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Semuliki National Park

Semuliki valley national park

Semuliki valley national park is among the last bunch of national park to be gazetted in 1993 and originally it was known as the Bwamba forest. The 220 km2 national park was gazetted in October 1993 and is situated within the Albertine rift at an average altitude of around 700m. the park is bounded to the north west by the semuliki river which runs along the Congolese border to lake albert.

The park protects the unspoilt low land forests that extend up to the Ituri forest in Congo. Separated by the Semuliki River, the two forests form an ecological continuum and that’s why the semuliki valley harbors a range of lowland forests that are associated with the Congo basin. At least 300 butterfly species have been recorded in this national park including over 46 species of forest swallowtails (75% of the national total) and also 235 moth species.

Semuliki is a collection of extraordinary fauna regardless its small size. The park is of particular interest to bird watchers as it has over 435 bird species that have been recorded in the park and these mainly include forest birds and roughly 45 bird species occur elsewhere in Uganda. Only 53 mammal species have been recorded in semuliki and 11 of those occur nowhere else in Uganda and these include the pygmy antelope, two types of flying squirrels and six types of bats.

Due to its geographical location at coordinates 00 50°N  30 03°E, lying on the Western Arm of the Great East African Rift Valley, Semuliki National park receives an average annual rainfall of about 1,250mm. The rainy season is highest in the months of March to May. It also rains in the months of September to November. The rest of the year is the dry season with temperatures ranging from 19 to 31°C. During the rainy season, the park gets flooded. This is because the park has a moderate drainage system, with all streams and rivers draining within the park. However, the climate favour vegetation growth and can be endured by the wildlife.

The most popular attraction in semuliki national park is a cluster of hot springs at Sempaya; this can be reached via a short walking trail. Longer guided walks can also be arranged and also overnight hikes deep into the forest are amazing experiences one can have while in this park.

Roughly 5km from the Sempaya hot springs lies the pygmy village in ntandi so popular for many travellers. Unless you are a primate watcher, the main attraction of the national park is a visit to the hot springs that takes roughly an hour.

Activities

Sempaya hot springs

Ringed by the forest, palm trees, a cloud of steam lies a primeval and an evocative sight of the Sempaya hot springs that are worth diversion. The largest spring is a geyser which spouts up to 2m high from an opening in a low salt sculpture. The emerging water has temperatures that rise up to 100°c so the geyser shouldn’t be approached too closely. The trail to the springs leads through a patch of rain forests where the red tailed monkey, grey cheeked Mangabey and black and white colobus monkey are so common. Among the more interesting birds that are regularly seen along this trail are eight forest hornbills, blue breasted king fisher and the yellow throated tinker bird. Another spring which is more of a broad natural steaming pool than a geyser lies on the far side of the swamp clearly reached by a broad walk.

Mungiro water fall

This lies on the north side of the main road in the north of the Rwenzori forest reserve. This is an excellent site for the white-crested hornbill. The waterfall of Mungiro is another interesting site after the hot springs that will offer you a wonderful scenic view as well as an extraordinary bird watching experience and during this birding activity, you will appreciate the rich biodiversity of semuliki valley national park.

Kirumia river trail

This is highly recommended to dedicate bird watchers and it is a 15km foot trail that runs north from the village of Kirumia on the main Bundibugyo road to the banks of the semuliki river while crossing the Kirumia River twice as well as the forest fringed ox-bow lakes. The hike offers visitors the best opportunity to see a good selection of semuliki specials.  About 20-30 bird species associated with the ox-bow lakes but unlikely to be seen in the vicinity of the main road or elsewhere in uganda are the spot breasted ibis, nkulegu rail, black throated Coucal, yellow throated cuckoo, grey ground thrush, blue billed malimbe are all residents of semuliki.

Semuliki River

The river is about 140km² long. It flows north from its source, Lake Edward to Lake Albert in the Albertine rift valley west of the Rwenzori Mountain through Semuliki national park. It is the most significant feature in the park and a water source for both flora and fauna. The river meanders across the rift valley floor

Communities

The park is surrounded by the Batwa and Bakonzo belonging to the Bantu ethnic group. The two tribes live in the valley and mountain slopes respectively.

The Batwa people are pygmies also known as the “keepers of the Forest”. They are believed to have migrated from the Ituri forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo in search of Wild animals.

Over the years, the Batwa lived in the forest and survived on hunting game meat using arrows and nets; and gathering fruits in the rain forest; leaves and roots for medicine, papyrus and thatch for building shelter.

Flora

Most of Semuliki National Park’s vegetation is mainly medium altitude with moist evergreen to semi deciduous forest; with a dominant tree species of the Alexandra Cynometra tree. There are about 336 tree species recorded in the park with about 24 only found in the park. Apart from the dominant tree species, other tree species’ include oil palm, cordial milleni and many more.

Fauna

Having a favorable climate which favors vegetation growth especially the forest, the park is home to about 400 bird species (about 34% of Uganda’s birds). They include horn bill, Forest ground Thrush, olive Greenbul and many more others.

It has about 63 mammal species which include buffaloes, hippo, elephant, pygmy flying squirrel and many others; about 8 primate species which include the chimpanzee (shares 95% of its DNA with humans), Mona monkeys,

Attractions

Game Drive

The park has over 53 mammal species and these species include buffaloes, hippo, elephant, pygmy flying squirrel, leopards, nine species of duikers and many others. Game drives are more rewarding in the morning when the wildlife comes out to the open Savannah grassland across the Toro-semuliki wildlife reserve to feed.

Birding

Birding can be done in along Semuliki River, Sempaya and Ntandi village. The areas have a number of bird species which include Red billed Dwarf Hornbill, Great blue and Ross Turraco, horn bill; Forest ground Thrush, olive Greenbul and many other birds.

Batwa Trail Experience

Before the eviction of the Batwa’s in 1991 when the land was declared a national park; the tribe lived in the forest and was nicknamed “keepers of the Forest”. They survived on hunting game meat using arrows and nets; and gathering fruits in the rain forest; leaves and roots for medicine, papyrus and thatch for building shelter.

The Batwa people are pygmies believed to have migrated from the Ituri forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo in search of Wild animals. However, they were allowed to occupy part of the land again.

During the encounter which is guided by the batwa’s , there is a demonstration of how to make bamboo cups, hunting styles, collect honey and other activities; Batwa vocational center where they are taught how to make crafts. There is also traditional singing and dancing by the Batwa dance group at Ntandi.

 Hiking/ Nature Walks

The activity can be done through 3 trails. The Kirumia trail which stretches 13Km long through the heart of the forest to Semuliki River. The trail lasts for 8Hrs round trip.

The Sempaya nature trail last for 2 to 4Hrs round trip hiking and viewing of the Hot springs.

How to get there

There are two major roads from Kampala to fort portal and a 4WD vehicle is always recommended due to the nature of the roads and the terrain in that area.

Kampala-fort portal via Mubende is about 180km or 4-5 hours drive making it the shortest drive to the park.

Kampala to fort portal via Masaka –Mbarara-Kasese road is a much longer route at 465km or 8-9 hours and this route offers a chance to stop over along the way in lake Mburo national park, Kyambura wildlife reserve, Rwenzori mountains national park and queen Elizabeth national park.

A chattered can be arranged from Entebbe international Airport or Kajjansi to:

Mweya Airstrip in Mweya (Queen Elizabeth National Park)

Kasese Airstrip in Kasese town

Flights usually take 45 minutes.

Accommodation

Up market

Semuliki safari Lodge.

Built on the site of an older eponymous hunting lodge that was gutted in the early 1980s, semuliki safari lodge is widely and justifiably regarded to be the most luxurious bush retreat in Uganda. The main lodge is built of stone, log and thatch using materials decorated in an earthly and organic manner. The lodge accommodates a maximum of 18guests. There are canvas en-suit tents each with a private veranda. It has facilities such as a restaurant, lounge, swimming pool and bar

ROOMS Double Single Double Single
ADULT US$350 US$455 US$295 US$385
CHILD3-12yrs sharing with adult US$180 US$135

 

Ntoroko Game Lodge

The lodge is located at the shores of Lake Albert. It has five en-suit rooms which vary from standard to luxury.

Rate US$

ROOM Bed Bed Breakfast Half Board Full Board
Deluxe Tent 170 200 225 240
Deluxe Tent Double 130 150 175 200

Mountains of the moon

The hotel is in Fort portal, 87Km from Semuliki National park (1Hr by road). It has en-suit rooms, bar, wireless internet and restaurant.

ROOM RATE US$ (Bed and Breakfast)
SINGLE 125
DELUXE DOUBLE 145
SUPERIOR DOUBLE 170
TWIN ROOM 165
FAMILY ROOM 235

An addition of US$40 is charged for full board.

Budget

Camping

There is the Uganda wildlife authority campsite that lies on the sand bank overlooking the lake about 500m from the village.

National park bandas

A new self-catering campsite with bandas has recently been opened alongside the main Bundibugyo road about halfway between Sempaya and ntandi.

Sempaya rest camp

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