Hot Springs of Sempaya in Semuliki national park Uganda (1)
With the continent's oldest and densest concentration of ecological forests, Semuliki National Park is the perfect safari destination. FILE PHOTO

Semuliki National Park offers one of the continent’s oldest and densest concentrations of ecological forests, making it the ideal safari destination.

If you’re looking for the ideal safari destination with the continent’s oldest and densest concentration of ecological forests, your search ends with a visit to Semuliki National Park

The park is a good location for tourists to learn about the majority of historical transformation processes. 

Close to the Congo basin’s most isolated Ituri forest is where Semuliki National Park is located. It lies west of Mount Rwenzori, along the Semuliki Valley.

It is approximately 220 square kilometres in size and is located between 670 and 760 metres above sea level. This national park is also referred to as a birder’s paradise due to its 441 recorded bird species, including approximately 23 endemic species. 

Semuliki national park is most known for its hot springs, which rise from the earth’s depths to demonstrate the enormous sub-terrestrial forces that have shaped the rift valley for the previous 14 million years. 

Mumbuga and Sempaya hot springs are located within the national park, with the latter being the most frequently visited by park visitors.

Attractions in Uganda’s Semuliki National Park

People visiting Uganda’s Semuliki national park should look out for the following:

Hot Springs of Sempaya (1)
Semuliki National Park in Uganda is most famous for its Hot Springs of Sempaya. FILE PHOTO

Hot Springs of Sempaya

The hot springs receive the most visitors in the national park. At the park, you can visit both the female and male hot springs. 

The female hot spring, colloquially referred to as “Nyasimbi” which translates as “female ancestors,” is the hottest of the two, with water erupting out of a massive rock at a temperature of 103 degrees Celsius. 

There is a distinct rotten egg smell, which is caused by sulphur from the rocks reacting with the water. The trailhead is just a five-minute walk from the female hot spring, making it an accessible hike for park visitors.

Locals refer to Sempaya’s male hot spring as “Bintente.” Male hot springs are located only a two-minute drive from female hot springs. After that, you’ll proceed on a 30-minute hike to the male hot spring. 

The hot spring is approximately 12 metres wide and is primarily known for the steam that evaporates from the lake-like pool of water. 

If you look closely into the water, you may notice coins and bones that have been thrown in by residents in an attempt to get their prayers answered. 

A few metres from the hot spring is a traditional hut that serves as a shrine for locals to deposit money before giving prayers. 

Sempaya hot springs have a significant cultural significance for the villagers that live near Semuliki national park.

Wildlife

Semuliki national park is home to approximately 53 species of mammals, many of which can be spotted during a park game drive. 

Forest elephants, hippos, forest buffaloes, antelopes, potto, birds, and primates such as black and white colobus monkeys have all been observed in the park. 

Additionally, you can observe a school of hippos and a float/group of crocodiles in or along the Semliki River.

Exiting the park.

Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve is located just a few kilometres from Semuliki National Park. The wildlife reserve is an excellent location for Uganda chimp trekking excursions. 

The majority of chimps in this sanctuary have been habituated, which makes tracking them easier for visitors.

Activities at Semuliki National Park

Chimp trekking in Semuliki National Park (1)
The only way to go chimp trekking in Semuliki National Park is through the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Trekking with Chimpanzees

Chimp trekking in Semuliki National Park is only accessible through the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. A permit for chimp trekking costs USD 30 per person, regardless of whether the visitor is a Foreign Resident or a Non-Resident. 

East African Community members are required to pay UGX 20,000 per person. The chimp trekking expenses include a guide and a nature tour within the park, but not park entry fees.

Nature Walks with a Guide

The park offers guided nature walks on two distinct routes that provide plenty of opportunities for seeing wildlife. One of the trails you can hike is the 13-kilometre-long Kirumira trail, which winds through the heart of the Ituri forest and terminates at the Semliki River. 

The second track, dubbed the Red Monkey Trail, is an 11-kilometre journey through the park’s eastern border that culminates at the Semliki River. 

Visitors who hike this trail will encounter primates such as red-tailed monkeys and the endangered DeBrazza’s monkeys.

For safety purposes, tourists taking nature walks are always accompanied by a park ranger/guide. Hiking safaris in the park begin at precisely 8 a.m. and run between 4 and 8 hours, depending on your speed.

Birding

Semuliki national park in Uganda is one of the best sites in the country for birding safaris

The park is home to a variety of bird species, including the White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, and Yellow-throated Nicator. 

For the best birding experience in Semuliki national park, Sempaya and Ntandi, are the ideal locations, as well as in the vicinity of the Kirumia River, where birders can see the uncommon Shoebill stork. 

Birding in this national park comes at an affordable cost which is different for both non-residents and residents. 

Cultural Tours in the Community

Community cultural tours at Semuliki national park are typically held in the national park’s surrounding Batwa and Bakonjo settlements. 

Around the national park, there are four distinct ethnic groups: Bwamba farmers who live along the foothills of Mount Rwenzori, Bakonjo who live on the mountain’s slopes, Batuku livestock keepers who live on the broad savannah plains, and Batwa pygmies who live on the forest’s edge.

Drives in the Game

Semuliki national park game drives are often undertaken in the morning, afternoon, and evening hours, with the park’s principal wildlife species, including duikers, Uganda Kob and other antelope species, forest buffaloes, and elephants to name a few.

Accommodation in Uganda’s Semuliki National Park

Visit Semliki Safari Lodge (1)
The two most popular accommodations are Kirimia Guesthouse and Semliki Safari Lodge (In Photo).

The Kirimia Guesthouse and Semliki Safari Lodge are the most used accommodation facilities. Others include UWA Bandas and Campsite in Sempaya. 

Outside the national park, there are other lodging options such as Hotel Vanilla, Picfare Guesthouse, and Semliki Guest House in Bundibugyo.

How to Get to Semuliki National Park

Via the Kampala- Mubende route, it is approximately 180 kilometres to Semuliki national park and roughly 465 kilometres via Masaka, Mbarara, and Kasese. 

The national park is also accessible via Fort Portal, a city located approximately 59 kilometres from the park.

Another option is for tourists to take a flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield. These flights take about 1-2 hours depending on the aircraft itinerary.

Semuliki National Park in Uganda is a park that is well worth visiting during your stay in the country. 

Visitors can always combine their visit to the park with other activities such as chimp trekking in Kibale National Park, gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, bird safaris at Lake Mburo National Park, or lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth National Park.