Sempaya Hot Springs in Semuliki National Park

The Semuliki National Park protects an extension of the Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is located in Western Uganda on the flow of the Rwenzori Mountains. It is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa. It covers an area of 220 km2 with altitude of 670 metres to 760 metres above sealevel. It is the only host of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa and contains features associated with Central Africa rather than Eastern Africa.

The park’s main attraction is bird watching because of its location in the Albertine rift valley, low land forest and its central African species. In fact, it hosts Central African bird species that you cannot find anywhere else in East Africa. Bird watching is the prime tourist attraction followed by hot springs and cultural experiences. Semuliki National Park is home to 441 bird species, 46 of Guinea-Congo biome species found nowhere else in East Africa. The species to look out for include: Shoebill, dwarf honeyguide, Yellow throated Cuckoo, yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s turaco, purple breasted sunbird, orange weaver, white crested hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, African Piculet, Swamp Palm Bulbul etc…

The forest is home to 53 mammals, forest elephants and buffaloes, hippos and crocodiles along the Semuliki River and several primates — chimpanzee, red-cheeked mangabey, Central African red colobus and many reptiles and amphibians. Eleven of the mammal species are endemic to the park, pygmy flying squirrel, Beecroft’s flying squirrel, water chevrotain, target rat, little collared fruit bat, bay duiker, forest buffalo, mona monkey.

The Semuliki hot springs are a major attractions, they are used by the Bamba people for rituals as they communicate to the gods for blessings and protection. The walk to the male and female hot springs takes you through the forest where you can watch red-tailed monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys jumping from tree branches in search of food. The ‘female’ hot springs have a boiling fountain at over 100°C. Often you have an opportunity to cook plantains and eggs in the boiling waters.

Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve can be visited after or before visiting Semuliki National Park as both are in the same location. The wildlife reserve is a mix of tropical rainforest and grassy savannah intersecting with flat plains.

You can reach the park from Kampala — Fort Portal and then Semuliki National Park. You can also take scheduled or chartered flight from Entebbe to Kasese.

Activities in the park include: Bird watching, game drives, forest hikes, chimpanzee tracking & habituation, cultural experiences, community walks, hot springs.

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Uganda’s National Parks