Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semuliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. The park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin and is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests that survived the last ice age. The 220sqkm park and the nearby 545sqkm Tooro-Semliki Wildlife reserve lie on the floor of the Semliki Valley which is 160km long part of the Albertine Rift valley between lakes Edward and Albert.
The Semuliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. The forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species. As a result, the park provides a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda. The meandering Semuliki River forms the international boundary between Uganda and the DRC and is a miniature version of the Congo River.
Hot springs boiling at 1030 C bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years and are the major feature in this park. It contains 53 mammal species, including 11 primates. There are also 435 bird species.
Semuliki National Park is known for its endemic bird species and the mixture of the Congo-Guinea biome species that meet with the savanna of Tooro Semliki wildlife reserve. It has 441 recorded bird species, representing 40% of Uganda’s total bird species and 66% (216) of the country’s forest bird species. The species include Black Dwarf hornbill, Congo Serpent eagle, Gabon Woodpecker, Babblers, fly catchers among others.
Birders who make it to Semuliki are always rewarded with some of Africa’s best forest birding experience. Sempaya and Ntandi areas provide excellent viewing of the birds. The area around Kirumia River is another top birding spot. The shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quarters on Lake Albert and forest walks are good for tracking water birds.
A number of short trails around Sempaya for nature lovers and birders. Nature and birding walking can be done to the hot springs as well as night walks for nocturnal primates. The 13km KirumiaTrail that runs through the heart of the forest to the Semuliki River is perfect for birders.The 11km Red Monkey Track which follows the park’s eastern border is a stronghold of the rare deBrazza’s monkey. The 8km Sempaya Nature Trail enables you to view the hot springs and primates.
The 6km Sempaya – Ntandi Road section of public road runs through one of the loveliest tracts of forest in Uganda and provides views of birds and monkeys high up in the forest canopy. Birding walks take place in Sempaya, as well as night hikes deep into the forest. Another local attraction is the Mungiro Falls near the hot springs.
Hot springs visit
Semuliki’s most famous attraction is the pair of hot springs ‘male and female’ found near the park office at Sempaya. The female one is a boiling geyser that spills bubbling water and steam up to 2m high.
The 4-6 hour guided walks through the Mugiri river forest provides an opportunity to find habituated chimpanzees and other primates plus a rich birdlife.
Game drives are done in the Tooro-Semliki Game reserve. A small network of game tracks explores the grasslands of the reserve. Elephants, both Savanna and forest are seen regularly, along with Buffaloes, waterbucks, dwarf crocodiles, warthogs and Uganda Kobs. With luck and patient search you can encounter predators like lions and leopards also bushbabies.
Two Major roads lead from Kampala to Fort portal town which is 80 kms from Semliki following a scenic Bwamba road.
Kampala to Fort Portal Via Mubende is 290km about 5hrs, Kampala to Fort Portal via Mbarara and Kasese is 8hrs however if offers worthwhile diversions to Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth and Rwenzori Mountains National parks.
Chartered flights can land at an airstrip in Toro Semliki Wildlife reserve.