Semuliki National Park is one of Uganda’s most important park that is known for bird watching and chimpanzee tracking. The Park covers an area of 220km and is found Bundibugyo district in the down floor of the Semliki section of the Albertine Rift Valley. This forested park contains numerous species associated with those in central rather than eastern Africa. Thatch huts are shaded by West African oil palms, the Semliki River which is marked as an international boundary since the river branched from River Congo .
Semuliki is one of Africa’s most biodiverse forests and is particularly noted for its varied bird population. This biodiversity is enhanced by its great age, for it is one of Africa’s most ancient forests. During the dry conditions of the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago, most of Africa’s forests shrank and disappeared. Only a few patches like Semuliki and Bwindi survived, protecting forest species during the arid apocalypse until they could eventually emerge to re-colonise a better, wetter world. Today the Semuliki valley is a hothouse for vegetation growth, with temperatures rising to a humid 30°C doused by an annual 1250 mm of rain, mostly between March-May and September-December.
While Semuliki’s species have been evolving for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes.
Hot springs bubble up from the depths beneath Sempaya to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
The low lying park lies on the rift’s sinking floor, most of it just 670m above sea level. Large areas may flood during the wet seasons; brief reminders of the time when the entire valley lay at the bottom of a lake for 7 million years ago.
Flora and fauna
Classified as Moist Semi-Deciduous forest, Semuliki is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa. The center of the forest is dominated by Cynometra but the edges are attractively varied, with river swamp forest along the Semliki River and beautiful mixed forest around Sempaya.
A spillover from the Ituri of the Congo basin, Semuliki contains 336 tree species. It also supports an exceptional variety of mammals, birds and butterflies. This is attributed to the forest’s great age, its transitional location between central and eastern Africa, and to a variety of habitats, notably forest, swamp, and savannah woodland.
About 441 bird species are recorded that represent 40% of Uganda’s total of 1007. 216 of these are forest species – 66% of the country’s forest birdlist – while the list is expanded by the riverine habitat and a fringe of grassland in the east of the park.
The forest is home to 53 mammals, of which 27 are large mammals; duiker-sized and above, several are Central African species found nowhere else in East Africa. Hippos and crocodiles are found in the Semliki river while the forest is remarkably rich in primates.
Chimpanzee, black and white colobus, central African red colobus, blue monkey, red-tailed monkey, de Brazza’s monkey, vervet monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, baboon, and Dent’s mona monkey are present. Nocturnal primates include potto and bush baby.
There are four ethnic groups living around the pari Bamba and Bakonjo are found in the valley and mo slopes respectively and are agriculturalists who plant cash crops such as coffee and cocoa while food crops that include bananas, rice and potatoes for their family upkeep and above there are also pastoralists in the lower values due to the presence of water for the animals reared.
Safari Activities to do in the Park
Game Drives are the most prominent Safari Activity carried out in the Park at the Tooro Semliki Wildlife Reserve following the tree various tracks in the Savannah Grassland watching numerous wildlife animals i.e Water bucks, Warthogs, Bush bucks, Buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, Elephants. Watch the animals wander around their natural Vegetation Habitat.
Hiking and Nature Walks
Hiking and Nature Walks are a very exciting Adventure to carry out in the Park as they offer you views of the numerous Bird species and Wildlife animals. There are three various trails hikers can take on and these include;
- The 13 km Kirumia Trail which transfers through the heart of the forest to the Semliki River for 8 hours starting at 8:00 am. This is perfect for birders.
- The 11 km Red Monkey Track that transfers along the Eastern Boundary of the Park to the Semliki River. Along this expect to watch the rare deBrazza’s monkey.
- The 8 km Sempaya Nature Trail transfers you to the stunning Sempaya Hot Springs for a period of 2-4 hours and is scheduled in the Mornings and Afternoons. You watch Primates as well.
Bird Watching is an exceptional Safari Activity carried out in the Park offering views of numerous species of Birds flying around their natural green forest vegetation. Transfer to the Sempaya and Ntandi where you watch birds like White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, shoebill stork.
Sempaya Hot springs Encounter is a very prominent safari adventure carried out in the Park and offers you views of the beautiful Sempaya Hot springs where you deep plantain and eggs in the bubbling water then you will be amazed at how they get ready for consumption. Take on guided nature walk through the forest for a period of 30 minutes watching various birds, Primates as well as small wildlife.
Semuliki National Park offers remarkable Cultural Encounters to all travelers as they venture deep into the local lifestyles of the indigenous Batwa people that have depended on Semliki Forest for food, Shelter, medicine and Tools. They will perform you through local art demonstrating to your their cultural traditions and customs. Enjoy remarkable Cultural encounters around the Park.