The Semliki Valley National Park

The Semliki Valley National Park

The Semliki Valley National Park is unique from other national parks in Uganda. It was made a national park in October 1993 and is one of Uganda’s newest national parks. It covers 220 sq km of the valley floor and harbors some intriguing wildlife, though sightings are difficult due to the thick vegetation. The park is located in Bwamba County, a remote part of the Bundibugyo District, in the Western Region of Uganda. Semiliki is the only park in Uganda composed primarily of tropical lowland forest. The forest is very dense and quite flat, creating a startling contrast to the rugged Rwenzori Mountains nearby. It is one of the richest areas of floral and faunal diversity in Africa, with bird species being especially diverse.

The park borders the Semiliki and Lamia Rivers, which are watering places for many animals. The park is most famous for its two hot springs in a hot mineral encrusted swamp. One of the springs – Mumbuga spring – resembles a geyser by forming a 0.5 m high fountain.  The primordial Sempaya hot springs are the other hot springs. They both attract a large number of shorebirds and they are a source of salt for many animals.  You can hike through the forest to catch glimpses of its many bird species like the endangered shoebill stork and also visit the hot springs where the water is hot enough to cook eggs and plantain. Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve is a bird watcher’s paradise. It has more than 460 species recorded in a variety of habitats. Boat trips on Lake Albert are ideal for a chance to see the elusive shoebill stork. The adjacent Semiliki National Park offers a great opportunity to add several species associated with the Congolese rainforest.

The Semliki River attracts Exotic animals such as flying squirrels, red-tailed monkeys, pygmy antelope, and reptiles. The park is home to 8 species of primates like Vervet and red-tailed monkey, the beautiful black-and-white colobus and olive baboon, Elephant, waterbuck, buffalo, leopard, civet and bush baby. The Uganda Kob is common. Lion and hyena are around, but are rarely seen; it is much more common to hear them at night. Leopards are sometimes spotted on night drives. Many primate species can be found, including a troop of chimpanzees can be tracked; however, they haven’t become much habituated, so sightings are very hit-and-miss. Some of the more unusual primates which inhabit the forest of the reserve include the Central African red colobus, Dent’s Mona and the De Brazza’s monkey. Giant forest hog can sometimes be spotted as well. It possesses many features that are more common in Central Africa such as its landscapes.

The park is home to one of the most ancient forests on the African continent, providing a habitat for more than 400 bird species, for example, the lyre-tailed honeyguide and 300 butterfly species. 216 of these species (66 percent of the country’s total bird species) are true forest birds, including the rare Forest Ground Thrush (Turdus oberlaenderi) and Sassi’s Olive Greenbul (Phyllastrephus lorenzi). Nine species of hornbills have been recorded in the park.

The forests in the park are of great socio-economic importance to the human communities that live near the park. The local people practice subsistence agriculture and use the park’s forests to supplement their livelihoods. Some of the products they obtain from the forests include fruits and vegetables, bush meat, herbal medicines, and construction materials. The local population is increasing at a rate of 3.4 percent per year. The forest also plays an important cultural and spiritual role in local people’s lives. The forests are also the home of approximately 100 Basua people, an indigenous community who still largely live as hunter-gatherers. Because tourism provides the Basua people with an additional source of income, park visitors can learn more about the Basua people’s culture and history at the park and see handmade crafts that they have produced.

Activities in Bwindi impenetrable forest

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

The best time for wildlife viewing in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve is during the Dry season (December to February) when animals are concentrated around predictable water sources. Some of the roads become impassable after heavy rain.

Best Time for Bird Watching

The birdlife in Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve is good year-round, but at its best at the height of the breeding season. This is in March, just after the relatively dry spell from December to February. There is rain throughout the year, but March to mid-May and August to October are the wettest months. The heavy rains might result in delays due to impassable roads and slippery hiking trails and can limit your bird-watching time. Migratory birds are in Toro-Semliki from November to April.