The 22km2 Semuliki national park lies in the isolated bundibugyo district ,beyond the Rwenzori mountain on the floor of semuliki section on the albertine rift valley .this largely forested park represents the easternmost limit of the great Ituri forest of Congo basin and contains numerous species associated with central rather eastern Africa. thatch huts are shaded by west Africa oil palm ,the semuliki river (which forms the international boundary) is miniature version of the Congo river ,while the local population includes the batwa (Pygmy) community originated from the Ituri.
As a result, visit to semuliki provided a taste of central Africa just a couple of hours from the comforts of Fortpotal.
semulikli is one of Africa’s most biodiversity forest and it is particularly noted for its varied bird population this biodiversity is enhanced its great age, for it is one of the Africa most ancient .during the last ice age ,12 – 18;00yearss ago ,most of the Africa‘s forests shrank and disappeared .only a few patches like semuliki and wind survived ,protecting forest species during the arid apocalypse until they could eventually emerge to the re – colonize better ,wetter world
Today the semuliki valley is hothouse for vegetation growth, with temperature rising to humid 30oc doused by an annual 1250mmof rain between march – may and September – December.
while semuliki’s species have been involved for over 25000 years , the park contains evidence of even older processes. hot spring bubbles up from the depth beneath sempaya to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that has been shaping the rift valley
During the last 14milion years. The loe kying park lies on the rift’s sinking floor, most of it just 670mabove sea level. Large areas may flood during wet seasons; brief remainders of the time when the entire valley lay at the bottom of lake for 7 million years. The semulimki forest reserve was created bin 1932 when the forest village were evacuation as a measure to control sleeping sickness and yellow fever .the reserve was upgraded to nation park status in 1993.
How to get there
As the crowd flies, Semuliki National Park is just 27 km from the regional capital of fort portal. However the direct route is complicated by the massive Rwenzori Mountain and a detour to the north is required to thread through the rocky
Buranga pass into the Semliki Valley. The 52 km drive to the park office at Sempaya provides panoramic views over the rift
During the descent from Buranga. In good weather the drive takes about two hours but mountainous section are muddy in wet weather and a 4wd vehicle is recommended.
Public transport runs daily from Fort portal and Bundibugyo town , 15Km beyond Sempaya .Transport for the return journey can be hard to find later in the day (after 4pm) so be prepared to stay over. Backpackers can enjoy more flexibility by forming a group to hire a vehicle from Kabarole Tours in Fortportal behind Don’s Plaza).
Two routes connect Fortportal to Kampala .Theses can be combined to create an attractive circuit to and from the capital. The direct option is 300Km 4 – hour drive via Mubende. The alternative through Mbarara to the south is considerably longer but offers stopovers at Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth national parks.
The park provides a campsite with basic cottages at Bumaga 2.5 Km from Sempaya .Meals can be prepared to order .Cooking facilities are available with utensils available for hire.
Hotels and guesthouses are available in Fort portal and Bundibugyo.
Flora and Fauna
Classified as Moist Semi –Deciduous forest, Semuliki is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa. The centre of the forest is dominated by Cynometra (iron wood) but the edges are attractively varied, with riverine swamp forest along the Semuliki River and Beautiful mixed forest around Sempaya.
A spillover from the Ituri of the Congo basin, Semiliki 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.
Birdlife is especially spectacular with 441 recorded species that represent 40% Uganda’s total of 1007 .216 of these are forest species – 66% of the country’s fore3st bird list –while the list is expanded by the riverine habitat and a fringe of grassland in the east of the park. There are numerous rarities .46 Guinea –Congo biome species are found nowhere else in East Africa while another 35 can be seen in only 2 – 3 other places in Uganda .Five species are endemic to the Albertine Rift Ecosystem.
The forest is home to 53 mammals, of which 27 re large mammals; duiker sized and above, several are central African species found nowhere else in East Africa. Forest Elephant and forest buffalo are smaller versions of their savannah relatives’ .Hippos and crocodiles are found in the Semiliki River while the forest is remarkably rich in primates. Chimpanzee , black and white Colubus, central African red colubus , 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 park. The Bamba and the Bakonjoare found in the valley and the mountain slopes respectively and are agriculturalists who produce cash crops such as coffee and cocoa while subsisting on food crops that include bananas, rice and potatoes. North of the park, the rift valley plains are occupied by Batuku pastoralists. The smallest group in the valley is a community of Batwa (Pygmies). Traditionally, these were forest dwelling hunter gathers originating from the Ituri. Their life style is now changing due to interaction with other local communities and the impact of tourism, and the Batwa have migrated to the forest edge at Ntandi. They now support themselves by small scale cultivation and contributions from visiting tourists.
Around the park
Sempaye Hot springs
The hot springs at Sempeya are Semuliki’s most famous attraction. Two main springs are set in a lush swampy clearing close to the south – eastern corner of the forest. The outer spring is just a few minutes walk from the Sempaya park office. This is dominated by a boiling geyser (103˚c) which spurts up to 2m – high from a white, iced cake – like base of precipitated mineral. Water also bubbles in small pools in which eggs can be cooked. The more distant inner spring is reached by a 30 minute trail that leads through palm forest before crossing the swamp on a boardwalk. This spring is a broad, steaming pool about 10m across.
Sempaya – Ntandi road
The 5 km section of pubic road between Sempaya and Ntandi village runs through one of the loviest tracks of forest in Uganda and provides clear view up into the forest canopy to spot birds and monkeys. The pretty Mungiro Falls lie in the North Rwenzori Forest reserve, just off the Bundibugyo road 500m beyond the park office