Semuliki National park
Semliki National park is one of Uganda’s smallest national parks situated in Bundibugyo District which lies in the Western part of Uganda. The park derives its name from R. Semliki which borders it and was established as a national park in October 1993 under the managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Covering a distance of 219 km2 (85 sq mi) which consists of East Africa’s only lowland tropical rainforest known as Semliki Forest Reserve. 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 (2,200 to 2,490 ft) above sea level. The park experiences an average rainfall of 1,250 mm (49 in), with peaks in rainfall from March to May and from September to December. Many areas of the park experience flooding during the wet season. The temperature at the park varies from 18 to 30 °C (64 to 86 °F), with relatively small daily variations. The vegetation of the park is predominantly medium altitude moist evergreen to a semi-deciduous forest. The dominant plant species in the forest is the Uganda ironwood (Cynometra alexandri). There are also three species of a more evergreen nature and swamp forest communities.
ATTRACTIONS AT SEMLIKI NATIONAL PARK
Semliki National Park has the spectacular Sepaya hot springs, rivers, it is also endowed with a diversity of flora and fauna, birds and butterfly species.
The presence of Semliki and Lamia Rivers, which are water sources for many animals and the green vegetation which covers the park has favored the presence of animals such as 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 (Idiurus zenkeri). Nine duiker species are found in the park, including the bay duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis).
Semliki forest reserve is a home for eight primate species Primates which include; Chimpanzees, Baboons, and Monkeys including Vervet, Red-tailed and Black and White Colobus.
SEPAYA HOT SPRINGS
The park has two hot springs; sempaya male and female in a hot mineral encrusted swamp. One of the springs 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. The hot springs water is hot enough to cook eggs and plantain.
Semliki is a birders paradise, it is one of Uganda’s best birding spots. The park has more than 400 bird species, including the lyre-tailed honeyguide. 216 of these species (66 percent of the country’s total bird species) are true forest birds, including the rare Oberländer’s ground thrush (Geokichla oberlaenderi), Sassi’s olive greenbul (Phyllastrephus Lorenzi), nine hornbill species.
TOURIST ACTIVITIES DONE IN SEMLIKI NATIONAL PARK
Birders who make it to Semuliki will be rewarded with some of Africa’s best forest birding. Sempaya and Ntandi trails 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. The area around Kirumia River is another top birding spot. The shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quarters on Lake Albert and forest walks are good for seeing water birds.
GAME DRIVES IN SEMULIKI
Game drives in the Wildlife Reserve can take place in the morning, afternoon and at night; after dark, visitors may come across curious nocturnal species such as the white-tailed mongoose. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob. Pygmy hippopotami, leopards, and elusive bushbabies can also be seen by chance.
VISIT THE HOT SPRINGS
A visit to the spectacular male and female sempaya hot springs is an eye-catching experience. The boiling, gushing springs that can cook your eggs and plantain in the bubbling water.
CULTURAL ENCOUNTERS IN SEMULIKI
The Batwa’s people are getting extinct in Uganda there population has rapidly reduced and have been scattered around the country. Semliki National Park is one of the places where tourists can experience the Batwa culture, learn about their history and ways of life. They are known for hunting and fruit gathering lifestyle means they have always been dependent on Semliki forest for food, shelter, medicine, and tools, though this is beginning to change as a result of interaction with other local communities they have been exposed to modern ways of living.
Through tourism, the Batwa are able to earn some income through display their rich cultural history through music and dance performances at Ntandi. They also produce locally made handicrafts for sale such as beads, bracelets, hats, and bags, etc which are bought by tourists as souvenirs.
HIKING AND NATURE WALKS IN SEMULIKI
There are 3 known and marked nature walk and hiking trails in Semliki National Park; The 13km KirumiaTrail runs through the center of the forest to the Semliki River. This walk takes about 8 hours to and from starting at 8 am suitable for bird watching. 11km Red Monkey Track follows the park’s eastern border – a stronghold of the rare de Brazza’s monkey – to the Semliki River.
Along the 8km Sempaya Nature Trail, you can view the hot springs and primates. This 2-4 hour hike can take place in the morning or afternoon.
HOW TO ACCESS SEMLIKI NATIONAL PARK
The park can be accessed by road using 2 routes from Kampala Uganda’s capital, for these two routes it is advisable to use 4WD vehicles because the road can become treacherous, especially after heavy rains. Route 1: Kampala-Fortportal -Bundibugyo approximately 387km.
Route 2: Kampala- Masaka – Mbarara- Kasese- fort Portal to Bundibugyo road, 52 km from Fort Portal. This is longer at 465km (7-8 hrs). However, it offers the chance to stop along the way at the equator, Lake Mburo National Park, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park during a Gorilla safari Tour
When planning to travel to Semliki, accommodation should be the least of your worries. The lodges/hotels are suited in and outside the park in bundibugyo and Fort portal. The facilities range from Luxury, mid-range to Budget/basic.
Within the park;
Semliki Safari Lodge.
This is a luxury accommodation facility perched in the wilderness, it provides an unforgettable experience and comfort. The structures were constructed using local materials which gives an old fashion impression. The lodge has spacious rooms and figure licking meals both local and continental dishes. While here, you will get a complete feel of nature.
Ntoroko Game Lodge
The lodge is unique and stylish built with a stone canvas exterior and wooden floors overlooking the cool Lake Albert at all angles which gives you a cool breeze during your stay. It gives you a full package of luxury, comfort, relaxation and safari adventure experience. Not forgetting the delicious meals in the bushes while surrounded by animals and trees.
Kirimia Guest House
This is a basic accommodation establishment located in the Kirimia Village 100m from the Kirimia Trail Head. The Kirimia Guesthouse is 10km from Sempaya along the road heading to Bundibugyo town. The stay at Kirimia Guesthouse offers a close encounter with the Semliki National Park. When planning a budget tour, this is one of the best options to choose from.
UWA Bandas and campsites
These are budget accommodation facilities under UWA management that provide camping grounds and non-self-contained bandas.
Accommodations in Fort portal
Kyaninga Lodge- High end
Mountains of the moon Hotel- Semi-luxury
Rwenzori View Guesthouse- Budget