Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. The park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. This is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests; one of the few to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago.
The Semliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semliki River (which forms the international boundary) is a miniature version of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species, and the local population includes a Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri. As a result, this park provides a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda.
While Semuliki’s species have been accumulating for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
Park at a Glance
Size: 220km² with an altitude of 670-760m above sea level
Semuliki Forest Reserve was created in 1932 and upgraded to national park status in 1993.
It is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa, hosting 441 recorded bird species and 53 mammals.
Large areas of this low-lying park may flood during the wet season,a brief reminder of the time when the entire valley lay at the bottom of a lake for seven million years.
Four distinct ethnic groups live near the park – Bwamba farmers live along the base of the Rwenzori while the Bakonjo cultivate the mountain slopes. Batuku cattle keepers inhabit on the open plains and Batwa pygmies, traditionally hunter gathers, live on the edge of the forest.
The Park is located in Bwamba County, a remote part of the Bundibugyo District, in the Western Region of Uganda. It was made a national park in October 1993 and is one of Uganda’s newest national parks. 219 km2 of East Africa’s only lowland tropical rainforest is found in the park. It is one of the richest areas of floral and faunal diversity in Africa, with bird and butterfly species being especially diverse. The park is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. It is on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Rwenzori Mountains are to the south-east of the park, while Lake Albert is to the park’s north. The park lies within the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the East African Rift. The park is located on a flat to gently undulating landform that ranges from 670 to 760 m above sea level.
The park borders the Semliki and Lamia Rivers, which are watering places for many animals. The park has two hot springs in a hot mineral encrusted swamp. One of the springs – Mumbuga spring – resembles a geyser by forming a 0.5 m high fountain. These hot springs attract a large number of shorebirds and provide salt licks for many animals.
Things to do while at Semuliki NP
The main activities to expect to be part while at Semuliki NP include birding, visiting the hot springs, game drives (day or night game drives), nature walks, primate walks, visiting the local communities for cultural experience.
Less visited by tourists going on safaris in Uganda, you can enjoy several experiences with no crowds in this beautiful national park. Here are some of the the experiences that you should not miss;
- Hike through the monkey-filled forest to these boiling, gushing springs, and cook your eggs and plantain in the bubbling waters!
- The hour-long trail to the outer, “male” spring leads through a patch of forest where red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey and black-and-white colobus monkeys are common. A tree house en route provides an aerial view.
- A 30-minute hike through palm forest from the main road leads to the inner, “female” spring, dominated by a boiling geyser. Eggs and matooke (green plantain) can be cooked in these boiling waters and enjoyed by hungry hikers!
- Park visitors can engage in bird watching, walking to the savannah grassland, hiking through the 13 km Kirumia Trail, and visit the hot springs where the water is hot enough to cook eggs and plantain.
The area of Semuliki National Park is a distinct ecosystem within the larger Albertine Rift ecosystem. The park is located at the junction of several climatic and ecological zones, and as a result has a high diversity of plant and animal species and many microhabitats. Most of the plant and animal species in the park are also found in the Congo basin forests, with many of these species reaching the eastern limit of their range in Semuliki National Park. The vegetation of the park is predominantly medium altitude moist evergreen to semi deciduous forest. The dominant plant species in the forest is the Uganda ironwood. There are also tree species of a more evergreen nature and swamp forest communities.
The park has more than 400 bird species, including the lyre-tailed honey guide.216 of these species are true forest birds, including the rare Oberländer’s ground thrush, Sassi’s olive greenbul and nine hornbill species. The park provides habitat for over 60 mammal species, including African buffalo, leopard, hippopotamus, Mona monkey, water chevrotain, bush babies, African civet, African elephant, and the Pygmy scaly-tailed flying squirrel. Nine duiker species are found in the park, including the bay duiker. The park has eight primate species and almost 460 butterfly species. In the game drive in the park, you will see most of these animals and birds.
Getting to Semuliki NP
Semuliki NP is reachable by road from Kampala using 4WD tourist vehicle taking Mubende-Fort Portal route 5-6 hours’ drive or Kampala via Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese 7 hours’ drive. By air, fly from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Semliki airstrip in Kabarole district or Kasese airstrip/Mweya airfield then drive to Semuliki NP.
- Visit Semuliki – a Complete guide to visiting Semuliki National Park
- Information about Semuliki National Park from UgandaParks.com