BEST Group Safaris to Semuliki Valley National Park
Semuliki has got a rich biodiversity likely to be part of the Pleistocene refugium harboring fauna characteristic of the 'Gunea-Congolian' plus the Lake Victoria Regional Mosaic' centres of endemism in Africa. Semuliki National Park is home to at least 331 unique species of trees and 441 bird species have been recorded here so far, of which 2 are restricted range species. It has about 86 mammal species with 9 species or subspecies threatened. Some of them include the Bates’s pygmy antelope (also known as the dwarf antelope), only found in this park in the entire region of East Africa.
The park is also particularly important for its population of mona monkeys (Cercopithecus pogonias denti) which is not found elsewhere in Uganda and de Brazza monkeys (Ceropithecus neglectus). Resident in this park also include larger mammals such as forest elephants, hippos, forest buffaloes, leopards as well as a few chimpanzees (only about 50 individuals) and up to 8 species of diurnal primates found in Semuliki reserve. Semuliki is primarily important for conservation of species whose range is restricted to this part of East Africa and Congo Basin.
Viewing the Sempaya Hot Springs
The hot springs are one of the most popular attractions and a highlight of Semuliki National park; containing magnificent views of boiling water effusing out from beneath to form a cloud which can be seen with in a distance of 2km. There are two hot springs; one is referred to as the male and the other as a female hot spring. Male hot spring is called Bitente and is about 12 meters in width, while the female hot spring is known as Nyansimbi that gushes out water approximately 2 meters above the ground. These hot springs are a convergence point for numerous animals as well as many wetland birds which are drawn to the hot springs due to the presence of salty minerals.
There is a path that leads from the park ranger station to hot springs. These hot springs are encompassed by palm trees, forests and a huge fog that forms due to steam. This makes the entire place look magnificent offering visitors an unforgettable experience. Visitors are advised not to move closer to the two Sempaya hot springs since the water is too hot and boiling temperature can raise up to 100°C. The path to these hot springs passes through lush forests availing opportunities of viewing numerous primates including the grey-cheeked mangabeys, white & black Colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys as well as several bird species like blue-breasted kingfisher, yellow throated tinker bird and eight forest hornbills.
Semuliki national park is home to approximately 250 chimpanzees; most of these are under research by the Indiana University, but only about 50 are habituated for trekking, and a number of others still under habituation. Chimpanzee trekking in Semuliki National park is not as arduous as trekking mountain gorillas, since Semuliki’s landscape is quite flat and not so rugged. Hence tracking them doesn’t require any previous experience or fitness, though there are instances when fast movements in the forests might be necessary in order to catch up with these naughty restless primates. Semuliki has the lowest population of chimpanzees compared to other destinations like Kibale, Budongo and Kalinzu forests; but nevertheless with the help of knowledgeable and experienced ranger guides, chances of viewing these endangered apes remain as high as 90%.
There are two ancient groups of people living in this region, namely Bakonjo and Bamba. Other minor communities include the Batuku who are pastoralists living in the nearby Ntoroko district, and the indigenous Bamburi Batwa (pygmies) who dwell in the valley. The Batwa are a traditional group of people that were relocated from the interior of Semuliki forest where they inhabited for generations, and they survived by fruit gathering and hunting wild animals in the forests. When you make it to the park never miss out an opportunity to carry out a community walk to discover, learn more about the Batwa and pay a visit to their homes. The Basu. This is a small remote group of people that still dwells within the Semuliki and Ituri forests. This tribe still depends on traditional hunting and fruit gathering, plus a little revenue they share from the national park entrance fees. They also earn income from repetitive visits by tourists, where they sell to them crafts, paid performances, food, among others.
Nature walks in Semuliki national park are done through numerous designated trails which offer magnificent access to the fertile wetlands, scenic savannah plains and lush forests. Nature walks are guided by skilled, professional rangers who are well informed about the ecosystem and entire biodiversity of the along each trail. Some of the trails include the Sempaya Nature trail, Red monkey and Kirumia trails.
Lodging facilities inside and near Semuliki National Park are not quite many, though there are a number of lodges and hotels in Bundibugyo and Fort portal towns which are about 15km and 35km from the park respectively. Types of accommodation here range from luxurious/up market to Budget and camp sites. Options include Semuliki Safari Lodge, Ntoroko game lodge, the basic Kirumia guest house and for campers and backpackers, Bumuga campsite is the best option.
When to go?
The park is situated at the intersection of several climatic and ecological zones, therefore tours can happen at any time of the year, though dry seasons are highly recommended; this is the time nature trails are dry and less slippery and forests are easy to navigate. The wettest months of Semuliki are March - May and Late September to Mid-December with average rainfall of 1250 mm. Annual mean temperature ranges from 18°C minimum to a maximum of 30°C.
Group tours to Semuliki National Park
Given the nature of activities and experiences in Semuliki national park, group tours are a great option to better explore this soft spoken treasure in the pearl of Africa. With numerous campsites in and out of the park, and luxurious lodges, travelers will never fail to find where to slumber at least for a night to explore Africa’s authentic wilderness! This park is one of those least visited destinations in Uganda, so a group tour, whether small or big will not pause any environment threat or mass tourism.