Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park, previously known as the Tooro Reserve, lies near the northern base of the Rwenzori’s in western Uganda. The rich habitat of grassland, Savannah, forest and wetland is home to diverse fauna, in addition to 400 bird species and 300 butterfly species. The park is dominated by the eastern most extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. This is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests; one of the few to survive the last ice age.
The Semuliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semuliki River (which forms the international boundary) is a miniature version of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species.
Activities carried out here include;
Game drives, Bird watching, Hot springs viewing, Batwa pygmy community tour, Wildlife and nature walk tours.
Areas of Interest
Sempaya Hot Springs
The Sempaya Hot Springs are Semuliki’s most famous attraction. The “male” spring, known as Bintente, measures 12m in diameter and is set in a lush swampy clearing. The “female” spring Nyasimbi, meaning “the female ancestors”, is a boiling geyser (103°C) which spurts bubbling water and steam up to two meters high – the steam cloud can be seen from as far as 2km away. Local people used to cook their food in these boiling pools.
Sempaya – Ntandi Road
This 6km section of public road runs through one of the loveliest tracts of forest in Uganda and provides views of birds and monkeys high up in the forest canopy. Birding walks take place in Sempaya, as well as night hikes deep into the forest. In Ntandi, local Batwa dancers put on traditional performances for visitors.Another local attraction is the Mungiro Falls near the hot springs.
The 160km long Semliki River carries runoff from the Rwenzori Mountains to Lake Albert and the Nile, proving ancient geographers’ claims that the Nile flows (in part anyway) from a snow-capped mountain in the heart of Africa. Broad, muddy, forest fringed and home to hippos and crocodiles, the Semliki is a miniature version of the Congo River. Visitors can watch the river meander across the rift valley floor from roadside viewpoints and hike through the forest to its bird-rich banks.
Areas of Interest outside the Park
Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve
In Uganda’s oldest reserve, tropical rainforest meets grassy savanna and the flat plains are punctuated by deep river valleys. The unique geography is reflected in the diversity of wildlife, which includes the forest mammals of Central Africa, key East African species and a variety of birdlife. Chimp tracking commences here.
Birding in Semuliki
Birders who make it to Semuliki will be rewarded with some of Africa’s best forest birding. Sempaya and Ntandi provide excellent viewing of the birds including the White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos. The area around Kirumia River is another top birding spot. The shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quarters on Lake Albert and forest walks are good for tracking water birds.
Cultural Encounters in Semuliki
The Batwa’s hunter-gatherer lifestyle means they have always been dependent on Semuliki forest for food, shelter, medicine and tools, though this is beginning to change as a result of interaction with other local communities.
Tourism offers an alternative source of income for the Batwa, and gives them the opportunity to maintain and display their rich cultural history through music and dance performances at Ntandi. They also produce intricate handcrafts for sale.
A boma, or cultural village, is currently being built so that the Batwa can demonstrate how they used to live in the forest – check back for more details.
Game Drives in Semuliki
Three tracks cross the savannah grassland of Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob. With luck, you may even see pygmy hippopotami, leopards and elusive bushbabies. Game drives in the Wildlife Reserve can take place in the morning, afternoon and at night; after dark, visitors may come across curious nocturnal species such as the white-tailed mongoose.
Hiking and Nature Walks in Semuliki
The 13km KirumiaTrail runs through the heart of the forest to the Semuliki River. This 8 hour round trip starts at 8am and is perfect for birders.
The 11km Red Monkey Track follows the park’s eastern border – a stronghold of the rare deBrazza’s monkey – to the Semliki River.
Along the 8km Sempaya Nature Trail, you can view the hot springs and primates. This 2-4 hour hike can take place in the morning or afternoon.
Hot Springs in Semuliki
The hour-long trail to the outer, “male” spring leads through a patch of forest where red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys are common. A tree house en route provides an aerial view.
A 30-minute hike through palm forest from the main road leads to the inner, “female” spring, dominated by a boiling geyser. Eggs and matooke (green plantain) can be cooked in these boiling waters and enjoyed by hungry hikers!