River Semliki in Uganda

Also referred to as Semuliki, River Semliki is the main River on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and is about 140 kilometers (87 miles) long. With its source in Lake Edward (in Queen Elizabeth National Park on the Uganda-DRC border) and mouth in Lake Albert, River Semliki flows northwards within the Albertine Rift, west of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains. Along the lower banks of this River, it forms part of the International border between Bundibugyo District in western Uganda, near Semliki Forest National Park and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This river powers its waters into Lake Albert, west of the border in Orientale Province of Congo.

The increasing water resulting from snow melting from the Rwenzori Mountains, overgrazing as well as changes to the watershed have resulted in erosion and a decrease in the banks of the river in addition to the frequent changes to the course of the meandering lower courses of the River. It is estimated that about 10 meters (33 feet) of land on the Ugandan riverside is being lost per year to erosion and silt from the river is slowly filling in the southern side of Lake Albert. However, in other areas, it’s the Congo side losing its area as the fluctuating river course also changes the location of the border between the two countries. The average rainfall within the River basin and the surrounding Forest is 1500 millimeters per annum.

River Semliki starts its flow from near Ishango in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the northern side of Lake Edward before entering the Virunga National Park, where it flows over the largest part of its upper course. Much as the river flows from Lake Edward to Albert, it is joined by several small rivers originating from the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains.

After leaving Virunga, River Semliki flows underneath another road connecting the Democratic Republic of Congo settlement of Oicha, through several settlements within the Semliki Valley, lying west of the Uganda-DRC border as well as Bundibugyo district (in Uganda)  and along the western border of Semliki Forest National Park in Uganda. After leaving Semliki National Park, it nears the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve before flowing west of the International border and also entering the southern end of Lake Albert at the spot southeast of Bunia (in DRC).

The vegetation within Semliki Forest National Park resembles that of the Congo River Basin with Cynometra alexandri, the extraordinary tropical tree species that dominate the area while interspersed with other species of trees and wetland plants.

  • Wildlife and Bird species

Due to the existence of Semliki Forest National Park, the commonly spotted mammal species within the banks of River Semliki include the pygmy flying squirrels, elephants, duikers, buffaloes and Hippos but there are also crocodiles within the River while over 400 species of birds call the area home. Some of the notable species of birds to look out for in the area include over 9 species of hornbills, forest ground thrush, and Sassi’s olive greenbul as well as several butterfly species.

The Semliki River and Forest is inhabited by the Bakonzo and Bamba people who are mainly cultivators and the Batuku who are generally pastoralists as well as some Batwa pygmies who mainly survive on the waters of the meandering river. All these tribes have interesting cultures and customs that can be enjoyed during Uganda safaris.