The Semuliki National Park is one of Uganda’s hidden gems. Located in Western Uganda in Bundibugyo District, Semuliki is an excellent birding spot and shelters one of the world’s most powerful hot springs “The Sempaya hot springs.” The Park lies close to the Congo border and on the Southeastern side, there is a spectacular Rwenzori Mountain range, and the Northern part, Semuliki is surrounded by the scenic Lake Albert.
Lying between an altitude range of 670 and 760 meters, Semuliki is a popular travel destination with the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa. Its location makes it home to most of the Central African features. Its boundary is defined by the Semuliki River which lies between the D.R. Congo and Ugandan border. The Eastern vastest Ituri forest of the Congo basin dominates the Semuliki National Park and this is one of the least explored Uganda Safaris Parks. While making up your Uganda travel guide, this is one of the parks that should not miss on your list.
Semuliki was first founded as a Forest Reserve in 1932 and in 1993, it upgraded to a National Park. It occupies a compact land area of 220sq.km featuring patches of wetland and bamboo forest.
Animals to see
The compact Semuliki National Park supports over 53 species of mammals and other wildlife species. They include forest buffaloes, elephants, sitatungas, chimpanzees, bay duikers, leopards, fire-footed rope squirrel, dwarf antelopes, flying squirrels, fruit bats, vervet monkeys, red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, pottos, bush babies, black and white colobus monkeys, etc.
Semuliki National Park has over 441 species of birds and it is, without doubt, a birder’s paradise, 67% of these are forest birds. The birds to see include dwarf honey guide, the Sassi’s olive greenbul, orange weaver birds, Congo serpent eagles, lyre-tailed honey guide, white-tailed hornbill, Ituri batis, purple-breasted sunbird, Nkulengu rail, blue-headed crested flycatchers, crested malimbe, Maxwell’s black weaver bird, leaf love, long-tailed hawks, ross’s turacos, swamp palm bulbul, black wattled hornbill, shoebill, yellow-throated cuckoo, and more.
The Sempaya hot springs
The Sempaya hot spring is Semuliki National Park’s iconic attraction. It is comprised of female and male hot springs, also rated among the world’s most powerful hot springs with boiling at temperature range of 100 Degrees Celsius.
Tour Activities to engage in on Uganda tours in Semuliki NP
Chimpanzee tracking is an exciting primate adventure that you should expect to engage in on a Uganda safari in Semuliki National Park. This primate trek is conducted in the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Trekking with chimps in this park can take you between 2 and 4 hours and other primates will also be encountered.
Semuliki is without a doubt a birder’s favorite spot. A variety of Albertine rift valley, Central African, and lowland forest birds can be sighted on a birding tour in this park. Over 441 bird species are supported in the different parts of Semuliki National Park and include 46 Guinea-Congo biome species. The birds of Semuliki include the yellow-throated nicator, dwarf honey guide, shoebills, African piculet, yellow-throated cuckoos, great blue and Ross’s turacos, swamp palm bulbul, white-crested hornbill, orange weavers, red-billed dwarf hornbill, Western bronze-napped pigeon, brown-crowned eremomela, white-spotted fluff tail, black-collared lovebird, African dwarf kingfishers, eastern bearded greenbul, and others. The birding areas in Semuliki Park include the Semuliki River, Sempaya, Kirumia and Ntandi trails.
Nature walks/hikes introduce visitors deep inside and round the Semuliki lush forest with an experienced park guide. The park is blessed with numerous off-beaten paths and includes the Red monkey trail, 11km, and offers higher chances to see the DeBrazza’s monkey, Kirumia trail, Sempaya nature trail leading to the Sempaya hot springs, and offers the best sights of primates like colobus monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, red-tailed monkeys. Birding trails include Kirumia, Ntandi, Sempaya, and Semliki River.
Semuliki offers excellent night game viewing experiences even during day. Game drives in this protected area are carried in the 3 game tracks, and they come with clear sightings of buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, leopards, waterbucks, warthogs, birds and others. This however is possible in the nearby Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
The Sempaya hot spring expedition
This is the main attraction and makes Semuliki National Park a popular destination. It has both female- Nyasimbe & male hot springs – Bintente. The Sempaya hot springs boil at the rate of 100 Degrees Celsius and you can come along with some plantains or eggs to experiment.
The Batwa/Bamba and Bakonjo communities live adjacent to Semuliki and community or cultural tours can be organized. This is for you to interact and explore more about the lifestyles, traditions, cultures, and practices of residents.
When you should visit Semuliki
Semuliki National Park is open to all tourists any time of the year, but the most favorite time is during the dry season. This occurs in two phases; the long and short with the long months running from June, July, August to September, and December, January to February. These are the preferred months of the year to explore the park, especially if you are interested in hiking.
Accommodation in and around Semuliki National Park
- Budget safari lodges: Campsites, UWA Bandas, Kirimia Guesthouse, and cottages
- Midrange accommodation; Ntoroko Game Lodge/Mountains of the Moon Hotel
- Luxury: Semuliki Safari Lodge/Nyati Game Lodge
Getting there –the routes to take
Travel by road; set off from Kampala along the Mityana-Mubende-Fort Portal tourism city route to Semuliki, 7 to 8 hours’ drive. Or take the Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese route, about 9 hours’ drive. Take a flight, setting off from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield and you will be landing at Semuliki airstrip.