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Semuliki National Park

Location: Western Uganda
Size: 220Km2

Semuliki National Park is located in Bundibugyo district in Western Uganda, beyond the Rwenzori Mountains and on the floor of the Semuliki section of the Albertine Rift Valley. The Park is a largely forested park that represents the easternmost limit of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin and contains numerous species associated with Central Africa rather than Eastern Africa.

Thatch huts around Semuliki are shaded by West African oil palms and the river Semuliki (which forms Uganda’s international boundary) is a miniature version of river Congo, while the local population includes a Batwa (Pygmy) community that originated from the Ituri. As a result, visiting Semuliki National Park will provide you a taste of Central Africa just a couple of hours from the comforts of Fort Portal.

Semuliki Forest is one of Africa’s most bio diverse forests and is particularly noted for its varied bird population. This biodiversity is enhanced by its great age, for it is one of Africa’s most ancient forests. During the dry conditions of the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago, most of Africa’s forests shrank and disappeared and only a few patches like Semuliki and Bwindi survived, protecting forest species during the arid apocalypse until they could eventually emerge to re-colonize a better, wetter world. Semuliki valley is today a hothouse for vegetation growth, with temperatures rising to a humid 30 degrees celicius, caused by an annual 1250mm of rain, mostly between March-May and September-December.

While Semuliki National Park’s species have been evolving for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths beneath Sempaya to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years. The low lying park lies on the rift Valley’s sinking floor, most of it just 670m above sea level. Large areas may flood during the wet seasons; brief reminders of the time when the entire valley lay at the bottom of a lake for 7 million years.

The Semuliki Forest Reserve was created in 1932 when forest villages were evacuated as a measure to control sleeping sickness and yellow fever. The reserve was upgraded to national park status in 1993.

Activities in Semuliki National Park/ Things to do in Semliki National Park

Birding/ Bird Watching In Semuliki

Birders who choose to visit Semliki National Park will be rewarded with some of Africa’s best forest birding experience as Sempaya and Ntandi provide excellent viewing of the birds including the White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, and Piping Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos. River Kirumia’s area is another top birding spot while the shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quarters on Lake Albert and forest walks are good for tracking water birds.

Cultural Encounters in Semuliki

The Batwa’s lifestyle of hunting and gathering means they have always been dependent on Semuliki forest for food, shelter, medicine and tools; however this is beginning to change as a result of interaction with other local communities.

Likewise, tourism offers an alternative source of income for the Batwa and gives them the opportunity to maintain and display their rich cultural history through music and dance performances at Ntandi. They also produce intricate handcrafts for sale.

A Boma / cultural village, is currently being built so that the Batwa can demonstrate how they used to live in the forest.

Hot Springs in Semuliki/ Semuliki Hot springs

The hour-long trail to the outer, “male” spring leads through a patch of forest where red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys are common. A tree house along the way 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!

Game Drives in Semuliki

Toro Semuliki Wildlife Reserve is a savannah grassland crossed by 3 tracks where smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda Kob and With luck, you may even see pygmy hippopotami, leopards and elusive bush babies. Game drives in the Wildlife Reserve take place in the morning, afternoon and at night; after dark, visitors may come across curious nocturnal species such as the white-tailed mongoose.

Nature Walks and Hiking in Semuliki

KirumiaTrail is an 8 hour trip of about 13Km that runs through the heart of the forest to the Semuliki River and is perfect for birders.

Sempaya Nature Trail is an 8Km and 2-3 hr. hike from which you can view the hot springs and primates

Red Monkey Track is a 11km trail following Semuliki National park’s eastern border – a stronghold of the rare de Brazza’s monkey.

Where to Stay/ Semuliki National Park Accommodation

Semuliki National Park has a few accommodation options like; Kirima Guest House, National park Banda’s & campsite and Semuliki Safari lodge and as such visitors travelling with Outback Adventure Safaris are usually accommodated in hotels in Fort portal town.

How to get to Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park is mostly visited by people on safaris to the attractions and national parks in Western Uganda and is approximately 52Km which is about 1 hours’ drive from fort portal town in mid-western Uganda. Fort portal is the major town you get to as you approach Semuliki national park, it is 294km from Kampala via Mubende with a driving time of 4hr 30min.

Flights to Semliki National Park

Outback Adventure safaris has partnered with local charters that depart from either Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe international airport and land at Semuliki airstrip where your driver guide will pick you up for the start of your adventure.

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