Semliki National Park

Semliki National Park

March 26, 2022
uganda national parks

Semliki National Park is among the last bunch of parks to be gazetted in 1993 and had been known as the Bwamba Forest for quiet a long time and is still evident in some literature about Uganda. Covering an area of 220 sq kilometers Semliki National Park lies within the Albertine rift with a record of being the lowest park in Uganda. it is boarded to the northwest by the Semliki River which extends to the Uganda DRC border, pouring its waters into Lake Albert and to the East by the winding Fort Portal-Bundibugyo Road. It protects practically unspoilt tropical lowland forest, essentially an easterly extension of the vast Ituri forest that stretches all the way from Uganda to the Congo River making it a special destination for naturalists in the East African region since it harbours sp which are endemic to the Guinea – Congo biomass., bird watchers are treated to a list of 435 bird species recorded, including a high proportion of forest birds and roughly 45 species that occur nowhere else in Uganda and perhaps the other East African countries.

Semliki has a record of only 53 mammal species making it far from complete as there are spp occasionally seen by guides and not recorded . Of the listed species, 11 occur nowhere else in Uganda, including the pygmy antelope, two types of flying squirrel and six types of bats. Semliki is the only east African stronghold for the peculiar water chevrotain, a superficial duiker-like relic of an ancient angulate family that shares several structural features with the pig and is regarded to be ancestral to all modern antelopes, deers, cows and giraffes. Persistent rumors that Semliki harbors an isolated population of eastern lowland gorilla probably have no factual foundation, but the national park does support a health chimpanzee population, not as yet habituated to humans, as well as seven other diurnal primates: red-tailed, vervet, blue and De Brazza’s monkeys, grey cheeked mangabey, olive baboon and black and white colobus. Other large mammals recorded in the park include elephant, bushpig, buffalo, sitatunga, and white-bellied duiker. Hippos and crocodiles are common along the Semliki River.

Semliki National Park sprawls across the Semliki valley on the remote side of the Rwenzori. The park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri forest of the Congo basin. One of Africa’s most ancient and bio diverse forest, the park was gazette in 1993 and 220 and at an elevation of between 670-760m a.s.l.

The park is moist –deciduous forest, patches of swamp forest and aquatic habitat represented by forest streams and oxbow lakes with adjacent swamps.  The valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than east Africa. Thatched hats are shaddy by West African oil palms trees: the Semliki River which forms the international boundary is a miniature version of the greater Congo River. The forest is home to numerous central African species of wildlife and birds and the local population includes a Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri forest

While Semliki species have been accumulated for over 25000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depth to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley through the  4 million years.

Birding: the park is truly a haven for birders and this can be justified with some Africa’s best forest birds. Sempaya and Nandi provide excellent viewing of the birds including the white crested hornbill, red billed dwarf hornbill. Piping turaco,. The shoe bill stork is regularly seen at close quarters on lake Albert and forest walks are good for tracking water birds.

Game drives: three tracks across the Savannah grasslands of Tooro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with buffaloes, waterbuck, crocodiles,water bucks, warthogs and the Uganda kob. With luck you may even see a pygmy hippopotamus, leopard and elusive bush babies.

Hiking and nature walks: the 13km Kirumia trail runs through the heart of the forest to the Semliki river  this 8 hours round trip starts at 8:00hrs and is perfect for birders.

Hot springs: the hours long walk to the outer “male” springs leads through the forest where the red tailed monkey, grey cheeked mangbey  and the white and black colobus monkey are common. A tree house en route provides an aerial view. A 30 mins hike through the palm tree forest from the main road leads to the inner, “female” springs dominated by a boiling geyser. Eggs and matooke (green Plantain) can be boiled in these boiling waters and enjoyed by the hungry hikers.

Cultural encounters and trail: then Batwa ‘s hunters and fruit gatherer’s life style means they have always been dependent on Semliki Forest for food, shelter, medicine, and tools, though this is  beginning to change as a result of interaction with other local communities.

There are two major roads from Kampala to Fort Portal, 4WD vehicles are recommended for both

Kampala- Fort Portal via Mubende is about 180 km, or  or a 4-5hr drive making it the shortest drive.

Kampala to Fort Portal via Masaka Mbarara and Kasese is longer at 465 km (7-8hrs drive) this route offers a chance to stopover along the way at Lake Mburo National Park, Kyambura wildlife reserve, Rwenzori Mountains National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park.