Semliki National Park
Semliki National Park is known as “A True Birder’s Haven” situated in Bundibugyo district in the Rift Valley region along the Semliki Valley and the Mountain Rwenzori ranges in the western part of Uganda. Semliki covers a land area of 220 Square Kilometers bisected by River Semliki to put a boundary between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Semliki started as a game reserve in 1932 before being declared a national park in the 1993 making it one of the oldest parks in Uganda.
The park is a home to several species of fauna and flora ranging from over 441 recoded species of birds such as Ituri Batis, Red- Sparrow hawk, Black- wattle Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Forest Francolin, Bearded Greenbul, Honey guide, Forest Francolin, African Dwarf Kingfishers, Long-tailed Hawk, Red-romped Tinker bird, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Black-winged Starling, Gabon Woodpecker, Red-eyed Puff-back, a good number of primates such as Chimpanzees, De Brazza’s monkey, Red monkey trail, Olive baboons, bush babies, about 50 species of mammals such as Elephants, Buffaloes, Forest hogs, Duikers and many more.
The flora of the park comprises of savanna woodland that includes a mixture of evergreen forest, semi deciduous forests, and the swamp all protecting the wildlife that thrill within Semliki motional park. Apart from the wildlife species and the stunning flora of the park, Semliki famously known for the stunning sempaya hot springs both the female and the male hot springs. At the female hot springs, tourists boil their eggs or a raw banana plantain which is ready for consumption within 10 minutes making it an incredible experience to watch and the highlights of every Uganda safari to Semliki.
Top tourist activities in Semliki national park
Semliki National park has a lot of tourist activities / things to do while on a Uganda safari. With an amazing birdlife, primates, mammals, the boiling hot springs and the entire thrilling vegetation cover, Semliki national park is one of the parks never to miss out on your safari to western Uganda. The park is as well situated and thus can be combined with other nearby parks like Kibale forest national park, Queen Elizabeth national park, Rwenzori mountains National park among others. Below are the top tourist activities conducted in Semliki;
- Birding in Semliki national park
Semliki national park is well known as a True birder’s haven thus birding and bird watching should be amongst the top tourist activities to expect here. In fact, Semliki is amongst the national parks in Uganda that harbor largest population of bird species with Queen Elizabeth national park leading with over 600 species of birds making it the highest not only in Uganda but in East Africa as well. However, Semliki national park harbors some f the rare and endangered bird species that aren’t found elsewhere. Out of the 440 species of birds recorded in Semliki national park which makes up a 40% of the total bird species recorded in Uganda, 60% takes over the forest birds in Uganda, 5 species are endemic to Semliki national park, 46 species of Guinea- Congo Biome and many more.
Some of the bird species spotted in Semliki national park include; Red-bellied Malimbe, Shoebill stork, Great Blue Turacos, Papyrus Genlok, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Ross’s Turacos, Red chested Sunbird, Congo Serpent Eagle, African Piculet, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Crested Flycatchers and many more. The best birding spots in Semliki national park include along the road on Kirumia trail, Nkulengu trail and many more.
- Visiting Sempaya hot springs in Semliki National park
Sempaya hot springs are included amongst the topmost attractions of Semliki and in most case, tourists who visit this park are usually interested in watching these breath taking hot springs, boil the egg and take stunning photographs of these hot springs though other activities are as well worth a do. So for any safari itinerary to Semliki national park, a visit to the hot springs should always be the highlight of your adventure.
There are 2 hot springs both the male and the female hot springs which all have different stories about their formation as narrated by the experienced local tour guide who accompanies tourists to these hot springs. And surprisingly these hot springs especially the boiling female hot spring is situated a few minutes’ walk from the starting point through a forest but once there, the experience is remarkable. In case you forget to carry own eggs, worry not as you will be able to buy some eggs at the office before setting off for the walk to the hot springs. During the forest walk to the hot springs both male (Bintente) and Female (Nyansimbi), you have a whole lot of attractions to look out for including different primate species, birds species, mammals and a view of the forest.
- Game drive/ wildlife viewing in Semliki national park
Game drives in Semliki national park are conducted within the savanna part within Toro Semliki where several wildlife species are easily spotted including Elephants, Buffaloes, Hippos, waterbucks, Leopards, pygmy antelope, Uganda kob, Squirrels, several primates like Chimpanzees, Blue tailed monkeys, Red tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked Mangabey, and many more that thrill in the Toro semliki wildlife Reserve. Semliki national park offers both day and night game drives. During the night game drives, tourists are rewarded with an encounter with the nocturnal animals like Pottos, Bush babies, and several hunters among others. A 4×4 safari vehicle with a popup roof top is recommended for any game drive safaris in Uganda.
- Boat cruise in Semliki National park
Boat cruise in Semliki can be conducted along Semliki River and proceed to connect to Lake Albert and the Nile where tourists are rewarded with several species of water birds including the rare shoebill stork and other aquatic wildlife. During the boat cruise, you have a stunning view of the Rwenzori Mountain Ranges “Mountain of the Moon” and other nearby attractions. You have an opportunity to see the Nile Crocodiles, antelopes, Hippos, waterbuck and many other wildlife that visit the waterbody to quench their thirst.
- Chimpanzee trekking
This adventurous activity is as well conducted within Toro-Semliki which is a home to several species of wildlife including several primates. Chimpanzee trekking in Toro Semliki like any other trekking adventure starts early in the morning with briefing after which travelers set off on a walk to search for the habituated chimpanzees in their natural habitats. This trek lasts about 5 hours depending on the movement of Chimpanzees and the trekking speed in favor of the slowest person amongst the group. During Chimpanzee trekking, look out for other primates like Olive baboons, Red tailed monkeys, Blue tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked Mangabey, Vervet monkey, Black and White Colobus monkey, Dent’s Mona monkeys, De Brazza’s monkey and many more. You will as well be able to spot mammals like Buffaloes, Antelopes, elephants and several species of birds among others.
- Nature walks in Semliki National park
Semliki has well defined walking trails that lead to different attractions with in the park and some of these trails include the Sempaya trail that takes tourists to the sempaya hot springs, the 13Km Kirumia trail that leads to the Semliki River suitable for bird watching, and the 11 Km Red monkey trail: The red monkey trail among others.
- Cultural tours in Semliki national park
While on a Cultural tour in Semliki, tourists have a chance of visiting and interacting with the local Batwa people for a Batwa who were the habitats of the forest before being expelled out to gazette it as a national park. These Batwa pygmies will demonstrate about their previous ways of living in the forest where they resided as their accommodations and source of food. You may as well visit the Bakonzo, Bwamba and the Batuku.
- Fishing in Semliki national park
Sport fishing in Semliki national park is conducted along River Semliki in border with Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. You have an opportunity of catching Cat fish, lunch fish.
Where to stay/accommodation while on a visit to Semliki national park
Tourists can choose either to reside either inside the park though there are a few facilities within the park including Bandas and Campsites and several facilities outside the park within fortpotal, in Bundibugyo. Here are some of the accommodation facilities to reside in and they include; Semliki Safari lodge, Kyaninga lodge, Sempaya Rest Camp, Semliki Safari Lodge, Ruwenzori view guest house, Kirumia Village, Rwenzori traveler’s inn, Mountain of the moon hotel, Toro Resort, Ntoroko Game Lodge, Palace Motel, Hotel Vanilla and many more.
The best way to get to Semliki is by road through Kampala-Mubende road which is about 4-5 hours connecting to fortpotal and finally to Bundibugyo. There is also a longer route through Kampala- Kasese then to fortpotal and finally to Bundibugyo. This takes about 7-8 hours.
You may as well take a charter or a scheduled flight from Entebbe to Kasese airfield.