Trek across the foothills of the Rwenzoris while enjoying spectacular views of the Semuliki river and Semuliki National Park.
50 years ago, it is said that the distant sound of drums for the first time rose from Nyamitoto Hill, and with it a spear protruded from the earth – a spear which the leader of the local Bakonjo clan retrieved and used for his hunt, and later returned to the hill, only for the spear to disappear and the drumming to subside. Since then, the Bakonjo people who populate Nyamitoto Hill hold regular ceremonies filled with drums and dancing, in the hope that the spear will appear again and allow for a successful hunt.
Located on the fringes of the Rwenzori range, Nyamitoto Hill is one of five hills this trail crosses on its way from the Semuliki Valley into the Semliki National Park. Both get their name from the meandering 140km River Semuliki that hugs the Ugandan border with Congo between Lakes Edward and Albert. Semuliki is a Luwisi word (the language spoken by the Bamba) to mean, “there’s nothing there”. As legend has it, a white man asked a woman crossing the river with a basket on her head for what was in her overly elaborate, super-sized basket to which she replied “Semuliki” or “nothing is there”. And thus a river was named.
A 21 km trail exploring the foothills of the Rwenzoris, at an elevation gain of up to 1866 m and ending at Semliki National Park. The trail is of moderate difficulty featuring some steep slopes, followed by a walk to the Sempaya Hot Springs.
- A tough, but rewarding day trip across the rolling hills of Bundibugyo
- Views for days over Semuliki River & National Park
- A visit to the Sempaya Hot Springs
Setting off from Karugutu Town in Ntoroko District, hikers take in the stunning views of Semuliki Game Reserve as they climb Kyamutema, Nyamitoto, Nyamutswa and Kaleyaleya Hills, before descending into Kyangunga Valley.
After one last stretch across Mukonjo Mountain, hikers enjoy breathtaking views of the Semuliki River in the distance, and brace for a final descent to Ntandi Twon. From there, you may either choose to walk or grab a boda along the 2km stretch of main road to the entrance of Semuliki National Park. This park comprises the very edge of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin and is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa, providing a unique taste of the rich and diverse Central African flora and fauna within Uganda’s national borders.
The hike ends with a visit to the infamous Sempaya hot springs, which bubble up from the earth in a show of powerful geological forces that have been shaping the Great Rift Valley for the last 14 million years.
Sempaya Hot Springs
Up until 1903, Semuliki National Park was called Bwamba forest and would be accessed freely by the local for subsistence and to perform their rituals. Legend has it that one day, two women who had gone to get water from the springs ran into a male stranger whom they took to the village chief and who was named Bamaga. He married a village belle called Nyansimbi. One day, the two lovebirds disappeared into the forest never to be seen again. The community embarked on a frantic search that resulted in them finding Nyamsimbi’s barkcloths at the female springs and Bamaga’s at the male spring. Thus the hot springs were named the male and female hot springs respectively. The Basaiga clan, to which these two belonged, still believe their people will come back at these springs and in fact, continue to perform cultural rituals at these sites.
During rainy season the surrounding waters are just about cool enough from the rainwater to go for a refreshing swim – but beware of the hot springs themselves, as the rangers will be quick to demonstrate their waters are hot enough to boil eggs. Not the place to dip your toes.
Need to know
Remember to pack enough snacks and water as you will not find any shops along the trail.
Bring strong insect repellent and long sleeves for the aggressive bugs of the Semliki Forest.
Where to stay
UWA operates the beautiful Bumaga Campsite on the edge of Semliki National Park.
Call ahead at 0772367215 or 0782853837.
Camping at 15,000 UGX per person, bandas are available.
Semliki and Western Rwenzori Tours can organise the hike for you.
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) runs guided tours of Sempaya Hot Springs