The Semuliki National Park protects an extension of the Ituri forest in the Democratic republic of Congo. It is located in western Uganda on the floor of the Rwenzori Mountains. It is the only tract of true low land tropical forest in East Africa. It covers an area of 220km2 with altitude of 670m-760m above sea level. It is the only host of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa and contains features associated with Central Africa rather than Eastern Africa. River Semuliki is the international boundary between Uganda and DR Congo. The park is dominated by the eastern most extension of the Ituri forest of the Congo Basin. Semuliki National Park lies off the popular Uganda safari circuit and is thus one of the least visited parks in Uganda.
Tooro-Semliki wildlife Reserve is a mix of tropical rainforest and grassy savannah intersecting with flat plains. This is Uganda’s oldest reserve and is home to both central African and East African species.
Wildlife in Semuliki National Park
Animals in Semuliki National Park
The forest is home to 53 mammals which include; forest elephants, buffaloes, Hippos and Crocodiles along the Semuliki River and several primates – Chimpanzee, red-cheeked mangabey, Central African red colobus and many reptiles and amphibians. 11 of the mammals are endemic to the park, pygmy flying squirrel, Beecroft’s flying squirrel, water chevrotain, target rat, little collared fruit bat, bay duiker, forest buffalo, mona monkey.
Birds in Semuliki national park
Semuliki has a spectacular birdlife with a record of 441 species recorded. The riverine habitat and grassland provide a safe haven for birds to live. Semuliki national park has 46 Guinea-Congo biome species, which are found only here in East Africa. The species to look out include, African Piculet, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Blue-billed Malimbe, Yellow-throated Nicator, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Nkulengu Rail, Piping Hornbill, blue-billed malimbe, Yellow-throated Cuckoo and Leaf-love etc.
Safaris and Activities in Semuliki National Park
Chimpanzee Trekking in Semuliki national park
The primate walk is in Toro – Semliki wildlife reserve. You are briefed at the research camp and you walk towards Kijura observation point where you continue journey tracking the chimps. The trail can take between 4 – 6 hours as you follow the tracks of the chimps. The trail is exciting with several birds sighted along the way and occasionally Elephants, buffalos, and lion.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience in Semuliki national park
Chimpanzee habituation is a full day’s activity available at Toro-Semliki wildlife reserve. It is booked prior at Uganda Wildlife Authority where you receive permit and join the ranger guides with researchers. Here you join the researchers as they follow chimps from early morning as they leave their nests to lake evening when they get back to nesting. The idea is for chimps to be acquainted with human beings and eventually join the group that will be available for chimp tracking.
Bird watching in Semuliki national park
The park’s main attraction is bird watching because of its location in the Albertine rift valley, low land forest and its central African species. In fact, it hosts Central African bird species that you cannot find anywhere else in East Africa. Semuliki national park is home to 441 bird species, 46 of Guinea-Congo biome species found nowhere else in East Africa. The species to look out for include; Shoebill, dwarf honeyguide, Yellow throated Cuckoo, yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s turaco, purple breasted sunbird, orange weaver, white crested hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, African Piculet, Swamp Palm Bulbul etc. The Shoebill is often sighted at Lake Albert while in the canoe birding. More areas for birdwatching in the park include – Sempaya, Ntandi, Kirumia trail, Semuliki River etc.
The Semuliki hot springs are a major attraction to various visitors to the park. The Bamba people use them for rituals as they communicate to their gods for blessings and protection. The walk to the male (named Bintente) and female (Nyasimbe) hot springs take you through the forest where you watch red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheekedmangabey, and black-and-white colobus monkeys jumping from tree branches in search of food. The ‘female’ hot springs have a boiling fountain at over 1000C. Often you have an opportunity to cook plantains and eggs in the boiling waters and consume them as you continue your trekking journey.
Nature and Hiking walks
Nature walks happen deep in the forest together with a ranger guide. There are majorly three trails to follow inside the park;
Red monkey trail – this 11 km long trail follows the park boundary to the east and ends up at the Semliki River. You have chances of sighting the rare DeBrazza monkey.
Sempaya nature trail –This trail leads you to the Sempaya hot springs. The walk is through a patch of forest where you most likely to encounter black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabey. Along the trail to the male hot springs, you pass tree house where you view the abundant birdlife and beautiful scenery.
The Kirumia trail is 13 km is perfect for birders, it ends up at the Semliki river and traverses the forest.
Community walks and Cultural experiences
The Batwa lived in the forest before it was made a national park. They now live on the boundaries of the park but often visit the forest in search of medicinal plants. They have demonstrations of how they lived in the forest from gathering food, hunting, tools of how they lived and survived in the forest. Enjoy the music and dance performances and remember to purchase handcrafts they make.
Routes to Semuliki National Park
You can reach the park from Kampala – Fortportal and then Semuliki national park. You can also take scheduled or chartered flight from Entebbe to Semuliki wildlife reserve.
Semuliki national park Safari Lodges and Camps
Semliki Safari Lodge
Mountains of the moon Hotel
Rwenzori View Guest house