Semuliki valley national park found at the base of the Albertine rift valley located in the southwestern part of Uganda in Bundibugyo district covering an area of 220 kilometers squared in the only tract of lowland semi-deciduous forest in East Africa. Semuliki valley national park forest is one of the ancient forests that survived the ice age period with a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna comprised of savannah grasslands, wetlands, and rivers. It was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1932 and established as a national park in 1993.
Semuliki valley national park is an extension of Ituri forest of the Congo basin, it’s bordered by the Ruwenzori mountains from the southwest and Lake Albert on the North. One of the advantages of visiting the park is that it’s less crowded unlike other national parks in Uganda.
Semuliki valley national park is one of Uganda’s priceless gems harboring various wildlife with 53 mammalian species, some of the animals you can see while on a game drive are; deffassa waterbuck, Jackson hartebeests, buffalos, elephants, civets, hippos, leopards, bush babies, pygmy antelopes, flying squirrels, waterbucks, warthogs, bushbucks, reedbucks, civets, giant forest hogs and hyenas among the rest.
Chimpanzee trekking is one of the activities tourists can engage in though it’s not as famous as trekking in Kibale forest national park. Chimpanzees are humans closest relatives sharing a DNA of 98% you observe chimpanzees for one hour after finding them in the trekking, you can also join researchers and scientists in the chimpanzee habituation experience which is more interesting than trekking because you spend 4 hours with chimpanzees. During chimpanzee trekking, you will also be able to spot other primates such as the De brazza monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, central Africa monkey, black and white colobus monkeys and vervet monkeys among the rest.
The major tribes living around Semiliki valley national park are the Bamba, Batwa, Butuku and the Bakonjo tribes. All of this tribes have different and unique cultures you can explore and learn from and also get entertained with pure local African music and dances and perhaps buy some hand made local crafts to take home for remembrance or as gifts to your loved ones.
Semuliki valley national park is a birder paradise endowed with over 441 species of bird with 46 species of Guinea-Congo Biome and 23 Albertine rift valley. The park is an ideal place for bird enthusiasts. Some of the examples of birds found here are; Abyssinian ground hornbill, the rare shoebill stork, black dwarf hornbill, red thigh sparrow, African wood owl, white-crested hornbill, lemon bellied crombec, swamp palm bulbul, red-bellied malimbe, black weaver bird, yellow-throated nicator, casqued wattled hornbill, maxwell’s black weaver, orange-cheeked waxbill, white-throated blue swallow, Chestnut-breasted Nigro finch, African Piculet, yellow-throated cuckoo, Ping ping hornbill and many others.
Sempaya Hot Springs
The Sempaya hot springs are two that is the male and the female hot springs found along the Semuliki river, the hot springs emit water ranging from 40° to 104° that can cook an egg in a few minutes, the springs shoot up to 2metrees from the ground.
The locals tell an interesting story of the hot springs that saying “One day the Bagama women had one day gone to collect firewood and saw a stranger who was a hairy man moving with a spear and a dog, the women ran home to tell their husbands who came and abducted the man taking him to the village and later got him a wife.
One day the stranger who was now named Biteete went for hunting and never returned, the villagers only found his spear at the scene of the male hot springs without him and the dog. When the wife heard of the news she also ran to the forest never to return and her clothes were later found at female hot springs” that is how the female hot spring came to be called “Nyansimbi” and the male hot spring “Biteete”. Today the Bagama tribe still performs ritual sacrifices to the hot springs with a belief that their ancestors live there.
Nature walks and hikes at Semuliki national are very thrilling providing dramatic views of Ruwenzori Mountains also known as mountains of the moon. There is a 13-kilometer trail that takes tourists through the heart of the forest for about 8 hours round trip with encounters of wildlife, birds, butterflies and many primate species. Sportfishing at Semuliki national park can be done at the Semuliki River, tourists can catch various fish species and later have them for their dinner at the respective hotels. Those interested in fishing at the great Semuliki River are advised to come with their own fishing gear.
Tourists sleeping in Semuliki valley national park can sleep in lodges like; Ntoroko safari lodge, Toro Semuliki hostel, Semuliki safari lodge, Semuliki guest house, Ruwenzori view guest house, mountains of the moon hotel and many others.
Semuliki valley national park can be visited all year round but the best time of visiting the park is from June to September and December to February. During the wet season, some of the parts of the park get flooded and the roads become impassable, visiting at this season will require a four-wheel drive car. Semuliki valley national park can be reached from Kampala the capital of Uganda within 4-5 hours drive by road via Fort portal road and 7-8 hours via Kasese town in western Uganda.