Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park dubbed as The True Birder’s Haven is one of the beautiful national parks and safari destinations in Uganda, the park protects the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa.

Semuliki national park is located in the Western region of Uganda in the Bundibugyo District about 355 kilometers from Kampala, the parks lies on the Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the southeast of the park there is the Rwenzori Mountains and Lake Albert to the north of the park.


Semuliki national park is part of a network of protected areas in the Albertine Rift Valley, the park lies approximately 52 kilometers from Fort Portal Tourism City.

Semuliki national park is one of the newest national parks in Uganda created in 1993, the park area was first protected as a forest reserve by the colonial government together with Uganda government forest Department. In 1993, the reserve was upgraded into a national park purposely to protect areas of the Western Rift Valley. The park is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Semuliki national park covers an area of 219 square kilometers, it is mainly very dense tropical lowland forest but with some grasslands, wetland and bamboo forest. The terrain is relatively flat and the Rwenzori range forms a backdrop to the east. The park is crossed by several tributaries of The Semuliki River which defines the border of the park with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Attractions in Semuliki National Park

Semuliki national park hosts a variety of amazing attractions to encounter and these include the iconic Sempaya springs, birds, primates and wildlife.

Hot Springs in Semuliki national park

There are two hot springs in Semuliki National Park which bubble up from the depths of the ground to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley. The Sempaya hot springs in Semuliki are the Male and Female hot springs reached by a walk on a boardwalk and a trail through the forest, each of these hot springs have distinctive characteristics. The female hot springs spring with sparking hot water of about 103 degrees Celsius, the waters are so hot that they can boil eggs and bananas.

The male hot spring is just a pool of hot water and therefore you can boil from there, these two hot springs have a beautiful traditional stories regarding their formation and during your visit, guides will tell you these stories.

Birds in Semuliki national Park

Semuliki National Park is a fantastic Uganda birding destination hosting over 440 bird species including 9 hornbill species and 66% of Uganda’s total forest birds, 131 of the 144 Guinea – Congo forest Biome species including almost 50 species that cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa.

Birds in Semuliki national park include Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Nkulengu Rail, Black-wattled Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Red-billed Hornbill, Black Dwarf Hornbill, White-crested Hornbill, Long-tailed hawk, African piculet, Maxwell’s black weaver, Blue-billed malimbe, Yellow-throated Nicator, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Zenker’s Honeyguide, Swamp palm bulbul, Western Green Tinkerbird, Grey-throated Barbet, Fine-banded woodpecker, Gabon woodpecker, Green-tailed Bristelbill, Equatorial Akalat, Forest Robin, Red-throated Alethe, Stripe-breasted Tit, Spotted-breasted ibis, White-bellied Robin-chat, Green Hylia, Hartlaub’s duck, Black-throated coucal, Lowland akalat, Bronze-naped pigeon, Long-crested eagle, Great blue turaco, Klaas’s cuckoo, African emerald cuckoo, Banded Prinia, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis and Sooty boubou among others.

Wildlife in Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park is a home to 53 mammal species including a dozen of species that occur nowhere else in Uganda and 2 types of flying squirrel and 6 types of bat including the Zenker’s flying mice.

Semuliki national park is the only East African stronghold of the oddball water Chevrotain/Fanged deer, a superficially duiker – like relic of an ancient ungulate family that shares many structural features with pigs and is considered ancestral to all modern-day antelopes and deer. Other animals hosted in Semuliki national park include Forest Elephants, Buffaloes, Bushpigs, Sitatunga, White-bellied duikers, Hippos and Crocodiles. There are also 10 species of diurnal primates such as Central African red colobus monkey, Black-and-white colobus monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Dent’s Mona monkey, De Brazza’s monkey, Red-tailed monkey, Vervet monkey, Olive baboon, Blue monkey and Chimpanzee.

Things to Do in Semuliki National Park

Birding in Semuliki national park

Bird watching in Semuliki national park is a wonderful activity for bird lovers, the park is a birder’s haven with over 400 bird species and some of the common species you will spot include White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, Congo Serpent Eagle, Long tailed hawk, Nkulenga Rail, Black-wattled Hornbill, Lyre-tailed honeyguide, Ituri Batis, Maxwell’s Black weaver, Red-billed Helmet-shrike, Swamp Palm Bulbul and Crested Malimbe among others.

Hiking/Nature walks in Semuliki national park

Hiking/ nature walks in Semuliki National Park is an exciting safari activity to do during your Uganda safari, this activity takes you through the ancient rainforest in company of an experienced guide while spotting rare bird species, primates, butterflies, amphibians and plant.

Nature walks and hiking are done using three trails including The Kirumia Trail, Red Monkey Trail and the Sempaya Hot Springs Nature Trail.

The Kirumia Trail

The Kirumia Trail is a 13 kilometers trail passing through the north of the forest leading to the banks of Semuliki River crossing Kirumira River twice, also passing a succession of forest fringed beautiful Ox- Bow lakes.

This trail is perfect for bird lovers as you spot many birds like African piculet, Long-Tailed Hawk, Red-Sided Broad Bill, Black-Faced Rufous Warbler, and Lemon Billed Crombec as you pass through the riparian forest.

Red Monkey Trail

This trail is approximately 11 kilometers following the park’s eastern border which is a stronghold of the rare De Brazza’s monkey and has more numbers of the Red – tailed monkeys. This trail starts from the Sempaya tourism site and does stretch into the forest giving you a chance to reach the Semuliki River and end up at the park’s headquarters. On this trail some of the animals you will spot include Duikers, forest elephants and forest buffaloes, primates such as Baboons, Red-tailed monkeys, Black and white colobus, and Mangabeys and hippos and crocodiles in the Semuliki River.

The Sempaya Hot Springs Nature Trail

This trail is 8 kilometers taking approximately 2-4 hours of hiking, this trail offers you a chance to see the hot springs, birds, butterflies, primates and views of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains. The trail leads through a patch of forest where you will spot Red-tailed monkeys, Grey-cheeked Mangabeys, and Black-and-white colobus monkeys and many birds.

Batwa Cultural Experience/ cultural encounters

The Batwa people also called the pygmies inhabit in the forests of Semuliki National Park and they depend on the forest for food, shelter and medicine from medicinal plants and other tools. Since being displaced from the forest when the area was gazetted as a national park, their lifestyle has tremendously changed and tourism is now one of their source of income. Visiting the Batwa people, you will get a deeper insight in their lifestyle, be entertained by their local dances and songs and purchase some of their beautiful handcrafts at a reasonable price.

Game drives in Semuliki Wildlife Reserve

Game drives in Semuliki wildlife Reserve offers tourist an opportunity to spot some of the beautiful wildlife hosted in the park, game drives takes about 3-4 hours and are done on three trucks which cross the Toro- Semuliki Wildlife Reserve passing through the open savannah grasslands.

Some of the birds you will spot during the game drive include savannah elephants, Buffaloes, waterbuck, crocodiles, warthogs and Uganda Kobs. If you are lucky, pygmy hippopotami, leopards and elusive bush babies among others.

These game drives are done in the morning from 6:00 am, evening from 3:00 pm and Night game drives on which you will spot nocturnal species like the white – tailed mongoose (they start at 06:00 am).

Accommodation in Semuliki National Park

There are several accommodation facilities in Semuliki national park offering accommodation and several services to visitors of the park, accommodations range from luxury, midrange and budget.

Luxury accommodation

  • Semliki Safari Lodge
  • Kyaninga Lodge

Midrange accommodation

  • Mountains of The Moon Hotel
  • Rwenzori View Guest House
  • Kluges Guest Farm

Budget accommodation

  • UWA Bandas & Campsite at Bumaga

How To Get to Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park can be accessed by road and air,

By road – you can access the park via Kampala – Mubende – Fort Portal road which is about 355 kilometers (5-6 hours) drive.

By air – chartered flights are available from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield and land at an airstrip on Toro Semliki wildlife Reserve.

When to Visit Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park can be visited all year round however the best time to visit the park is during the dry season that is from December to March and April to September which is generally dry and animals are easy to see.

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