Semliki National Park is the Uganda’s newly established Park. It covers a total area of 220 square kilometers. Mostly occupied by the Savannah grasslands and lush vegetation, this Park is bordered by the escarpments of the Western Albertine Rift valley, Rwenzori Mountains and the Ituri Forest Reserve of Democratic Republic of Congo.
This place is inspiring with diverse biodiversity that include primates, mammals, hot springs, and different birds together with tropical forest jungles. Semliki’s unique geography is exhibited by its broad diversity of Wildlife species including the Central African species like forest elephants, East African Savannah species such as leopards, lions and antelopes.
Semliki is recorded with eleven unique species that are not found anywhere else in Uganda. These include two types of flying squirrel, six types of bats and pygmy antelopes.
Bird life in this Park includes the endemic and non-endemic species. You are most likely to spot the rarely seen shoebill species within the wetlands of the Park. Primates like Chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, baboons and more are found within the lush forest canopies.
The Park is fully packed but the major draw here is the Sempaya hot springs (male and female). These hot springs are nestled in the middle of palm trees and tropical rainforests.
How to get there
This Park is accessed by road means. There are two route options to use as highlighted below.
Kampala- Mityana – Mubende – Fort portal highway is the shortest route. It’s about 180km taking about 5-6 hours for the drive.
Alternatively, you can go via Kampala – Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese though this is longer. It’s about 465km taking about 7-8 hours for the drive. From Fort portal town, Sempaya gate is 59km and park headquarters at Ntandi are 6km further along the road.
Things to do in the Park
Visit Sempaya Hot-Springs
This is the major draw for visitors to Semliki National Park. It includes the male hot spring known as Bitende (12 meters in diameter) and the female hot spring called Nyasimbi.
This female hot spring is renowned for its boiling geyser which spurts boiling water and steam to about 2 meters high in air.
Tourists and locals usually visit to witness the Springs ability of boiling eggs and bananas by its hot waters which reach temperature of 95 degrees Celsius. This is a guided tour and costs $15 USD per person.
The Park’s 53 different types of mammals are best explored on a game drive using a Safari jeep with a pop up roof. Of the 53 varied mammals, 27 are larger animals and eleven of them are only found here such as flying squirrels, fanged deer and more.
Game driving will expose you to various animals including forest elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and a lot more.
Hiking & Nature Walks.
Besides game drives, you can enjoy hiking adventures and nature walks. Several guided nature walks are offered at a cost and offers a lot including views of some species like hippopotamus and Crocodiles in river semliki, birds, monkeys, forest elephants and more.
The time taken for Nature walks or hiking excursions depends on your interest. You can choose to walk for some hours or spend the full day in the Wilderness. Make sure to come with some essential things like hiking shoes, light rain jackets, long sleeved shirts, insect repellents, together with day pack with food and bottled water.
Visit Bambuti Pygmies
These people live in the suburbs of the Park on both sides of Semliki River. They are closely related to the Basu pygmies of Democratic Republic of Congo though some people relate them to the Batwa pygmies in Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park.
Bambuti and Batwa were both forest dwellers but their culture and lifestyle differ. These previously forest dwellers are now upgrading to civilized human beings. They live in communities and you can visit them on daily basis.
Their Bambuti guides are available to lead you through the experience. It costs $10 USD per person.
Birding in the Semliki
For seekers of birding encounters, Semiliki is truly inspirational. This valley is packed with over 440 species, part of which are forest bird species. This region also receives migrant species from Congo region of Africa and Albertine Rift endemic species.
With all this, Semliki valley is a haven for bird watching. Birders usually spot plenty of species such as yellow throated cuckoo, Piping hornbill, red billed dwarf hornbill, black dwarf hornbill, white throated blue swallow, Yellow throated nicator, red bellied malimbe, chestnut breasted negrofinch to mention but a few.