Semliki National Reserve

Semliki National Reserve – Toro Game reserve

Semliki National Reserve is one of the oldest wildlife reserves in Uganda that is found in the western region of Uganda in Kabarole district. Semuliki national reserve was formerly known as Toro Game Reserve and it lies north-east of Bundibugyo road extending to Ntoroko on the southern shores of Lake Albert. The park stretches between Ntoroko and Kabarole district covering an area 542 square kilometers lieing between the Rwenzori Mountains and Kijura escarpment of Lake Albert giving the park a dramatic rift valley setting. Semiliki national reserve is 55 kilometers by road from Fort portal to the nearest prominent city near the reserve.

Semliki national park is famous for being home to the largest population of Uganda kobs and birds. The park is a rich wildlife destination with a variety of tourist attractions. The reserve hosts a number of mammals approximately 53 species for example antelopes, buffaloes, Uganda knobs, waterbuck, leopards, lions and forest elephants, primates such as black and white colobus monkey, olive baboons, red tailed monkey, and vervet monkey.

Semliki national park a bird haven and perfect destination for birding as it hosts a variety of bird species approximately 420 species in lowland tropical forests with in the park such as Blue Swallow, White-throated Blue Swallow, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Spotted Greenbul, White-starred Robin, Lowland Akalat, Red-throated Alethe, Fire-crested Alethe, Snowy-headed Robin-Chat, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Red-eyed Puffback, White-tailed Robin-Chat, Northern Bearded Scrub-Robin, Capped Wheatear, Common Stonechat, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, Oberlaender’s Ground-Thrush including the rare shoe bill, Abyssinian ground hornbill and sunbirds among others.

Semliki national park is an extension of the vast Ituri forest making it one of the wealthiest areas in Africa for flora and fauna. Semliki National Park is consists of savannah grassland, low and tropical forests (one of the ancient and bio-diverse forests) consisting of approximately 336 tree species with 3 endangered species and 24 restricted tree species Euphorbia, Chrysophyllum begui. Semiliki national reserve is a natural overwhelming wonder consisting of Semiliki River and ever bubbling hot springs.

Semliki Safari Lodge
Semliki Safari Lodge

Semliki national reserve stretching across the floor of the semiliki valley on the remote western side of Rwenzori Mountains is surrounded by four distinct tribes living on the outskirts of the reserve, these tribe include Bwamba farmers at the base of Rwenzori Mountains, the Bakonjo cultivators on mountain slopes, batuku cattle keepers and Batwa pygmies from the Ituri forest. Semliki valley is a perfect location for culture walks as it has thatched huts shaded by African oil palms.

Semuliki national reserve was established in 1926 as Toro game reserve primarily to protect Uganda kobs, it was renamed to semiliki national reserve and from 2005 the area is considered a lion conservation unit.

Attractions in Semliki

Semiliki national reserve is destination made up of a variety of interesting features which attract a large number of tourists to the reserve such as Hot springs: Hot springs are the prominent attraction in semiliki national park, the reserve has two hot springs i.e. a male hot spring named Bitende which is in diameter of 12 meters and the female hot spring is Nyasimbi a boring geyser which spurts out hot bubbling water which streams about 2 meters up in the air giving a magnificent view.

Water from these hot springs are so hot and tourists and people coming to the hot springs boil food like potatoes and eggs in the hot pool of water from the springs. The water are 100 degrees Celsius hot.

Primates: Semliki national reserve is home to primates making it a suitable spot for primate trekking, primates in semiliki national park live in the low and tropical forests which are an extension of Ituri forest. Primates as baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey, black-and-white colobus, Central African red colobus, blue, red-tailed, de Brazza’s, vervet, and Dent’s Mona monkeys.

Birds: Semliki national reserve is home to a variety of unique bird species which are only found in this location, the reserve hosts over 400 bird species such as central African species like the Long-tailed Hawk, Congo Serpent Eagle, Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Black-Wattled Hornbill, the Nkulengu Rail. Semuliki reserve is also home to the famous for Sudan- guinea biome bird species including Piapiac, Red-throated Bee-eater, and Purple Glossy-starling and Guinea- Congo forest biome species which are only found in semiliki national reserve in the whole of East Africa as they only found in West Africa.


Activities that are done in the park

Semliki national reserve offers Interesting safari activities which include:
Game Drives: If you want to know more and appreciate the wildlife and flora of the pearl of Africa then game drive in semiliki national reserve is one of the safari activities you should never miss. Game drives in the wildlife reserve are very interesting as they drive through the savannah field in semiliki valley while spotting a variety of animals such as lions, leopards, forest elephants, pygmy antelopes and also primates like chimpanzees, grey-cheeked mangabey, black-and-white colobus monkey. Not only mammals and primates but also various bird species such as White-throated Blue Swallow, Yellow-throated Nicator, and Leaf-love can be seen.

On a games drive in the reserve using a 4 x 4 WD you will follow 3 main trails that is kirumia trail, red monkey trail, and Sempaya nature trail. Night game drives are also offered in the reserve were nocturnal animals such as Pottos, the bush baby, bats and owls are seen.


Visiting Sempaya Hot Springs: Visiting Sempaya hot springs both Bintente the male spring and Nyasimbi the female spring is a wonderful experience that helps you appreciate the power and creativity of God. While visiting the hot springs you get to witness hot water bubbling and steaming up 2 meters high, local people and tourists cook food and eggs on the hot pool water from the springs.

Guided Nature Walks and Hiking: Semliki national reserve is covered with part of Ituri forest, swamps and savannah grassland in the valley which facilitate guided nature walks and hiking. Nature walks and hiking in the forests are headed by a professional tour guide and while on this amazing safari activity you encounter birds, primates such as chimpanzees, baboons in mugiri forest and animals like lions, Uganda knobs in the forests of the reserve.

Boat Ride: As you plan your safari in Semliki national reserve boat rides should never be forgotten on your list, boat rides in this reserve take place on Semliki River of 160 kilometers running from the Rwenzori Mountains to Lake Albert and RiverNile. On this boat ride, you get to see Waterbucks, Sitatungas, lizards, Nile crocodiles, and pygmy hippos as they room along the river banks, watching the river meandering through the rift valley is such a magnificent view.

Birding Safaris: Semuliki national reserve is one of the best birding sites which offers to view different bird species, in this reserve over 400 bird species are seen in the swamps, forests and on river semliki. The reserve is a bird haven hosting five species of endemic only to the park. Birds spotted in semliki national reserve include shoebill, dazzling red-throated bee-eater, he Nkulengu rail, yellow-throated Cuckoo, piping Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Black Dwarf Hornbill, White-crested Hornbill, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, African Piculet, White-throated Blue Swallow, Yellow-throated Nicator and Leaf-love.

Batwa cultural experience: The pygmy Batwa people at the outskirts of the semliki national reserve came from the Ituri forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Batwa cultural experience takes the tourist through the ancient life of the Batwa and their ways of life, on this trail you get to witness Batwa ways of constructing houses using local materials, gathering local herbs for medicine and local way of making fire.

Primate tracking: In the forest of Semliki national reserve there is a number of primates such as chimpanzee, the black and white colobus monkeys, the baboon, the grey-cheeked mangabey, vervet, the Central African red colobus, Dent’s mona monkeys, blue, red-tailed and the de Brazza’s which can be seen playing on trees. Primate tracking in the reserve is an activity of 4-6 hours which involves tracking down the primates in their natural habitats.

Trails used in Semliki National

While on safari in semliki national reserve 3 trails are used, these trails are Sempaya nature trail. This trail goes through the forest leading to the hot spring, while on this trail there is a large chance of spotting primates black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and grey-cheeked mangabey. As your heading to the male hot spring, there is a treehouse and from this spot, you get to see a variety of birdlife and beautiful scenery.

The Kirumia trail. The kirumia trail is best for bird watching, it is atrial of 13 kilometers passing through the forest leading to Semliki River.

Red monkey trail; Red monkey trail of 11 kilometers starts from the east bounder of the park ending up to river semliki. On this trail, you get a chance to spot the rare DeBrazza monkey.

Semliki national reserve can be reached from using Kampala, two major roads can be used; Kampala-Fort portal via Mubende which is a 5-6 hours’ drive and Kampala-Fort portal via Masaka, Mbarara, and Kasese (7-8 hours). It is in the far west, 50km from Fort Portal. Following the road to Semuliki National Park, there is a turn-off to the Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve which is signposted 30km along the Bundibugyo road at the small trading center of Karugutu. By air, you can take a chartered flight from Kajjansi or Entebbe international airport to kasese.

While doing a Uganda safari in Semliki national park accommodation can be got from Semliki Safari Lodge, Uganda Wildlife Authority Campsite, Local shoe string lodges, and Ntoroko Game Lodge.

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