Semuliki National Park is part of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin and therefore contains numerous features associated with Central Africa, rather than Eastern Africa. This provides an opportunity to taste the diversity of the Congo region without leaving Uganda. The park sprawls across the Semuliki Valley on the remote western side of the Rwenzori Mountains. The Ituri Forest is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse; surviving the last ice age (12,000 – 18,000 years ago).
The Semliki River, which forms the border between Uganda and the Congo, is a miniature version of the Congo River. The local population includes a Batwa Pygmy community, originally from the Ituri Forest. Hot springs bubble up; a sign of the subterranean forces shaping the rift valley over the last 14 million years. It is a most diverse and unique area of East Africa.
The Semuliki Forest Reserve was created in 1932 and upgraded to National Park status in 1993. In terms of wildlife, the Semuliki National Park contains many large mammals such as the savannah elephants, buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob. Occasionally, one can spot pygmy hippopotami, leopards and bushbabies. Birds are aplenty as well, including such unusual birds as the White-crested hornbill, red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Great Blue and Ross’s Turacos.
A large selection of Africa’s best forest birds can be found in abundance here. Sempaya and Ntandi provide excellent viewing of the birds. The shoebill stork is regularly seen at close range on Lake Albert and forest walks are excellent for tracking water birds.
There are 3 tracks across the savannah grasslands of Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Both large mammals and smaller forest species are seen throughout the park. Regular sightings of elephants, buffaloes, waterbuck, crocodiles and warthogs, make for a great game drive.
Hiking and Nature Walks:
The Kirumla Trail is 13 kms in length and takes about 8 hours. Birders love this trail as there are many unique species to this area.
There is a trail to the outer “male” spring, which leads through a patch of forest. Here primates are abundant; red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mngabeys and bland and white colobus monkeys are all readily available for sightings. En route there is a tree house for a bird’s eye view of the various forest animals.
Another trail from the main road, leads to the inner “female” spring. This is a 30-minute walk through the palm forest. Here one encounters a boiling geyser. Many hungry hikers cook eggs and matoke (green plantain) in these hot springs.
Cultural Encounters and Trails:
The interaction of the local Batwa pygmy hunter and gatherers with the forest enables visitors to view a totally different lifestyle. Here in the Semuliki forest these local inhabitants build their shelters, hunt for food and medicines.
The park is accessed from Fort Portal, via the 59 km drive to Sempaya Gate. There are 2 alternate routes from Kampala;
1) via the 180 km road direct to Fort Portal (4-5 hours) and
2) via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese. This route is 465 kms (7-8 hours) and offers an opportunity to pass Lake Mburo National Park, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, Rwenzori Mountains National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Foreign Non Residents: $35 US for Adults, $5 US for Children
Foreign Residents: $25 for Adults, $5 for Children
Vehicle Entrance Fees: Saloon Cars $10 U S, Minivans $15 US and 4 WD vehicles $15 US