Uganda’s Semuliki National Park
Situated in a remote corner of southwestern Uganda, Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the semuliki valley on the remote, western side of Rwenzori Mountain range. Semuliki protects an eastern extension of the vast Ituri Forest and forms part of a forest continuum that stretches across the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Zaire River. This is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests, and among the few to survive the ice age.
Semuliki at a glance
- Region: Bundibugyo Bundibujyo.
- Size: 220 km sq.
- Altitude Range: 670m-760m above sea level.
- Habitat Moist semi-deciduous forest, mostly ironwood-dominant (Cyanometra alexandri) with patches of swamp forest, and aquatic habitat represented by forest streams and oxbow lakes with adjacent swamps.
- Timing: Rain falls year round and birding is good anytime although the peak breeding season is just after the Jan- Feb “dry” season.
- Time required: 3-4 days.
- Birds Recorded: 400 species.
Being a relatively stable forest “refugium” during the climatic upheavals of the Pleistocene, this is one of the richest areas for forest birds in Africa. A large number of predominantly Central African species reach the eastern limit of their distribution here and cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa. These include some of the continent’s most spectacular and sought-after birds such as; Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Nkulengu Rail, Black-wattled Hornbill and Lyre-tailed Honey guide. Although it lies a bumpy three hours’ drive from Fort Portal, birders who take Uganda safaris, Semliki National Park will be richly rewarded with some of the very best forest birding in Uganda.
UGANDA SAFARI DESTINATION
AFRICA’S MOST ANCIENT & BIO-DIVERSE FOREST
Current Time in Kampala – Uganda
RECOMMENDED SEMULIKI SAFARIS
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Day Time Birding
Common bird species in this area are; Spot-breasted Ibis, Hartlaub’s Duck, Chestnut-flanked Goshawk, Red-thighed Sparrow-hawk, Long-tailed Hawk, Forest Francolin, Nkulengu Rail, Western Bronze-napped Pigeon, Black-collared Lovebird, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Red-chested Owlet, Bates’ Nightjar, Chocolate-backed, White-bellied and African Dwarf Kingfishers, White-crested, Black Dwarf, Red-billed Dwarf, Piping and Black-wattled Hornbills, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Spotted, Lyre-tailed and Zenker’s Honeyguides, African Piculet, Gabon Woodpecker, Red-sided Broadbill, White-throated Blue Swallow, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Sassi’s Olive, Xavier’s, Swamp, Simple and Eastern Bearded Greenbuls, Yellow-throated Nicator, Capuchin Babbler, Northern Bearded Scrub Robin, Forest and Grey Ground Thrushes, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Brown-crowned Eremomela, Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher, Ituri Batis, Red-billed Helmet -Shrike, Red-eyed Puff-back, Black-winged Starling, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Blue-billed, Crested and Red-bellied Malimbes, Pale-fronted and Chestnut-breasted Negro finches, Grant’s Bluebill.
Nocturnal Bird Watching.
The area around the geothermal hot springs at Sempaya is not only very scenic but also offers some great birding. The cliffs behind the ranger post are home to the crepuscular Freckled Nightjar and these can be seen gliding around the clearing with Black-shouldered Nightjars. In the lush rainforest around here, listen for the bizarre dawn and dusk duetting of the elusive Nkulengu Rail. Other nocturnal callers include Buff-spotted Flufftail and African Wood Owl. Around the cleaning and through other light gaps in the area, it is possible to glimpse African Goshawk, Red-thighed and Great Sparrows, Ayres Hawk-Eagle and Cassin’s Spine tail.
From the ranger post, head north (right) along the” Boundary Trail”. Crested Guinea fowl skulk in the undergrowth and the hollow hooting of the White-spotted Flufftail is commonly heard near forest creek in this area. Turn left where the trail forks and continue to the ” Female” Hot Springs with boiling hot water squirts and bubbles out of the ground.
53 species of mammal have been recorded from the park, many of which are shy, rare and nocturnal. Conspicuous species include Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Vervet, Red-tailed and Mona, Gentle (Blue) Monkeys, Olive Baboon and Guereza Colobus, De Brazza’s Monkeys are rare and Chimpanzees may seldom be heard than seen. Nocturnal primates include Pottos and Galagos.
On a lucky day, you will catch a glimpse of glimpse Elephant, Bush pig, Water Chevrotain, Buffalo, Sitatunga, White-bellied Duiker or Dwarf Antelope, Beecroft’s anomalure or Zenker’s Flying Mouse. You are far more likely to spot the lively and agile squirrels such as Fire-footed Rope or Red-legged Sun Squirrel, Little collard fruit Bat and Target Rat. 30 species of butterflies have been identified, including 46 species of forest Swallowtails and Charaxes (75% of Uganda’s total) and at least 235 species of moths have been classified as restricted.
There are also 305 species of trees recorded, of which 125 species are restricted to this park alone.
Accessing Semuliki National Park.
Semliki National Park lies along the main fort Portal to Bundibugyo road, 52 km from Fort Portal. The road can become treacherous, particularly after heavy rains, requiring a 4 WD or a sturdy 2WD with sufficient clearance. The ranger post at Sempaya is well signposted but the park headquarters have been moved to the village of Ntandi, a further 4.4 km along the road to Bundibugyo. The usual National Park fees apply. Sempaya it is 10.6 km from the village of Kirumia and start of the Kirumia River trail into the forest. It is possible to hitch a ride between Sempaya and Kirumia.