Rwanda Gorillas and Uganda Wildlife - Semuliki National Park

Overview

A true wilderness, Semliki National Park has an amazing scenery with the biggest attractions with its best asset being the low tourist numbers. With a climate and landscapes more akin to Central Africa, Semliki Wildlife Reserve is home to a selection of incredibly rare species seen nowhere else in Uganda

This spectacular park extends from Ntoroko on the southern shores of Lake Albert to the north east of the Bundibugyo Road, it has thick swampy grounds close to Lake Albert, savannah interspersed with acacia-combretum woodland, small patches of borassus palm appear and significant stretches of riparian woods along river courses.

The scenery is magnificent when flying in by air  with sights of the Congolese Blue Mountains are clearly visible in the west with the majestic Rwenzoris and their glacial peaks in the north; Lake Albert’s eastern shore culminates at the foot of the sharp rift valley escarpment.  The valley floor itself is relatively flat and sits at about 600 m above sea level near the western border of Uganda with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the remarkable Rwenzori Mountains as outstanding attractions bordering the Wildlife Reserve.

Flora and fauna

Semliki Wildlife Reserve is dominated by wetlands to the landscape at Lake Albert and the rest of the area is dominated by typical savannah and acacia forests with scattered palm groves and riparian forests along the watercourses.

Monkey

The protected forest here is the only lowland rainforest in Uganda with about 300 tree species, many of which occur only in this area and  the hot springs at Sempaya due to the location of the hot springs in the middle of the rift valley.

The park is home to more than 400 species of birds including the ground hornbill, marsh tchagra and African crake with a good variety of raptors, some of which occur only in this area, 53 mammal species in the forests, including several primate species as the special attraction of the reserve including a group of chimpanzees in the Mugiri River Forest, black-and-white stubby monkey, the green baboon, the red-tailed monkey and the green-headed monkey, over 300 different butterflies here that occasionally provide clearings for colorful carpets.

Activities in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve

Travelers should opt on including Semliki National Park into their travel Safari as it has a lot to offer to keep the client occupied and wanting more including:

Game Drives

Game viewing within this Wildlife Reserve is limited to the main route between Ntoroko and Karugutu that transverses through the Reserve for most of its length and it offers rewarding opportunities of spotting numerous animals such as elephants, Uganda Kobs, Giant forest hogs, waterbucks, Buffaloes, warthogs.

Nocturnal Game Drives

While in Semliki National Park, you can enjoy the rare opportunity of a night game drive where you will see the cats and carnivores on parole as they search for prey including the leopards and lions that can be spotted.

Chimpanzee Trekking

This is one of the destinations in Uganda where you can conduct chimpanzee Trekking to view the playful chimpanzees.In the east of the park you can make a chimpanzee track in January and February, if the trees give fruit and at the foot of the Kigura Escarpment there is an extensive network of paths through which a guide will lead you into the habitat of the chimpanzees.

Boat ride on Lake Albert

Boat rides are usually conducted on the stunning Lake Albert with the highlights being the wildlife species such as Hippos and aquatic bird species like the rare Shoebill storks, Abyssinian ground hornbills, red-throated bee-eaters, African Fish eagles and Kingfishers hence making it one of the most reliable sites for enjoying bird watching in Uganda.

Bird watching

This site is a haven to a number of bird species that will be of interest to any bird enthusiastic tourist and the common species include the breasted kingfishers, dazzling Red-throated bee-eaters, yellow-throated tinkerbird, Honey guided greenbul and forest hornbills among others.

Exploring the Sempaya Hot springs

Sempaya hot springs are the most interesting attractions within the area and can be explored when you visit Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Nature walks

One of the most endowed hiking trails for this activity is the Red Monkey Trail that follows the eastern margin of the Wildlife Reserve to the Semliki River lasting 4 hours offering a wide range of viewing bird species, primates such as red monkeys, mammals like Elephants and Buffaloes, butterfly and plant species.

Cultural encounters- Pygmy village

There is a pygmy village at Ntandi which is informative with the oldest inhabitants, the Bambuti regularly smoke marijuana and recent concessions allow them to hunt and fish in the national park although they are restricted from hunting certain species.You will explore the unique community, their way of livelihood and survival since the ancient days.

Accommodation in Semliki National Park

The Park is one of the visited destination in Uganda with several accommodation options near the Sempaya Hot Springs, Ntandi Road, Semliki River and outside in the Semliki National Park to suit every travelers’ budget and they include;

  • Semliki Safari Lodge
  • Ntoroko Game Lodge
  • Kirimia Guest house                                                                                                  

How to get to Semliki National Park

The park can be reached and accessed by both air and road means in accordance to the preference of the client and their time of travel.

By Road

  • Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende is 290 km
  • Kampala to Fort Portal via Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese is about 465 km.                          
  • Follow the route to Semuliki National Park from Fort Portal for the first 28 km before turning right at Karugutu trading centre.

By Air

There is an air field managed by UWA so visitors can charter planes and land at Semliki Safari Lodge where the air field is situated though they are less visitors to the park they are less scheduled flights to this park.

Climate and When to Visit Semliki National Park

The park can be visited anytime of the year though the best time for to visit the park is during the drier times from July to September and from December to the end of February.

The park receives a mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September-November. Temperatures are highest in the south where the terrain drops down onto the hot rift valley floor and forest gives way to open grassland.

Dry Season: June to September is the driest time and temperatures average 80°F when most animals remain near water, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time. Rainy Season: It rains anytime from October to December and March to May when many roads become challenging to use.

What to do within Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve

In the east of the park you can make a chimpanzee track in January and February, if the trees give fruit. At the foot of the Kigura Escarpment there is an extensive network of paths through which a guide will lead you into the habitat of the chimpanzees.

On Lake Albert you can go on a boat search for hippos, crocodiles and water birds.

Bird watching

This site is a haven to a number of bird species that will be of interest to any bird enthusiastic tourist and the common species include the breasted kingfishers, dazzling Red-throated bee-eaters on the sand banks near Ntoroko. Other species of birds include yellow-throated tinkerbird, Honey guided greenbul and forest hornbills among others.

Boat rides

Boat rides are usually conducted on the stunning Lake Albert with the highlights being the wildlife species such as Hippos and aquatic bird species like the rare Shoebill storks, Abyssinian ground hornbills, red-throated bee-eaters, African Fish eagles and Kingfishers hence making it one of the most reliable sites for enjoying bird watching in Uganda.

Game Drives

Game viewing within this Wildlife Reserve is more or less limited to the main route between Ntoroko and Karugutu that transverses through the Reserve for most of its length. It is very rewarding because offers chances of spotting numerous animals such as elephants, Uganda Kobs, Giant forest hogs, waterbucks, Buffaloes, warthogs during the day game drives yet the leopards and lions can be spotted during night game drives.

Exploring the Sempaya Hot springs

Sempaya hot springs are the most interesting attractions within the area and can be explored when you visit Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Nature walks/Hiking

One of the most endowed hiking trails for this activity is the Red Monkey Trail that follows the eastern margin of the Wildlife Reserve to the Semliki River and lasts about 4 hours offering a wide range of bird species and primates such as red monkeys and other mammals like Elephants and Buffaloes in addition to the butterfly and plant species.

Pygmy village

There is a pygmy village at Ntandi which is informative to visit but be prepared to pay for photographs. The Bambuti regularly smoke marijuana and recent concessions allow them to hunt and fish in the national park although they are restricted from hunting certain species. The country’s oldest inhabitants – there are only around 60 Bambuti left today and interbreeding has meant all of the current teenagers are taller than their forebears.

Cultural encounters

They are many ethnic groups in and around Semliki National Park, a visit to the famous Batwa people is rewarding as you explore the unique community, their way of livelihood and survival since the ancient days. They tell you ancient stories and illustrate how they use the forest to meet their basic needs like food, shelter, medicine and tools.

Accommodation in Semliki National Park

Semliki Forest National Park is one of the visited safari sites in Uganda with several accommodation options available in Sempaya Hot Springs, Ntandi Road, Semliki River and outside in the Semliki National Park to suit every travelers’ budget, taste and preference and they include;

Semliki Safari Lodge

Situated in the Semliki Valley wildlife reserve wilderness, it is a luxurious lodge offering an amazing experience with all the balcony’s presenting a stunning panoramic view of the reserve, mountains, savannah, forest and river valley alongside the beautiful calls of the birds. Also nearby are the Sempaya hotsprings, a natural lure for all visitors and Congo’s magnificent Blue Mountains.

Ntoroko Game Lodge

Located in the Semliki Game Reserve, west of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountain. The lodge is situated on the shores of Lake Albert and is bordered to South by Fortportal town, to the East by Kibale, and Bundibugyo to the South-West.

The lodge’s location offers a breath-taking view across some of Uganda’s noteworthy attractions; the legendary Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Albert and the natural beach sands, the rolling hills, forests and green savannahs.

Kirimia Guest house

This is a budget an establishment located in the Kirimia Village 100m from the Kirimia Trail Head, 10km from Sempaya along the road heading to Bundibugyo town. The stay at Kirimia Guest house offers a close encounter with the Semliki National Park where counts of primates including Black and white Colobus monkeys, Chimpanzee among others, birds and the lush flora generate lifetime experience on your safari in Uganda.

Getting to Semliki National Park

Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende is 290 km

Kampala to Fort Portal via Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese is about 465 km.                                                                              

Follow the route to Semuliki National Park from Fort Portal for the first 28 km before turning right at Karugutu trading centre.

There is an air field managed by UWA so visitors can charter planes and land at Semliki Safari Lodge where the air field is situated.

Climate and When to Visit

Semliki National Park can be visited anytime of the year though the hot dry time is January to February and is a good time to visit. The park receives a mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm, mostly during March-May and September-November. The climate is generally pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14-27oC. Temperatures are highest in the south where the terrain drops down onto the hot rift valley floor and forest gives way to open grassland.

Dry Season: June to September is the driest time and temperatures average 80°F when most animals remain near water, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time.                                         

Rainy Season: It rains anytime from October to December and March to May when many roads become challenging to use.

Best travel time

A recommended visit time for the National Park is the drier times from July to September and from December to the end of February.

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