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Places » Semuliki National Park

About Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semuliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. The park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. This is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests; one of the few to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago.

Semuliki NP has a size 220km2 with an altitude of 670-760m above sea level. Semuliki Forest Reserve was created in 1932 and later upgraded to a National Park status in 1993. It’s the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in E. Africa, hosting 441 recorded bird species and 53 mammals. Large areas of this low-lying park may flood during the wet season, a brief remainder of the time when the entire valley lay at the bottom of the lake for seven million yrs.

There’re 4 distinct ethnic groups which live around this park- Bwamba farmers live along the base of the Rwenzori while the Bakonjo cultivate the mountain slopes. The Batuku cattle keepers inhabit on the open plains and Batwa pygmies, who’re traditional hunt gathers, live on the edge of the forest.

The Semuliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semuliki River (which forms the international boundary) is a miniature version of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species, and the local population includes a Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri. As a result, this park provides a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda.

While Semuliki’s species have been accumulating for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.

Major Activities

Game Drives

With an astonishing 5000 hippos, 2500 elephants and over 10,000 buffalo thriving in its grasslands and shorelines, QENP guarantees sightings of some of Africa’s most iconic species. Hearing the elephants’ calls reverberate around Queen’s crater-filled valleys is a magical experience. Other common herbivores include warthogs, waterbuck, Uganda kob and topi, as well as the sitatunga antelope. Your drive in one of Uganda’s natural endowment parks will be interesting and exciting!

Areas of interest

Sempaya Hot Springs

The Sempaya Hot Springs are Semuliki’s most famous attraction. The “male” spring, known as Bintente, measures 12m in diameter and is set in a lush swampy clearing. The “female” spring Nyasimbi, meaning "the female ancestors”, is a boiling geyser (103°C) which spurts bubbling water and steam up to two meters high - the steam cloud can be seen from as far as 2km away. Local people used to cook their food in these boiling pools.

Sempaya – Ntandi Road

This 6km section of public road runs through one of the loveliest tracts of forest in Uganda and provides views of birds and monkeys high up in the forest canopy. Birding walks take place in Sempaya, as well as night hikes deep into the forest. In Ntandi, local Batwa dancers put on traditional performances for visitors. Another local attraction is the Mungiro Falls near the hot springs.

Semuliki River

The 160km long Semuliki River carries runoff from the Rwenzori Mountains to Lake Albert and the Nile, proving ancient geographers’ claims that the Nile flows (in part anyway) from a snow-capped mountain in the heart of Africa. Broad, muddy, forest fringed and home to hippos and crocodiles, the Semuliki is a miniature version of the Congo River. Visitors can watch the river meander across the rift valley floor from roadside viewpoints and hike through the forest to its bird-rich banks.

Areas of Interest outside the Park

Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve

In Uganda’s oldest reserve, tropical rainforest meets grassy savanna and the flat plains are punctuated by deep river valleys. The unique geography is reflected in the diversity of wildlife, which includes the forest mammals of Central Africa, key East African species and a variety of birdlife. Chimp tracking commences here.