Semuliki National Park The 220km semuliki national park lies in the isolated Bundibugyo district, beyond the Rwenzori mountains on the floor of the semuliki u section of the albertine rift valley, this large forested park represents the easternmost limit of the great ituri forest of the congo basin and contains numerous species associated with central rather than eastern Africa. hatch huts are shaded by west Africa oil palms, the semilki river(which forns the international boundary)is a miniature version of the Congo river, while the local population includes a batwa(pygmy)community that originated from the ituri. as a result to semuliki provides a taste of central Africa just a couple of hours from the comforts of fort portal. Semuliki is one of Africa’s most bio diverse forests and is particularly noted for its varied bird population. this biodiversity is enhanced by its great age, for it is one of African’s most ancient forests……..during the dry condition of the last ice age,12-18,000 years age, most Africa’s forests shrank and disappeared. only a few patches like semuliki valley is recognized a better, wetter world. today the semuliki valley is a hothouse for vegetation growth, with temperature rising to a humid 30c doused by an annual 1250mm of rain, mostly between march-may and September-December. While semukili’s species have been evolving for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths beneath sempaya to demonstrate the rift valley during the last 14 million years. 670m above sea level. large areas may flood during the wet seasons; brief reminders of the time when the entire valley lay at the bottom of a lake for 7 millions years. The semukili forest reserve was created in1932 when forest villages were avacuated as a measure to control sleeping sickness and yellow fever. the reserve was upgraded to national park status in 1993. How to get there As the crow files, semuliki national park is just 27km from the regional capital of fort portal. however the direction route is complicated by the massive Ruwenzori mountain and a detour to the north is required to head through the rocky buranga pass into the semuliki valley ,the 52km drive to the park office at sempaya provides panoramic views over the rift during the descent from buranga. in good wealth the drive takes about two hours but mountainous sections are muddy in wet wealth and a 4WD vehicles is recommended. Public transport runs daily from fort portal and bundibugyo town,15km beyond sempaya, transport for the return journey can be hard to find late in the day (after 4pm)so be prepared to stay over, backpackers can enjoy more flexibility by forming a group to hire a vehicle from kabarole tours in fort portal(behind Don’s plazz) Two routes connect fort portal to Kampala. these can be combined to create an attractive circuit to and from the capital. The direction position is the 300km 4-hours drive via mubende.thr alternative through mbarara to the south is considerably longer but offers stopovers at lake mburo and queen Elizabeth national parks. ACCOMODATION The park provides a campsite with basic cottages at Bumaga,2.5km from Sepaya.meals can can be prepared to order. Cooking facilities are available with utensils available for hire. hotels and guesthouses are available in Fort Portal and Bundibugyo. Flora and fauna Classified as moist Semi-Deciduous forest, Semuliki is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa. the centre of the forest is dominated by Cynometra (Ironwood)but the edges are attractively varied, with riverine swape forest along the semliki river and beautiful mixed forest around Sempaya. A spillover from the Itui of the Congo basin , Semuliki contains 336 tree species. It also support an exceptional variety of mammals, birds and butterflies. this is attributed to the forest’s great age, its transitional location between central and eastern Africa, and to a variety of habitats, notably forest, swamps, and savannah woodland. Birdlife is especially spectacular with 441 recorded species that represent 40% of Uganda’s total of 1007.216 of these are nforest species-66% of the country’s birdlist-while the list is expanded by the riverine habitat and fringe of grassland in the east of the park. there are found nowhere else in East Africa while another 35 can be seen in only 2-3 other places in Uganda. five species are endemic to the Albertine Rift ecosystem. The forest is home to 53 mammals, of which 27 are large mammals; duiker-sized and above,s everal are Central Africa species found nowhere else in East Africa. Foirest elephant and forest buffalo are smaller versions of their savanna relatives. hippos and crocodile are found in the Semliki river while the forest is remarked ably rich in primates. Chimpanzee, black and white colobus, central Africa red colobus, blue monkey, red-tailed monkey, de Brazza’s monkey, vervet monkey, grey-cheeked manageably, baboon, and Dent’s mona monkey are present. nocturnal primates include potto and bushbaby. Local people There are four ethic groups living a round the park. the Bamba and Bakonjo are found in the valley and mountains slopes respectively and are agriculturalists who produce cash crops such as coffee and cocoa while subsisting on food crops that include bananas, rice and potatoes. north of the park. the rift valley plains are occupied by Batuku pastoralists. the smallest group in the valley is a community of Batwa(Pygmies).traditionally, these were other dwelling hunter gatherers originated from the Ituri. their life style is now changing to due to traction with other local communities and the impact of tourism, and the Batwa have migrated to the forests edge at Ntandi. They now support themselves by small cultivation and contribution from visiting tourists. Around the park Sempaya hot springs The hot springs from sampaya are semuliki’s most famous attraction. Two springs are set in lush swampy clearing close to the south-eastern corner of the forest. the outer spring is just a few minutes’ walk from the sempaya park office. this is demonstrated by a boiling geyser(103oc)which spurts up to 2m-high from a white, iced cake-like base of precipitated mineral. water also bubbles in small pools in which eggs can be cooked. the more distance inner spring is reached by a 30 minute trail that leads through beautiful palm forest before crossing the swamp on boardwalk. this spring is broad, streaming pool about 10m across. Sempaya-ntandi road The 5km section of public road between sempaya and ntandi village runs through one of the loveliest tract of forest in Uganda and provides clear views up into the forest canopy to spot birds and monkeys. the pretty Mungiro Falls lie in the north Rwenzori forest reserve, just off the Bundibugyo road 500m beyond the park office. Semliki river The Kirimia Trail leaves the main road near the iron bridge at Kirimia,10km from Sempaya and runs for 11km to the Semliki River, fording the Kirimia stream a couple of times on the way.the 3-4-hour walk to the river is a must for birders seeking Semukiliki Specials. The Red Monkey Trial runs from Sempaya to reach the river as it emerges from the forest. the 6 hour round trip provides opportunities to sight grassland as well as forest birds. in dry wealth it is possible to drive past the homesteads of the Butuku pastoralists east of the park to within 10-15 minutes’ walk of the river to look for crocodiles and water birds. Further reading The Bradt Guide to Uganda.(Philip briggs) Uganda’s Great Rift Valley.( Andrew Roberts) Where to watch birds in Uganda.(jonathan resoussow and marcel sacchi) Maramagambo forest The dark depths of maragambo forest contrast starkly with the suuny plains a round the kazinga channel.one of Uganda’s largest tracts of tropical forest,maragambo is notable for its primate and bird population.trails explore the forest a round lake nyamusigire.wildlife sightings vary from day to day,but graranteed events include the bat cave(with a resident,bat-hungry python),and the copper-rich blue lake. Kyambura Gorge Habituated chimpanzees live in the 100M deep gorge carved by the kyambura river as it flow across the rift valley floor towards the kazinga’s fig tree camp at 08.00 and 14.00.0the 3km road to the gorge is clearly signposted from the main highway.