Semliki National Park
A true birder’s haven
The 220km2 Semliki National Park and the nearby 545km2 Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve lie on the floor of Semliki valley, the 160km long part of the Albertine Rift valley between lakes Albert and Edward. The valley which is shared by Uganda and DR Congo contains wildlife from both central and East Africa. Forest species from the Congo abound in the national park while classic East African game is found in the wildlife reserve.
The Semliki forest boasts a remarkably rich bio-diversity, this is partly because it is extremely old being one of the few patches of forest refugia that predate the arid millenia of the last ice age. Secondly it represents the eastern limit of the jungles of Congo and species from Congo-guinea and East African biomes are both here. The Semliki National Park contains 53 mammal species with an impressive 11 primates, 435 bird species (43% of Uganda ‘s total) including many rift valley endemics and Congo species at the eastern limit of their range. Hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
Activities/ Attractions in Semliki National Park
The alluring Bird List with Albertine Rift endemics,’ semliki specials’ and other restricted range specials, make Semliki an essential destination for serious birders. The 6km public road between Sempaya and Ntandi provides clear views into the forest canopy. The 14km Kirumia trail which runs through the hurt of the forest to the Semliki river, provides the chance to check off plenty of the specials. Though day walks are possible, this trail is more rewarding as an overnight camping trip. Birding highlights include the Albertine rift endemics such as the dwarf honeyguide and purple breasted sunbirds;35 congo biome species found nowhere else in East Africa including Black dwarf hornbill, Nkulegu ail, Congo serpent eagle, Gabon woodpecker and other species with very limited ranges such as white tailed hornbill, capuchin babbler, blue headed crested flycatcher and the orange weaver.
Semliki National Park‘s most famous attraction is the pair of hot springs, male hot spring and female hot spring found near the park office at Sempaya. The female spring, Nyansimbi which means the female ancestors is a boiling geyser that spurts bubbling water and steam up to 2m high. Visitors can buy eggs locally to cook in the boiling pools that surround the central spout. Nyansibi is a short walk from the Sempaya park office. The male spring known as Bintente is an hour distant, A broad, steaming pol12m in diameter, this is found in a large swapy clearing enclosed by forest and with a striking Rwenzori backdrop.
A number of short trails around Sempaya for nature lovers and birders. Nature and birding walks are available as well as night hikes into the forest to seek nocturnal primates
A small network of game tracks explores the grasslands of the Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Forest and Savanna elephants are both regularly seen along with buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda Kob. With luck you may see lion, leopard and bush babies.
Primate/ Forest Walks
The 4-6 hour guided nature walks through the Mugiri River Forest provides the opportunity to find habituated chimpanzees and primate plus a wealth of birdlife.
How to reach Semliki National Park
Two major roads lead from Kampala to Fort Portal town, which is 60km from Semliki.
Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende is 290km (4-5hrs)
Kampala to Fort Portal via Mbarara and kasese is 465km (7-8hrs). This route however offers worth while diversions to Lake Mburo National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
The drive from Fort Portal to Semliki follows scenic Bwamba Road and takes about an hour.
Chartered flights can land at an airstrip on Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
Best time of the year to visit Semliki National Park
Dry Season: June to September is the driest time and temperatures average 80°F (25°C) when most animals remain near water, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time. The hot dry time is January to February and is a good time to visit.
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Semliki National Park in Pictures
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