Semuliki National Park is a national park in Bwamba County, a remote part of the Bundibugyo District in the Western Region of Uganda that was established in October 1993. It encompasses 219 km2 (85 sq mi) of East Africa‘s only lowland tropical rainforest. It is one of the richest areas of floral and faunal biodiversity in Africa, with bird and butterfly species being especially diverse. The park is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority
SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK: THE “TRUE BIRDERS’S HAVEN”
A Brief History of Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is one of the oldest national reserves in Uganda, the pearl of Africa. The reserve was called the True Birders Haven due to its impressive body species checklist with many birds that are rare to be found elsewhere on the globe. The name Semuliki was derived from the meandering river Semuliki which is about 140 kilometers long and maneuvers through the Ugandan border with Congo through the Semuliki valley – where the park is and also between lakes Edward in the East African Rift Valley and Albert in the Albertine basin.
Semuliki is a word in Luwisi, A language spoken by the Batwa – The indigenous inhabitants of the area since colonial times and beyond, Semuliki Means that “ there is nothing therein”. Which was from a tale – that the old time’s explorers asked the inhabitants of the area the name of the river, present-day – Semuliki, but the woman – inhabitant thought they were asking to know what was in her basket that she was carrying on her head due to language barrier because there were fewer people studied by then and she couldn’t understand the language that the explorers were using, she only knew Luwisi and the explorers were speaking English.
So the lady told the explorers that there was nothing therein and the explorers on their side thought that the river was called Semuliki and it has since been called so up to today hence Semuliki National Park.
Proof of the park being the oldest in Uganda, it was established in 1926 as a game reserve belonging to the Toro, a Kingdom in Uganda the Batooro who lived in conservation and so they gazetted the area for animals to be conserved and the tree species plus other beautiful nature endowments.
The reserve was later made a National Park by the government of Uganda in October of 1993 to protect the forest as an integral part of the park since it was made up of endangered tree species that are used for medicinal and research purposes by people all over the globe.
The geography and unique attractions of Semuliki National Park.
The beautiful Semuliki National Park is located in the Bundibugyo district and lies 220 square kilometres on the far side of the northern tail of the Rwenzori mountains of the moon. The bigger part of the park is flat and a bit raised, lying at an altitude range of 670 meters as you approach the east and rising to fluctuate up to 760 meters as you approach the western part of it and is stationed within the 160 kilometres long Semuliki valley, which stretches from the shores of lake Edward to the shores of lake Albert In the north of the park.
Semuliki National Park is covered with a lush forest cover and medium altitude moist evergreen to semi-deciduous forests with the dominant plant species as the iron would (cytometry alexandri).
The park is famous for the many bird species that know it as a home harbouring over 410 species of birds Including the famous shoebill. The park is also near the Ituri-Forest of Congo and is also inhabited by many large savanna dwellers.
Semuliki National Park is also home to the Sempaya Hot Springs both male and female, which are extremely hot to the point of boiling an egg in less than a minute! Furthermore, many travellers to the park have been seen travelling to the Hot Springs with eggs to prove this wonder.
What’s more, primates inhabit the National Park including the black and white Colobus monkey, chimpanzees, olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, vervet, galagos, and pottos, to mention but a few.
Several river meanders in the National Park are good to stare at and for photography enthusiasts. The terrain on the hills also provides a good view as many farmers grow their crops in such a way that is some sort of magical view and beauty when seen from a distance. I can never get enough of what this part of the country has to offer!
Popular activities in the Semuliki Valley National Park.
Tourists to the National Park have a variety of activities to participate in to elevate their experiences on the trip such as forest nature walks, bird watching, Primate watching, visiting the male and female Hot Springs, hiking, game drives, cultural encounters to the indigenous Bamba who inhabit the area and can tell more about the park from the experiences of like 4 generations back and beyond.
I would advise a visitor to participate in all of the activities for a complete Ugandan safari experience. Mungillo waterfall found in the park is also something tourists tend to stare at for hours as they admire nature, Swimming can also be done in the plunge pool just beneath the waterfall, and fishing, photography, filming and so many others can be done here.
With the above, a tourist travelling to the National Park should be encouraged to carry a swimming costume, light clothes just in case of high temperatures, a throw blanket just in case it’s cold and you are in the vehicle, a jacket since the weather in the National Park tends to be unpredictable, boots and light shoes, a hat, shades and many others.
Accessibility of Semuliki National Park.
Getting to this marvellous National Park is not as hard as you think it could be because it is so accessible due to the good roads that lead you to the National Park and all the way through. Should you need to visit the park, do not be discouraged to use the shorter route of Kampala to Fort Portal road via Mubende which will take you about four to five hours or use the longer route for those who would like to stare more at what Uganda has to show, from Kampala via the towns of Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese.
The park can be accessed by most vehicles though I would recommend 4-wheel drive vehicles especially land cruisers since most of the travelers to the region find them a bit more cosy on the journey to the park than other vehicles.
The entrance fee is $35 for foreign non-residents and $25 for foreign residents for 24 hours spent in the park. There is no tax for cyclers, drivers and pedestrians along the main road to Bundibugyo – a town which is just outside the park in the southeast where most tourists normally buy some of the few things to use like chewing gum, water and some other soft drinks and also for accommodation purposes and relaxation after a long day of marvelling at the beauty of Uganda in this valley.
Accommodations in the park.
One may choose to stay overnight at Bumaga Visitor Camp for the night wilderness experience. Others include Kalitusi Nature Resort, Semuliki Safari Lodge and Kyaninga Lodge, which can serve both budget and luxury travellers as well as the mid-range.
The amenities that come in handy with the above-mentioned accommodation facilities are swimming pools, spas, gym, Restaurant and bar as well as breakfast, the cosy rooms, that will make the guests relax after an exhausting hiking adventure or nature walk Because they are well spacious and gives a luxury look.
In addition, the hospitality of the hotel staff cannot be left without any say since they make you feel at home away from home. All these add up to the experience a tourist has been looking for from wherever part of the world they came from.
Favourable time to visit Semuliki National Park.
Tour operators and guides who are familiar with the region normally recommend and indeed you should consider travelling to the National Park in the long dry season from December to February – catch the festive season in the Semuliki Valley for better experiences.
This is mainly because the vegetation is sparse, the walking trails are not slippery due to the absence of rain, not so cold, therefore you do not need those heavy clothes on and with that said you will find it easier to spot the wildlife and avian fauna of the park with no interruption.
In a nutshell, Semuliki National Park is a whole lot of adventure and for anyone passionate about tourism and nature, I would recommend such a place to be visited because it provides the experience that everyone needs.
Ranging from the scenic beauty of the vegetation to the knowledge of the guides who take you around the National Park, who help you to know exactly what you want to know about this beauty in the pearl of Africa. This is the “True birders haven!”