SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
Semuliki National Park is situated in the distant part of Southwestern Uganda in Bwamba County found in Bundibugyo district on Uganda/Congo border. The park is bordered by Lake Albert in the North and the Rwenzori mountains in the South-east; it is one of Uganda’s newest National Parks and covers 220 square kilometers of the valley that connects Uganda to the rain forests of Central Africa. This makes it an extension of the vast Ituri tropical rainforest found in Congo. It is approximately 340kms around 6 hours drive from Kampala the capital of Uganda.
Semuliki is among the most bio-diversified forests and mainly well-known for its bird population. It is one of Africa’s oldest tropical rainforests that remained after the last ice age 18,000 years ago. The valley has a lot of vegetation making this forest so thick and a habitat for many animals. Initially it was a forest reserve managed by colonial government in 1932, and was later established as a national park in October 1993 to conserve forests and protect wildlife managed by Uganda wildlife Authority.
The park receives an average amount rainfall of 1,250mm; this is in the months of March-May and from September –December. During the wet seasons most places flood with water. The temperature rate in the park usually changes from 18°C to 30°C. The park has Hot springs famously known as the Sempaya Hot springs, giving it a nice scenic look. The Hot springs bubble water up from the lowest point under Sempaya this is an amazing feature to watch. .
Around the park
The Semuliki River forms an international boundary as it makes its way in the park covering a journey of around 140 kilometers; it is shared by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. It flows from Lake Edward and pours in Lake Albert; there are various vegetation types along the river, various bird species, animals like Hippos and they can be seen while on a boat ride along the river and on the Eastern shores of Lake Albert.
Flora and Fauna
Generally Semuliki National Park has a more distinctive ecosystem in the Albertine rift valley. The park is situated in different ecological and climatic zones, this has caused a high variety of animal and plant species in the park and these are also found in the Congo basin. It is endowed with spectacular scenery starting with the bamboo forests, the tropical lowland rainforests, savannah grasslands and swampy vegetation that has a variety of fauna.
The park is home to various animals with over 60 mammals such as forest elephants, pygmy flying squirrels, civets, hippos, leopards, forest buffaloes and bush babies, around 8 primate species like chimpanzees, De Brazza’s monkeys, the Red tailed monkeys, over 400 bird species such as the white crested, black dwarf, white dwarf, Abyssinian ground hornbill, shoe bill stork and about 300 butterfly species among others. Most of these animals can be seen during the night game drive, Semuliki is a place where you can clearly take a night game drive where you can see different things like Owls, bats, bush babies among others.
The major activity in Semuliki National Park is birding, and this is why it is regarded to as the “True Birders’ Haven “with over 400 bird species, it is the best place to view most of Uganda’s beautiful birds, most birding trails are around the Sempaya hot springs. The different bird species to look out for include; the African Turacos, crested Malimbe, Black dwarf Hornbill, the Piping Hornbill, Leaf-love, the Red-billed and the Blue-billed Malimbe, Red-thighed and Great sparrows, African wool owl, shoe bill stork and many more.
There are two major groups of people living in this area such as the Bakonjo and the Bamba. Others include the Batuku who are pastoral cattle keepers whose animals get water and pasture along the river Semiliki and the Batwa (pygmies) also live in the valley. The Batwa are an indigenous group of people that used to stay in the Semiliki forest and all they used to do was to gather fruits and do hunting in the forest. So while in the park you cannot miss out on a community walk or visit to their villages.
The other locals in the area also practice subsistence farming where they earn a living from; they also use the forest as a source of certain things they need such as fruits, herbal medicines, bush meat, building materials like wood and vegetables. There is also a small group of people that still leaves in the forests called the Basu they still depend on hunting and gathering of fruits, so touring this park also adds own their well being and also tourists who visit their community can learn a lot from them like how they make hand crafts like baskets, mats among others.
There are various lodges or hotels around the park that range from up market to budget, such as the Semiliki safari lodge, there are some cottages in Bumaga and they are located around 2.5km from Sempaya gate. In general all hotels and lodges are accessible; there is nothing to worry about accommodation.
Concerning the tariffs especially those for activities and park entry fees, it important to contact UWA on their tariff sheet concerning such information since the charges vary over time.
Please note that of the funds collected 20% is shared in the communities that stay in the park, this helps to show them the benefits of tourism and also it supports the local’s at large.