly speaking, one of the things no traveler will never want to miss out while in semuliki national park is the Sempaya hot springs. These are two, the male one called Bitenda which is about 12 meters in diameter and the female hot spring called Nyansimbi which is a boiling geyser that spurts out bubbling water and steam about 2 meters into the air.
The locals living in the park used to cook food in the hot-spring pools, but now are protected areas offering tourists a great magical adventure. To experience this, as you travel to the park, you can move along with an egg and see it boil and get ready. It’s believed by natives that the water can even heal some illnesses.
While in the Park, there are so many activities that can be carried out ranging from wildlife Safaris, bird watching both at day and night, cultural encounter, forest Hikes and nature Walks, Chimpanzee Trekking and Game Drives, among others.
Semuliki national park is a pure haven for diverse bird species. It has over 440 recoded species that inhabit the Semuliki valley. In fact, it shelters 40% of Uganda’s total population of bird species and 66% of the forest birds in Uganda. Birds can be seen on an exclusive birding tour in Semuliki national park, on a game drive or during a guided nature walk in the park.
Some of the common species are; spot breasted Ibis, Hartaubs duck, forest francolin, white-bellied and dwarf kingfisher among others and for the sake of Nocturnal bird watching, you will head to the geothermal hot springs of sempaya where you can find nightjars, African wood owl among others.
Game viewing safaris
There are about 53 species of wildlife that have been recorded in the park, making Semuliki national park an ideal place for epic game drives. Big animal species found here include the lions, olive Baboons, gentle blue monkeys, guereza colobus, Bush pigs, Elephants, Buffaloes, Dwarf antelopes, among others. There are also over 30 butterfly species identified, 235 species of months and about 305 species of trees recorded, this alone renders this park one of the best places to visit. You can undertake either daytime or nocturnal / night game drives.
Semuliki national park is the only palce in Uganda with lowland chimpanzees. It presents to her visitors a unique opportunity to carry out chimpanzee trekking in a lowland forest. Unlike In Kibale National park, semuliki national Park has a fewer number of chimpanzees that have been habituated so far, however, those on the ground can give the best of the view you need.
Chimpanzee trekking here begins at 8:00am and can last for 4 hours or longer. You can also see other primates such as black and white Columbus, vervet, Dent’s Mona monkey and olive baboons among others.
Forest Hikes & Nature Walks
While in the park, the first thing to do is kill boredom, laziness and fear because hiking is one of the most adventurous experiences to undertake. There are a number of hiking and nature walk trails that the expert guides take you through depending on your preference.
You can take a 13km Kirumia trail, 11km red Monkey trek/primate trail or 8km Sempaya nature Trail, Batwa Cultural trail and Nyabsurogo Gorge Hike. All these are very interesting and fun filled, on your way, you will encounter numerous birds’ species, butterflies, verdant vegetation, primates, amazing landscape and epic wildlife.
Semuliki National park can’t leave you sad or dizzy; it will always provide what will put a smile on your face while in the park. The Batwa cultural group is best encounter you can live to remember, these are former hunters and gatherers who live in grass thatched houses on the edge of the forest.
Under the guidance of a local guide, guests on this tour are introduced to authentic hunting experiences, traditional stories, performances, historic songs that describe their journey from being the forest people that they were to now agents of conservation and gradually reforming to a modern lifestyle. This cultural encounter will enhance your knowledge about the place as well as some history you had never known about this people.
Semuliki national park lies along the main Fort Portal – Bundibugyo road, only 25km from fort port town. However, from Kampala; follow Kampala- Fort portal via Mubende highway which is about 287km, approximately 4-6 hours of drive.
An alternative route goes through Mbarara-Kasese – Fortportal to Semuliki national park. Though longer than the former route, it surely gives travelers an opportunity to stop along Lake Mburo national park, Kyambura Wildlife reserve, and Queen Elizabeth national Park or view the jagged mountain Rwenzori ranges.
Never get worried of where to stay while on your trip to Semliki national Park, all the accommodation types are available and on your disposal ranging from luxury, midrange to budget options. Take a look at a few of these lodges which include; Semuliki Safari Lodge for luxury accommodation, Ntoroko game lodge for moderate and Kirumia Guest House for Budget options.
Semuliki National Park offers you an exciting exposure to the wild that you cannot easily find anywhere, all the fauna and flora, wildlife and the singing birds are all in one place waiting to be encountered by you. Do not hesitate to come and explore the wondrous park.