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Semliki National Park Uganda

 Semuliki National Park Uganda

shoebils-in-semuliki-national-parkGazetted in 1993, the park covers an area of about 220 Sq.km and is a home to over 441 bird species and 53 mammal species. Located in Bwamba County, a remote part of the Bundibugyo District in western Uganda, Semuliki Park is one of Uganda’s newest national parks.

Semuliki National Park Uganda stretches across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the isolated, western side of the Rwenzori and it is largely covered by the Ituri forest eastern extension from the Congo basin. Semuliki is one of the ancient and most diverse forests in Africa which managed to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago.

The park possesses a number of features related with the central rather than eastern Africa; the thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms, the Semuliki River – a remarkable international boundary is a replica of the Congo River, the wildlife species that inhabit the forest have their ancestral backgrounds in Central Africa while the Pygmy local community are former forest dwellers of Ituri.

Thus on can conclusively note that Semuliki is a typical replica of Central Africa in Uganda thus hitting two birds with one stone while on your Safari in Uganda. The existence of the mighty Sempaya hot springs is a clear evidence of older processes dating up to 25,000 years ago and the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley for the last 14 million years.

How to get there.

Two major roads lead to Semuliki;

  • Kampala – Mubende – Fort Portal, which is 300km and about 4-5 hours’ drive
  • Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara – Kasese – Fort Portal, which is about 510km and about 7-8 hours’ drive.

From Fort Portal, it is about 50km to the Sempaya gate, which is about 2 hours of drive on a dirt road. While the Kampala-Fort Portal via Mubende is much shorter, the Kampala-Fort Portal via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese presents an opportunity to visit Lake Mburo National Park, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Air travel from Entebbe to Semuliki National park can be arranged using low-cost carriers like Aero link Uganda.

Sempaya Hot Springs

The Sempaya Hot Springs are rewarding features of Semuliki National Park. There are two main springs that are inclined near the southern corner of the forest in a luxurious marshy ground. The female spring is locally known as Nyasimbi and is closer to the Sempaya park office dominated by boiling geyser that spurs up to 2m high and seen from a distance of two kilometers. While the male spring is locally known as Bintente located over 30 minutes’ walk from Sempaya park office with a wide, steaming pool stretching over 12meters in diameter. Traditionally the springs were used as healing grounds by the local people due to their belief in them something that still stands today and can be witnessed on this Uganda Safari.

Local People

There are four diverse tribes staying adjacent to the park, they include, the Bamba and Bakonzo who are both farmers, with the former living along the base of the Ruwenzori Mountains while the latter cultivate the slopes of the Ruwenzori Mountains. The Batuku are cattle keepers and these inhibit the on the open plains. The most exciting group is the Batwa pygmies staying close to the forest since it was their traditional habitat. They are hunters and gatherers that depend on the forest for their livelihoods who formerly occupied the Ituri forest but were evicted when the park was gazetted for conservation and recreation. The traditional setting of all these culturally diverse groups is a rewarding encounter for a traveler on a Safari in Uganda.

Birds in Semuliki National Park Uganda.

Being one of Uganda’s oldest forests, it automatically proves it to be an ideal habitat for a variety of birds, with 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) such as the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Bird species that can be spotted without hustle include; the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill.

Vegetation:

Semuliki national park is greatly comprised of tropical lowland rainforest, classified as moist – deciduous. The forest contains about 336 species of trees, some of which are endemic to Semuliki in conjunction with few other neighboring forests while some like Lovoa swynnertonii and Cordia millenii are listed as endangered in Semuliki National Park. The center is dominated by Cynometra trees while the edges are beautifully varied with the riverine swamp forests along the Semuliki River and a beautiful mix of several tree species around Sempaya.

Semuliki National Park is a survival ground for over 53 species of mammals 27 of which are large mammals. 11 species are identified as endemic to Semuliki including the pygmy antelope and 2 species of the flying squirrel. Other wildlife include; forest elephants, forest buffalos, hippos and crocodiles found in the Semuliki River, blue duiker, and the water chevrotain, known as the “fanged deer”. The forest is home to a number of primates that include Chimpanzees, grey-cheeked Mangabey, baboon, black-and-white Colobus, central African red Colobus, vervet monkeys, and Dent Mona monkeys. Pottos, and bushbabies are nocturnal primates. 

Tourist activities in Semuliki National Park Uganda.

  • Game drives.

Three tracks have been designed to unleash the game of Semulki to travelers on Uganda Safaris. They cross the savannah grassland of Toro- Semuliki Wildlife Reserve presenting chances to view smaller forest and larger savannah elephants, buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob. Pygmy hippopotami, leopards and elusive bushbabies can also be spotted though rarely seen. This activity can take place in the morning, afternoon and at night; after dark – to spot the nocturnal species such as the white-tailed mongoose.

  • Birding.

Ntandi and Sempaya provide a rewarding experience to a birder on Uganda Safari. Some of the species that can be viewed include; the White crested horn bill, Piping Hornbill, Yellow- throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, among others.

The area around Kirimia 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

  • Nature walks in Semuliki National Park Uganda.

Take a walk in Semuliki National park to encounter the wilderness face to face. Trails like the 13km Kirimia trail pass through the heart of the forest to the Semuliki River taking over 8 hour round trip and start at 8am presenting a unique offer for birders. The 11km Red Monkey Track shadows the park’s eastern border presenting opportunity for viewing the rare deBrazza’s monkey up to Semuliki River. The 8km Sempaya Nature Trail, one is able to view the hot springs and primates. Various activities can be carried out at the springs including boiling plantains and eggs to enrich your travel experience on this Uganda Safari. This 2-4 hour hike is suitable both in the morning or afternoon.

Cultural encounters. Encounter the Batwa community at Ntandi to diffuse in their way of life and get astonished by their rich history and art while on Uganda safari. Stand in a state of wonder while listening in the Batwa cultural performances and their legends that have shaped their lives for centuries past. Opportunity for photography with this threatened people can be arranged to enrich your travel archives.

Accommodation in Semuliki National Park Uganda.

Sempaya Area.

Kirimia Guesthouse.

Kirimia Village, 100 from the Kirimia trailhead and 10km from Sempaya towards Bundibugyo provide overnight stay with meals.

National Park Bandas and Campsite.

The park provides a campsite with basic cottages at Bumaga, 2.5 km from Sempaya. Meals can be prepared to order. Cooking facilities are available with utensils available from hire.

Toro – Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.

Semuliki Safari Lodge.

It has eight luxury, en-suite tented rooms with a maximum capacity of 18 people. Each has a fireplace, private bathroom and hot water with a magnificent pool area where guests can relax between and after activities.Staying under canvas is one of the most romantic and exciting things to do on safari in Uganda.  Tents are protected by a thick thatch roof and feature en-suite bathrooms with running water, hot showers and flush toilets.  Tea or coffee is brought to you in the morning so you can lie in bed or sit on your veranda and drink in the view before the day begins.

Lodge Amenities

  • Dry cleaning/ laundry service
  • On-site dining area and bar
  • Pool
  • Library/reading area
  • Souvenir/gift shop
  • On-site wildlife viewing

The adjacent towns of Fort Portal and Bundibugyo also provide supplementary accommodation to travelers visiting Semuliki National park.

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