The relatively small (85 sq. miles) Semuliki National Park is Uganda’s only portion — and the eastern-most bit — of the gigantic Ituri Forest, which in the Congo is best known for its pygmies and okapi. Neither are found here, but virtually everything else found in the Ituri is. The forest was formed during the last climatic upheavals of the Pleistocene, and it is one of the richest areas for both flora and fauna in Africa.
The national park borders the Congo. To the southeast are the Ruwenzori Mountains, and to the north is Lake Albert. The park occupies a flat to gently undulating land that floods during the rainy season (March-May, September & December). Like many central African jungles at altitudes somewhat in between lowland and highland (Semuliki is 2,000′ above sea level), conditions are often steamy during the day and chilly at night.
The park is named after the river which drains the area’s flood plains into Lake Albert. The river has an ecosystem all its own and quite different from the Ituri ecosystem that defines the majority of the park. This convergence of diversity gives rise to an incredible number of bird species in a relatively small area, almost 400 species in total.
The park is often confused with the Toro-Semliki Valley Game Reserve, which is a difficult hour’s drive away. The confusion stems from the fact that there is still no overnight accommodation in the park, other than self-catering guest houses and a public campsite, whereas a beautiful luxury lodge is situated in Toro-Semliki.
Ugandan parks has plans to develop the park, but currently there are very few and not very good vehicle tracks. The park is best discovered on foot. Once tracks are cut, it is presumed that the abundance of unusual species can be seen, such as forest buffalo, pygmy elephant, sitatunga, pygmy hippopotamus and leopard. The park is home to more than 60 mammal species include Mona Monkeys, water chevrotains, bush babies, civets, the Pygmy Flying Squirrel, nine species of duikers including the Bay Duiker, and eight primate species. But for the time being, foot safaris experience the incredible beauty, often hear animals and see phenomenal numbers of birds and insects. There are more than 400 species of birds recorded along the small footpaths from the main gate, and most day visitors will see more than 200 kinds of butterfly.