Fairend Safaris

Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park is a protected area located in the western part of Uganda.  It is situated in the districts of Bundibugyo and Ntoroko.  Additionally, it was established in 1993 and was formerly a forest reserve created in 1932. The park comprises 85 square kilometers of East Africa’s only lowland tropical rainforest. Importantly  Semuliki Park is one of the richest areas of floral and fauna biodiversity in Africa.  It hosts about 441 recorded bird species, 53 mammals. The park is well known for the hot springs which are the female “Nyasimbi” and the male “Bintumani.”

There is a wide range of wild species that call Semuliki National Park home and these include; chimpanzees, baboons, forest elephants, bush babies, antelopes, hippos, and many more. The bird species that can be found in this park are Congo sepent eagle, spot-breasted ibis, red thighed sparrowhawk, and yellow throated cukoo  among others.

How to get to Semuliki National Park

Travelers can access Semuliki National Park from Kampala using either Mityana – Mubende via Fortportal to Semuliki park. The journery takes approximately 5-7 hours depending on road traffic. Alternatively, tourists can access the park through  the towns of Masaka, Mbarara, and Kasese which offers great opportunities to visit Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Parks.

Another way of getting to Semuliki National Park is by using public means where travelers can take either a bus or minibus from Kampala to Fort Portal. Upon arrival, you board a vehicle to Bundibudyo which leaves you at Sempaya Gate. The road leading to the park is in good conditions and tarmacked.

Activities to do in Semuliki National Park

Animal viewing and game drives

Several wild species call Semuliki National Park home and they can be seen during game drives.  Secondly, the park is an open grassland and has a river forest that hosts about 53 mammals including elephants, buffaloes, monkeys, and various antelope species. Night game drives are available too in this park to enable travelers to see nocturnal animals. Game drives are usually conducted in the morning and the afternoon with the guidance of a trained guide.

Chimpanzee trekking

The park is home to a habituated community of chimpanzees which was habituated by Indiana University. Guided chimpanzee tracking tours offer the opportunity to observe these fascinating primates in their natural habitat. A trekking permit costs $30 for international tourists. During the chimpanzee trekking, travelers can see other primates especially olive baboons, grey checked mangabey, Central African red colobus, Black and white colobus monkeys, and many more.

Birding

Semuliki National Park is renowned for its birdlife, with over 400 bird species recorded.  Besides, this park has half of the bird species found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is because the Ituri forest stretches up to Zaire through DRC. Birdwatchers can spot unique species such as the Shoebill stork, African Grey Parrot, and the Nkulengu Rail. These bird species can be spotted around Sempaya hot springs. The best time for birding is from December to April.

Guided nature walks

Guided nature walks are available along designated trails in the park.  Without a doubt they provide opportunities to explore the diverse flora and fauna of Semuliki, including the hot springs and various primate species. There are trails in the park that tourists can use during these walks for example the Red Monkey Trail. This trail is located on the eastern border of Semukiki River. The other trail is Sempaya nature trail which leads you to the hot springs.

Cultural encounters

Semuliki National Park is situated in the heart of the Rwenzori region, inhabited by the Batwa, Batuku, Bamba and Bakonjo people. Visitors can as well engage in cultural encounters, including visits to local communities to learn about their traditional customs and way of life. Formerly, the Batwa used to live in the forest but have been relocated to areas outside the national parks. Some have changed their ways of living however, others are still longing for their old ways of life in the forest.

Where to stay in Semuliki National Park

There are limited accommodation facilities in Semuliki National Park, most modern lodging facilities are found in the nearest towns of Bundibugyo and Fort Portal. The Uganda Wildlife Authority set up campsites near the main offices and gate where adventurous travelers can set up their tents. Some of the facilities include;

Semliki Safari Lodge

This luxury lodge offers comfortable accommodation in spacious tents or cottages with stunning views of the surrounding wilderness. It is the oldest in the area and offers wonderful views of Congo’s Blue Mountains. Additionally, it provides a high level of service, gourmet meals, and guided activities such as game drives, chimpanzee tracking, and birdwatching. Only about 18 people can be accommodated in a day therefore it is very competitive.

Ntoroko Game Lodge

Located near Lake Albert, Ntoroko Game Lodge offers both budget and mid-range accommodation options. It has luxury tents that are next to the beautiful sand beaches of Lake Albert. The lodge provides comfortable rooms, camping facilities, and guided activities includinggame drives, birdwatching, and boat safaris on Lake Albert. Last but not least, this facility is suitable for visitors on honeymoon who need privacy.

UWA campsites and Bandas

Lastly, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) operates basic bandas (thatched huts) and campsites within the park for budget travelers and camping enthusiasts. These facilities provide a rustic but affordable option for visitors who want to experience the park’s wilderness up close. 

The best time to visit

Semuliki National Park can be visited throughout the year however, the best time to visit is during the dry season. The months of June to September and December to February experience little or no rainfall therefore the trails in the park are easy to navigate. Tourists should always avoid wet seasons which occur from October to November and March to May. During this period the park experiences some floods since the rains are heavy and fill up the rivers.