Why it is the True Birder’s Haven!

Semuliki National ParkThe True Birders’ Haven

Throughout times tourists have visited Uganda, they have always appreciated this exploratory small land for hosting a number of the world’s secrecies. Occupying an extensional percentage of the great Congo Basin forests, Uganda hosts the true birders’ haven; Semuliki National Park. Previously this hidden treasure was innocently detoured by great number of travelers, not until the Birders haven secret was unveiled by some travelers who took a Uganda safari to this treasure “Semuliki National Park”. Since then, it has remained a great destination for travelers on Uganda safaris and tours.

“The true birders’ haven”; Semuliki National Park lies along the Uganda Congo boarder in the Semuliki Valley. Semuliki National Park deceits within the western arm of the East African rift valley bordering river Semuliki and Lake Albert in the north, Democratic Republic of Congo in the west, and Mountain Rwenzori in the south east. Situated in western Uganda; Bundibugyo district Semuliki National Park covers an area of about 220 square kilometers.

This park was formed as Bwamba Forest Reserve in 1932 and was later named Semuliki National park in 1993 under the Uganda wildlife Authority. This makes it one of the newest parks in Uganda. Semuliki National Park is suitable for a Uganda birding safari tour, due to its variety of bird species. Semuliki National Park has over 441 recorded species hence christening it Uganda’s true birders’ haven. In the 441 recorded bird species, over 40 of these species are endemic to this park alone.

Besides the Uganda birding safaris, Semuliki National Park also has variety of wild game suitable for Uganda wildlife safaris. In the park, tourists encounter animals such as; Mona monkeys, bush babies, civets, hippos, leopards, forest buffaloes and some few elephants to mention but a few.

Semuliki National Park is also home to the famous Sempaya hot springs. Tourists find the Sempaya hot springs more adventurous and exciting. The Sempaya hot springs consists of the male Bitende hot springs and the Nyasimbi female hot springs. Their hot water boils up to over 103 degrees celicius. The hot springs are mostly used by the local people who believe they have healing powers for especially skin diseases. Visitors who make their way to these hot springs are given chance to experiment egg boiling. Boiling and getting the eggs ready for consumption takes around 10mins for them to get ready.

Semuliki National Park also defends the extension of Congo Ituri rain forest and this is where the wild game found in this park habit. The Ituri forest further has over 305 tree species recorded where by 125 of them are restricted to this park. Semuliki National Park as well habits over 30 species of butterflies and 235 species of moths. The Congo Ituri forest is very dense therefore viewing the wild game animals may be a bit hard.

Semuliki National Park as region also has 4 ethnic groups of people staying in the park region. These include the Bakonjo, Bamba, Batuku and the Batwa people. The Bakonjo and the Bamba people live along the mountain slopes and in the valley respectively. These people are mainly agriculturalists surviving on cash crops like cocoa, rice coffee and potatoes plus food crops majorly bananas.
The Batuku people are found on the floor of the rift valley just north of Semuliki National Park. The Batuku people are mainly pastoralists that entirely depend on products from cattle. Products got from cattle are used during trade with their neighbors both in Uganda and in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Finally, the Batwa pygmies that are famous for their hunting and gathering lifestyle. The Batwa Pygmies have for centuries depended on the Semuliki forest for their survival. It is among the richest places with flora plus fauna in particular birds across Africa. However, their lifestyle currently is changing because of the daily interaction with other nearest local communities as well as the influence of tourism.

Semuliki National Park is called the true birders haven because it has variety of bird species that any birder would wish to have on their Uganda birding safari list.


How to get to Semuliki National Park Uganda

There are two major roads that can be used by visitors to Semliki National Park.

Kampala – Mubende – Fort Portal, which is 300km and about 4-5 hours’ drive

Kampala – Masaka – Mbarara – Kasese – Fort Portal, which is about 510km and about 7-8 hours’ drive.


From Fort Portal, it is approximately 50km to the Sempaya gate, which is estimated to be 2 hours of drive on a dirt road. While the Kampala-Fort Portal via Mubende is much shorter, the Kampala-Fort Portal via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese presents an opportunity to visit Lake Mburo National Park, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

From Fort Portal, A two to three hours’ drive on the rough road towards Bundibugyo will bring you to Sempaya Gate (52 Km). The Park headquarters at Ntandi is 5 Km further from the gate along the same direction.


semuliki map


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  • Birds in Semuliki national park Uganda.
  • Wildlife in Semuliki national park Uganda.
  • Sempaya in Semuliki national park Uganda
  • Sempaya – Ntandi Road in Semuliki national park Uganda
  • Semliki River in Semuliki national park Uganda
  • Areas of Interest outside the Park

Birds as an attraction in Semuliki national park Uganda. Birdlife is especially spectacular in Semuliki with 441 recorded species, representing 40% of Uganda’s total bird species and 66% (216) of the country’s forest unique species of birds. The numerous birds are favored by the existence of the riverine habitat and a fringe of grassland in the east of the park. There are various un common species such as the 46 Guinea-Congo biome species which are found nowhere else in East Africa while another 35 can be seen in only two or three other areas in the Pearl of Africa- Uganda. Among these only five species are found in the Albertine Rift ecosystem. The special Species of valve to see in this area include the Nkulengu Rail, Piping Hornbill ,Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, White-crested Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator , Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Red-rumped Tinker bird, African Piculet, , Maxwell’s Black Weaver, White-throated Blue Swallow, Leaf-love, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Crested Malimbe, Blue-billed malimbe, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Red-bellied Malimbe and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch.

Birds of Semuliki

Wildlife in Semuliki national park Uganda. The forest acts as a home to 53 mammals of which 27 of mammals are big. 11mammal species are only found in the park including the pygmy antelope and two flying species of squirrels. The park is habitat to the specific water chevrotain, known as the “fanged deer has over 60 species of mammals, including forest buffalos, monkeys, leopards, water chevrotains, hippos, bush babies, civets, elephants, and the pygmy flying squirrel (Idiuus zenkeri). 9 species of duikers are also got in the park, including the bay duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis). The park is habitat to forest elephant and buffalo which are smaller versions of their savannah-living relatives. The forest is preferably rich in the species of primates including the chimpanzee which are said to be sharing 95% DNA with human beings, baboon, Central African red colobus ,grey-cheeked mangabey, black-and-white clubs, blue, red-tailed, de Brazza’s, vervet, and Dent’s monkeys. Nocturnal primates include the potto and bush baby. Hippos and crocodiles are common along the Semliki River.

Semuliki wildlife elephants and leopards

Sempaya Hot Springs in Semuliki natonal park Uganda. The Sempaya Hot Springs are Semuliki’s most famous attraction. The Bintente which is a “male” spring is twelve meters long 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 a distance of 2km away. Local people used to prepare their local food in these boiling pools.

Sempaya – Ntandi Road in Semuliki national park Uganda. 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. The tourist’s activities here are Bird watching, nature walks as well as night hikes done deep in the forest. In Ntandi, local traditional dancers arrange cultural performances for tourists. Besides the above attractions, also visitors’ enjoy the Mungiro Falls which are found near the hot springs.

Semliki River in Semuliki national park Uganda. The 160km long Semliki River flows from the Rwenzori Mountains to Lake Albert and the Nile, proving the claims of traditional geographer’s that the River Nile flows (in part anyway) from the mountain which is snow-caped in the middle of Africa. Semliki River characterized by being, forest fringed, muddy, Broad and habitat to hippos and crocodiles, River Semliki is forms small part of the Congo River. Tourists can clearly view how the river meanders across the rift valley floor from roadside viewpoints and hike through the forest to its bird-rich banks.


Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve outside Semuliki national park Uganda. In Uganda’s oldest reserve characterized with tropical rainforest that join grassy savanna and the flat plains are punctuated by deep river valleys. The unique physical feature is showed in the various wildlife species, which includes the forest mammals of Central Africa, key East African species as well as numerous birdlife. Tracking Chimpanzees starts in this area.


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