Semuliki Valley National Park is one of the unspoiled African safari destinations. Located in extreme Western Uganda, Semuliki National Park is home to the extensive Ituri Forest and it boasts of its biodiversity. Its forest is one of the few that survived the last ice age era.

Semuliki features a lowland deciduous forest, one of its kind in East Africa. Before becoming a National Park, Semuliki was founded as a Game Reserve in 1932. In 1993, its status was upgraded into a National Park. This is one of the smallest Uganda parks, covering a land area of about 220sq. km.

Location

Semuliki National Park is located in Bwamba County, Bundibugyo District in Western Uganda. The park lies close to the Congo border and on the North, Lake Albert borders it while on the South-eastern part, there are Rwenzori Mountain ranges. Besides, there are 2 rivers bordering Semuliki Valley National Park including the Semliki and Lamia Rivers.

History of Semuliki Valley National Park

Semuliki was originally gazette as a Forest Reserve in 1932 and upgraded into a National Park, the status it attained in 1993. It is home to East Africa’s only tract of true lowland tropical forest.

Tourist Attractions in Semuliki National Park

Wildlife

About 53 species of mammals roam freely in the lowland forest and other habitats in Semuliki National Park. They include bush babies, forest buffaloes, waterbucks, flying squirrels, red-legged sun squirrels, dwarf antelope, warthogs, mona monkeys, white-bellied duikers, warthogs, sitatungas, pygmy flying squirrels, fire-footed rope and more.

Primates of Semuliki Valley National Park: red-tailed monkeys, chimpanzees, DeBrazza’s monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, pottos, etc. There are also several butterflies, and 305 tree species – 125 of these exist in Semuliki National Park alone.

Birds

Semuliki Valley National Park is a treasured birding destination for a good reason. Over 441 species of birds exist in Semuliki alone and they include countless nocturnal species and endemic species. The birds of Semuliki: the black-wattled hornbills, red-chested owlet, western bronze napped pigeon, lyre-tailed honeyguide, Congo serpent eagle, white-tailed hornbill, lemon bellied crombec, red eyed puff back, pale fronted, Sass’s olive, red sided broadbill, shoebill stork, red romped tinkerbird.

Nocturnal birds of Semuliki National Park: African wood owl, Crepuscular freckled nightjars, buff spotted flufftail, Ayres hawk eagle, red thighed, African goshawk and more.

Sempaya hot spring

The key attraction that makes Semuliki National Park popular is its Sempaya hot springs, one of the powerful hot springs in the world. This is an iconic attraction in the park and tourists often come along with some plantain to prove its powerfulness. In just seconds/minutes, the egg or banana can be ready for consumption- the hot springs have a strong boiling rate often rises up to 100 degrees Celsius.

Tourist Activities in Semuliki National Park

There are plenty of opportunities for nature lovers to explore and experience the virgin Semuliki Valley National Park. Here are some of the remarkable safari activities worth considering a must-do in Semuliki National Park;

The Sempaya hot spring tours

One of the world’s powerful hot springs – “Sempaya” is found right in Semuliki. This is comprised of 2 scenic hot springs – the female and male. The male hot spring “Bintete” and female “Nyasimbi.” At a distance, the bubbling hot springs can be seen even at a distance of 1km.

Birding

Semuliki supports about half of Congo’s bird species. With over 441 bird species, birding is a must-do while at Semuliki and higher chances are you will keep an eye on birds such as black wattled hornbill, shoebill stork, African dwarf kingfishers, brown crowned eremomela, bate’s nightjars, Gabon woodpeckers, black collared lovebird, forest francolin, red billed dwarf, red bellied malimbes, red rumped tinkerbird, red thighed sparrow, red bellied helmet shrike, spotted lyre-tailed honeyguide, buff spotted flufftail, spot breasted ibis, western bronze napped pigeon, yellow throated nicator, piping hornbill and more.

Forest/nature walks

Nature walk in Semuliki provides the best of butterfly watching, bird sighting and a chance to explore different floral species. Hiking opportunities at Semuliki include the red monkey track, 11kms walk trail, the 13kms Kirumia hiking trail and Sempaya nature trail 8kms.

Game drive

The park is the best place in Africa to enjoy night game drive. If your interest is to see nocturnal species, then a night game drive in Semuliki should be your bucket-list experience. 3 tracks offer the best of game drive in this park and a 4×4 safari vehicle is ideal for your game viewing safaris.

Chimpanzee tracking

Chimpanzee tracking is carried out in already habituated chimpanzee communities in Semuliki Valley National Park. Tracking chimpanzees allows you meet our closest relatives in the wild, learn in depth about their daily behavior and taking pictures. The park also supports a range of other primates including olive baboons, central Africa red colobus monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, etc.

Cultural visits

Meet the Batwa, the original hunters and fruit gatherers now living adjacent to the Park. The Batwa are the 4 tribes that live at the edge of this park and others include Bamba, Bakonjo, etc.

What is the best time to visit the Park?

Semuliki National Park safaris are open all year-round. But, visits to explore and experience the most is during the dry season. The season runs through June, July, August to September or December, January to February. The least/no rainfall amount is usually recorded during this period of the year. Unlike during the wet or rainy season (March to May, October to November).

Where to stay (Accommodation)

Semuliki National Park doesn’t have many lodging or safari accommodation like Murchison Falls National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park. The available accommodations include Semliki Safari Lodge, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Campsites and Bandas, Ntoroko Game Lodge, Hotel Vanilla and Kirimia Guesthouse.

Getting to Semuliki Valley N. Park

By road: The Park is easier to reach in a 4×4 tourist vehicle about 5 to 6 hours from Kampala via Fort Portal. 7-8 hours’ drive from Kampala via Masaka-Mbarara route.

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