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Semuliki National Park Uganda

Semuliki National Park Uganda


Semuliki national park is situated in western Uganda in Bwamba County, Bundibugyo District. It was first established as a wildlife reserve in 1932 known as Semuliki Forest Reserve and turned into a national park in 1993.


Semuliki National park is the only expanse of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa, harbouring 53 mammal species and 441 bird species.

A large part of the park gets waterlogged in the wet season, indicating the past time when the valley was once a lake a million years ago.


Semuliki National park stretches across the base of the Semliki valley situated on the far margins of the western side of the Rwenzori.

It is also contagious to the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin which is one of the oldest forests in Africa and is said to have been in existence even in the ice age.


Most of the vegetation and other natural features in the park are more connected to central Africa other than the eastern. For instance, the Semliki River at the margins is a small kind of the Congo river, western African oil palms are part of its vegetation cover, the forest is a natural habitat to several central African wildlife species and one of the races of people in the area, the Batwa migrated from Ituri forest. therefore, it gives explorers a central Africa natural experience even without going there.


Having been in existence for ages, the park has aftermath features of the ancient scientific and geographical land forming processes. Hot springs sprout up from the ground to display the powerful subterranean forces that have been influential in the formation of rift valleys during the last million years.


The virgin forest park is home to 350 species of birds, including 23 restricted to the Albertine rift region. There are also 120 animals that linger around the forest consisting of elephants, duikers, forest hogs and different species of small primates like colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and baboons.


Four tribes reside around the park- Batuku cattle keepers who occupy the open plains, Bwamba Farmers that live near the lowlands of Rwenzori Mountain and Batwa pygmies who live on the margins of the forest.  there are opportunities of discovering new and interesting cultures like Batwa and Bakiga cultures through community walks and traditional performances.


Safari Activities to do while at Semuliki National Park


Game Viewing:  A game viewing expedition at Semuliki National park offers you opportunities of encountering some of the central African wildlife species in an Eastern African area.  Wildlife species to see in the park include forest elephants, pygmy antelopes, lions, leopards and small primates like black and white colobus monkey, baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey and chimpanzees. The best trails to take on a game drive in the park are Sempaya Nature trail, Kirumia trail and red Moneky trail. A 4×4 safari vehicle is recommended for the expedition. night game drives are also practicable and you have a chance to see nocturnal like bush babies, leopards and pottos.


Visiting Sempaya HotSprings:  Sempaya Hotsprings are one of the most outstanding attractions to enjoy in Semuliki national park, visiting them is so rewarding. It gets to you to validate the geography you studied during your school days. At the hot springs, you experience the hot water sprouting out of the group 2 meters high and plunge down to form a hot pool. The hot water in the pool can be used to cook food and eggs. The hot springs have a rich mineral that is great for the body skin, people bathe in the water pool to replenish their skins. Sempaya comprises two springs, Bintente the male one and Nyasimbi the female spring.


Nature Walks and Hiking Trail: some part of the park is covered with forests and swamps which can be best explored on a nature walk. The best place for nature walks is Semliki valleys, Ituri forest and the river banks of Semliki. There are different hiking trails leading the aforementioned areas and a nature walk, you have an opportunity of sighting animals like Uganda kobs, elephants, bird species and small primates like colobus monkeys, baboons and chimpanzees which are found in Mugiri forest.


Boat Ride: in Semliki National park, there is a waterbody in Semliki River which makes a boat cruise experience possible. Semliki River flows 160 Kilometres from the Rwenzori Mountains to Lake Albert and River Nile and some of its course passes through Semuliki National park. Around and in the Semliki River, there are lots of wildlife species that thrive there, namely crocodiles, pygmy hippos, waterbucks, Sitatungas and numerous water birds. Semliki river is a great natural feature to sightsee especially when it is flowing towards the rift valleys.

Bird Watching: characterized by water features and forests, Semliki is a habitat of over 400 bird species, including yellow-throated Nicator, African Piculet, White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, yellow-throated cuckoo and shoebill. Some of the bird species in the park are restricted to the Albertine rift region.  Birders are advised to hire an experienced bird guide to get the most out of their birding expedition in the forests and swamps of Semuliki National park.


Batwa cultural experience:  Out of the three cultural tribes that live around the park, the Batwa pygmies are the most intriguing and fascinating ones. A visit to their homestead is revealing and unregrettable. The Batwa will roll you back to the ancient time lifestyle where every activity centred around nature. You will witness, the rudimentary way of constructing a house with local materials, making fire with stones, gathering local herbs for medicine and traditional performance will mark the end of your encounter with the Batwa.


Primate tracking:  In the forests of Semuliki national park, there is a presence of different primate species, namely chimpanzees, baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey, vervet monkeys, red colobus, blue monkeys, De Brazza’s monkeys, red-tailed monkey and black and white colobus. This makes it one of the best primate tracking places in Uganda. Primate trekking is such an extensive involves a long search around the forest looking for the primates and takes about 2-4 hours.


The best time to Visit Semuliki National Park


Like any other national park in Uganda, Semuliki national park is open throughout the year due to the conducive climate in the country. In Uganda, the sun is out every day regardless of the weather hence making it possible for any outdoor activity like game viewing or nature walks to take place. Due to the fact that Uganda has two climate seasons, Wet and dry, the travellers have the luxury of choosing the best time to travel to Semuliki National park. Most of the travellers choose the dry season which includes the months of January, February, March, June, July, August, September, October and December. The dry season is where the gravel roads leading to the national parks and within it are dry and passable.


How to access Semuliki National Park


The park is located in Bundibugyo district in the southwest of Uganda and there are two routes from Kampala that lead to it. The short route is Kampala-Mityana-Mubend-Fort Portal and Bundibugyo. From Kampala to Fortportl is about 180km, about 4 hours on the road and from Fort Portal to Sempaya Park gate is 59km, 2 hours’ drive.  The Kampala-Mbarara-Kasese and Bundibugyo Route is the second route and the long one. It involved about 460kms of driving and takes about 8hours to reach the park gate.


Safari Lodge around the park

Due to the remoteness of Semuliki National park, there are a few safari lodges to stay and these include;


Semuliki Safari Lodge

It is a luxury lodge set up in the African setting, located close to Tooro Semuliki Game Reserve, its grass thatched cottages can accommodate a maximum of 18 guests who are served and treated in an exclusive way. The staff is hospitable, the food and drinks are world-class. It has a great outside terrace and a wide swimming pool to cool off after an eventful day in the jungles of Semuliki. Semuliki Safari Lodge is such a great place to stay while visiting the park.


Uwa Bandas And Cottages

The bandas and campsite owned and managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority are found at Bumaga, covering about 2 kilometres from Sempaya Tourism centre. The campsite is large enough to accommodate a great number of people and travellers are advised to carry their own camping gear. There is a food canteen and bar for meals and drinks respectively. For those interested in self-catering, they can hire cooking tools. Animals like small primates, elephants and birds frequent the place especially in the early morning and late evening.


Nyati Game Lodge

Nyati Game Lodge is a luxury tented camp located close to the shore of Lake Albert. It is in an African setting and the rooms are overlooking the lake, reward the guest with a magnificent view. The surrounding environment is silent and virgin, making the lodge the best place to relax and unwind. It has 5 luxury tents with twin beds accommodating 10 people.  The food and beverage department is world-class; it is something that will keep you at the lodge for a long time.


Hotel Vanilla

This is a budget accommodation facility located in Bundibugyo two. It has 7 self-contained rooms, a fully stocked bar and a local food restaurant. It is a great starting point to visit the Semuliki national park.