Semuliki National Park is one of the richest areas of Forest birds in Africa and mostly known for the two hot springs. Semuliki National Park lies on Uganda’s border and Democratic Republic of Congo, at north of the park is Lake Albert and Rwenzori mountains south east of the park.
Semuliki National Park is located in the Bundibugyo District in the Western Region of Uganda, it was gazetted as a national park in 1993. Semuliki has a diverse vegetation due to the different climate at the areas where it lies, this makes it a home for various wildlife like animals, plants, and birds.
The park also borders the Limia and Semuliki rivers that provide life to its wildlife. Semuliki`s dense forests were originally a home for the Bambuti pygmies (also referred to as the Batwa), later on other ethnic groups like the Bambwa and Bakonzo who are farmers, and Batuku who live on the plains of the Semuliki valley. These people have an interesting culture and customs any visitor should never miss.
ACCESS TO SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
Semuliki National Park lies along the Fort portal to Bundibugyo road and is either accessed by road or air transport.
By road, Semuliki National Park can be reached from Kampala via the Mubende and Fort portal, taking approximately 5 hours and then proceed to the park. The other route from Kampala is via the Kasese, Mbarara and Fort portal, taking approximately 8 hours to the park.
By air, Semuliki National Park has an Airfield and can be reached from central using aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield.
BIO DIVERSITY IN SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
Semuliki National Park lies in amidst of several climatic and ecological zones, making it gifted with a variety of plant and animal species. Many of plant and animal species are also found in the Congo Basin Forest, and most of these species are only found in these reserves all over East Africa.
Semuliki is a home for over 55 mammal species, for example Bush babies, Hippopotamus, Dent’s mona monkey, Bay duiker, Leopards, Chimpanzee, Central African red colobus, forest buffalo, olive baboon, Sitatunga, elephant, water chevrotain, Pottos and many more, of which some of these are noticeable, others rare and the rest nocturnal.
The Semuliki National park also inhabits over 450 bird species, these include; Iyre-tailed honey guide, Dwarf honey guide, Forest ground thrush, Spot-breasted Ibis, Black dwarf hornbill, Nkulengu rail, Congo serpent eagle, White-crested, Piping Hornbill, Gabon woodpecker, White-tailed hornbill, Capuchin babbler, Blue-headed crested flycatcher, Forest napped pigeon among others; it’s also a home for over 30 butterfly species, 235 moth species and over 300 tree species.
This place has a varying temperature from 18 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius, with moderate daily variations. There are two dry seasons from January to February and from June to August although it can rain anytime. The wet seasons from March to May and from September to December. The rains are always heavy causing floods in some areas of the park.
ACTIVITIES AND ATTRACTIONS ON SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
SEMPAYA HOT SPRINGS
The two hot springs at Semuliki National Park are a must lookout, there is Male Hotspring known as Biteete which is a one hour walk from the park office at Sempaya, and Female Hot Spring known as Nyansimbi which is close to the office.
Rituals are also performed at these springs by the Bamaga Clan every year so as to mollify their ancestors since they believe that their Male ancestors live underneath the Male hot spring and Female ancestors underneath the Female hot springs. Visitors boil eggs and plantain from the surrounding pools of the hot springs.
NATURE WALKS IN SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
Semuliki National Park offers the opportunity to explorer the wild on foot, there are various nature trails depending on the visitor’s interests, some of these trails include Kirimia trail, Red monkey trail. The park´s office at Sempaya is the start point for most of the natural walks.
During the walking various species of mammals like primates, elephants, butterflies, moths, plants mostly trees and birds are quietly and closely observed. The walking can either be done during day and others at the night.
Semuliki National Park is embraced with over 450 bird species making it a definite destination for bird watchers, it’s one of the richest areas for forest birds and also the Albertine Rift endemics. The park has various spots for bird watching, with unique and interesting birds for bird watchers and researchers, the spots include;
The Semuliki valley which is a home for most of the birds in this park like the Forest Francolin, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Black Dwarf, Nkulengu Rail, Red-chested Owlet, Long-tailed Hawk, Bates Nightjar, Gabon Woodpecker, White-throated Blue Swallow, Forest Ground Thrush;
The shores of Lake Albert that inhabit mostly the Shoebill Stork; and the cliffs behind Sempaya which are a home to the Black-shouldered Nightjar, Freckled Nightjar among others.
THE BAMBUTI CULTURE TRAIL
The slopes of Semuliki River and the forests provide a home to the Bambuti pygmies who are a smaller group than the Batwa, these people are hunters who move from one place to another. The culture trail reveals the lifestyle of the Bambuti for example their homes, food, dressing, growing and smoking of Marijuana, and the unique cultural background. The trail is led by experienced Bambuti guides who introduce and demonstrate their tradition to the visitors.
Most of the game drives are done in the Semuliki Valley, during the drive, various animals are seen, these animals include Forest Elephants and Buffalos, savanna Elephants and Buffalos, Pygmy Antelopes, Waterbucks, Crocodiles, Warthogs, Flying Squirrels, Water Chevron, Lions, Leopards, Pygmy Hippos and Bush babies. The game drives within the park are done during the day and night accompanied by experienced rangers.
ACCOMMODATION IN SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
There are so many accommodation facilities located in and around Semuliki National Park, they range from the budget facilities to the midrange facilities to the most luxury facilities. These facilities offer different types of accommodation including lodges, campsites, and cottages managed by the UWA. Around the park are good accommodation facilities like lodges, hotels among others found in Fort portal and Bundibugyo towns.