Situated in the remote Bundibugyo area immediately north of the Rwenzori mountains, Semiliki National Park makes the Eastern part of the extensive Ituri rain forests of the DRC. Situated on the Western Uganda-DRC border, Semiliki NP gets its name from the meandering river Semiliki that lies exactly at the border. Since Semiliki NP is the only lowland tropical rain forest in East Africa, it has a very wide range of tree species some of which cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa apart from one or two adjacent forests. 24 of the 336 recorded species are specific to these forests and a few are considered to be in danger of extinction. Trees like the ISOLANA CONGOLANA, NESOGORDONIA KABINGAENSIS, EJACIS GUINEESIS are endemic to these forests in the whole of East Africa while CORDIA MILLENII and LOVOA SURYMERTONII are said to be endangered.
Semiliki is also is one of the richest places to bird. It boasts of 435 species of birds some of which cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa. It also accommodates some of the continents sought after birds like the Black wattled hornbill and the Congo Serpent Eagle. The enchanting tropical rainforest, the Meandering Semiliki river and the extensive hot spring system make Semiliki National park one of the most delightfully charming places to visit. A number of primate species also live in this National Park. To sum it up, Semiliki is one of the parks you can’t afford to leave out of your visit.
Semiliki possesses 63 mammal species a number of which are primates. Nocturnal primates like Pottos and Galagos are especially hard to see while the more conspicuous primates like the Grey Cheeked Mangabay, Red-tailed, Vervet and Blue (Gentle) monkeys, Olive Baboons and Guerera Colobus among others flourish. Surprisingly the Chimps and the De Brazza’s monkey are rare.
The Red Colobus is practically extinct in this region although some individuals can be seen associating with groups of the Guereza Colobus. The other mammals like the forest Elephants, Bush Pig, Water Chevrotain, Forest Buffalo, Sitatunga, Dwarf Antelope, Zenkers flying Mouse, Beercroft’s flying and Pygmy Squirrels are quite hard to see primarily because of the extensive forest cover and the flooding conditions during the rainy seasons (floods are caused by poor drainage and the fact that all rivers and streams in this area drain into the lowland forest).
374 butterfly and Moth species are also found in this rainforest. These include 46 species of forest Swallowtails and Charaxes and 81 species of Giant Moths, 12 of which are restricted to Semiliki national park.
The impressive bird list of 435 species is richly gratifying for any birder and these Include some of Africa’s most sought after birds and a group of central African bird species that cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa. The Black-wattled Hornbill, Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Nkulengu Rail and the Lyre-tailed Honeybird are Definitely on Africa’s most wanted bird list while the Ituri Batis, Gabon woodpecker, Black-throated Coucal which are central African forest birds are endemic to Semiliki National park in the whole of east Africa. The hornbills are well represented in this tropical rain forest with an incredible 8 species recorded here among which are the White-crested, Tiny red-billed Dwarf, African Pied, Piping, White-thighed and the Huge black wattled hornbills.
Other birds of interest are the Crowned Eagle, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, Black-collered lovebird, Forest Francolin, Spot-breasted Ibis, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, White-bellied and African Dwarf kingfishers among so many more. See the Bird Species page for a more complete list. This Rain forest has not been extensively explored making it a possibility that there are some birds missing on the bird list and who knows, you could be the first to see a bird never seen before in the Semiliki rainforest.
To say that Semiliki National park is beautiful is a gross understatement. This magical Rainforest is too captivating for words. The vast low-lying Tropical rainforest goes on until it meets the horizon when seen from the higher placed edge. Most of the captivating Tropical rain forest is covered with thick, lush undergrowth, swamps and oxbow lakes as well as numerous streams that network its entire span lend credence to the belief that most of this forest has never been accessed let alone seen by man. Two hot springs are found in one of the parks swamp lands. Here amazing sights of geysers that shoot up to heights of 2 metres and pools of boiling hot water that go up temperatures of 130? centigrade are observed. You can actually boil your food in these “natural boilers”. A trip to the spectacular snaking Semiliki River through a trail in the jungle is a must if you visit this National Park.
The accommodation at the park is restricted to two basic camps and preparation of meals is on order. More comfortable and up market accommodation can be found at Fort portal and Bundibugyo.You can get to Semiliki national park by road only and it there are 2 main ways. The shorter route to Fort Portal is via Mubende and takes 2 to 3 hours over a distance of 300 kms and a further 2 hours of rough murram (dirt) road to the Sempaya gate of the park. The better alternative though is the longer route that passes via Masaka, Mbarara and kasese and takes approximately 7 to 9 hours over a distance of 510 kms because it gives you the opportunity to visit a number of our National park in the Western circuit like Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo and Rwenzori mountains national parks.