Semliki National Park is located in south western Uganda border with its borders extending into DR Congo and on the edge of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. It the only park in Uganda that is entirely located on 220 sq km of lowland landscape majorly covered in dense tropical forests of Ituri that extends from neighboring Congo, papyrus swamps, wetlands and savannah grasslands.
Semliki has one of the most diverse eco-systems with a rich population of wild animals, birds and flora. To the south east of the park are the snow peaks of Rwenzori Mountains that make a spectacular sight for all tourists that visit the park during the dry season.
The Sempaya Hot Springs
The major attractions within the park are the hot springs at Sempaya. The legendary hot springs are classified into the female and male hot springs. A guided forest walk leads to the hot water springs boiling with bubbles and are protected by a swamp. They are believed to have healing powers and special guidelines are issued to all visitors.
The largest spring is a geyser that spouts hot water through a low salt sculpture to some 2m high. To the people living around Sempaya, this hot spring is called the Male Hot spring. The female hot spring is just an open pool of water located a few kilometers from the male spring. The water at both springs is very hot-not less than 100ºC.
A boat ride from Sempaya River is a great way to discover the hot springs and its birds. You can actually boil an egg in hot water and it will be ready in 10 minutes
During the rainy seasons of March to May, September to December, the rivers and small streams in the park flood make a great habitat for migrant birds coming from Congo and neighboring countries. Some of the common species in the park include long tailed hawk, Nkulengu rail, African dwarf kingfishers, ground thrushes, crested fly catcher, lemon bellied crombec, yellow throated nicator, African goshawk, great sparrows and cassin Spinetail among many other species. The park is estimated to be a home to nearly 350 species of birds.
The park is also a habitat for more than 50 mammals such as elephants, buffalo, wild pig, sitatunga, duiker, zenker’s flying mouse, squirrels, little collared bat, target bat and primate species such as red tailed monkeys, olive baboon, vervet monkeys,grey checked mangabey, Guereza colobus, chimpanzees and many other mammals. An estimated 30 species of butterflies and 200 moths were also recorded in the park.
The park is located off the Fort Portal-Bundibugyo highway. The route from Fort portal is 52km to the Sempaya gate taking nearly 2 and half hours drive. The gate is clearly marked with a sign post. The route from Kampala via Masaka to Fortportal is the best for countryside tours in Uganda although longer. You can make stops at the equator, Lake Mburo National park, Kyambura forest reserve and Queen Elizabeth National Park before proceeding to Bundibugyo district-normally takes 8 hours
The park’s headquarter are located at Ntandi, 5km on the road to Bundibugyo. Remember to use strong 4WD for your country safaris since the roads are rugged and bumpy. If you are using public transports such as taxi or buses, you can board a pickup or arrange private transfers from Fort portal to Sempaya gate. Early departures from the park are recommended for day tourists using public transport are recommended since the road is in poor shape with some extreme corners to negotiate.
The trail to Sempaya hot springs leads you through the wet slippery walks in the forests and swamps, watching birds and butterflies along the trail.
Other activities within Semliki National park include birding, safari game walks, hiking and forest walks. Taking walks and trips is the forests should de done with a ranger guide for safety reasons. There are no roads within the park but it is important to use the designated trails and paths for your tours
Take cultural tours within the pygmy peoples that live at Ntandi near the park’s headquarters. Some of the pygmy tribes found her include the Bakonjo and Bamba that boost an interesting lifestyle…food, culture and dance!
There aren’t any major facilities at the park but the ranger post at Sempaya has a self catering campsite. There is a campsite at Bumaga near the gate at Sempaya offering accommodation in two executive suites and tents for hire on outdoor camping trips. It is recommend that you carry own supplies and a camping tent. Other area designated for camping include the camp near the ox bow lakes and another at the river crossing if Kirumia
There is a canteen at the camping site selling a few items, soft drinks and has a cook to make meals on order. Once again, carry all supplies including food, fuel, drinking water, utensils and anything else you might need because restocking on supplies is done in Fort Portal or Bundibugyo towns.