Semuliki National Park in Uganda

Semuliki National Park in Uganda

Semuliki National Park in Uganda

Semuliki National Park is situated in the western region of Uganda, Semuliki National Park is a park worth exploring during your visit to the “Pearl of Africa”. It is one of the smallest national parks in Uganda covering 220 square kilometers and lies at an altitude of 670 to 760 meters above sea level.

Semuliki national park in Uganda is also known as a birder’s haven given that the park hosts 441 recorded bird species; with about 23 species of birds that are endemic to the park. The national park is the ideal destination for birding safaris in Uganda and the East African Region at large.

The national park was originally a forest reserve in 1932 and later gazetted as a national park in 1993. The park stretches across the floor of Semliki Valley on the western side of the Rwenzoris. This entire area of the valley is believed to have lay at the bottom of a lake for seven million years, which may explain why large areas of the park may flood during the rainy season.

Semuliki national park in Uganda is an extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. It is one of Africa’s most ancient forest reserves and is internationally recognized for its rich bio-diversity. It is one of the few forest reserves to have survived the last ice age about which is 18,000 years ago.

The main attractions in Semuliki national park are its hot springs which bubble up from the depths of the earth to show the powerful sub-terrestrial forces that have been shaping the rift valley for the last 14 million years. The national park has two hot springs which include Mumbuga and Sempaya hot springs-with the latter being the most visited by tourists visiting the park.

Attractions in Semuliki National Park in Uganda.

Visitors planning to visit Semuliki national park in Uganda should look out for the following; 

Sempaya Hot Springs:

These are the most visited hot springs in the national park. You can visit both the female and male hot springs at the park. The female hot spring, which is referred to locally as “Nyasimbi” to mean “female ancestors”, is the hottest of the two hot springs with waters sprouting out  of a huge rock at a temperature of 103˚C. There is a distinct smell of rotten eggs which is basically the sulphur from the rocks that mixes with water. It is about a five minute walk from the trailhead to the female hot spring which makes it an easy hike for visitors in the park.

The male hot spring at Sempaya is referred to by locals as “Bintente.” The male hot spring is just a 2 minute drive from the female hot spring. You will then embark on a 30 minute hike to get to the male hot spring. It is located in a lush and swampy area. The hot spring measures about 12 meters in width and is mainly characterized by steam evaporating from the lake-like pool of water. If you take an up close look into the water, you will see coins and bones that have been thrown in by locals who offer sacrifices to their god in a bid to have their prayers answered. Just a few meters from the hot spring you will find a traditional hut which acts as a shrine where local place money before offering their prayers.  Sempaya hot springs play a very important cultural role to locals living near Semuliki national park. 


Semuliki national park is home to about 53 species of mammals which can be seen during a game drive in the park. Some of the wildlife spotted in the park includes; forest elephants, hippos, forest buffaloes, antelopes, potto, birds and primates like the black and white colobus monkeys. You can also view a school of hippos and a float/group of crocodiles in Semliki River or along its banks.

Outside the park.

Visitors can drive to Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve which is located just a few kilometers from Semuliki national park. The wildlife reserve is a great destination for chimpanzee trekking safaris in Uganda. Most of the chimpanzees in this reserve have been habituated thus making it easy for visitors to track them.

 Activities in Semuliki National Park in Uganda.

Chimpanzee Trekking:

As earlier mentioned, if you want to do chimpanzee trekking during your visit to Semuliki national park, you will have to drive to Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. A chimpanzee trekking permit costs USD 30 per person for both Foreign Residents and Non-Residents alike. Members of the East African Community get to pay UGX 20,000 per person. The chimpanzee trekking fees cover the guide fee and nature walk in the park but exclude park entry fees.

Guide Nature Walks:

The park offers visitors guided nature walks on two different trails which give visitors a lot to see during the hike. One of the trails that you can hike is the Kirumia trail which is 13 kilometers long and takes you through the heart of Ituri forest and ends at the Semliki River. The second trail is called the Red monkey trail and it is an 11 kilometre long trail which will take you through the park’s eastern border and climaxes at Semliki River. Visitors hiking this trail are rewarded with sights of primates such as; the red-tailed monkeys, and the rare DeBrazza’s monkeys.

Visitors on guided nature walks in Semuliki national park are always accompanied by a park ranger/guide in order to ensure your safety. Hiking safaris in the park commence at exactly 8am every morning and can last between 4-8 hours depending on your pace.


Semuliki national park in Uganda is one of the ideal destinations for birding safaris in the country. There are a variety of bird species that birders can view in the park such as; the White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, the Great blue and Ross’s Turaco, and the Yellow-throated Nicator among others. Birding in Semuliki national park is conducted in Sempaya and Ntandi as well as around Kirumia River where birders will be able to sight the rare Shoebill stork. Birding in this national park costs USD 30 dollars per person for both Foreign Residents and Non-Residents; and UGX 10,000 for East African Citizens.

Community Cultural Tours:

Community cultural tours in Semuliki national park are usually conducted in neighboring Batwa and Bakonjo communities which are adjacent to the national park. There are four different ethnic groups that live near the national park, and these include; Bwamba farmers who live along the foothills of mount Rwenzori, the Bakonjo who reside on the slopes of the mountain, the Batuku cattle keepers who stay in the open savannah plains and lastly, the Batwa pygmies who live on the edge of the forest.

Game Drives.

Game drive safaris in Semuliki national park are usually conducted morning, afternoon and evening hours; with major wildlife viewed in the park like; duikers, Uganda Kob and other antelope species, forest buffaloes, and elephants to mention but a few.

Accommodation in Semuliki National Park in Uganda.

Visitors staying in the park can find accommodation in the following places; Kirimia Guesthouse, UWA Bandas and Campsite in Sempaya, and Semliki Safari Lodge. There are other accommodation facilities outside the national park like Hotel Vanilla, Picfare Guesthouse, and Semliki Guest House in Bundibugyo.

Semuliki National Park in Uganda
Semuliki National Park in Uganda

How to Get to Semuliki National Park in Uganda.

Semuliki national park in Uganda is located approximately 180 kilometers from Kampala via Mubende and about 465 kilometers using Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese routes. The national park can also be accessed from Fort Portal city which is located about 59 kilometers from the park.

Alternatively, visitors can travel to the park by air from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield in Kampala. Flights to the national park take between 1-2 hours or more depending on the aircraft routing.

Conclusion:  Semuliki National Park in Uganda is a park worth visiting during your stay in Uganda. Visitors can always combine a visit to the park with other activities such as Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale National Park, Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable national park, Hike to Amabere Ga Nyina ‘Mwiru in Fort Portal and a game drive, launch cruise or lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth national park.