Semuliki National ParkAncient
Semuliki National Park lies along the Western arm of the East African rift valley. The Park is found in Western Uganda, Bundibugyo district in Bwamba sub-county. It was gazzetted in 1993 and covers a total area of 220km2. The altitude is between 670m to 760m above sea level. The park lies on the western side of the famous Rwenzori Mountains.
Semulik National park is largely covered by forest which is an extension of the large Ituri forest running across the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park has 53 recorded mammal species and 445 bird species, including the rare Shoebill stork. There are communities living in and around the park and these include; the Bakonzo farmers, the Batwa community, the Batuku cattle farmers and the Bambuti pygmies.
The park is visited throughout the year though best time to visit the park is during dry season from December to February and June to September.
Getting to the park
One can access the park on two fronts; Kampala via Fort portal which is approximately 4-5 hours’ drive and Kampala via Mbarara, Queen Elizabeth National Park which is the longer route 7-8 hours’ drive. You may also use chartered flights to the park which take an average of 2 hours to get there.
Attractions in Semuliki National Park
Sempaya hot springs
The hot springs are one of the main attractions in the park, there two hot springs, Bitende which is the male and Nyasimbi which is the female the local people perform traditional ceremonies near these two springs. The water is so hot with temperatures reaching 100 degrees centigrade. You can boil food such as eggs in the hot springs. the park offers guided tours around the hot springs, where you get to listen to the local guides telling the stories and myths about the springs.
There are some communities living around the park and among them are the Bambuti people and the Batwa people. The later and former inhabited the forest but were evicted to make way for the current park. Since these people no longer live in the forest, they make a living by performing for the tourists and making traditional crafts. Their music and dancing is quite interesting to watch, they also show case their skills in hunting and traditional medicine. Tourists can visit their homes to see how they carry on with their daily life.
The park is home to 53 recorded species of mammals and these include, the grazers; Topis, Buffalo, water bucks, forest Elephants, warthogs, Uganda kob and the predators include the Lions, Leopards, hyenas, crocodiles and among the primates; chimpanzees, Red tailed Monkey, Black and white colobus, Vervet monkey and Olive Baboons among others. You can do both day and night game drives.
Birding in Semuliki National Park
With over 445 bird species recorded in this park, Semuliki National Park is a birders heaven. The park has a large share of forest birds some migrating from the Ituri forest to Uganda. Some of the most interesting bird species in this park includes; White-thighed Hornbill, White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Spot-breasted Ibis ,Western Bronze-napped Pigeon, Green-tailed Bristle bill, Spot-breasted Ibis , Spot-breasted Ibis , Red-ramped Tinker bird, Swamp palm Bulbul, Red-bellied Malimbe, Crested Malimbe, Blue-billed Malimbe, African Piculet, Gabon Woodpecker, Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher, Long-tailed Hawk, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Leaf-love, to mention but a few. The more time you have in the park the higher chances you have of spotting more birds.
Semuliki Nationa park is another park where Chimps find home. However, the chances of viewing the chimpanzees are not as high as other parks like Kibale National Park. The chimpanzees in this park are still undergoing habituation so the chimps are not fully ready to come face to face with huans. Though visitors still trek this forest in search of chimpanzees.
If you love being out there in the wild and feel the fresh breath of air, you will be home. You will listen to the birds whistle, hear the monkeys call, watch as the antelopes graze, traverse the forest. While in the park, you will see the colorful birds and butterflies, visit the hot springs. This depends on your interests and time. Nature walks are also a nice experience.
Unlike other Parks which have large numbers of tourists, Semuliki national Park is not visited by many tourists. But if you feel like you want to hide away, relax and reflect then, there are some lodges available where you can achieve exactly that.