Semuliki National Park is one of Uganda’s smallest safari destinations covering an area of 220 sq. km. It is an impeccable spot perched at the boarder of Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda in Bwamba County, Bundibugyo district in the extreme west of the country. Lying within the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the Great Rift Valley; it is included within the Eastern Afro montane biodiversity hot spot. It is one of the most recent national parks in Uganda, gazetted in October 1993.

Being separated from the rest of East Africa and from the Ituri forest of the DRC by the Rwenzori Mountain ranges and Semuliki River respectively, Semuliki National Park forms one of the richest areas for both flora and fauna in Africa particularly the birds, making it a prime birder’s haven for Uganda.

Semuliki National Park Uganda sprawls across the floor of the Semuliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. The park is dominated by the eastern most extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin.

Semuliki National park Uganda is bordered by the Rwenzori Mountains to the southeast, DRC in the west, Semuliki flats in the north, and Lake Albert further on. Its relief includes a flat land form with the gently undulating ranges which extend between 670-760 meters above the sea level. The areas around the park flood during the rainy season since all the streams and the rivers from the area drain through the park.


Activities at Semuliki National Park

Species Diversity

Semuliki National park Uganda is a moist and semi deciduous lowland tropical rain forest with over 336 tree species, 24 of which are restricted to only Semuliki. Some tree species like lovoasurymertonii and cordiamillenii are also considered to be endangered in the national park. Compared to the other diversity for small mammals, birds and the butterflies among many fauna recorded in the park, includes; 435 bird species which is about 34% of Uganda’s total . Some of these birds cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa. Some of them include; the hornbills and the tailed honey guide and many more.

Semuliki national park Uganda is a peculiar wildlife safari destination. The forest is home to 53 mammals of which 27 are large mammals. 11 species are endemic to the park including the pygmy antelope and two flying squirrel species. It is also home to the rare water chevrotain, known as the “fanged deer”

Mammals include leopards, hippos, elephant, forest buffalo, hippopotamus, civets, potto, bush babies, Mona monkeys, water chevrotains, and nine species of Duikers, including the Bay Duiker and the Pygmy Flying Squirrel that occur nowhere else in East Africa.

The park is also rich with 9 diurnal forest primates which include; chimpanzees, olive baboon, the blue monkey, and the vervet monkeys. The nocturnal primates also include; the galagos and the pottos. There are many forest beecroftta, flying squirrel, little collared fruit bat, buffaloes, blue duiker, pigmy squirrel and the water chevrotain.

There are also 374 species of butterflies and the moths. The forest is allocation to the varied habitats, forest swamps, warm swamp and the savannah woodland accounts to the wide range of species.


Cultural Diversity in Semuliki National Park

The four distinct ethnic groups which traditionally inhabit the park ranges include the Bamba, Bakonjo, Batuku and the Batwa pygmies– Bamba farmers live along the base of the Rwenzori while the Bakonjo cultivate the mountain slopes. These are entirely agriculturalists growing cash crops which include rice, potatoes, coffee, cocoa and the many food crops mainly the bananas. Batuku cattle keepers inhabit on the open plains and Batwa pygmies, traditionally hunter gathers, live on the edge of the forest.

Visitors can embrace the magnificent traditional practices of a diversity of these tribes and their different ways of life, the most memorable are the Batuku’s way of nomadism in the open plains of the Albertine rift and the traditional dances and performances of the Bamba and the Bakonjo in the mountains and also the hunter-gatherer life of the Batwa in the forest jungles.


Birding at Semuliki National Park

Birders who make it to Semuliki will be rewarded with some of Africa’s best forest birding. Sempaya and Ntandi provide excellent viewing of the birds including the White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, and Piping Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos. The area around Kirumia River is another top birding spot. The shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quarters on Lake Albert and forest walks are good for tracking water birds.


Cultural Encounters at Semuliki

The Batwa’s hunter-gatherer lifestyle means they have always been dependent on Semuliki forest for food, shelter, medicine and tools, though this is beginning to change as a result of interaction with other local communities.

Tourism offers an alternative source of income for the Batwa, and gives them the opportunity to maintain and display their rich cultural history through music and dance performances at Ntandi. They also produce intricate handcrafts for sale.

A boma, or cultural village, is currently being built so that the Batwa can demonstrate how they used to live in the forest.


Hot springs at Semuliki

Hike through the monkey-filled forest to these boiling, gushing springs, and cook your eggs and plantain in the bubbling waters!


The hour-long trail to the outer, “male” spring leads through a patch of forest where red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys are common. A tree house en route provides an aerial view.

A 30-minute hike through palm forest from the main road leads to the inner, “female” spring, dominated by a boiling geyser. Eggs and matooke (green plantain) can be cooked in these boiling waters and enjoyed by hungry hikers!


Game drives at Semuliki

Three tracks cross the savannah grassland of Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob. With luck, you may even see pygmy hippopotami, leopards and elusive bushbabies. Game drives in the Wildlife Reserve can take place in the morning, afternoon and at night; after dark, visitors may come across curious nocturnal species such as the white-tailed mongoose.


Getting to Semuliki National park:

By the road, the tourist can use one of the two major roads from Kampala to Fort portal; it’s approximately 300kms from Kampala to fort portal via Mubende and its about 4-5 hours’ drive and the Kampala- Fort portal route via Mbarara-Masaka highway which is about 510km journey, 7-8 hour drive. But please note that the former is much shorter than the latter.

Of the two routes available for use, the Kampala-Fortportal via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese is more enticing. Along the way you have an opportunity to see or Visit Lake Mburo National Park, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

However, along the Kampala-Forportal highway via Mityana-Mubende road, you can view many attractions along including the amazing scenery in the country side marked with extensive native farmlands in Mityana and Mubende districts before getting to the magnificent Fort portal town, dubbed the tourism city of Uganda scattered with gorgeous slopes that are undulating and amazing craters formed as a result of faulting that occurred in the area many years ago.

Semuliki National Park’s Sempaya Gate is 59km from Fort Portal.