Sempaya Hot Springs
Sempaya Hot Springs: Located at the heart of Semuliki National Park, Sempaya hot springs are the most visited hot springs in Uganda. These hot springs derive their name from a Swahili word “Sehemu mbaya” which in English means “the difficult side”-mainly because of the difficulties faced during the construction of the Fort Portal-Bundibugyo road along the ridges of the Rwenzori Mountain ranges.
The Sempaya hot springs in Semuliki national park are the main tourist attraction in the national park. The hot springs are composed of both a female and male hot spring which holds cultural significance to the local Bamaga clan- one of the ethnic communities that live adjacent to the national park.
The Bamaga people believe that the formation of the female and male hot spring is historical. The local folk believe that when a group of women went into the forest to fetch firewood, they saw a hairy man dressed in bark cloth wielding a spear and accompanied by a dog. The man and his dog were said to be moving in a zigzag way around the location where the male hot spring is currently located.
The women ran back home to tell their husbands what they had just seen; and when the men went in search for the strange man and his dog, they decided to take him back to their village and later got married to a woman in the same village. The man was called “Biteete” and his wife “Nyansimbi.”
The legend continues to tell of how Biteete went out hunting in the forest with his dog and disappeared. When the local men went in search for him, they found only his spear where the male hot spring is currently found. They returned back to their village and informed his wife of what had transpired.
On hearing the sad news of her husband’s disappearance, Nyansimbi ran to the forest in search for him and did not return. Later on, the locals found her clothes were the female hot spring is currently found.
Subsequently, the two hot springs became known as the female and male hot spring. To date, the local Bamaga people believe that their ancestors reside beneath the female and male hot spring- and they often offer sacrifices and their prayers in shrines that have been set up near both hot springs. This is done every November annually with the King of the Bamaga clan officiating the ceremony.
The female and male hot springs are situated apart from each other. The male hot spring also referred to as Biteete, is located in a dense swampy area and is about one kilometer from the park’s headquarters in Ntandi. The male hot spring is 12 metres wide; with steam evaporating from the hot spring.
A hike to the male hot spring takes about an hour- with a 30-minute hike to and from the hot spring. During your hike to the hot spring, you can encounter spectacular wildlife in the park such as duikers, antelopes, birds and even some primate species like the black and white colobus monkey.
The female hot spring, which is also known as Nyasimbi, is basically a geyser with hot water gushing out of its sprout at a temperature of 103˚C. The steam cloud from the female hot spring can be seen from a 2km distance. Tourists visiting the female hot spring are usually allowed to boil some eggs or even matooke (plantain) at the hot spring.
Locals usually visit the hot spring to cook their food, take water from the hot spring and even some take baths in the warm waters believing that the water from the hot spring contains healing elements.
Hiking to the female hot springs takes at most 5 to 15 minutes depending on your pace. Attractions to look out for during your hike include monkeys and bird species such as the Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Ituri Batis and the Yellow-throated Nicator to mention but a few.
Given that Semuliki national park is an extension of the Ituri forest from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the park host a large number of bird species with over 23 species of birds that are endemic to the national park.
Other Activities Offered in Semuliki National Park.
Besides visiting Sempaya hot springs in Semuliki national park, you can as well do other activities like; a game drive, guided nature walk, birding, cultural encounters and chimpanzee trekking in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
How to get to the park.
Semuliki national park is located in the south-western region of Uganda in Bundibugyo district. The park can easily be accessed by road from Kampala city via Masaka, Mbarara, Kasese and Fort Portal which is approximately an 8 hours’ drive on a tarmac road.