Semuliki National Park safaris, tours & packagesUganda's secret valley
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Nestled in the Albertine Rift at the northern base of the Rwenzori Mountains, the forested Semuliki Valley is a haven for rare birds and mammals.
Protecting an eastern extension of the Congolese Ituri Forest, Semuliki National Park is one of the most alluring ornithological destinations in Uganda, with roughly one-tenth of the 400 recorded species being Guinea-Congo biome endemics known from no other locality in East Africa. For short-stay visitors, the main focal point is the steaming Sempaya hot springs, which are reached via a short walking trail along which a full seven species of forest hornbill may be seen, among them the immense black-wattled hornbill, along with the likes of Nkulengu rail and swamp greenbul. Common primates include grey-cheeked mangabey, red colobus, black-and-white colobus and red-tailed monkey, and bush pig, forest buffalo, chimpanzee, sitatunga, white-bellied duiker and water chevrotain are also present. Some five kilometres from Sempaya, a community of Bambuti Pygmies is based at Ntandi.
As a birder, having visited Semuliki three times on day trips, I confess it stands at the very top of the list of those African national parks I'd like to explore further. The scenery is also among the most memorable in East Africa, particularly the descent road from Fort Portal and the boat trips on Lake Albert.
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Dedicated birdwatchers equipped with camping gear could spend several days exploring the Kirumia Trail, which follows the eponymous river and a series of associated oxbow lakes to the Congolese border. The trail offers the opportunity to tick alluring ‘Semliki specials’ such as Spot-breasted ibis, lyre-tailed honeyguide and African piculet.
The drive to Semuliki from Fort Portal is among the most scenic in the country, hugging tight to the precipitous slopes of the northern Rwenzori foothills, with the southern tip of Lake Albert shimmering in the distance below and a swathe of green extending ahead to the Congo.
Often confused with the eponymous national park, and easily visited in conjunction with it, the older Semliki Wildlife Reserve protects a vast tract of moist savanna running to the shores of Lake Albert. Wildlife here includes Uganda kob, Jackson’s hartebeest, buffalo and elephant. It is also one of the top locations on the continent for shoebill.
Semuliki's location on Google Maps