Introduction to Semliki Wildlife Reserve

Established in 1926, Semliki Wildlife Reserve, formerly Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve, is one of Uganda's oldest wildlife reserves.

It is just under an hour from Fort Portal and is is situated in western Uganda within the Ntoroko and Kabarole districts.

The reserve boasts diverse landscapes of rain forest, dry savannah grasslands, and riparian woodland, as well as magnificent views of the rift valley escarpment, Rwenzori Mountains and distant Blue Mountains in the Congo.

 The lush green wetlands of the Semliki River expand to Lake Albert, which is perfect for an early morning boat safari. 

Semliki Wildlife Reserve

Over 2500 Elephants roam in Queens.

What To Expect

The reserve is a flourishing habitat for many animals and birds, including elephants,buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob.

Also look out for pygmy hippo, hyena, leopards and noisy bush babies.

Game drives, boat cruises and guided chimpanzee walks are popular activities in the reserve.

The chimpanzees are less habituated than those in the Kibale, Budongo or Kyambura Gorge forests.

However, it is still an excellent chance to view and learn about these intelligent creatures in their natural environment.

Semliki Safari Lodge runs boat cruises on Lake Albert to see the elusive and critically endangered shoebill stork.

Adult chimpanzee walking through Kibale Forest on Kibale habituation experience.

Hanging out with the chimps on their turf is an unforgettable experience.

Things to Do

Primate Walk

The chimpanzee population in Semliki is of particular scientific interest because they occupy a drier habitat than those found in Kibale, Budongo or Kyambura. This means they travel further to find their food and have been observed for short distances walking on their hind legs.

Accompanied by an experienced guide, you will set out on a 3-4 hour hike through riparian and acacia woodlands, Borassus palm forests and savannah grasslands. 

You can join the researchers on a primate walk, but do not necessarily expect to see the chimps because they can move far and quickly and are less habituated than the chimps in the more popular forests.

Instead, it is an opportunity to discover more about a fascinating species whilst exploring a beautiful environment.

However, Semliki is home to many other primate species, which you may spot on this walk, including, Red-tailed, vervet, Black and white colobus monkeys, and baboons. 

Semliki Wildlife Reserve

Albert Delta Boat Safari

A sunrise or sunset boat safari through the Lake Albert delta is a truly exceptional experience.

If you are lucky, you will also get the chance to see the charming and extremely rare shoebill stork, which hides between the papyrus and weeds on the marshy shorelines.

The best boat safari is enjoyed in the morning and operated by Semliki Safari Lodge.

Semliki Wildlife Reserve

Game Drives

Game drives in Semliki are operated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority or Semliki Safari Lodge.

They operate in the morning and late afternoon, and there are three routes to choose from, which each exploring different parts of the reserve.

Night game drives are also available. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are commonly observed, along with buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob.

Semliki Wildlife Reserve

Kidepo is the second most bio-diverse place in Uganda.

Where To Stay

Semliki Safari Lodge

Golden-hued safari tents and vintage safari decor are reminiscent of a former era of exploration and make it feel as though you have stepped back in time.

With only 8 tents, Semliki provides a tranquil and secluded experience for guests.

Hardwood floors, double beds, en-suite bathrooms with hot showers and flushing toilets, private verandas and protective thatched roofs provide guests with the utmost comfort and luxury.

The central lodge area is filled with chunky dining tables, deep-seated armchairs and a toasty fire, perfect for getting comfortable and swapping stories at the end of the day.

Semliki Wildlife Reserve

Vintage golden-hued tents makes you feel like you stepped back in time.

When to Visit

The best time for wildlife viewing in Semliki Wildlife Reserve is in the dry season (December to February and June to September).  

During these months, there's plenty of sunshine, it rarely rains and animals are likely to be gathered around predictable water sources making wildlife sightings much easier. 

In the wetter months, some roads become impassable after heavy rain.

Getting There

Semliki Wildlife Reserve is 300 km from Kampala, and the direct drive takes six to eight hours. 

However, the reserve is located only an hour from Fort Portal. It is a convenient addition to any itinerary going north towards Murchison Falls via Lake Albert or further south towards Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. 

It is also possible to fly to the airstrip near Semliki Safari Lodge by scheduled or chartered aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield near Kampala.

An aerial view of Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Chimpanzee trekking in Semliki is demanding but rewarding.

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