Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park is located in the western region of Uganda in Bundibugyo district, although the park was less visited in the past it has quickly recently gathered popularity as it offers incredible wildlife sightings and opportunity to see the female and male Sempaya hot springs. The national park was legally gazetted in 1932 and was initially known as the Toro Game Reserve but later acquired national park status and its current name in 1993. Semuliki national park is a popular bird watching destination and offers incredible sightings while on a Uganda Birding Safari.
The national park is situated in the western section of the East African Rift Valley at the base of the Albertine rift making it a hub for Albertine rift endemics. It covers an area of 219 square kilometres that is rich in flora and fauna biodiversity and is also a low land tropical rain forest encompassing lush green forested areas and landscape.
Vegetation of Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park has six vegetation types that are heavily supported by the abundance of rainfall as the park is situated in a mountainous area along the border of Democratic Republic of Congo. The vegetation types have in the later years been affected by agricultural activities but thanks to the Uganda Wildlife Authority that has set up community projects to educate the locals on the importance of conservation of Semuliki national park. In addition a percentage of the park entrance fees is channeled to the community which further encourages locals to participate in conservation because it benefits their communities.
The vegetation in the park includes dense vegetation such as forests and papyrus swamps, mixed forest with flowers that attract a lot of sunbirds, deciduous forest, plant species with the dominant being the Uganda ironwood, tree species, herbaceous climbers and gently undulating green landscape. Semuliki national park is the only tropical rainforest in Uganda that represents the Congo-Basin vegetation.
Wildlife of Semuliki National Park
The national park is home to 53 mammal species. The park is a habitat for primate species that include Chimpanzees, Black-and-white colobus monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, Red-cheeked Mangabey, Olive baboons, Vervet monkeys, Pottos and Bush babies. Other large mammals in the park include African Elephant, Bush pig, Buffalo, Sitatunga, African Civet, Warthogs, and White-bellied duiker.
11 species of mammals are only found in Semuliki national park and nowhere else in Uganda and these include the pygmy flying squirrel, mona monkey,bay duiker, beercroft’s flying squirrel, six types of bat among others.
Birds of Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park is rich in bird life making it a bird watcher’s paradise with over 441 species of birds and at least 300 species of butterflies. Semuliki is mainly visited by bird watchers to look for the 35 Guinea-Congo forest biome bird species which are only found in this park and nowhere else in East Africa. Bird species to look out for in Semuliki national park while on a birding safari in Uganda include Yellow-throated cuckoo, Brown-eared woodpecker, White-crested Hornbill, Yellow-throated nicator, Red-Tailed Greenbull, African crake, Abyssinian Ground hornbill, African Dwarf Kingfisher, Marsh tchagra, Leaflove, Congo serpent eagle, Papyrus gonolek, Long-tailed hawk, Black-wattled hornbill, Carruthers’s cisticola, owls, Standard-winged night jars among other species. Semuliki national park is also home to the pre-historic elusive Shoebill which is best seen while on boat trip on Lake Albert at Ntoroko.
Top Activities to do while in Semuliki National Park
Bird Watching in Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park is one of the best birding spots in Uganda and has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA). A birding safari in Uganda should most definitely include Semuliki as it offers a chance to look for the 35 Guinea-Congo forest biome bird species. Bird species to look out for while birding in Semuliki national park include Yellow-throated cuckoo, Brown-eared woodpecker, White-crested Hornbill, Yellow-throated nicator, Red-Tailed Greenbull and African Dwarf Kingfisher among others.
Sempaya Hot Springs Trail
The guided trail to Sempaya Hot springs takes you through a scenic section of the rain forest where red-tailed monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys and red cheeked mangabey are usually sighted. The hot springs are classified in to the female and male hot springs. The Sempaya hot springs are Semuliki’s main attraction with the springs boiling at a temperature of 103 degrees celcius. The trail offers a scenic view of the hot springs with a dramatic backdrop of the lush green undulating landscape of Semuliki national park.The guided trail takes about 2- 3 hours.
Nature walks in Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park offers nature walks across the national park with well-developed trails. The trails include the 11 km red-monkey trail, the 13 km Kirumia trail and the 8km Sempaya nature trail. You can choose which trail to go on and you will be assigned a guide from Uganda Wildlife Authority. The nature walks are rewarding as they take you through the moist evergreen forest.
The Chimpanzee trek takes you in to the forest as you look out for man’s closest relatives – the chimpanzees. Chimpanzees share 97% of man’s DNA and are the top primate specie of Uganda.You start the chimpanzee trekking tour with briefing from your ranger guide at the Semuliki national park wildlife headquarters. In addition to looking out for the chimps the chimpanzee trek offers opportunities to look out for other mammal species and birds.
Boat Ride on Lake Albert
The boat rides on Lake Albert at Ntoroko are a prime activity while on a Uganda Safari in Semuliki national park as they offer opportunities to search for bird species, hippos and crocodiles.The boat ride on Lake Albert is the best place to look out for the elusive shoe bill while on a bird watching safari in Uganda.
How to get to Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park can be accessed by road from Kampala city and is a 6 hour -7 hour drive from Kampala. You take the Kampala -Mubende – Fortportal highway, on arrival in Fortpotal town you continue along the Nyakasura – Budibugyo road till you get to the park headquarters. The drive to the park is a scenic drive that takes you through the busy town, lush green landscape and rolling mountainous area of Bundibugyo district. Alternatively you can take a chartered flight with a local airline from Entebbe International Airport to Kasese town and after transfer by road to Semuliki national park.
Accommodation in Semuliki National Park
Accommodation facilities in Semuliki national park are few since the park was previously less visited but with more visitors coming to the park, accommodation facilities have been set up and these include;
Semuliki Safari Lodge – this is the best safari lodge option in the park at the moment. The lodge is a luxury facility located in the Toro-Semuliki wildlife reserve and features thatched cottages with a touch of African interior décor. The safari lodge has excellent staff, a dining area serving scrumptious meals and can only accommodate 18 guests at a time hence offering you privacy and tranquillity.
Ntoroko Game Lodge – Ntoroko game lodge is a mid-range facility situated in the Semuliki game reserve that has 5 comfortable tents for guests with stunning views of the Rwenzori Mountain ranges. All the tents are en-suite and feature comfortable wooden beds made by locally sourced materials, clean linen and mosquito nets for each tent.
Alternatively accommodation can be arranged in Fort portal town and then transfer by road for the activities in Semuliki national park and then transfer back to the hotel/lodge in Fort portal town at the end of the day. Accommodation Options in Fort portal town include Mountain of the moon hotel, Nyaika Hotel and Fort Motel.