Besides wildlife viewing, Semliki Valley National Park also features among Uganda’s important bird areas. With a variety of its distinct habitats, the park comes with unique bird species making it one of the remarkable destinations in Uganda for avian safaris.
Semliki National Park is located in Western Uganda, along the Congo border following River Semuliki, Western arm of the Albertine Rift Valley; in the North of Mount Rwenzori. It extends up to 220 kilometers making it one of the smallest protected areas with the most bio-diverse forests in Africa.
The park also covers the Eastern parts of the Ituri forests from the Congo Basin. It also has several features connected to Central Africa other than Eastern Africa. This incredible protected area stands within an altitude of about 800 to 900 meters. Its numerous habitats mainly include the moist semi-deciduous forest with large ironwood and some patches of swamp forest and aquatic habitats as well as oxbow lakes.
For bird watchers, Semliki National Park is a birding paradise. Over 441 bird species call Semliki national park their home; 46 of them are the Guinea-Congo species which are not easily seen in any part of East Africa, five of them are Albertine Rift endemic species, and many more.
The Sempaya and Ntandi trails are among the perfect birding sites for you to achieve your dreams while on birding safaris in Semuliki National Park. The Sempaya nature trail is 8 kilometers and it also crosses the amazing hot springs. Birders on Uganda holiday have a chance to sight at the Yellow throated cuckoo, White bellied kingfisher, the Black throated coucal, White thighed hornbill, Black dwarf hornbill, Black casqued wattled hornbill, African piculet, Lyre tailed honey guide, Rufous sided broadbill, Leaf love, Xavier’s greenbul, Red bellied malimbe, Crested malimbe, Icterine greenbul, Blue headed crested flycatcher, Northern bearded scrub robin, Fire crested alethe, Green tailed bristle bill, Gabon woodpecker, Chestnut breasted Negrofinch, Grant’s bluebill, Congo Serpent eagle, Blue swallow, White throated swallow, Lowland akalat, Snowy headed robin chat, Blue shouldered robin chat, Red eyed puff back, Common stonechat, Abyssinian ground thrush, Grey ground thrush, Little grey greenbul, Toro Olive greenbul, Mountain greenbul, Western nicator, Pettit’s cuckoo shrike, Black saw wing, Eurasian oystercatcher, White tailed robin chat, Capped wheatear, Oberlander’s ground thrush, Bates’s nightjar, Shinning blue kingfisher, White crested hornbill, Blue billed malimbe, Yellow throated nicator, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos, Swamp palm bulbul, Red billed dwarf hornbill, Maxwell’s black weaver, Orange cheeked waxbill, Red rumped tinker bird, Piping hornbill and others.
River Kirumia also features as the best sighting place for the shoebill stork especially around Lake Albert. To enhance your experience in the protected area, you also can incorporate birding encounters with forest walks. More birds for you to sight include the long-tailed hawk, Spot-breasted Ibis, Nkulengu rail, Western bronze napped pigeon, Cassin spine tail, Sabine’s spine tail, Hairy breasted barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, and many more.
While Semliki National Park isn’t the best spot for Sudan-guinea savanna biome species, at least 6 of the similar biome thrive in the extreme south of their range for instance the Red-throated bee-eater, Purple glossy starling, and Piapiac.
The park is reachable through 2 (two) main roads from Kampala to Fort Portal; Kampala-Fort Portal through Mubende which covers about 180 kilometers 4 to 5-hour drive or Kampala-Fort Portal through Masaka, Mbarara, and Kasese about 465 kilometers-seven to eight-hour drive. In Fort Portal, it is a 2 to 3-hour drive to Bundibugyo and then to the Sempaya gate. The park’s headquarters is situated at Ntandi about 6 kilometers away from the gate while using the same road.
For this tremendous experience, you will need to come along with binoculars, a camera, birding clothes, bottled drinking water, comfortable walking shoes, a notebook, and many more.
Usually, birding safaris in Semliki National Park come along with other wildlife species especially the savanna elephants, leopards, buffaloes, flying squirrels, pygmy antelope, and 6 distinct bat species, waterbucks, hippos, bush babies, crocodiles, warthog as well as the 9 (nine) apes including the chimpanzees, the blue monkey, Red-cheeked mangabey, vervet monkeys, the Central African red colobus, Black and white colobus, Dent’s Mona monkeys, and baboons. The park also inhabits about 370 butterfly species. For a night stay, there is Semuliki Safari Lodge for luxury, Ntoroko Game Lodge (Luxury), Kirumia Guesthouse and Bumuga Campsite, and many others.
In conclusion, Semuliki National Park is not only for excellent game drives but also an excellent site for bird watchers to realize their dreams while on an African safari. With a variety of bird species, consider this park a must to visit while on safari in Uganda.