Situated in the western region of Uganda, along the border with Democratic Republic of Congo,in Bundibugyo district, Bwamba County; Semuliki National Park is one of the newest and smallest park in Uganda. It covers a total area of about 220Km², spanning on a lowland Forest, which is literally the only Lowland rainforest in East Africa that stretches up to about 194Km².It derives its name from the most significant feature, River Semuliki. Semuliki National Park is bordered by the Rwenzori Mountains in the South-east and Lake Albert in the extreme North. It lies within the Albertine rift valley and Western arm of the East African rift valley; with gently flat landscape elevated to about 2,200 to 2,490ft altitude. However, the park has a valley near the western side of the Rwenzori Mountains,characterized by a forest, having trees like oil palm; and the Semuliki River. In the early days, the area was a hunting ground for the Batwa pygmys, a tribe belonging to the Bantu Ethnic group. However, in 1932, during the colonial period, the colonial government gazetted the area into a forest reserve. This was done to protect the forest from de-afforestation by the locals in the surrounding communities. However, in 1993, the reserve was declared a National park by the Ugandan Government. 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 favours vegetation growth and can be endured by the wildlife.
Vegetation of the park is mainly medium altitude with moist evergreen to semi deciduous forest; with a dominant tree species of the Alexandra Cynometra tree. It has about 336 tree species, about 24 only found in the park. Some of the other tree species include oil palm, cordia milleni and many more.
How to get there.
Kampala- Mubende – Fort Portal – Bundibujo 380km (5hrs)
Kampala to Mubende: The journey has a drive distance of about 150Km. The route drives near Lake Wamala around Mityana district and lasts for about 2Hrs.
From Mubende to Fortportal: The drive distance is about 146Km and lasts for about 2Hrs. You will drive through the magnificent Matiri central forest that is dominated by the Pine tree species. The forest is midway of the journey between the points of Mubende and Fort portal, at Kyenjojo district. The route also goes through the Northern section of Kibale Forest National Park.
From Fort Portal to Bundibugyo: The drive distance between the two districts is about 85Km and lasts for about an hour to Semuliki National park.
Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara – Kasese – Fort Portal – Bundibujo 542km (7-8Hrs)
The distance from Kampala to Masaka is 131Km and Lasts for approximately 2Hrs.
From Masaka to Mbarara (also known as the land of Milk because of high number of cattle in the area); the distance is approximately 138Km and lasts for about 1Hr 50min.
From Mbarara to Kasese, the distance is about 155Km and lasts approximately 2Hrs. While connecting from Mbarara to Kasese, you will be able to view Queen Elizabeth National Park starting at Kichwamba area.
Kasese to Fort Portal: The drive distance is about 77Km and lasts for about 1Hr.
Fort Portal to Bundibugyo: Drive distance is about 85Km and lasts about 1Hr.
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
There after connect to Semuliki National Park by road.
Flights usually take 30mins.
Semuliki River as an Attraction in Semuliki National Park
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 vegetation and wildlife. The river has a stunningaerial view, meandering across the rift valley floor; marking the international Boundary of Uganda and the Democratic republic of Congo. The river starts at around Ishango, northern End of Lake Edward and flows towards to Lake Albert.
Birds as an Attraction in Semuliki National Park.
The forest park is popularly known for its high bird population of about 441 species, 40% of Uganda‘s estimated total bird species population of about 1060 species. Out of the 441 species, about 216 of them are endemic to Semuliki National Park, making the park a prime birding destination which has about 66% of bird species endemic to forest. Some of the birds found in the park include horn bill, Forest ground Trush, olive greenbul and many more others.
Chimpanzees as an Attraction of Semuliki National Park.
Sometimes called chimps, the chimpanzees are an exclusive African species of extant great Ape. The species is classified in the primate’s order and Pan Genus, troglodytes. It shares the closest DNA with humans at 98%, unlike other great Apes like the gorilla and other monkeys which share about 95% DNA with humans. The species is omnivorous, eating a wide variety of foods which include fruits, nuts, seeds, insects and others. They prefer living in dense tropical rainforest; but can also be found in woodlands, bamboo forest, swamps and open savannah land.
- Their hair is typically black and brown
- Males and females differ in size and appearance. Adult Males weigh between 40 to 90Kg and grow up to 5ft. Adult females weigh between 30 to 79Kg and grow up to 3ft.
- They have a life span of up to 70 years.
- They live in groups of about 30 to 80 individuals, with subgroups of up to 9 members. The sub groups usually have one dominant male and females with infants.
- A group’s territory can range from 30 to 150 miles. The males usually patrol the boundaries to look out for intruders. Meeting with rival group results into serious injuries and sometimes death.
- Alpha male protects the group and leads it to a new location or on a patrol.
Black and White Colobus Monkeys as an Attraction in Semuliki National Park.
The primate species is an Old World Monkey of the Colobus genus which is native to Africa. The word colobus is derived from a Greek word ‘Kolobos’ which means docked. They are named Colobus because they don’t have a thumb. The species are herbivorous and have a ruminant kind of digestive system i.e. they feed on leaves, fruit, flowers and twigs. Black and white colobus monkeys are endemic in higher density logged forests. However, they also live in riverine forests and wood grassland. Being herbivorous, black and white colobus monkeys are of importance to their habitant because of seed dispersal; they have sloppy eating habits. The seeds germinate into plantations hence expanding the parks vegetation
The species live in social groups of up to 9 members with a dominant male, females and offspring’s. Newborns are completely white and are taken care of by only the mother.
Sempaya Hot Springs as an Attraction of Semuliki National Park
The hot spring is one of the outstanding features in the park. It is found in the river valley below the escarpment on the way to Bundibugyo town. Hot springs are as a result of geothermally heated water that rises from the Earth’s crust due to elevated temperatures. When water moves into the crust, it is heated when it comes into contact with the hot rocks. This usually occurs in areas with extinct volcanoes.
Wildlife as an Attraction of Semuliki National Park.
The park has about 63 mammal species, 11 of which are endemic to the par. The species include buffaloes, hippo, elephant, pygmy flying squirrel, leopards, nine species of duikers and many others. The park is home to about 8 primate species. Apart from Chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, the other species include mona monkeys, baboons, grey checked mangabey; and Colobus species such as, red colobus; vervet and red-tailed monkeys.
Communities as as an Attraction in Semuliki National Park
The area of the park and around is composed of a number of communities composed of different tribes from the Bantu Ethnic group. They include Bakonzo, Baba, Basongora and Batwa pygmies. Basongora are cattle keepers living in the open plains of the park; Bakonzo and Bamba are cultivators living on the slopes of Mt.Rwenzori; and the Batwa people also known as ‘Keepers of the Forest’, who live in the forest of the park.
Sempaya Hot Springs Visit as a Tourist Activity in Semuliki National Park.
The hot spring is one of the outstanding features in the park. It is found in the river valley below the escarpment on the way to Bundibugyo town. Sempaya hot spring has steamy jetting water out of the ground with a strong smell of hydrogen sulphide. The water boils at about 103°C, an exceptional temperature because most of the Hot springs reach a maximum of about 50°C.Sempaya is divided into two springs, a male and female hot spring located in a mineral encrusted swamp. The female springis known as Nyasimbi and Male asBintente spring spring.
The word Nyansimbi means female ancestors. It forms a 0.5m high fountain like a geyser. The spring is just a few minutes walk from the parks Headquaters at Sempaya.
The male spring Bintente, is a 12m long in diameter spring. It is reached on a 30 minute trail that cuts through a magnificent palm forest and later crosses a Swamp on a board walk.
The steam at the hot springs can be seen from a distance of 2km away. In the early days, the locals of the community would prepare their food from the boiling pools. Therefore, a visit to the springs will require you to carry items like eggs to boil in the water while there.
Community Encounter as a Tourist Activity in Semuliki National Park.
Batwa Trail Experience
The Batwa people belong to the Bantu ethnic group and are also known as ‘Keepers of the Forest’. This is because throughout their life time, they have lived in forests and have highly depended on hunting bush meat with the help of bow and arrows alongside nets. They also gather fruits in the forest to supplement their meals, use leaves and roots as medicine to treat diseases; use papyrus and thatch to build their shelter. They are believed to have migrated from Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo in search of bush meat.
Just about 5Km away from Sempaya hotsprings, lies Ntandi Village, a Batwa pygmy community in Semuliki National Park. The Batwa community encounter is led by Batwa guides who take you through Batwa lifestyle. Among activities done while on the trail experience include:
- Demontration of how to make Bambo cups
- Show casing all the Batwa hunting styles
- Collecting honey from bee hives
- Entertainment of the Batwa traditional dancing and Singing by the Ntandi dance group.
- You will also visit the Batwa Vocational center where you will be taught how to make craft items like traditional mats, baskets and others.
Bakonzo have unique criteria of naming their children. Bakonjo are given names depending on their birth positions in the family. Baluku/Mumbere, Bwambale, Masereka, Kule, Thembo/Mbusa are names given from the first to fifth sons respectively. Masiko/Musoki, Biiro, Kabugho, Mbambu, Ithungu, Kyakimo and Nziabake are names given from the first to seventh daughter respectively.Bakonzo people are also known as Bakonjo or Konzo. They live in hills and mountains at an altitude of about 2,200m. Traditionally, they are agriculturalists, cultivating crops such as beans, sweet potatoes, rice, wheat, cassava, bananas and other crops. They speak the ‘Rukonjo’ language, which is 77% similar to that of the Nande in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were part of the Rwenzururu movement against the Toro Kingdom, a Kingdom in the neighbouring District, Fort Portal. In 2008,they were recognized as a Tribe in the Rwenzururu Kingdom, Uganda’s first Kingdom to be shared by Two tribes. The second tribe in the Kingdom is the Amba. During the colonial period, the Bakonzo had been placed under the Toro Kingdom.
Enjoy community walks guided by Bakonzo guides as they illustrate to you the daily activities of their community. Visiting the community will give you an idea of how the locals survive without electricity, gas, technology equipment’s and other modern world requirements. The encounter will involve the following activities
- You will be taught by the Bakonzo women how to prepare food using firewood and fresh ingredients from the garden.
- You will meet the local basket weavers and they will teach you how to make items such as baskets, mats other items made out of papyrus.
- An encounter with the community’s traditional healer. Learn about how he treats diseases with just local herbs got from the slopes of Mt.Rwenzori.
- You will be entertained by the locals with a dance accompanied with strong energetic drumming. You could get involved in the drumming and dancing.
Birding as a Tourist Activity in Semuliki National Park.
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 Turacos, horn bill, Forest ground Trush, olive greenbul and many other birds.
Game Drive as a Tourist Activity in Semuliki National Park.
The park has about 63 mammal species, 11 of which are endemic to the par. The 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.
Rate: US$20 (day) $100 (night)
Nature Walks as a Tourist Activity n Semuliki National Park.
Semuliki Park has a rich biodiversity with a number of plant and wildlife species.Nature walks can be done one a number of trails which include:
The trail begins near the bridge at Kirimia, about 10Km awy from Sempaya Headquarters and stretches to about 11Km to the Semuliki River. You will be able to see a number of bird species like the Red billed Dwarf Hornbill, Great blue and many others. Primate species like baboons, colobus moneys and many others. Duration 3 to 4Hrsroundtrip.
Red Monkey Trail:
The 6 hour round trip will give you an opportunity to sight grassland and forest birds. You will also be able to encounter the rare primate species of the deBrazza’s monkey; crocodiles and water birds at Semuliki river.
Sempaya Nature Trail:
The trail leads you to the Sempaya Hot springs. On your way to the hot springs, you will encounter a number of primate species such as baboons, mangabey and others; as well as birds species such as Red billed Dwarf Hornbill, Great blue and others.
Semuliki safari Lodge.
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
01 Jan to 29 Feb
01 Jun to 30 Sep
01 Dec to 31 Dec
01 Mar to 31 May
01 Oct to 30 Nov
ROOMS Double Single Double Single ADULT US$350 US$455 US$295 US$385 CHILD3-12yrs sharing with adult US$180 – US$135 –
NB: All rates are on a Full Board plan and include 2 game activities per day and nature walk.
Ntoroko Game Lodge
The lodge is located at the shores of Lake Albert. It has five en-suit rooms which vary from standard to luxury.
ROOM Bed Bed&Breakfast Half Board Full Board Deluxe Tent 170 200 225 240 Deluxe Tent Double 130 150 175 200
Mountains of the moon
The hotel is in Fort portal, 87Km from Semuliki National park (1Hr by road). It has en-suit rooms, bar, wireless internet and restaurant.
ROOM RATE US$ (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.