On this page I will tell you how to get to and around Semliki National Park, Best place to find accommodation - whether you are into camping, best times to visit and more ... Just about all you need to know about this park.
Quick reminder - found yourselves a good 4 by 4 (4WD)? Not to put you off ...but for some of the terrain here, you will appreciate why I insisted ... and not just for the 4 wheel drive (even if you never get to actually use it), it will give you that sense of fall back insurance just in case some bad road turned up in the middle of your lovely vacation.
Ok! There are 2 routes to get here by road from the Capital - Kampala;
The shortest route would be to take the Kampala-Fort Portal through Mubende. This is quite direct - 180km should take you about 4-5 hours with a good steady run.
Otherwise for the more adventurous, you could take the longer route from Kampala to Fort Portal via Masaka, Mbarara and Kasese. Quite a distance to cover - 465km should take you about 7-8 hours ... but the beauty is, it takes you places. Lots of rural Uganda to see ... and you could slot in Lake Mburo National Park, Rwenzori National Park or the irresistible Queen Elizabeth National Park - All these are along the way!
Semliki National Park gate at Sempaya is about 59km from Fort Portal. The park headquarters at Ntandi is about 6km further along the road. Caution, the road is quite bumpy and slow which could take you another 2-3 hours. Plans to widen and re-surface the road could be underway as I write this - so fingers crossed, you could be in for a surprise!
Exploring the park is generally on foot along well planned and maintained trails. It could feel a bit more humid and weary but the terrain is manageable. Have yourselves good hiking shoes and plenty of drinking water and you will be good to go!
My best bet here would be Fort Portal town for decent accommodation. The facilities at the park are rather sketchy - if you are into camping and not fancy then you could spend some time in the forest. There are two recommended camping sites within the forest; at the first oxbow lake and at the second Kirumia River crossing. Be sure to bring all your supplies and camping equipment. If you have quite a bit to carry, you could hire a local porter at Kirumia village for a few dollars - best is have it in the local currency.
At the Sempaya ranger post is a another camping site - quite basic camping facilities. Have plenty of bottled water to drink - you could get marooned if you run out of supplies.
A small fee will be charged for most of the activities and sites within the park which is different from the entrance to the park and which will normally be subject to change. See current fees for National Parks in Uganda here ...
Of course you can visit Semliki any time throughout the year ... but without doubt the best times to visit will come down to the dry season. The northern part of the park receives much more rainfall than the south - about 1700mm which is highly likely in the months of March-May and late September-November which could stretch into December.
Average temperatures are between 14°C and 28°C - again the south being much more warmer because of terrain that drops into the hot rift valley floor and where the tropical forest opens up into grassland.
Look out for June-September and January-February which will probably give you the best bet for good weather ... but again sometimes ... and anytime you could get an afternoon down pour that doesn't follow the weatherman's script.
Throughout the dry months, animals tend to concentrate near the water points - making it easy to view them. Certainly there are bits one misses in the rainy season ... but you don't want to be out there in such wet conditions. The animals will be hard to view too since they will have dispersed from the valleys to the higher, drier grounds where they are not easy to view.
Are you thinking of climbing the mighty Rwenzori too? ... Just suggesting! You could plan to see Rwenzori National Park first and then do Semliki or vice versa - your choice... But let's take care of your bag, shall we!
You will need a (4x4) - a 4WD - hmmm! too big to go into your bag - you've got to find some space. For some of the terrain here, you will see why I recommend one. Ok! if that one wasn't for your bags ... here is what you can think of;
First is you think of those 'kodak moments' you don't want to miss. Let the camera and all its accessories go into that bag first. Have lots of films or memory cards and make sure you have enough batteries to last you through.
Tip; Charge your camera and phone at every opportunity - you will think that would be common sense ... but there you go! Hiking boots, plenty of water to drink, lightweight raincoats is recommended and a light jacket. Quite often, given the altitude, the evenings will turn out to be cool and if you are staying at one of the luxury accommodation, have your swim suit with you ... I bet you will leap at every chance to jump into a swimming pool.
If you plan to climb the Rwenzori, here is a more comprehensive list and also please do visit our online shop - lots of items specially selected and recommended by people who have visited Uganda over the years.
Also check out the FAQs - there will be a tip or two to pickup before you travel.
I wish you a wonderful stay - enjoy every bit and don't forget to drop me a line to let me know how it went. Here is where you can tell your story.
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