Semuliki National park
Semuliki National Park is one of the 10 national parks that are visited by tourists on a Uganda Safari. The national park is found in Bundibugyo district in the western region of Uganda. The park lies on the Uganda-Congo border and neighbors Rwenzori Mountains in the Southeast, and Lake Albert in the northern part of the national park.
Semuliki National Park in western Uganda covers a total area of 220 square kilometers, and lies at an attitude of 670 to 760 meters above sea level. The national park was established in 1993 and is one of the newest national parks in the national parks in the country. The park is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority, a government parastatal which is in charge of overseeing all the national parks and game reserves in the country.
In 1932, the national park was previously referred to as Semuliki Forest Reserve and then declared a national park 61 years later. It is among some of the richest biological areas in Africa with a wide bio-diversity base of different plant and wildlife species.
The national park is situated within the Albertine Rift Valley, west of the East African Rift Valley. Semuliki national park is features two rivers, Semliki and the Lamia rivers, which act as permanent sources of water for wildlife animals in the park.
Semuliki national park in Uganda also has interesting attractions which include Mumbuga and Sempaya hot springs. These hot springs attract both local and international tourists who want to relax and unwind at the hot springs. Different activities can be carried out at the hot springs such as; taking baths, collecting water from the hot springs for drinking and cooking among others. The hot springs also attract quite a number of birds and provide salt licks for many animals.
Semuliki national park also shelters about 441 species of birds and at least 53 species of mammals. There are four different ethnic groups that live near the national park, and these include; Bwamba farmers who live along the foothills of mount Rwenzori, the Bakonjo who reside on the slopes of the mountain, the Batuku cattle keepers who stay in the open savannah plains and lastly, the Batwa pygmies who live on the edge of the forest.
Major Attractions in Semuliki National Park.
Interesting attractions found in Semuliki national park include;
Sempaya Hot Springs:
The renowned Sempaya hot springs found in Semuliki national park are a major attraction in the national park. A visit to the hot springs is the major highlight of any nature walk activity in the national park. The hot springs have both a “male” and “female” spring. The male hot spring is known as ‘Bintente,’ and measures 12 meters in width, located in a lush and swampy area. The female hot spring is called ‘Nyasimbi,’ which means ‘the female ancestors’ in the local language. The water in the female hot spring boils at a temperature of 103°C; spurting bubbling water and steam two meters high. Visitors can see the steam cloud from as far as 2 kilometers away. The Sempaya hot springs hold a cultural significance to the native people living near the national park.
The Semliki River:
The Semliki River in Semuliki national park is a 160 kilometer long river and it flows from the Rwenzori Mountains and pours its waters into Lake Albert and finally into River Nile, the world’s longest river. There are quite a number of wildlife animals that visitors can spot at the river, such as; hippos, crocodiles and even bird species like the rare Shoebill stork.
Tourists visiting the park Uganda can spot lots of wildlife animals in the park such as; birds, monkeys, forest elephants, hippos, potto, bush babies and crocodiles among others. Visitors can even sight chimpanzees in the forest reserve areas of the national park.
Other places of interest outside the national park include the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve which is considered to be the oldest game reserve in Uganda. It is also a great place to carry out chimpanzee trekking activities.
What to do in Semuliki National Park.
Semuliki national park is not so big a national park, and therefore there is not much to do in the park. However, visitors who wish to visit this national park can take part in some activities like;
- Hiking to Sempaya Hot Springs: Visitors in Semuliki national park can embark on a guided hiking expedition to the famous Sempaya hot springs. The trail leading to the ‘male’ hot spring takes visitors through a relatively large forest where you will be able to see primates like; the red-tailed monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, and the black & white colobus monkeys. Hikes to the male hot spring last only an hour. The trail leading to the female hot spring takes about 30 minutes, and takes tourists through a palm forest. Visitors can pack a few raw eggs and plantain which you can cook on arrival at this hot spring.
- Guided Nature Walks: Semuliki National Park offers visitors guided nature walks and visitors are always accompanied by experienced guides. The Kirumia trail is a 13km long trail which takes visitors through the heart of the forest and climaxes at Semliki River. Hiking activities on this trail start at 8am and take 8 hours to and from. It is ideal for birders. Another trail that visitors can use is the Red monkey track, which is 11km long and takes visitors through the park’s eastern border to the Semliki River. Visitors hiking this trail are rewarded with sights of primates such as; the red-tailed monkeys, and the rare DeBrazza’s monkeys.
- Bird Watching: Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda are best done in Semuliki National Park. Birding activities take place in Sempaya and Ntandi, and offer visitors splendid views of forest birds such as; the White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, the Great blue and Ross’s Turaco, and the Yellow-throated Nicator among others. Visitors can also do birding in Kirumia River, and birders can spot the rare Shoebill stork on the shores of Lake Albert.
- Game Drives: Visitors in Semuliki national park can also opt for a game drive in the national park where you can be able to spot wildlife animals like; forest elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks, crocodiles, warthogs, the pygmy hippopotami, leopards and bush babies and the Uganda Kob among others.
- Cultural Encounters: Visitors on a cultural tour or community visit are able to visit local Batwa homesteads just outside the national park. Visitors can interact with the local people in these communities, learn about their cultural history, and also watch dance performances from the locals.
Where to Stay in Semuliki National Park.
Visitors looking for accommodation in Semuliki National Park can do so in the following lodging facilities; Kirimia Guesthouse, UWA Bandas and Campsite in Sempaya, and Semliki Safari Lodge. There are other accommodation facilities outside the national park like Hotel Vanilla, Picfare Guesthouse, and Semliki Guest House in Bundibugyo.
How to Access the National Park.
Tourists can access Semuliki National Park by road. The national park is located about 180 kilometers from Kampala City via Mubende, and approximately 465 kilometers via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese districts. The park is situated 59 kilometers from Fort Portal and the park’s headquarters at Ntandi is situated 6km further along the road.
Semuliki National Park can also be accessed by air from Entebbe International Airport. Aviation companies such as Aerolink Uganda offer domestic flights to most of the national parks in Uganda, Semuliki national park inclusive.
A visit to Semuliki National Park in Uganda can be combined with other activities such as gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park, a game drive or boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth National Park or a game drive in Lake Mburo National Park. The national park can be visited at any time of the year.