Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve lies in Kabarole and Ntoroko district in the Toro sub – region on the rim of the rift valley where Lake Albert, the Rwenzori Mountain and the Kijura escarpment form backdrops, it is approximately 55 kilometers by road, north of Fort portal, the nearest large city and a city of various attractions. However, Semliki Wildlife Reserve is a protected conservation area found in the western region of Uganda with headquarters at Karugutu in Ntoroko district.
Originally, the reserve was created in 1926 by the British Colonial Government and is one of the oldest protected area in Uganda that extends from the Kijura escarpment, north to the River Muziz and Lake Albert to the low Butuku plains in the west. More so, Semuliki Wildlife reserve is an area covering about 542 square kilometers which is governed by ‘’UWA’’ Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Furthermore, the reserve is comprised of dominant vegetation of open acacia woodland, grassy savanna, interspersed with patches of Borassus palm forest. More then, Semuliki is has significant belts of riparian woodland along the main watercourses and extensive swamps towards Lake Albert.
Toro – Semliki Wildlife Reserve is a home to wide range of wildlife animals, primates like black and white colobus, Olive baboon, Red-tailed and Vervet monkeys and also suitable habitants of unique chimpanzees over 70 species of them can be viewed in Mugiri River forest. Ideally, it’s also amazing location to birdwatchers with over 420 bird species recorded however, Semuliki is one of the best place in Uganda to see the rare shoebill species.
Perhaps, Toro – Semuliki Wildlife Reserve is surrounded with four landmark communities such as; the Karugutu-Kyabandara Community, Rwebisengo Community, Ntoroko fishing community, Kasesenge –Kyakabaseke community and each community has its outstanding attraction where you can visit and meet up with the local people, listen to their amazing history as well as enjoying their stunning tradition entertainment.
Kassesenge – Kyakabaseke Community
This community lies on the eastern escarpment of the rift valley and the majority of locals around are the Bakiga migrants who originated in 1960 purposely to work in the tea estates. In those days it was still good economy where tea provided a stable income. They based on crop cultivation such as beans, groundnuts, maize and bananas.
Ntoroko Fishing Community
The Ntoroko Fishing Community is located at the south-eastern tip of Lake Albert between the estuaries of Wasa and Muzizi rivers. Though an area covering 4 square kilometers have been cut off from the reserve and gazette as a wildlife Sanctuary to offer protection of any wildlife that interface in this area. The major
Activity done in Ntoroko community is fishing.
Rwebisengo community is found on the west and northwestern rim of the reserve in the Semliki Flats. Mainly comprised of the Batuku ‘’Batoro-Bahuma’’ who are predominantly pastoralists. They are believed to be descendants of the Abarusula who were the royal army of the Kabaka ‘’king’’ Kabalenga of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.
Karugutu –Kyabandara Community
This community is located in the south of the reserve just 18 kilometers from Fort Portal town. Note, the area is mainly inhabited by the Bakonjo who are traditional cultivators. They are crop cultivators such as maize, cassava, beans, soya beans, rice and banana of which some crops are sold in Rwebisengo and Ntoroko markets.
Activities to do in Toro –Semliki Wildlife Reserve
Primate walk – Primates viewing
This is an exciting experience done on foot, an activity which can take about 3 to 4 hours mainly conducted around Semliki Safari lodge where you’re led by trained ranger guide. Expect to view primate species such as Chimpanzee, Red-tailed, vervet, Black and white colobus monkey, Baboons. Animals to see include; Buffaloes, waterbucks, warthogs, Bushbucks, Elephants and Uganda kobs.
Game drives –Game viewing
The game drive here is rewarding which can be done in three stunning game tracks across the savannah grassland of Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. While on your game drive you will be able to encounter smaller forest and largest savannah elephants come along leopard and elusive Bush babies. In Toro- Semuliki –game drive is done in three sessions morning, afternoon and night. Nocturnal species to see at night include White-tailed mongoose.
This is the best interesting activity to adventure the reserve on foot that allows you to come across the hidden treasures of the park which can’t be seen on vehicle. You will be lead to amazing trails ranging from savannah woodland to riverine forest and species to sight see include; Uganda Kobs, Baboons, Ground Hornbills, Warthogs, Uganda Kobs, Baboons, Black and white Colobus and Vervet monkeys.
The reserve is surrounded with local people who lives in four surrounding communities where you can visit and enjoy their awesome traditional dances for the visitors, visit their handcrafts at the entrance of the reserve.
The Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve lies near Lake Albert where boat ride can be experienced and the main attraction here includes; Shoebills, African Pygmy Goose ,Blue-breasted and Blue-cheeked Bee- eaters and Blue –headed Coucal among others.
Hike to Nyaburogo Gorge
This activity is fabulous for birdwatcher which starts right from the Reserve Headquarters. The hiking experience can take about 7 kilometers through a diversity of habitants that consists savannah, woodland and forest in the gorge. Bird species expect to see include; Arrow marked Babbler, Tropical Boubal, Black- headed Bushrike, Luhdrers Bushrike and primates including Black and white colobus, vervet, baboons and occasionally the chimpanzees.
Habitats of Wildlife in the Reserve
The Toro-Semliki is comprised of grassy savannah and acacia –woodlands that extends Murchison Falls National Park at the northern end of lake Albert. It is composed of Borassus palms, lakeshore marshland and broad river valley filled with beautiful galley forest.
Where to stay;
The reserve has comfortable campsite and budget bandas which are ran by UWA- Uganda Wildlife Authority on the shores of Lake Albert at Ntoroko, meals served to guests are prepared at the canteen at the campsite.
You can book your safari stay at Toro –Semliki at Semliki Safari Lodge which is run by a private Uganda Safari Company that offers an upmarket tented camp.
You can book luxury tented camps and campsite at Ntoroko Landing site or Book nice stay at Ntoroko Game Lodge.
How to get there;
By Road Transport
From Kampala drive to Fort portal via Mubende which about 290 kilometers.
From Kampala to Fort portal via Masaka – Mbarara – Kasese covers about 465 kilometers. From there follow the route to Semuliki National Park from Fort Portal for the first 28 kilometers before turning right at Karugutu trading center.
The boundary of the reserve is about 3 kilometers and the turn off to Semliki Safari Lodge is 26 square kilometers further on just beyond the bridge over the river.
However, Lake Albert is further on 25 kilometers a head at Ntoroko fishing village where UWA – Uganda Wildlife Authority manages bandas, a campsite and a canteen.
By Air Transport
You can choose to take a charter planes by domestic flight ‘’Aerolink ‘’ and the Airfield is located close to Semliki Safari lodge where you can land.