Semliki national park
The Semuliki Valley
This expansive and largely untrammelled region of lush rainforest and wild mountain scenery lies to the west of Fort Portal near the Congo border. The major town, Bundibugyo, is 72km from Fort Portal by road. The drive there is one of the most riveting in East Africa, following a winding road that clings tightly to the steep curves of the northern Ruwenzori foothills while offering a spectacular view across to the Semulike river on the Congo border.
Aside from the scenery, the region’s main attraction is the recently gazetted Semuliki national park, which protects an extension of the Congolese rainforest. The campsite opposite the office lies on the right side of the road 52km past Fort Portal.
This 500km² reserve lies to the northeast of the Bundibugyo Road, from where it extends to Ntoroko on the southern shore of Lake Albert. It protects an area of relatively open savannah, interspersed with patches of rainforest and Borassus woodland, and some large swamps in the north.
Most of the wildlife was poached out during the civil war, but Uganda kob is still quite common and viable populations of several other large mammal species remain, including elephant, buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck, giant forest hog, red-tailed and vervet monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey and chimpanzee. The diversity of habitats means that some 400-odd species have been recorded in the reserve. Along with Murchison Falls, it is the most reliable place in Uganda for shoebill sightings.
Adjacent to the park at Ntandi there is a small Pygmy culture living nearby.
Local communities in the Semliki national park area are Bakonjo and Bamba, found in the valley and mountain slopes.
This pretty, rather remote little town lies at the northwestern base of the Ruwenzori Mountains. The views across the mountains are wonderful, and there is plenty of walking potential in the immediate vicinity of the town. If you do the Ruwenzori mini-hike covered in the previous chapter, you will end up in Bundibugyo.
The Batuku people on the Rift Valley floor, and the Batwa people in the forest.
In the same fashion, Semliki River is home to many animals with eight species of primate.
In the same way, 435 birds, 374 butterflies, and 336 tree species (30% of East Africa) exist here.
The most popular attraction in Semliki National Park is the cluster of hot springs.
Lying within the reserve boundaries, Ntoroko fishing village on Lake Albert would be a rewarding and inexpensive place for adventurous independent travellers to spend a few days.
The Semuliki Valley Wildlife Reserve was until recently known as the Semuliki Game Reserve and before that, it was called the Toro Game Reserve. It is still called by one or other of its former names on all the maps of Uganda that I’ve ever come across.
Furthermore, 24 tree species occur only, like Isolana Congolana, Ejacis Guineesis, Cordia Millenii, and Lovoa Surymertonii.
In like manner, there are 63 species of mammals that live here, 9 of which are diurnal forest primates like chimpanzees.
Also, as the blue monkey, vervet monkey, and olive baboon, nocturnal primates include pottos and galagos.
A variety of animal species such as Buffaloe, blue duiker, pigmy antelope, not to mention bee croft’s flying squirrel occur.
Eleven animal species are found in Semliki National Park only.
34% of Uganda’s total birds are present; 35 species are found in Semliki National Park only, with 12 being rare in East Africa.
Therefore the long list has 4 Hornbill species (White Crested, Red Dwarf, Black Dwarf, and Wattled Casque).
Followed by Red Rumped Tinker Bird, Palm Greenbul, and lyre-tailed honeyguide.
And, recently 7 “new” bird species have occurred.
Without a doubt, of the 374 species of butterflies, 46 are forest swallowtails and Charaxes.
Equally important notably are forest swamps, bushland, and extensive Savannah woodland.
Guided Nature Walks
From time to time used by birders a network of trails that have been developed in the forest for the purpose of birding.
The Sempaya hot springs are a must-visit in a tract of hot mineral swampland.
Where visitors see hot water at 130° C and a pool of 12 m, the diameter of oozing boiling water at 106° C.
But also a trail for bird watching is 15 km through forest-fringed oxbow lakes.
Additionally, resident birds include spot-breasted ibis, Nkulengu rail, black throat-ed coucal, and Maxwell’s black weaver.
Fishing is also available to anyone taking a fishing trip as long as you carry your own fishing gear.