Many physical features on the planet are a true manifestation of God’s glory. And the male and female hot springs located in Semliki National Park are one of those wonders. Located in Fort Portal, Kabarole District, the hot springs are one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area, and I was lucky to visit the site, recently courtesy of Breathtaking Uganda campaign. We began our trip on July 26, after the State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda flagged us off at the UBC offices. In tow was Isaiah Rwanyekiro, the project head of Breathtaking Uganda campaign. For the July edition, the destination was Fort Portal, and the enlisted fun activities included silent disco on the bus and a chef whose mouth-watering meals were a major highlight.
From Kampala to Fort Portal is between four to five hours, depending on the number of stopovers one makes. But, because we set off a little late from Kampala, we arrived in Fort Portal at 5.50pm.
Stopover Our stop was the Lisieux Guest Centre, where we spent two nights of our stay. The nun-run facility, on Nyaika Avenue, Nyabukara, Kabarole District is a conducive and pocket friendly facility that is ideal if you are travelling on a tight budget or would rather find affordable accommodation and spend the rest of your pocket money on sightseeing and touring. Accommodation ranges from $35(approx Shs129, 000) per night. Having travelled with our own chef, we did not get to eat any of the meals at the hotel, but the staff was really friendly, and welcoming. And the sight of nuns around the facility gives you some sense of comfort (at least it did for me). A breakfast consisting of oat porridge, sausages, hash browns, and salad was what we were served, by chef Gonahasa, and although many of our male colleagues on the trip were not satisfied with the food portions, it was surely tasty.
Springs Later in the day, we set off for the Semliki National Park, which is a two-hour drive from Fort Portal town. Here, we were welcomed in by the game rangers, who took us around the female hot spring first, and later the male hot springs, which is about a 10 minutes’ walk. The local folk in the area have their own tale of how these hot springs came into being. The tale goes that the Bamaga women (a local tribe) had gone to collect firewood, from the forest, and it’s here that they caught sight of a hairy man, clad in bark cloth, and holding a spear, with a hunting dog in tow.. Later on, this man, after joining the village, is said to have disappeared in the forest on one of his hunting trips, and only his spear was left behind. When his wife heard of this, she ran into the forest in search of her husband, subsequently also getting lost in the forest. To date, the Bamaga believe the female and male hot springs symbolise the hunter and his wife, and the tribe has been known to perform rituals at the hot springs, in a bid to appease their ancestors. We also got to experience the egg boiling that is known to be one of the tourist activities at the hot springs. Some of the others tourists we found on site even boiled plantain for their lunch inside the springs. Later, we enjoyed a picnic style lunch, at the hot springs, consisting of a pasta style salad, served by our chef.
At the lodge For day two, we headed to the Crater Safari Lodge, located a few minutes from the Kibale National Park. The lodge is set on the banks of Nyinabulitwa Crater Lake, making for the perfect views and back drops, for many of the cottages that the guests sleep in during their stay. The lodge has up to scale amenities for its guests, including a swimming pool with a view of the crater lake. It is here that we had our buffet breakfast, complete with a silent disco, and the cool breeze from the greenery.