Saturday, 12 August 2017

SEMLIKI VALLEY NATIONAL PARK- AN OUTSTANDING HAVEN FOR WILDLIFE IN UGANDA

Semliki Valley national park is among the virgin tourism destination in Uganda, it extends to semliki valley, stretching to the west of mountain Rwenzori largely covered by the Ituri forest from eastern Congo proximate to the Congo basin; this park covers an area of 220 sq.km and also mentioned among the oldest national parks. The park is basically found within the Albertine rift valley region creating very amazing scenery, the kind of environment where Semliki valley is found favours the growth and long term survival of a variety of bird life.

Diversity of bird species in Semliki national park

Semliki national park offers a wonderful Africa’s forest birding experience that is unique only to Sempaya and Ntandi, a visitor who travels to this place will always expect excellent results from memories got after watching Africa’s top most endangered birds, with over 441 different bird species representing 40% of Uganda’s total bird population and 66% (216) of the country’s forest bird species dwelling in this park; these bird species includes the 46 guinea-Congo biome species which are found only in east Africa and the 35 can be spotted in Uganda only in 3 places. The species to be looked out for in Semliki include the following;
African piculet
 It’s an amazing bird species found in the family picidae, with a small size of about 9-10cm long and a beautiful chestnut /reddish forehead and greyish-green crown and the rest of the upper body is dark, green tinged with yellow color and brownish wings. It likes staying mainly in the forest; it’s a very active bird species that move from one place to another, despite its size being very small it also hammers its beak into the branches while looking for insects to feed on.
Piping hornbill
It’s scientifically known as bycanister fistular, very pretty medium sized bird of about 50cm with white plumage and large pale yellow - whitish belly hence loves staying in the evergreen forest and feeds mainly on fruits.
Blue billed malimbe
It stretches to about 17cm, and a male blue billed malimbe weighs 38-47g while a female counter part weighs 29-36g. They are entirely black except deep red patch on the breasts for the female one; and it also moves over a large area within a forest with a sweet melodious voice consisting of a mixture of warbling notes and shrill element. These bird specie stays in the forest of semliki particularly at the swampy area of Sempaya hot spring.
White crested horn bill
The white crested horn bill also known as the long crested horn bill reaches a length of 83-102 cm weighing 1.3-1.5 kg while a female horn bill is smaller than the male, it has a black and white plumage, its head, and neck and tail are tall. Interestingly, the female one lays 2 white eggs in a tree hole then wisely seals it by dropping the entrance to the nest with its droppings, debris and mud and the young ones and male form  cooperative group to feed and breed the female .
Other bird species in semliki national park includes the following, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Yellow- throated Nicator, orange cheeked waxbill, maxwell’s black weaver, lemon-bellied crombec, black-casqued horn bill, blue swallow, leaf love, nulengu rail, etc. The area around Kirumia River is another top birding spot. The shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quarters on Lake Albert and forest walks are good for tracking water birds.

Fauna in Semuliki National Park

The forest is home to 53 mammals of which 27 are large mammals, and 11 species are endemic to the park including the pygmy antelope and two flying squirrel species. It is also home to the peculiar water chevrotain, known as the “fanged deer”
Mammals include Leopards, hippos, elephant, forest buffalo, hippopotamus, civets, potto, bush babies, Mona monkeys, water chevrotains, and nine species of Duikers, including the Bay Duiker  and the Pygmy Flying Squirrel  that occur nowhere else in East Africa.
The forest is remarkably rich in primates including the Woodland chimpanzees, baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey, black-and-white colobus, Central African red colobus, de Brazza’s, vervet, and Dent’s Mona monkeys. Nocturnal primates include the potto and bush baby. Hippos and crocodiles are common along Lake Albert and the Semuliki River respectively.

Cultural interactions in Semuliki National Park

Visitors can enjoy the magnificent traditional practices of a diversity of the neighboring communities consisting of typically different customs and local traditions, the most memorable are the Batuku’s nomadism life in the open plains of the Albertine rift and the traditional dances and performances of the Bamba and the Bakonjo in the mountains and also the hunter-gatherer life of the Batwa pygmies who live in the fringes of Ituri forest jungles.
The magical Sempaya hot springs
The Sempaya Hot Springs are Semuliki’s most famous attraction. The “male” hot spring, known as Bitente, measures 12m in diameter and is set in a lush swampy clearing. The “female” spring Nyansimbi, meaning "the female ancestors”, is a boiling geyser (103°C) which spurts bubbling water and steam up to 2 meters high - the steam cloud can be seen from as far as 2 km away.
Semliki River
The 160 km long Semliki River carries runoff from the Rwenzori Mountains to Lake Albert and the Nile, a phenomenon that proves ancient geographers’ findings that the Nile naturally flows from a snow-capped mountain in the heart of Africa. Broad, muddy, forest fringed and home to hippos and crocodiles, the Semliki is a miniature version of the Congo River. Visitors can watch the river meander across the rift valley floor from roadside viewpoints and hike through the forest to its bird-rich banks.