Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park situated in the extreme remote corner of western Uganda in Bundibugyo district is an eastern extension of the vast Ituri Forest and forms part of the forest continuum during the climatic upheavals of the Pleistocene, this is one of the richest areas for both flora and fauna in Africa. (Especially for birds)
Semuliki lies along the Uganda/ Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border within the western arm of the East African Rift Valley. In the southeast are the Rwenzori Mountains, to the west is the Democratic Republic of Congo and to the north are the Semuliki flats and Lake Albert further on.
Semuliki National Park covers an area of 220 sq. kms and was gazetted in October 1993. The park occupies a flat with gently undulating landform ranging from 670m-760m above sea level. As all streams and rivers from the surrounding areas are flooded drain into the Park plus the poor drainage and topography, many areas are flooded during the rainy season. The average annual rainfall is 1250 mm with peaks from March to May and September and December. The temperature varies from 18o C – 30o C with relatively small daily changes.
Semuliki being a relatively stable forest is one of the richest areas for forest birds in Africa. A large number of predominantly African species have been recorded and these include some of the continent’s most spectacular and sought-after birds such as; Long-tailed Hawk, Congo Serpent Eagle, Black-wattled Hornbill and Lyre-tailed Honey guide.
Semuliki Wildlife Reserve is Uganda’s oldest wild life reserve formerly known as the Toro Game reserve which was gazetted in 1932.This large reserve abutting Lake Albert and the northern base of the Rwenzori is a rich mosaic of grassland, savannah, forest and wetland habitats. Semuliki is a 545km sq sanctuary lying in western Ugandan, to the northeast of the Bundibugyo road extending to Ntoroko on the southern shores of Lake Albert.
The fauna in Semuliki game reserve is correspondingly diverse: Semuliki is known to have species of birds you will be able to see many of these birds over 400 bird species recorded at Semuliki during your game drives, including the Abyssinian ground hornbill.
Within this wildlife reserve you will also be able to see buffaloes and a small number of elephants and waterbuck, though not seen on a daily basis.
Semuliki wildlife reserve has the primates well represented, among these include; the black & white Colobus monkey, Olive baboon, red-tailed and vervet monkeys in the gallery forest close to the Semliki Safari Lodge.
Other mammals can be rarely spotted such as the Leopards and Owls while taking a night drive within the park.
Noted Bird Species
Bird species in this area include:- Zenker’s Honeyguides, African Piculet, Gabon Woodpecker, Red-sided Broadbill, White-throated Blue Swallow, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Sassi’s Olive, Xavier’s, Swamp, Simple and Eastern Bearded Greenbuls, Yellow-throated Nicator, Capuchin Babbler, Northern Bearded Scrub Robin, Forest and Grey Ground Thrushes, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Brown-crowned Eremomela, Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher, Ituri Batis, Red-billed Helmet -Shrike, Red-eyed Puff-back, Black-winged Starling, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Blue-billed, Crested and Red-bellied Malimbes, Pale-fronted and Chestnut-breasted Negro finches, Grant’s Bluebill and Spot-breasted Ibis, Hartlaubs’s Duck, Chestnut-flanked Goshawk, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Long-tailed Hawk, Forest Francolin, Nkulengu Rail, Western Bronze-napped Pigeon, Black-collared Lovebird, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Red-chested Owlet, Bates’ Nightjar, Chocolate-backed, White-bellied and African Dwarf Kingfishers, White-crested, Black Dwarf, Red-billed Dwarf, Piping and Black-wattled Hornbills, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Spotted, Lyre-tailed
Other species diversity
Semuliki holds over 53 species of mammal have been recorded from the park, 9 species of, which are diurnal forest primates (for example the chimpanzees, blue monkey, and vervet monkeys and olive baboon), while nocturnal primates include pottos and galagos these are shy and very rare.
A list of 374 species of butterflies and months have been identified including 46 species of forest swallowtails and charaxes plus atleast 81 species of large moth, 12 of which are classified as restricted.
The wide range of species is attributed not only to the forest’s location, but also to the varied habitats, forest swamp, grassland and an extensive system of hot springs, warm swamp and Savannah woodland with a total 305 species of trees recorded, of which 125 species are restricted to this park alone.
The other of mammals are also found in Semuliki , forest buffaloes, blue duiker, bee croft’s flying squirrel, pigmy squirrel, little collared fruit bat, water chevrotaain and target rat.
Two hot springs are situated in a tract of hot mineral encrusted swamp land, where visitors see a two meter jet of hot water (130oc) and a pool (12m diameter) of oozing boiling water (106oc). One can boil food especially eggs in the natural boiler within 10 minutes and eat it.
Years before there were four ethnic groups living around the park, the Bamba , Batuku ,Batwa and Bakonjo are found in the vicinities a round the park. The Batwa (pigmies) are hunters and gatherers, and are an Ituri ethnic group who historically depended and still depend on Semuliki forest. Their lifestyle is now changing due to interaction with other local communities and the impact of tourism.
A tour to Semuliki National Park has the most marvelous and breathtaking views. Enjoy and experience the wonders of Bundibugyo road through the Rwenzori escarpments, while in the mountains the road offers scenic views of the meandering Semuliki River, fuming Sampaya hot springs and the tropical rain forest extending to Ituri forest in the D R C
The tourism travel activities you will enjoy at Semuliki range from Game drives, Guided walks, boat trips and Bird watching.
Game drives in the Uganda wildlife reserve can be very interesting. You will be able to appreciate the vast fauna in Semliki during your game drive. Here you will also be able to see the Mugiri River Forest, the best tourism destination in Uganda for viewing different tree species, including the elusive leaf–love and many other local species.
When you drive through the open plains you will see a fascinating variety of raptors and the Abyssinian hornbill.
Guided forest walks will offer you the chance to see more than 40 chimps that are residents of the Mugiri forest, these chimps are being habituated.
You also stand a chance of encountering the localized forest race of elephant.
You can organize a Boat trip on Lake Albert through the Semuliki Safari Lodge or with the local fishermen around, this is a worthwhile activity.
Following the road Fort Portal, there is a turn-off to the Semuliki Valley and it is two (2) hours drive on a murram road to Sempaya gate (52kms) and a 4WD vehicle is recommended. The drive to Sempaya takes one through a winding road through the lower ranges of Rwenzori Mountains where at several places one can view the rift valley floor where the Semuliki flats and Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve are located. There is a 40 km long road that connects Karugutu to Ntoroko on Lake Albert, this runs right to the heart of the game reserve
Public transport is readily available that runs directly between Fort portal and Ntoroko on most of the days.
Semuliki Safari Lodge, this is one of the most luxurious bush retreats in Uganda built on the site of an older hunting lodge. It has exotic large thatched tents with 4- poster beds, hand- carved furniture, and Persian rugs spread beautifully on the floors, en suite bathrooms and private verandah. This lodge is located about 25 km down the road that connects Karugutu to Ntoroko on Lake Albert.
Ntoroko Safari Lodge of recent has been opened up in Semuliki for premium services especially to middle class visitors
Uganda Wildlife Authority run and operates a campsite located about 500m from the village on a sandbank overlooking Lake Albert. Besides is another camp site being developed inside the Park at Bumaga, about 3 km. From Sempaya Gate. You will be able to spend a night in one of the two executive bandas, hire a tent or come with your own tent for camping