Semliki National Park
Semliki National Park also known as Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve is one of the oldest protected natural areas in Uganda which was once one of the best-stocked and most popular wildlife parks in East Africa until it suffered significant poaching during the civil-war years. Semliki Wildlife Reserve is primarily composed of tropical lowland forest creating an amazing but startling contrast to the rugged Rwenzori Mountains nearby due to its dense nature and flatness.
The Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve has two watering places including the River Semliki and River Lamia flowing through the reserve attracting numerous wildlife that transfer to drink water and enjoy the serene vegetation. The park protects 220km² of the un-spoilt tract of rainforest bounded to the northwest by the Semliki River running along the Congo-Uganda border into Lake Albert forming a tropical lowland forest of Semliki with an ecological continuum into the Ituri Forest that extends eastward into the Congo River supporting a variety of wildlife only existent here in E. Africa.
Set at the base of the northern part of the Rwenzori Mountains, the park offers scenic and beautiful views of the lower-lying remote Semliki National Park that is home to a vast array of colorful wildlife which forms distinct interest to ornithologists. The Sempaya Hot Springs is one the most prominent activity in Semliki National Park and is an ideal destination as it attracts various bird species and wildlife that enjoy the salty water of the springs. Although they are plenty of activities to uncover the secrets of the surrounding wilderness with the main means of exploration being walks and hikes.
The Lake Albert near the Semliki Reserve is one of the best places to sight the enigmatic swamp-dwelling shoebill stork and a lot more to enjoy in the reserve including a community of about 70 chimpanzees, which have been habituated and can be tracked on a network of trails. Along these trails you will experience a mixture of different cultures from the different with ethnic groups living around the reserve. You can opt to visit the community of the pygmies near the Sempaya gate witnessing their lifestyles, traditions, dances
and purchase some souvenirs to carry back home.
The park receives moderate rainfall amounts of 1,250 mm with its temperatures varying from 18 to 30 °C due to the strategic location of the park. During the months of March to May and September to December, the park receives high volumes of rainfall leading to flooding in some areas in the park.
Wildlife & Vegetation
Semliki National Park offers amazing scenery with the road showcasing breathtaking scenic views of Semliki river meanders, the fuming hot springs and the tropical rain forests extending up to Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The two hot springs in the tract of hot mineral encrusted swampland are rich invisible birds, insects alongside mammalian life.
The park has an amazing jungle life with breathtaking sights and calls of birds, chatters of primates, and beautiful sights for butterfly and plant lovers including 305 species of trees recorded, of which 125 species are restricted to this park alone. The jungle walks and hikes are the best way to explore and enjoy the beauty of the park.
The Toro Semliki Reserve is home to 53 species of mammal species also found in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park including; Buffalo, Uganda Kob, Waterbuck, Warthog, Giant Forest Hog, Hippopotamus. Primates include Chimpanzees, Baboons and Monkeys including Vervet, Red-tailed and Black and White Colobus. The growing and unique population of 200 elephants with both the savannah and forest Elephant plus a hybrid from the inter-breeding. Researchers from the University of Indiana.
Birding is a major tourism activity in the Semliki Reserve as it has that variety of vegetation types inhabiting different 400 bird species of birds including forest birds, wetland birds, grassland birds as well as water birds and 300 butterfly species to the tourist’s advantage. The walks always begin from the Sempaya Gate through the rainforest with harboring over 305 species of trees with 125 species restricted to this park ending at the Hot Springs lasting about 2 hours.
Things to do
Semliki National Park is in the remote corner of southwestern Uganda and protects an eastern extension of the vast Ituri Forest stretching across the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Zaire River. Being a relatively stable forest, it is one of the richest areas for forest birds in Africa. The park is a very interesting place to visit as it offers a magnitude of activities for the traveler’s satisfaction including;
Game Drives : A Game drive is one of the most exhilarating activities to enjoy while on safari in Uganda as the park has a number of tracks which travelers can transfer on to view the various wildlife animals that inhabit the vegetation around the park. The game drives in the park can be scheduled to your convenience i.e. morning, afternoon and night where you will spot various nocturnal animals like the white-tailed mongoose. The park has 3 tracks traversing the beautiful Savannah grassland of the Wildlife Reserve where you will enjoy wildlife like; the Savannah elephants, buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog, Uganda Kob, pygmy hippopotami, bush babies and leopards.
Bird Watching : Bird watching at Semliki National Park is a rewarding activity to all birding enthusiasts searching for a remarkable adventure. The hot springs of Sempaya, Kirumia River and Ntandi offer amazing birding experiences with lots of birds to be viewed including; the white-crested hornbill, red-billed dwarf hornbill, piping hornbill, yellow-throated nicator, great blue, spot-breasted ibis, hartlaubs’s duck, chestnut-flanked goshawk, red-thighed sparrowhawk, long-tailed hawk, forest francolin, nkulengu rail, western bronze-napped pigeon, black-collared lovebird, yellow-throated cuckoo, red-chested owlet, bates’ nightjar, chocolate-backed, white-bellied and african dwarf kingfishers, white-crested, black dwarf, red-billed dwarf, piping and black-wattled hornbills, red-rumped tinkerbird, spotted, lyre-tailed and zenker’s honeyguides, african piculet, gabon woodpecker, red-sided broadbill, white-throated blue swallow, green-tailed bristlebill, sassi’s olive, xavier’s, swamp, simple and eastern bearded greenbuls, yellow-throated nicator, capuchin babbler, northern bearded scrub robin, forest and grey ground thrushes, lemon-bellied crombec, brown-crowned eremomela, blue-headed crested flycatcher, ituri batis, red-billed helmet -shrike, red-eyed puff-back, black-winged starling, maxwell’s black weaver, blue-billed, crested and red-bellied malimbes, pale-fronted and chestnut-breasted negro finches, grant’s blue bill.turacos as well as the Shoebill Stork which is seen along the shores of Lake Albert.
Nocturnal Bird Watching : The hot springs at Sempaya have very scenic grounds that also offer great birding experiences with them. cliffs behind the ranger post being home some of the nocturnal birding species like the crepuscular freckled nightjar, black-shouldered nightjars, buff-spotted flufftail, African wood owl, African goshawk, red-thighed and great sparrows, ayres hawk-eagle and Cassin’s Spinetail.
The Hot Springs : The hot springs are the park’s most sought-after attraction offering amazing and unique Adventures to travelers as they walk to the Sempaya Hot springs. Your guide will carry out an experiment where you carry your plantain and eggs too deep them into the gushing water from beneath making them ready to eat. Along the trails to the hot springs, you will have beautiful views at the black and white Colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked Mangabeys as well as birds.
Hiking and Nature Walks : The best way to explore and enjoy the adventure in Semliki National Park is through hiking and nature walks encounters, the park has 3 trails that traverse the park including;
- Kirumia Trail: This trail is 13km and lasts 8 hours taking you through the middle of the forest towards the Semliki River and is a perfect trail for birders.
- The Red Monkey Trail: This trail is 11km which proceeding along the Eastern boundary of the park ending at the Semliki River offering remarkable views of the rare deBrazza’s monkey.
- Sempaya Nature Trail: This 8km trail lasts between 2-4 hours offering the traveler amazing views of the Sempaya Hot Springs
Cultural Encounters : They are many ethnic groups in and around Semliki National Park, a visit to the famous Batwa people is rewarding as you explore the unique community, their way of livelihood and survival since the ancient days. They tell you ancient stories and illustrate how they use the forest to meet their basic needs like food, shelter, medicine and tools.
Boat Cruise : Boat rides are conducted on Lake Albert where you will enjoy views of different bird species like the shoe-billed stork, African pygmy goose, blue-breasted, blue-cheeked bee-eaters and blue-headed coucal.
Semliki National Park comprises of a grassy savanna and acacia-combretum woodland at the northern end of Lake Albert with stands of Borassus palms, lakeshore marshland and broad river valleys filled with beautiful galley forest all add variety
How To Get There?
- Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende is 290 km
- Kampala to Fort Portal via Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese is about 465 km.
Follow the route to Semuliki National Park from Fort Portal for the first 28 km before turning right at the Karugutu trading centre.
There is an air field managed by UWA so visitors can charter planes and land at Semliki Safari Lodge where the airfield is situated.
When To Visit?
Semliki National Park can be visited any time of the year through the hot dry time is January to February and is a good time to visit. The park receives a mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September-November. The climate is generally pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14-27oC. Temperatures are highest in the south where the terrain drops down onto the hot rift valley floor and forest gives way to open grassland.
Dry Season: June to September is the driest time and temperatures average 80°F when most animals remain near water, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time.
Rainy Season: It rains anytime from October to December and March to May when many roads become challenging to use.
Semliki Forest National Park is one of the visited safari sites in Uganda with several accommodation options available in Sempaya Hot Springs, Ntandi Road, Semliki River and outside in the Semliki National Park to suit every travelers’ budget, taste and preference and they include;
Semliki Reserve Lodge : Situated in the Semliki Valley wildlife reserve wilderness, it is a luxurious lodge offering an amazing experience with all the balcony’s presenting a stunning panoramic view of the reserve, mountains, savannah, forest and river valley alongside the beautiful calls of the birds. Also nearby are the Sempaya hot springs, a natural lure for all visitors and Congo’s magnificent Blue Mountains.
Ntoroko Game Lodge : Located in the Semliki Game Reserve, west of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountain. The lodge is situated on the shores of Lake Albert and is bordered to South by Fortportal town, to the East by Kibale, and Bundibugyo to the South-West.
The lodge’s location offers a breath-taking view across some of Uganda’s noteworthy attractions; the legendary Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Albert and the natural beach sands, the rolling hills, forests and green savannahs.
Kirimia Guest house : This is a budget an establishment located in the Kirimia Village 100m from the Kirimia Trail Head, 10km from Sempaya along the road heading to Bundibugyo town. The stay at Kirimia Guesthouse offers a close encounter with the Semliki National Park where counts of primates including Black and white Colobus monkeys, Chimpanzee among others, birds and the lush flora generate lifetime experience on your safari in Uganda.