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Home » Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve Uganda

Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve Uganda

The Toro-Semliki Wildlife Game Reserve Uganda is the oldest protected natural area in Uganda, having first been set aside in 1926. Semuliki Game Reserve is located near the western border of Uganda, within sight of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It covers an area of 542 km2 and lies within the districts of Kabarole and Ntoroko. Toro Semuliki reserve is about 55 kilometres by road, north of Fort Portal, the nearest large city. Toro Semuliki Wildlife Reserve also lies 20km east of Semuliki National Park. The reserve occupies an extensive plain on the rift valley floor, which, incised by steep, riverine gorges, extends north to the marshy shores of Lake Albert and east onto the steep Kijura Escarpment.

The reserve is set at a relatively low altitude starting from around 700m above sea level. On a clear day, the reserve’s altitude is truly awesome, with the sheer rift valley escarpment rising sharply from the eastern shore of Lake Albert, the 2500m-high Congolese Blue mountains on the western horizon and the mighty glacial peaks of the Rwenzori visible to the south-west.

Toro-Semuliki game reserve is located at the junction of so many diverse habitats. These include tropical rainforest, marshy lacustrine habitats on the shores of Lake Albert, the montane habitats of Rwenzori mountains in the south and the grassland at the heart of the reserve. These diverse habitats reflect abundant wildlife including, the forest mammals of Central Africa, key East African species and a variety of birdlife. The reserve contains 440 bird species and 63 mammal species.

Uganda Safari Attractions in Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve Uganda

1)  Animals in Semuliki wildlife reserve

Toro Semiliki contains the same key species as Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Parks. Tourists on a Uganda wildlife safari will encounter numerous animal species including elephants, buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, waterbucks, warthogs, giant Forest Hogs, Hippopotamus and white-tailed mongoose. Uniquely, the 200 strong Elephant population includes savannah and forest Elephants plus a hybrid form from inter-breeding. the visitor to the reserve will also see primates such as chimpanzees, baboons, vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and black and white colobus monkeys.

2)  Birds in Toro-Semuliki wildlife reserve

Toro Semuliki game reserve can be visited for birding tours. The reserve boosts of 440 bird species including Red-necked falcon, Black-billed Barbet, the turkey like Abyssinian Ground-hornbill, Arrow Marked Babbler, Tropical Boubal, Black-headed Bushrike, Luhdrers Bushrike, Red-necked Falcon. The Shoebill is usually sighted in the marshes of Lake Albert.

3)  Local people around Toro-Semuliki wildlife reserve

There are several communities that can be visited during a Uganda cultural safari tour to the Toro Semuliki reserve. This is a unique experience of discovering the cultures of Bakonjo, Batuku and Bakiga people.

Karugutu-Kyabandara community; This community is situated in the south of the reserve, about 18 km from Fort Portal town. The area is mainly inhabited by the Bakonjo who are traditional cultivators. The most important crops grown are maize, cassava, beans, soya beans, rice, and bananas.

Rwebisengo community: This community is located on the west and northwestern edge of the reserve in the Semliki Flats. The community mainly comprises the Batuku who are predominantly pastoralists. The Batuku are believed to be descendants of the Abarusula who were the royal army of king Kabalega of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom

Ntoroko fishing community: This community is situated at the south-eastern tip of Lake Albert between the estuaries of Wasa and Muzizi rivers. The area, covering approximately 4 km2 has now been excised from the reserve and gazetted as a Wildlife Sanctuary to offer protection of any wildlife that interface in this area. The Ntoroko community depends mainly on fishing.

Kasesenge–Kyakabaseke community: This community is located on the eastern escarpment of the rift valley. The majority of people in this community are Bakiga migrants who originally came to work in the tea estates in the 1960s. During the good economic times, tea provided a stable income. As the prices of tea deteriorated, they resorted to crop cultivation mainly beans, groundnuts, maize, and bananas.

Uganda Safari Activities in Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve Uganda

1)  Game drives in Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve

There are three tracks across the savannah grassland of Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with Buffalo, Waterbucks, Warthog, and Uganda Kob. With luck, you may even see leopard and elusive Bushbabies. Game drives in the wildlife reserve are done in the morning, afternoon, and at night. After dark, visitors may come across curious nocturnal species such as the white-tailed mongoose, bush babies and sometimes leopards.

2)  Bird watching in Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Game Reserve

Toro-Semuliki wildlife is a prime bird-watching safari destination in Uganda with an impressive checklist of 440 bird species. These include the dazzling Red-throated bee-eaters on the sandbanks near Ntoroko, Arrow Marked Babbler, Tropical Boubal, Black-headed Bushrike, Luhdrers Bushrike, Red-necked Falcon, Black-billed Barbet, the turkey like Ground Hornbill, Tropical Boubal and the shoebill in the marshes of Lake Albert.

3)  Hiking and nature walk in Semuliki Wildlife Reserve

Nature walks safaris in Toro-Semuliki takes 3 hours and it goes through a variety of habitats ranging from savannah woodland to riverine forest. Species encountered on this Uganda wildlife safari include; Ground Hornbills, Warthogs, Uganda Kobs, baboons, Black and White Colobus and Vervet Monkeys.

Nyaburogo gorge hike is also an ideal walk for birders that starts right at the Reserve Headquarters. It is a 7 km hike that goes through a diversity of habitats including savanna, woodland and a forest in the gorge. Common birds sighted include, Arrow marked Babblers, Tropical Boubal, Black-headed Bushrike and Luhdrers Bushshrike.

4) Primate walk in Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve

Primate walks within Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve last for 3-4 hours and takes place next to the Semliki Safari Lodge where you will get in touch with the qualified ranger guides who will lead you through the Jungles. Key primate species on this walk include chimpanzees, Red-tailed, vervet, Black and white colobus monkeys and Baboons.  During your Uganda primate tour in Toro Semuliki, you will also come across other wildlife species such as Elephants, Buffaloes, waterbucks, Bushbucks, warthogs and Uganda Kobs among others.

5)     Boat ride in Semuliki Game Reserve

This is conducted on Lake Albert in the North of the reserve. Boat ride provides a great opportunity to see the bird species such as the shoebill stork, Goliath heron, African fish eagle, African Pygmy Goose, Blue-breasted and Blue-Cheeked Bee-eaters and Blue-headed Coucal.

6)    Community tourism in Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Game Reserve

The Karugutu Community Conservation Association (KCCA) is a community-based association whose other objective is conservation education through Music, Dance and Drama (MDD).  For the visitor on a cultural tour in Uganda, this community organize traditional dances for the visitors and they have a shop for handcrafts at the entrance of the reserve which they sell to visitors.

There are also amazing communities around the reserve including the hardy Bakonjo of Karugutu-Kyabandara community who are a traditional cultivator. The Rwebisengo community which comprises the Batuku (Batoro-Bahuma), who are predominantly pastoralists. The Batuku are believed to be descendants of the Abarusula who were the royal army of the king Kabalega of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom. Visitors can get a chance to get exposed to the lifestyles of people within these communities.

Uganda Safari Accommodation Around Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve Uganda

1)  Ntoroko Game Lodge-luxury

Ntoroko Game Lodge is situated in Semliki Game Reserve, west of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountain ranges. The lodge is found in Ntoroko district on the shores of Lake Albert and is bordered to South by Fort portal town, to the East by Kibale, and Bundibugyo to the South-West.

The lodge’s location offers a breath-taking view across some of Uganda’s noteworthy attractions; the legendary Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Albert and, the natural beach sands, the rolling hills, forests and, green savannahs. Ntoroko Lodge is the ideal starting point for memorable adventures Semliki Game Reserve and Semliki National Park Uganda.

Accommodation at Ntoroko Game lodge

The lodge’s accommodation consists of 5 luxury state of the art tents. All the tents are well furnished with comfortable beds, cushioned chairs and, a dining area. The tents are self-contained with ensuite bathrooms fitted with bathtubs, hot water showers, flushing toilets and an assortment of quality toiletries. Each tent has a private patio looking out to Lake Albert and the surrounding pristine wilderness.

Facilities at Ntoroko Game Lodge

Restaurant and bar

Ntoroko Game Lodge has an on-site restaurant which serves local and continental cuisines including complimentary buffet breakfasts every morning. The restaurant has a provision for romantic bush breakfasts and packed lunches for guests going out for adventures in Semliki Forest National Park and the game reserve.

The lodge has a fully stocked bar with a variety of beverages to cater for the varying needs of the guests. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are served. Freshly brewed coffee and tea are prepared and served on guest request.

Swimming pool

Ntoroko Game Lodge has a state of the art swimming pool where guests can dive for a swim to relax and unwind especially after a hectic and adventurous day exploring one of Uganda’s pristine wildernesses. The lodge is designed to offer the Uganda safari holiday lover and avid naturalist an unforgettable experience.

Good power supply

Ntoroko Game has a supply of electricity in all its facilities. The tents have a good lighting system and power outlets for charging. Guests can perform their business and work-related tasks without any inconveniences. Power blackouts are a rare occurrence at the lodge.

Running water

The lodge has a supply of running water in all its facilities including a supply of both cold and hot water in the ensuite bathrooms. Guests can treat themselves to a hot water bath whenever they want, especially on the cold wilderness mornings.

Other amenities

  • Natural sand beach
  • Laundry services and dry-cleaning
  • Ample parking space
  • Regular Housekeeping
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • 24/7 security

2)Semliki Safari Lodge-luxury

Semliki Safari Lodge is situated in Semliki Valley wildlife reserve and is the only accommodation in over 500km² of wilderness, offering a truly private experience. The lodge is built out of local materials, giving it an appearance of traditional rustic, but with still a feeling of total luxury and comfort. There is a homely feeling in the main building with sofas piled high with soft cushions, loads of books to read and hospitable staff. The main lodge is perched on a hill overlooking the riverine valley with the Rwenzori mountains in a distance.

Accommodation a Semliki safari lodge;

The lodge hosts a maximum of 18 guests. There are 8 golden-hued tents with gleaming hardwood floors.

They include 1 family – sleeping 3-4 people, 3 doubles- sleeping 2 each and 4 twins – sleeping 2 each.

There are Canvas tents with grass protected by thick thatched roofs. They feature en-an suite bathroom, hot water and double vanities.

Facilities at Semiliki Safari lodge comprise

  • A large dining area, plus stunning views and unique traditional arts are the main features of the lodge.
  • There is a patio bar and swimming pool area that includes a breezy shaded lounge and superb forest view, perfect for a lazy afternoon

3)Uganda Wildlife Campsites and Bandas-budget

These are located on the shores of Lake Albert at Ntoroko.  They have to be booked in advance. Meals are prepared at the canteen at the campsite.  There is also a campsite and budget bandas run by UWA at the reserve headquarters in Karugutu.

Getting There

By road

Kampala to Fort Portal via Mubende is 290 km, about 4 hours’ drive. There is also another alternative route which is Kampala –Fort Portal via Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese about 465 km, about 7-8 hours.

Follow the route to Semuliki National Park from Fort Portal for the first 28 km before
turning right at Karugutu trading centre.

Semliki Safari Lodge is 26 km further on just beyond the bridge over the river wasa. Branch to the right 3km to the Lodge. Lake Albert is further on 25 km ahead at Ntoroko fishing village where UWA manages bandas, a campsite and a canteen.

By air

Chartered flights can land at an airstrip on Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Flights can be chartered from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield near Kampala. The following carriers run regularly, scheduled flights to Toro-Semiliki:

  • Fly Uganda (flies from Kajjansi Airfield)
  • Aerolink (flies from Entebbe, a minimum of 4 passengers is required)

Semliki Airstrip is located 1.5km south of Semliki Safari Lodge. Transport to the reserve by air saves time and is less stressful than transport by automobile, on the narrow winding roads. It can take about 40 minutes to reach and land Semuliki airstrip from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airstrip.