Semuliki Hot springs
Semuliki’s most famous attraction is the pair of hot springs – ‘male’ and ‘female’ – found near the park office at Sempaya. The female spring, Nyansimbi, which means ‘the female ancestors’, is a boiling geyser that spurts bubbling water and steam up to two metres high. Visitors can buy eggs locally to cook in boiling pools that surround the central spout. Nyansimbi is a short walk from the Sempaya park office. The male spring, known as Bintente, is an hour distant. A broad, steaming pool 12m in diameter, this is found in a large, swampy clearing enclosed by forest and with a striking Rwenzori backdrop.
Launch trips on the Kazinga Channel provide the most relaxing way to view the national park as awhole. The 2-hour return voyage between Mweya and the channel’s entrance into Lake Edward cruises beside banks lined with resident hippos, crocodiles and waterbirds and visiting elephant, buffalo and antelopes.
Queen Elizabeth national park’s main tourism hub is found on Mweya Peninsula, 22km west of the Kasese-Mbarara Road. Mweya, which occupies an elevated plateau overlooking the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward, is the site of an upmarket lodge; budget UWA run accommodation; a marina for launch trips on the channel; and a Visitor Information Centre.
The river below Murchison Falls provides an exciting challenge for anglers with the record for Nile perch landed with rod and line standing at a hefty 108kg.
Top of Murchison falls
As you explore Uganda, you should be sure to visit the Top of the Murchison Falls viewpoint to see, hear, and feel the Nile thunder through a 6m-wide gorge. The site can be reached by vehicle but it is more rewarding to disembark from the launch to climb up to the Top of the Falls through Fajao Gorge.
Launch, Boat Cruise
The launch voyage upriver from Paraa to see the Murchison Falls exploding through the cliffs at the head of Fajao Gorge is the park’s oldest and most popular excursion. The 3 hour return trip passes a wealth of riverside wildlife on the way, including resident hippos, crocodiles and visiting elephants, buffalo among other fascinating tourist attractions.
Boats also run downriver from Paraa to the Nile Delta where a mosaic of papyrus islands chokes the river’s entrance into Lake Albert. These are rich in waterbirds, most notably the shoebill.
Mountain bike excursions range from casual exploration of lovely trails along the sipi falls vicinity, to the challenging Elgon Enduro hosted by Sipi River Lodge.
The 7km section of the Sipi Valley immediately outside the national park is stunningly scenic as the river plunges over three sets of basalt cliffs during its decent to the plains beneath. These have given rise to a cluster of tourist adventurous activities like abseiling.
An ascent of Mount Elgon represents an exciting alternative to longer and more strenuous climbs on East Africa’s higher mountains. Elgon offers comparable attractions, including Afromontane botany, with a milder climate and lower elevation. A number of routes ascend the summit of Mount Elgon.
The Sasa Trail ascends to the 4321m Wagagai peak from the small town of Budadiri (1250m a.s.l.) in the Sironko Valley. The shortest and most direct option, it is possible to reach the summit and descend to Budadiri in 3 or (more comfortably) 4 days. The Sipi Trail follows a longer but gentler route, starting 800 higher than Budadiri at UWA’s Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai (2050m).
A highlight of any ascent of Mount Elgon is the traverse through the distinctive vegetation zones found only on East Africa’s highest mountains. The lowest of these zones, between the park boundary and the 2500m contour is montane forest. This gives way to bamboo (2,500-3,000m) followed by groves of giant heather (3000-3500m). Above 3500m, the mountainside opens into moorland dotted with outlandish forms of giant lobelias.
Mgahinga Gorilla NP rises upwards to three of the Virunga’s six volcanic summits, all of which can be climbed in a day. Views from the peaks – into Rwanda and Congo, and towards the rift valley and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – more than justify the effort.
The park’s highest peak is Muhavura. The ascent passes through montane forest, bamboo stands and heather groves, before encountering bizarre forms of giant lobelias and groundsels at the summit. The 4,127m summit, which is adorned by a crystal clear crater lake, 40m in diameter, commands panoramic views along the length of the Virunga chain. Mount Gahinga (3,474m) is the smallest of the Virunga volcanoes and its bamboo-covered slopes rise up to a lush, swamp-filled crater, about 180m wide. The jagged crown of Sabinyo bears several summits, the highest of which provides the rare privilege of standing 3,669m high whilst in 3 countries – Uganda, Rwanda and DRC – at once.