Overview – Semliki National Park
Blessed with an amazing scenery, Semliki National Park is a rare wilderness worth every inch of exploration. It has 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 scenic 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 where 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 in Semliki National Park
The Park 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.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.
It is also habitat 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 shall never leave the Park unsatisfied due to the numerous activities that will always keep them busy at the Park which include;
These are 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
This presents an opportunity to sight the cats and carnivores as they search for prey including the leopards and lions that can be spotted. These are usually met patroling through the Park in the Nights
This is one of the destinations in Uganda wher 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.
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.
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.
- 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 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.