Semuliki National Park is located in the Western Region of Uganda, on the foothills of legendary Rwenzori Mountains, forming huge part of Bundibugyo District; The Park borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwenzori Mountains to the southwest and Lake Albert to the north. Semliki National park is Uganda’s newest park but with a lot of interesting wonders for all its guests.
This National park got its status in October 1993; it covers 194 km2 (75 sq mi) of East Africa’s only lowland tropical rainforest and one of the richest areas of flora and fauna diversity in Africa, with a diverse species of birds. The Park is now under the control and management of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Semuliki National Park experiences an average rainfall of 1,250 mm (49 in), with peaks in rainfall from March to May and from September to December. Unfortunately, during the Dry season, many parts of the park have a challenge of floods. The park temperature varies from 18 to 30 °C (64 to 86 °F)
Initially, from 1932 to 1993, Semuliki National Park was managed as a forest reserve by the colonial government, and later on by the Ugandan government’s Forest Department before upgrading to a national park in 1993 to protect the forest as part of the western Rift Valley.
It is also important to note that Semuliki National Park covers a distinct ecosystem within the larger Albertine Rift ecosystem, with several climatic and ecological zones. This makes it carry a diversity of plants, animal species, and many microhabitats. Several plant and animal species in the park are also found in the Congo Basin forests, with many of these species sprawling up to the eastern border of Semuliki National Park.
Semuliki National Park’s vegetation is mainly made up of medium-altitude evergreen forest, the dominant plant species being Cynometra alexandri tree. Also, Semuliki National park is a habitat to approximately 400 bird species, including both Rwenzori and Albertine rift endemics. These include lyre-tailed honey guide, up to nine species of hornbills, rare Forest Ground Thrush (Turdus oberlaenderi) and Sassi’s Olive Greenbul (Phyllastrephus Lorenzi).
Considering the most recent records, Semuliki National park also has over 60 mammal species such as the forest buffalos, leopards, hippos, Mona monkeys, water chevrotains, bush babies, civets, elephants, pygmy flying squirrel (Adieus Zenker). Besides, there are roughly nine species of duikers recorded such as the bay duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis). Also eight primate species and over 460 butterfly species.
Cultural tours in Semuliki
There are four discrete ethnic groups who reside around the park; these include the Bwamba farmers who are found at the base of the Rwenzori, Bakonjo cultivators, Batuku cattle keepers who inhabit the open plains and Bambuti pygmies who are remarkably the oldest culture on earth and have traditionally lived as hunters and gatherers at the edge of Ituri forest, along Uganda-D.R. Congo border.
What to see in Semuliki
The Semuliki Valley contains abundant features connected to the central rather than eastern Africa. Most of the thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; in addition, Semliki River which forms the park’s international boundary is a mini description of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species and the local population around the forest are ever ready to welcome all guests with very interesting performances and offering a real African authentic experience, majority of the guests who visit this park in most cases testify of the tasty local cuisines offered to them during the cultural encounters. Some of the neighboring communities include the Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri forest, among many others.
Although Semuliki National Park has carried a diversity of different wildlife species, its unforgettable attraction confirming the evidence of older geo-thermal processes is the Hot springs. The fascinating bubbles from this hot spring demonstrate the unique subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
It is after sighting the magical Sempaya hot springs in Semuliki national park that a traveler gets to accept the real beauty in the pearl of Africa, there are the two main Hot Springs –the male hot-spring which is called Bitende which is roughly 12 meters in diameter, and the female hot spring called Nyasimbi with a boiling geyser which spurts out bubbling water and steam about 2 meters into the air. It is a rare discovery that the people locals boil eggs in the hot-spring pools and after eating, so Why not be the next person to confirm by moving along with an egg
Tourist activities / experiences
There are several rewarding activities a tourist can get involved in while at Semuliki National Park due to the numerous wild game, primates, bird species, amazing hot springs at Sempaya, swampy, montane and lowland vegetation species and the unique culture of the Batwa and Bambuti pygmies.
Some of the activities include; hiking and nature walks, game viewing, bird watching, hot spring tour, monkey trail, River trails and ultimate cultural experiences.
From the capital Kampala to Fort Portal, you can choose one of the two major routes: from Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende or Kampala to Fort Portal via Masaka, Mbarara, and Kasese. When you reach Fort portal, it is just 59km to Semuliki National Park and 6km to the Park headquarters at Ntandi.
Via Mubende, it is roughly 380km drive (about 4-5 hours) compared to the second one that has 465km (7-8 hours) although it offers travelers amazing views of the countryside.
Semuliki National park does not possess so many accommodations in and around the park. However, a tourist can as well get very suitable safari lodges that offer serene and cosy atmosphere for all guests. The main luxury accommodation found in the park is the Semuliki Safari lodge and Ntoroko game lodge. Other lodging options are available in Fort portal which is 59km away from the park.
Though Semuliki national park is not so widely known, the experience every tourist gets from it is very unique and does not furnish from a tourist mind. Just don’t hesitate to take a step and book your next trip to the pearl of Africa.