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Semliki National Park

Semliki National Park, Semliki National Park is one of the rarely visited places in Uganda yet it’s an epitome of natural beauty and tranquility. This National Park is found in the extreme and remote end of Bundibugyo district in western Uganda, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo with the Rwenzori Mountains on its south-east as well as Lake Albert on its North. It was first established as a Forest Reserve in 1932 and 61 years later (1993) was upgraded into a National Park making it one of the most recent Parks in the country.  Semliki National Park extends for an area of 220 square kilometers across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the western side of the Rwenzori Mountains with a landscape elevation of between 670 and 760 meters above sea level.

With an altitude of 670-760 meters above sea level, Semliki National Park shelters the only swathe of true lowland tropical forest within the East African region. The Park landscape is characterized by vegetation typical of the easternmost extension of the Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. Not only that, the Park shelters one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests, one of the few that are said to have lived through the last Ice age (12-18,000 years ago).

Attractions within Semliki National Park

Semliki National Park is one of the endowed places boasting of faunal and floral diversity on the African Continent.

Flora

Semliki National Park shelters plant species that are typical of Central African than East Africa, that make visiting the area worthwhile. Interestingly, majority of the floral species in this Park are also found in the Congo basin forests but the dominant vegetation in the Park are semi-deciduous as well as the medium altitude moist evergreen forest. The Uganda Ironwood is the most dominant species in this Park.

Fauna

There are over 53 species of mammals in Semliki National Park including chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, Mona monkeys, African buffaloes, Duikers, bush babies, African civet, leopards, Pygmy scaly-tailed flying squirrels, Hippos, water chevrotain, Elephants, leopards and many others.

Semliki National Park also hosts about 441 species of birds including 35 guinea-Congo forest biome species and about 12 species limited to East African region. Popular species to encounter are the Sassi’s olive greenbul, lyre-tailed Honeyguide, the exceptional Oberlander’s ground thrush, hornbills, blue-headed crested flycatcher, Piping hornbills, Western bronze-naped pigeons, African dwarf kingfishers, Nkulengu rail, yellow-throated Nicator, chestnut-breasted Negrofinch, Eastern-bearded Greenbuls, long-tailed hawks, red-sided broadbill, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Black-collared lovebirds and Red-chested owlets among others.

Hot springs

The stunning Sempaya hot springs are found in Semliki National Park and are popular for their high temperatures that are capable of boiling an egg for only 10 minutes. These hot springs are said to be gendered with a female and male hot spring but on your visit you will be fascinated by their cultural formation than the scientific reason of their existence.

Tourist activities in Semliki National Park

Game drives

The Uganda Wildlife Authority designated three magnificent game tracks running across the extensive savannah plains of Semliki National Park. These tracks allow tourists to come across the Uganda kobs, Defassa waterbucks, savannah and forest elephants, buffaloes and warthogs. Visitors that undertake the night game drives are rewarded with the rare sight of the leopards, bush babies, white-tailed mongoose and pottos among others.

Nature walks

Nature walks are the most perfect way of exploring the Sempaya hot springs, primates and bird species of Semliki National Park. So far three popular hiking trails totaling to over 40 kilometers exist in this Park and they include the shortest-8 kilometer Sempaya Nature Trail that lasts between 2 and 4 hours offering views of primates and a chance to see the Sempaya hot spring. The longer-11 kilometer Red Monkey Trail transverses the eastern boundary of the park with chances of spotting the DeBrazza’s monkeys. The other hiking trail is the Kirumia Trail that extends for 13 kilometers and passes through the heart of the Park to River Semliki for 8 hours.

Birding

Bird watching offers tourists with a chance of spotting forest bird species including the Ross turaco, Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch, Lemon-bellied Crombec, great blue turaco, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, white-crested hornbills, Maxwell’s black weavers, yellow-throated Nicator and many others. Every part of this Park has extraordinary species of birds but the hot spots with numerous species are the Ntandi and Sempaya areas.

Chimpanzee trekking

Although not as popular as other destinations like Kibale Forest National Park, Kyambura gorge and Budongo Forest, chimpanzee trekking is also conducted in Semliki National Park. The adventure usually starts at 8am and lasts for 30 minutes to 3 hours with chances of also seeing other primate species of the Park.

Cultural tours

Cultural tours are centered on the Batwa people with their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Discover about how they used to depend on the forest for food, medicine and shelter before it was gazetted into a National Park. Be entertained in their exciting cultural dance performances at Ntandi as well as purchasing some of their locally-made crafts.

Accommodation facilities 

There are few accommodation facilities in Semliki National Park but visitors can stay in the nearby Bundibugyo and Fort Portal Towns. Common places to stay are Kirumia Guesthouse, Semliki Guesthouse, Ntoroko Game Lodge, Kyaninga Lodge, Semliki Safari Lodge, Hotel vanilla, Rwenzori View Guesthouse, Mountains of the Moon Hotel, Nyati Game Lodge Rwenzori Travellers Inn and many others.

How to get to there

Semliki National Park is situated in western district of Bundibugyo and can be reached through air by landing at Kasese airstrip and proceeding to the Park by road or directly by road transport. The Park is about 290 kilometers by road from Kampala City through the Fort Portal Mubende road while over 465 kilometers through the Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese-Fort Portal.

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