Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park (SNP) is situated in the extreme west of Uganda, in Bundibugyo district.  It lies along the Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border within the western arm of the East African Rift Valley.  In the southeast are the Rwenzori Mountains, to the west is the Democratic Republic of Congo and to the north are the Semuliki Flats and Lake Albert further on.

Semuliki National Park is an eastern extension of the vast Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  It forms part of the forest continuum resulting from the climatic upheavals of the Pleistocene and therefore one of the richest areas for both flora and fauna in Africa (especially for birds).

Semuliki National Park (220 square kilometres) was upgraded to a national park in October 1993.  The park occupies a flat with gently undulating landforms ranging from 670m to 760m above sea level.  Since all streams and rivers from the surrounding areas drain through the park, coupled with the poor drainage and topography, many areas in the park are flooded during the rainy season.  The average annual rainfall is 1,250mm with peaks from March to May and September to December.  The temperatures vary from 18°C with relatively small daily variations.

Species Diversity of Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park is the only lowland tropical rainforest in East Africa classified as moist and semi-deciduous.  There are 336 tree species recorded of which 24 are restricted to Semuliki National Park, to the eastern part of the range, or are shared with only one or two neighbouring forests; They include Isolana congolana, Nesogordonia kabingaensis and Ejacis guineesis. Some tree species in Semuliki National Park such as Cordia millenii and Lovoa surymertonii are considered to be endangered.

A survey carried out in 1999 by the Forest Department determined that, compared to other forest parks in Uganda, Semuliki is of exceptional diversity for small mammals, birds, and butterflies.  Fauna recorded include over 435 bird species (about 34% of Uganda’s total), some of which cannot be found elsewhere in East Africa, including some of the continent’s most spectacular and sought-after birds such as hornbills and lyre-tailed honey guide.

There are 120 species of mammals, 9 species of which are diurnal forest primates (e.g. chimpanzees, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys and olive baboons), while nocturnal primates include pottos and galagos.  The following species of mammals are also found in Semuliki National Park: – Forest buffaloes, blue duiker, beecroft’s flying squirrels, pigmy squirrels, little collared fruit bats, water chevrotain and target rats.

At least 300 species of butterflies and moths have been identified including 46 species of forest swallowtails and charaxes plus at least 81 species of large moths, 12 of which are classified as restricted.  The wide range of species is attributed not only to the forest’s location but also to the varied habitats, forest swamp, grassland, bushland and an extensive system of hot springs, warm swamp and savanna woodland.

Local People

There are four ethnic groups living around the park.  The Bamba and Bakonjo are found in the valley and mountain slopes respectively and both are agriculturalists depending on cash crops like coffee, cocoa, and food crops mainly bananas, rice, and potatoes.

The Batuku who occupy the rift valley floor, north of the park are pastoralists who depend entirely on cattle products which they trade in with their neighbours (in both Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo).

The Batwa (pigmies) are hunters and gatherers and are an Ituri ethnic group who historically depended and still depend on Semuliki Forest.  Their lifestyle is now changing due to interaction with other local communities and the impact of tourism.  In 1993, the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) convinced the Batwa and resettled them near Ntandi in a bid to integrate them into local cultural and agricultural life, but the project failed.  The Batwa now spend part of their time in their new homes and the other in their traditional homes (the forest).  All in all, they now live by hunting, fruit gathering, assistance from local communities and contributions from tourists who go to interact with them.

Activities in Semuliki National Park

Jungle life in Semuliki National Park is breathtaking, especially for birders, primate, butterfly, and plant lovers.  The jungle walk takes one up to the meandering River Semuliki, the only one of its kind in East Africa.  You may also see forest buffaloes and elephants, sitatungas, leopards, crocodiles, various primates and a wide range of forest and water birds.  Visitors can also come with fishing facilities for sport fishing along the river.

A trip to Semuliki National Park has the most marvellous and breathtaking views.  Come and experience the thrilling meandering Bundibugyo Road through the Rwenzori escarpments.  While in the mountains, the road offers scenic views of the meandering Semuliki River, fuming hot springs and the tropical rain forest extending to the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two hot springs are situated in a tract of hot mineral-encrusted swampland, where visitors see a two-metre jet of hot water (130 Degrees Celsius) and a pool (12m diameter) of oozing boiling water (106 Degrees Celsius).  One can boil food especially eggs in the natural boiler within ten minutes and eat it.  While in Semuliki National Park, visitors can also visit the nearby Protected Areas like Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Kibale National Park and Toro–Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.

Safaris to Semuliki National Park
22 Days Uganda Birding Safari
This 22 Days Uganda Birding Safari uncovers Uganda's Best Birding Spots, with over 1,000 species recorded.