Semliki national park is located in Bwamba County within Bundibugyo district in the western region on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and is situated within the western arm of the Rift Valley base between Lake Albert, Rwenzori Mountains, and the Kijura escarpments and was gazetted on October 1993. Semliki National Park covers 220 square kilometers with an altitude of 670m to 760m above sea level and River Semliki which acts as a boundary between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park receives an average annual rainfall of 1250mm from march to May, September, and December.
Semliki national park is a home of over 60 mammal species including Buffaloes, Leopards, Hippos, Mona monkeys, Bushbabies, Elephants, Civets, Pygmy flying squirrels, Water chevrotain, Target rat, Little collared fruit bat among others, 400 bird species with 12 which are endemic to the park including Iyre tailed honeyguide, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Piping Hornbill, Red-sided broadbill, Capuchin babbler, Yellow long bill, Crested malimbe among others, 8 primate species including Red tailed monkey, Vervet monkey, Blue Debrazzas monkey, Grey checked mangabey, Olive baboon, Black and white colobus monkey, Chimpanzees, 300 butterfly species, 305 tree species with 125 species which are only restricted in Semliki national park among others.
Semliki national park is a good destination to do your Uganda Safari Tours for scenic viewing of Lake Albert, Semliki River, tropical rainforest, hot springs, the steep green slope at the foothills of Rwenzori, the highlands, swamplands which inhabit rare bird species and mammals among others which make your safari fascinating and exciting.
How to get to Semliki National Park
Semliki national park can be accessed for one to do their Uganda Safari Tours by road from Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende with 180km and takes about 4 to 5 hours drive hence the shortest or from Kampala City via Fort Portal, Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese which takes about 7 to 8 hours drive. This route is a bit longer but adventurous in that it gives you an opportunity to visit lake Mburo national park in Mbarara, Rwenzori national park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura wildlife reserve. From Fort Portal, you drive on the rough road towards Bundibudgyo which will lead you to the Sempaya gate which takes around 2 to 3 hours drive, then to Ntandi the park headquarters which is 5km from the gate.
Activities done in Semliki National Park
Game drives: This is an activity where visitors in Semliki national park are given an opportunity to be driven around the park in a wildlife safari tour vehicle so as to experience nature in the wilderness. Game drives in Semliki national park are either done early in the morning, in the afternoon or at night where you drive through the savannah grassland, acacia woodland of Toro Semliki wildlife reserve where you will be able to view different bird species and animals like lions, leopards, hyenas, elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks, warthogs, Uganda kob, hippos, primates like chimpanzees, monkeys, nocturnal animals like white tailed mongoose, nightjars, leopards, bush babies, hares, target rat, little collared fruit bat, genets, eagle owl, slender mongoose among others which can be viewed during the night game drive with spotlights in the forest which give you great experience on your safari.
Bird watching: Birding is an interesting and most popular activity that bird lovers in Semliki national park engage in while on the safari. Semliki national park harbors 400 bird species which represents about 40% of the total number of bird species living in Uganda and 66% of the country’s forest birds and five species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift. birding in Semliki national park is done in the forest edges along Bundibugyo road, in Kirumia River trail, Ntandi, and Sempaya, different bird species will be viewed including the Orange cheeked waxbill which are normally seen in groups of 3 to 7 members, other species include Capuchin babbler, Crested flycatcher, Piping Hornbill, Orange Weaver, Red-billed malimbe, Papyrus gonolek, White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed dwarf hornbill, Yellow-throated nicator, Great blue Turaco, Ross’s Turaco, Long-tailed Hawk, Black wattled hornbill, Red-billed helmet- shrike, Crested malimbe, Blue-billed malimbe, Swamp palm bulbul, Maxwell’s black weaver, African piculet, Ituri batis, Congo serpent eagle among others and the rare Shoebill stork which can be viewed on a guided boat ride in the swampy area. Therefore Semliki national park has the richest forest birds in Africa which give you a memorable experience on your safari tour in Uganda.
Hiking and nature walk: This is one of the famous and interesting activities where visitors explore the park on foot with a park ranger. Nature walks are done in the green vegetation of Semliki national park which starts early in the morning. Semliki national park offers different trails which visitors follow during nature walks in the park which include:
- Red tailed monkey/primate trail is an 11km trail that starts from the Sempaya tourism site near the main road and also stretches into the forest, to the eastern border of the park and later reaches Semliki River hence ending at the park headquarters. During this trail, you will be able to view different animals including Duikers, Forest Elephants, Forest Buffaloes, Antelopes, primates like Baboons, Black and White monkeys, Grey checked mangabeys, Red tailed monkeys among others.
- Kirumia trail is a 23km trail which starts from Kirumia 8km from Ntandi the park headquarters, walking begins at 8 am and the trail passes in the middle of the forest towards river Semliki and is very popular for bird watching where you will be able to view different species that are restricted in only Semliki national park including Black and White casqued hornbill, Piping Hornbill, White crested hornbill, Great blue Turaco, Ross’s Turaco, Red-necked falcon, Black billed barbet, the rare Shoebill stork among others and butterfly watching.
- Sempaya nature trail is an 8km trail which begins in the morning or afternoon, the trail leads you to the two hot springs which exist in Semliki national park, you will visit the male hot spring also called Bamaga which is 12m in diameter and is located in a lush swampy clearing and the female hot spring also called Nyansimbi and is the hottest and most dangerous hot spring which boils at around two meters high and locals used to cook food using this hot spring, therefore, visitors also get an opportunity to cook food like eggs and green bananas while at the hot spring. During this trail you will be able to see some primates like Monkeys, Mangabeys, Chimpanzees and birds which give you great moments in the local sauna and great scenic views of mountain Rwenzori, Semliki valley among others and relax in the huts at the hot springs
Hiking to Nyabsurogo gorge which takes about a 7km hike and starts from the headquarters then passes through the forest and savannah woodland. The gorge is the best area for birders with different bird species including the Tropical boubou, Hornbills, Arrow marked babbler among others and you will also see a number of animals and primates like Chimpanzees, Baboons, Vervet monkeys, Black and White colobus monkeys, Red tailed monkeys among others.
Boat ride in Semliki national park, which are conducted on Lake Albert, during the boat ride you will enjoy the scenic view of the rift valley between Rwenzori Kijura escarpments and view different bird species like the rare shoebill stork which is found in the swampy areas and other birds like blue breasted bee-eaters, blue-headed caudal among others. There is also guided boat ride on the Semliki River which is 160km long where you will see various animals like Waterbucks, Sitatungas, Nile crocodiles, Lizards, Hippos among others hence having a great experience on the water and riding close to the animals.
Cultural encounters, this is a thrilling activity in Semliki national park where visitors tour around the local communities around the national park, the communities include Ntoroko fishing community which is situated at the southeastern tip of Lake Albert between Wasa and Musizi rivers, people in the community are fishmongers and fish different fish types including catfish, lungfish, salty fish among others, they depend on fish to earn a living, visitors who tour the community take park in fishing for great experiences. The Batwa trail experience is another encounter where visitors interact with the Batwa people who lived in the forest before it was gazetted as a national park, nowadays the Batwa live on the boundaries of the park and only visit the park as guides during the Batwa trail experience in Semliki national park. The Batwa were hunters and gatherers who depended on the forest for food and shelter, during the encounter you will meet their king and queen and witness their cultural performances inform of dances, songs, storytelling among others, you will be able to learn about different cultural lifestyles, habits and their ways of living.https://www.ugandasafaristours.com/uganda-national-parks
Primate walks, Semliki National Park is one of the national parks in Uganda that offers primate walks to visitors in the park which starts at Semliki safari lodge where you meet with the guides before going on the walk in the forest where you will view different primates like Chimpanzees, Red tailed monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Black and White colobus monkeys, Olive baboons, Grey-cheeked mangabey among others and other animals like Waterbucks, Warthogs, Bushbucks, Buffaloes, Elephants, Uganda kobs and many others. You can as well arrange to take part in chimpanzee trekking and chimpanzee habituation process where you will have enough time with the chimpanzees that are being habituated by the researchers so as to get used to the human presence.
Semliki national park offers luxury and midrange accommodation facilities to the tourists who are on a safari in the park including Semliki safari lodge which is located in Semliki valley and also known as the oldest lodge around Semliki national park, Ntoroko game lodge which is located at the shores of Lake Albert, Kirumia guest house located near Sempaya gate along Bundibugyo highway, Bamuga campsite among others, these accommodations offer meals, drinks, and makes visitors comfortable during their Uganda safari tour in the park.
Semliki national park is one of the less-visited national parks in Uganda with unique wildlife species, bird species like the shoebill stork, undisturbed diversity, vegetation, hot springs which give you an opportunity to explore the park to the fullest and get memorable experiences during your safari in Uganda.