Sempaya Hot Springs | Semuliki National Park

Sempaya hot springs are situated in Semliki National park which was established in 1993 on an area of 220km2 in Bundibugyo district in the western park of Uganda. The name sempaya was obtained from a Swahili word Sehemu mbaya” meaning the difficult one as a result of finding a very hard rock that was difficult to penetrate during the road construction along fortpotal road-Bundibugyo

Sempaya hot spring has both a female and a male hot spring each with its unique features.  the female hot spring is the most attractive hot spring with bubbling waters and is the most visited amongst the two sempaya hot springs found in a rock and its major attraction that attracts several visitors from all over the world is the fact that its water boils from rock at a very high temperature above 103°C which is normally tested by dropping in raw eggs and plantain that instantly boils and gets ready for consumption 

Sempaya hot springs are categorized into two that is the Female hot spring and the male hot spring. The female hot spring is a sacred place for the locals around that area also known as Nyansimbi. It’s also believed that the barren females take their sacrifices and pray to the gods for the gift of childhood. Also, pregnant women go to the hot spring to seek safe delivery. A visit to the Female hot spring takes about 30minutes hike through the thick forest from the main road

The male hot spring, on the other hand, is known as the sacred place for the male god where the local Bamaga men in that area visit and pray for the wealth and prosperity. This male hot spring can be accessed by taking an hour walk through the woodland from the main road encountering different primate species such as DeBrazza’s monkey, black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and grey-cheeked mangabey. In fact, most visitors interested in viewing primates should opt for male sempaya hot spring 

Visitors who take their time to explore these two hot springs have a greater opportunity of listening to an interesting story of how the name female and male hot springs came in existence. The locals have it that the names came in existence as a result of a group of females who had gone in the forest to collect firewood where they found a man sharpening / welding the spear with his dog and when they ran back home and told the elders, the elder rushed to the scene, picked up the man and named him Biteete then offered him a beautiful wife Nyansimbi from their village for marriage. However, one-day Biteete went hunting in the forest and could not return home thus forcing the men to try searching for him but unfortunately, they just found his spear at the exact spot where the Male hot spot is situated. 

After finding the spear, they returned home and told Nyansimbi his wife what had happened to the husband and as soon as she heard the news, she rushed to the forest to search for her husband and never appeared anymore. The men went hunting for her too and on a sad note, only her clothes were discovered at the exact spot where the present female hot spring is situated. Up to now, the Bamaga visit the hot springs and offer annual sacrifices praying for blessings and good health since they still believe that their gods do exist close to those two hot springs which are situated next to Ituri forest which stretches deep into the Democratic Republic of Congo 

During the visit to the hot springs, visitors have a greater opportunity of sighting several wildlife species that dwell in the forest since the hot spring exists inside the forest. This implies that a tour to the hot spring is easily combined with other activities such as primate viewing, game drive, birding, nature walks, community encounters and many more. 

Here are other activities carried out in Semliki national park apart from visiting the sempaya hot springs;

  • Primate viewing – in Semliki forest: Semliki National Park is a forest area that is known for harboring several primate species that are worth viewing while on a visit to the sempaya hot springs. Some the major primates encountered include Chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, and many more primates that call Semliki forest their home
  • Game drive in Semliki National Park: Taking a morning game drive in Semliki national park is one of the exhilarating activity that takes visitors deep into different trails close to the wildlife where several mammals are seen grazing and most of the mammals seen include forest elephants, pygmy antelopes, buffalos,  Uganda kob, waterbucks, warthogs, white-tailed mongoose. Taking a nocturnal game drive brings you close to nocturnal mammals and hunters such as leopards, civets, bush babies, among others. Also, several bird species are seen, butterfly species and different plant species all seen during a game drive and guided nature walks within the forest since the park has three well-defined hiking trails including Kirumia trail that takes hikers deep into the forest towards river Semliki, Red monkey trail which takes visitors deep in the wild to view the DeBrazza’s monkey species, and the sempaya trail leading to sempaya hot springs 
  • Boat cruise on Lake Albert: Taking a boat cruise on Lake Albert is such an awesome feeling that allows visitors to come close to the bathing hippos, crocodiles, and other mammals that flock the shores of Lake Albert to quench their thirst especially in the hot afternoon sun. This cruise also offers a greater opportunity to watch the rare shoebill stork which is every birder’s dream to have a glance 
  • Community encounters: In this encounter, visitors meet with the bambuti pygmies who were forest dwellers and encountering them on a tour is such a wonderful adventure as they narrate about their previous lifestyle while in Semliki forest where they used to survive through hunting and gathering tactics until the government evicted them and gazette the forests as national parks. These Bambuti are almost similar to the Batwa who are found in Bwindi forest national park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park where they lived together with the mountain gorillas. The Batwa are the best entertainers when it comes to music, dance and drama thus encountering those means that the remaining hours of the day have to be joyous 
  • Birding in Semliki forest: Semliki national park is one of the best destinations in Uganda as far as birding is concerned due to the fact that it harbors over 400 species of birds including some rare and unique bird species that are not easily seen in any other location in Uganda. Most of the birding spot in Semliki national park include; the areas around lake Albert, areas around Ituri forest in the border of DRC,  waterfall trail, sempaya trail, and areas around river Semliki, and many more offering several bird sights including the water birds, those endemic to Albert rift and others. Here are some of the bird species encountered while on a birding tour in Semliki national park including the blue kingfisher, black dwarf hornbill, yellow-throated Nicator, Guinea-Congo forest biome species, Xavier’s Greenbuls, Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Spot-breasted Ibis Yellow-throated Nicator, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Northern Bearded Scrub-Robin, Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher, Black- Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Casqued Wattled Hornbill, Fire-crested Alethe, White-crested Hornbill, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-bellied Malimbe, Crested Malimbe, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Black Dwarf Hornbill,  Ross’s Turaco, and many more that dwell in Semliki national park

Formation of Sempaya Hot Springs

Sempaya Hot springs were formed as a result of high temperatures inside the underground rock that led to upthrust of the earth’s surface layer, later on the water infiltrates into the hot rock and the temperatures inside the rock also boils the water to a very high temperature then forced back upwards with excessive pressure thus formation of the hot spring.

Sempaya Hot Springs
Sempaya Hot Springs

Accommodation facilities in Semliki national park

There are several lodges with the best services ranging from budget, midrange, and luxury situated near Semliki national park. These include Semuliki safari lodge, Semuliki safari lodge, Ntoroko game lodge, Bumuga campsite, Crater safari lodge, Bumuga campsite among others 

Getting there 

Since sempaya hot springs are situated in Semliki national park, within the south western part of Uganda,  it is easily accessed by road from kampala capital city of Uganda via two well-defined routes one being the kampala – masaka – Mbarara – Kasese and then to fortportal which is roughly 7-8 hours’ drive to cover a journey of 465km. This is the most preferred journey as it can join other beautiful places including Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, the equator and many more.

The second route is via Kampala – Mubende – fortportal taking approximately 4-5hours to cover a journey 180km which is the shortest route but a bit boring with few attractions 

On arrival to fortportal, take more 2-3 hours’ drive on a rough road to get to the sempaya in Bundibugyo district while sighting out several things such as rift valley, Rwenzori mountain ranges, and many more 

Conclusion: A visit to Sempaya hot spring is one of the breathtaking activities that one should never miss out on while on a tour to Uganda. Just take a day or two days in Semliki National Park for an overwhelming experience.