Toro Semliki wildlife reserve in Uganda

Toro Semliki wildlife reserve in Uganda

Toro Semliki wildlife reserve in Uganda : is basically a predominantly grassy savanna and acacia echoing Murchison Falls National Park at the northern end of Lake Albert. It is also known as a conservation protected area in the western part of Uganda. It is generally located in Kabarole district in the Toro sub-region, on the floor of the rift valley. Here, Lake Albert, Kijura escarpment and the mighty Rwenzori mountains create backdrops. The reserve was established as a game reserve in 1926 and was also among the first protected areas to be declared.

The main reason was to protect the large numbers of Uganda kobs in the area which is within Ntoroko and Kabarole districts. South west of the Toro Semliki wildlife reserve are the 3rd highest elevated mountains in Africa. These include the Rwenzori Mountains while North to the reserve is the famous Lake Albert the furthest-north of the great rift lakes.  Additionally, stands of borassus palms, lakeshore marshland and broad river valleys filled with beautiful gallery forest all add variety.  Furthermore, the reserve is characterized by a hot climate, with the temperature halving after the sunsets, and the constant prospect of rain. 

Communities living around the reserve
Kasesenge-kyakabaseke community

It is located on the Eastern escarpment of the rift valley and the biggest number of them are the Bakiga migrants who originally came to work tea estates in the 1960s. During the good seasons, tea provided a stable income and as the prices of tea deteriorated, they resorted to crop cultivation mainly beans, maize, bananas and groundnuts.

Karugutu-kyabandara community

This community is situated in the south of the reserve about 18 kilometers from Fort portal town. Besides, it is mainly inhabited by the Bakonjo who are traditional cultivators. The crops usually grown include; soya beans, bananas, cassava, beans and rice. Afterwards, they are sold in Rwebisengo and Ntoroko markets.

Ntoroko fishing community

The community is at the south-eastern tip of Lake Albert between the estuaries of Wasa and Muzizi rivers. The area covering approximately 4 square kilometers has been excised from the reserve and gazetted as a wildlife sanctuary. As a result, this is done to provide protection of any wildlife that interface in this area. As a matter of fact, Ntoroko community depends mainly on fishing.

Rwebisengo community

This one is located on the west and northwestern edge of the reserve in the Semliki flats. It comprises of the Batuku (Batoro-Bahuma) who are predominantly pastoralists. In fact, these are believed to be descendants of the Abarusula who were the royal army of the King Kabalega of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.

What to do in the reserve

The reserve boosts over 440 bird species and its a few spots where the extinct shoebill can be found. West of the reserve is the board Congolese rain forest that contains one of the richest, most extinct species reservoirs in the world. It is also one of the planet’s biggest covers of the un-logged forest. Some of the birds here include; red-necked falcon, black-billed barbet, great white pelican. Malachite kingfisher, Abyssinian ground-hornbill, African pygmy goose, black coucal, pennant-winged nightjar. Stunning red-throated bee-eater, piapiac, not to mention but a few. The adjacent Semuliki National Park offers a great opportunity to add several species associated with the Congolese rainforest.  However, migratory birds are present from November to April.

Guided nature walks

These are conducted near Semuliki safari lodge where you will meet an experienced guide. There after, will go through a variety of habitats ranging from savannah woodland to riverine forest. While here, you will come across baboons, waterbucks, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus, warthogs, elephants, Uganda kobs, etc.

Game drives

It is also a home to a number of wild animals such as elephants, leopards, waterbucks, giant forest hog, hippos, Uganda kobs, buffalos, etc. Primates here include; chimpanzees though rarely seen, baboons, vervet monkey, red-tailed monkey. Black and white colobus, dent’s mona monkey, central African red colobus, blue monkey and de Brazza’s. Animals regularly seen include; elephants, warthogs, buffalo, waterbucks, Uganda kobs, leopards, white-tailed mongoose bush babies, etc. Game drives at the reserve are carried out in the morning, afternoon and at night.

Community tours

The Karugutu Community Conservation Association (KCCA) is a community-based association whose objective is conservation education through Music Dance and Drama (MDD). This group also organizes traditional dances for the visitors. In addition, they have a shop for handcrafts at the entrance of the reserve which they sell to tourists.

Hiking to the Nyaburogo Gorge

This is an ideal walk for birders that usually starts right at the reserve headquarters. It is a 7 kilometers hike that goes through a diversity of habitats like woodland, savanna and a forest in the gorge. During the hike, you will also come across different bird species such as tropical boubal, black-headed Bushrike, arrow marked babbler, bush shrike. Also watch out for primates like black and white colobus, vervet monkey, baboons and with good luck you can also see chimpanzees.

How to get there

Toro Semliki wildlife reserve is approximately 1 hour from Fort Portal town and it’s located about 300km/180mi from Kampala. It is approximately a 6 to 8 hours’ drive and the reserve is visited throughout the year.  

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