Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. The park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. This is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests; one of the few to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago.
The Semliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semliki River (which forms the international boundary) is a miniature version of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species, and the local population includes a Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri. As a result, this park provides a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda.
While Semuliki’s species have been accumulating for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
Four Day Culture and Nature Tour Open or Close
Day 1: Arrival in Park
Choose to stay at one of the lodging options in Rwenzori National Park. Enjoy the cold breeze of Rwenzori spiced by the roar of the boulder filled River Mubuku
Day 2: Ruboni Hill Walk
Depart early in the morning to hike up Ruboni Hill. Enjoy scenic views of the River Mubuku as well as Baker and Portal Peaks as you ascend. Reaching the top of the 2300 meter hill, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Mountains of the Moon and the glorious snow-capped Margherita Peak. Return to your accommodation for dinner and relaxation.
Day 3: Cultural Hike or Village Walk
After an early breakfast set off on the Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail for impressive views and an exploration of the local Bakonzo culture. This 6-7 hours hike to a hilltop cultural museum passes through the “Bat Valley” – a holy place for the Bakonzo, and crosses the River Kamusonge. There is also a visit to the traditional healer who explains how he uses his “Muhima” or powers, to cure the sick.
Or you may decide to visit the neighboring villages of Ruboni (with Ruboni Community Camp) or Mihunga (with Rwenzori Turaco View) for a cultural tour including dance performances and the chance to buy local handcrafts.
Day 4: Onward Travel
Proceed to Queen Elizabeth National Park or return to Kampala.
Kilembe Trail Open or Close
- Day One: Kilembe (1,450m) to Kalalama (3156m) (Alt gain: +1706m). The first day involves a long steady climb through montane forest and bamboo to a campsite at Kalalama in the heather zone.
- Day Two: Kalalama (3156m) to Mutinda (3810m) (Alt gain: + 654m). The route follows the Kamusoni river to a campsite at the base of the 4200m Mutinda Towers outcrop.
- Day Three: Mutinda (3810m) to Lake Kopello Overlook (4185m) (Alt gain: +375m). Above Mutinda, the trail traverses open moorland to reach a camp at the Lake Kopello viewpoint.
- Day Four: Lake Kopello (4185m) to Mount Baker Base Camp (4160m) (Alt loss -15m). A day of ups and downs skirts the flank of Mt Luigi da Savoia to reach a campsite beside a tributary of the Butawu valley.
- Day Five: Mount Baker Base Camp (4160m) to Mount Baker (4842m) (Alt gain: +682m). An early start is required to climb to Freshfield Pass and Mount Baker before cloud obscures the views. Descend to Lake Kopello or Mutinda Camp.
- Day Six/Seven: Descent from Kopello (a 2350m descent) or Mutinda to Kilembe.
In addition to the Mount Baker route, the Kilembe Trail offers shorter and longer treks. This route is superbly scenic, reaching the dramatic heather zone by the end of the first day, and most casual hikers will consider the 3-day ascent to Lake Kopello Overlook a more-than-adequate Rwenzori experience. Keen mountaineers, on the other hand, can continue up the Butagu Valley from Mount Baker Base Camp to a Mount Stanley Base Camp on Scott Elliot Pass prior to ascending Mount Stanley.
Central Circuit Open or Close
- Day One: Follow the Mubuku River before ascending a steep ridge of glacial moraine to Nyabitaba Hut (2651m).
- Day Two: Start with a steep descent to cross the Mubuku River, followed by a long hike along the boulder-strewn sides of the Bujuku valley through forest, bamboo and heather zones to John Matte Hut (3505m)
- Day Three: Cross the famous Bigo Bog and the Upper Bujuku Valley beneath the massive cliffs of Mount Baker. The route skirts Lake Bujuku to reach Bujuku Hut (3962m) at the head of the valley between Mounts Stanley and Speke
- Day Four: The route climbs the rocky Groundsel Gully and steep scree slopes to Scott Elliot Pass (4372m) for an unforgettable view back down towards Mount Speke and Lake Bujuku down the U-shaped Bujuku Valley. The climb finishes at Elena Hut (4541m) below the snowline of Mount Stanley.
- Day Five: The Big Day! Start before dawn for the chilly trek through snow and ice to climb to the 5109m Margerita Peak, the roof of the Rwenzori, before the views and the route are obscured by mist. The descent returns to Scott Elliot Pass and descends the deep Kitandara Gorge to a mountain hut by the twin Kitandara lakes (4023m).
- Day Six: Begin with a steep climb to Freshfield Pass (4282m), a spectacular spot carpeted by bright yellow mosses and offering tremendous view of Mounts Stanley and Baker. The trail descends the Upper Mubuku valley to Guy Yeoman Hut (3505m).
- Days Six and Seven: Below Guy Yeoman, the trail follows the Mubuku down the cliffs of Karirupea to complete the Central Circuit at Nyabitaba Hut. Hikers may overnight here to continue to the trailhead at Ruboni for greater comforts.
3-Day General Itinerary Open or Close
Day 1: Arrival
Arrive in time for dinner at your lodge in or near Kibale National Park.
Day 2: Primate Trail and Bigodi Swamp Walk
Take an early breakfast before your primate tracking adventure in the forest. Choose between the half day tracking experience - or a full day chimp habituation adventure. As you search for Kibale’s resident chimpanzees, keep an eye out for other primates such as grey-cheeked mangabeys along with l’Hoest’s, red colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys. Your expert guide will share the secrets of the forest’s flora and fauna, ensuring that the trail is both informative and enjoyable.
After lunch, for those not on participating in chimp habituation, the Bigodi Women’s Group will take you on a fascinating boardwalk trail through the papyrus swamp of the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary. Finish this action-packed day with a cultural performance or a sunset drink at a nearby lodge.
Day 3: Cultural Tour and onward travel
A guide from Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED) will take you on a fascinating cultural tour of the Bigodi homesteads, where you will observe the preparation on food and learn traditional weaving techniques with Bigodi Women’s Group.
From here you can continue south to Semliki National Park, or return to Kampala.
3-Day Birding Itinerary Open or Close
Day 1: Bird to Kibale from Murchison Falls Conservation Area
After breakfast, drive south to Kibale in the Toro Kingdom, birding en-route. Look out for birds like Western banded Snake Eagle, Striped Kingfisher, Great blue Turaco, Lizard Buzzard, Lesser Striped Swallow, Joyful Greenbul, Chubb’s Cisticola, Masked Apalis, Cassin’s Grey Flycatcher, Whinchat, Stonechat, Green-headed Sunbird, Common Fiscal among others. Dinner and overnight at one of the lodges.
Day 2: Kibale National Park (Kanyanchu)
After breakfast, proceed to bird the vicinity of Kanyanchu look out for the Green-breasted Pitta and other species like Yellow-billed Barbet, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black-billed Turaco, Narina Trogon, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Sabine’s Spinetail, Chestnut Wattle eye and Narrow-tailed Starling among others. Primates like Red Colobus, Black and white Colobus, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Olive Baboon, Red-tailed Monkey, L’Hoest’s Monkey among others. Dinner and overnight as before.
Day 3: Bird Bigodi and transfer to Queen Elizabeth NP
After breakfast, proceed to bird Bigodi swamp coming back in time for lunch. After lunch, start the drive south to Queen Elizabeth National Park driving along the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains (crossing the equator) and birding en-route. Look out for birds like, Lizard Buzzard, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Great Blue Turaco, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill, Woodland Kingfisher, Pygmy Kingfisher, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, little Greenbul, Winding Cisticola, ZittingCisticola, Green Crombec, Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher, Black-headed Gonolek, Bronze Sunbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Black Bishop, Black-crowned Waxbill among others.