Sempaya Hot Springs – Uganda Safari
Sempaya Hot springs ;These are the most impressive attractions in Semuliki National Park that makes tourists to flock in the area throughout the year, its located in the western side of the Rwenzori Mountain rangers in Bundibugyo districts at the edge of the great Ituri forest bordered with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo .The main reason why travelers visit the Semuliki National Park are these outstanding hot springs which are comprised of a male and a female and they both give a memorable life time experience .
Semuliki National Park might be among the less visited national park on Uganda Safari. Yet it’s the best place for birding with numerous notable bird species thus a stopping destination for birders named as ‘’Birding Paradise’’ and a great location to see the largest hot springs in Uganda. However, Semuliki national park sits across the Semuliki valley which is dominated by Africa’s most ancient and bio –diverse forest that is Ituri forest of the Congo Basin .The Semuliki valley contains various features of central African catchments rather than the East African. Therefore, its only Uganda national park that comprises of primarily lowland tropical forest which is densely populated with features that have been accumulated for over 25,000 years as evidenced by the existence of old processes. This hot springs have impressive history of experience the water as it bubbles up from the depth to demonstrate the most powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last decades of 14 million years. Locally, they are called Sempaya and the name Sempaya derives from a Swahili word ‘’Sehemu mbaya’’ which means ‘’the difficult side’ ’due to the problem they faced during the construction of the Fort Portal –Bundibugyo road along the ridges of the Rwenzori Mountain ranges hence naming it Sempaya hot springs.
The Sempaya hot springs are composed of two springs that is female hot springs and the male hot springs but each spring is in different locations. To the scientists have a technical explanation to the origins of the hot springs and yet to the local people around the area named it the indigenous Bamaga clan who stays near the hot springs to the park, they also have their own amazing story about the existence of the Sempaya hot springs.
Male Hot Springs
To the tourists find this male hot springs as rewardable tourist attraction and to the local Bamaga people believe it as a sacred shrine of the male gods and they refer to the male hot springs as Mumbugu. The male hot springs are comprised with wealth and sacrifices offered by men to appease the male gods in exchange of prosperity and wealth. By Bamaga people it is believed that the springs only have a historical formation. According to the head of the Bamaga clan ‘’Mzee Adonai Balinsanga says that this site where the male hot springs exists is historical.
There is a say that there was time when Bamaga women had gone to fetch for fire wood in the forest where they saw hairy man dressed in backcloth wielding a spear and with a dog moving in a zig-zig formation around that location. They had to run back home to inform their husbands who have decided to pick and take him to their homes and surprisingly got him a wife from the village. They returned with their husbands from the place where they saw the man and later was seen was named Biteete but for him continued hunting. Then could be seen once a while and time came when he could no longer be seen, village men decided to look for him seriously but they only found his spear not even tracing of him and his dogs. It was the same point –area where the man disappeared and at the same place of the springs thus naming the place the Male Hot Springs.
Female hot Springs
This is a female hot springs locally named as Nyasimbi by the local Bamaga tribe who believe that the sacred position of their female’s gods is in the hot springs. It is said that those men who went looking for Biteete after his disappearance, they had to return back home. They told his wife ‘’Nyansimbi’’ who got lost into the forest at the same point where her cloths around the other springs thus naming it Female hot springs. This was how the two springs became to be named as Female and Male hot springs as they have come to be famously known.
The Bamaga people believe that their female fathers live beneath the female hot springs and so the male fathers live beneath the Male hot springs. It’s the reason why the Bamaga people still perform annual rituals at the springs to serve their ancestors.
But the area is gazette as a protected national park that allows to access the springs. On the Uganda Safari tour of Semuliki National Park, where you will find the local people undressed in the spring seeking for blessings from their fore fathers. It is said that the female hot spring are helpful to the local women who go there to offer sacrifices and prayers to seeking for peace from the female ancestors. From the female gods they ask for fertility and safe delivery.
Sempaya hot springs lies about 30 minutes’ away from the main road into the forest tracks of Semuliki National Park. Then if you’re at the springs, will enjoy the breathtaking and stunning to see steamy hot water boiling where you can boil eggs, cassava among others, bubbling and Jetting from the ground of about 103 degrees Celsius. This hot springs are too hot to the extent that tourists can boil simple foods such as eggs and other easy food in the hot springs.
Besides visiting the Sempaya hot springs, tourists have chances of doing other activities offered by Semuliki national park while on Uganda Safaris. Semuliki national park boosts with lots of attractions such as Ituri forest of the Congo basin, River Semuliki which flows through Rwenzori Mountains then it pours its waters into Lake Albert. More so, the park consists of wetlands and woodland vegetation which harbors variety of beautiful bird and wildlife species.
Below are the activities to do on visit to Sempaya national park as follows;
Birding in Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park is one of the best birding sites on Uganda Birding safaris with range of Semuliki species and a hoven of over 400 bird species recorded in the park thus ranking a main stopping area for birding. And the park is a home of more than 130 Guinea –Congo forests Biome species which are recorded in Semuliki forest. Some of birds to sight see here include; Red billed Hornbill, African piculet, Swamp palm, White crested hornbill, Great blue and Ross’s turaco, purple breasted sunbird, Orange weaver, Yellow throated Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Nicator among others. Since the park is located along the western border down to Lake Albert, surrounded by swamps where we can see birds like Caruthers’s Cisticola, Papyrus Gonolek among others. The birding trails are quite interesting such as the River Kirumia trail, Sempaya trail and Ntandi among others and each area you can spot different species.
Game viewing; Game viewing is a life time adventure that cools up your mind as you can drive through breathtaking air with rewardable sightseeing of scenic landscape with diversity of wildlife species. Although game viewing is best at Tooro Semuliki wildlife reserve which is part of Semuliki national park. Tooro Semuliki harbors with about 53 animal species such as the pygmy hippos, bush babies, Uganda kobs, buffaloes, forest elephants, warthogs, crocodiles, white tailed mongoose, among others. You can also opt to do night game drive here and be able to see bush babies, white-tailed mongooses many more which can be seen during nocturnal game drives. Game viewing can be done in three sessions that is morning, evening and in the night. For foreign nor resident pay entrance park at USD35 and UGX10,000 for the East African members.
Batwa cultural tour; On visit to the park never leave without visiting the Batwa Community where you will have chances of meeting the Batwa people who were the forest dependent before the forest was gazette as a national park or reserve. These are the people who used to survive on hunting wild animals as a source of food, bee keeping and livelihood like food, tools, shelter, medicine from the Semuliki forest. Today, the Batwa people acts as a tourist attraction to visitors who visits the western region of Uganda. You visiting them, you will learn about their interesting way of life through their amazing traditional dance, drama and music as well as traditional homesteads.
Nature walk and hiking experiences
This is good for hiking and nature walk lovers which can be done in three amazing trails in Semuliki national park including; the Kirumia trail which runs through the forest to Semuliki river and then hike through the Sempaya nature trail that leads you to the park’s eastern border where we can see the rare De brazza’s monkey.
Accommodations in Semuliki National Park
The park has got perfect place of stay for the visitors around ranging from Luxury, Mid-range and budget facilities, meaning there are not lodges inside the park but you can book hotels in Bundibugyo town or you can sleep in Semuliki Safari lodge which is found in Toro-Semuliki Wildlife reserve and other lodges include; Ntoronko Game lodge, Bamaga Bandas and Campsite are owned by ‘’UWA’’ Uganda Wildlife Authority they are for low travel- budget