Uganda’s hot springs are found in four main locations namely; Around Murchison Falls National Park, Fort Portal, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Kidepo Valley National Park. There are about eight major hot springs in Uganda and include; Sempaya, Kitagata, Rwagimba, Amoropii, Buranga, Ihimba, Kibiro and Kanagorok. Hot springs are heated by geothermal heat formed from the Earth’s Interior. In volcanic areas, water may come in contact with very hot rock heated by magma. Hot springs therefore, are active volcanic zones that may produce superheated water, so hot that immersion could cause injury or death.
Visiting hot springs offers an incredible experience for tourists while on safari. Going through the Semuliki National Park for instance is just one case that can give one a very thrilling experience as well as outdoor activities such as; Game drives, Bird watching and Gorilla trekking that one gets engaged with while on safari. All these hot springs, have a relationship with their communities’ traditional history and for that matter bear a cultural significance.
1). Sempaya Hot springs.
The Sempaya Hot springs are the most outstanding attractions found in the Semuliki National Park in Western Uganda. These hot springs are 465km from Kampala, while the springs are 52km from Fort Portal, Bundibugyo road. Sempaya hot springs are amazing and have high temperatures up to 130 degrees Celsius. They are located at the edge of the great Ituri Forest which borders Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the remote western side of the Rwenzori Ranges in Bundibugyo district.
In the Semuliki River valley, the springs contain different micro- organisms which support wildlife. The Sempaya hot springs are located in two places known as the Male and Female springs that eject cloudy water in form of steam as far as 2kms and have a cultural significance to the community around there. These hot springs also attract a lot of wetland birds and aquatic animals.
2). Buranga Hot springs.
Buranga hot springs are located in Bundibugyo which is the nearest town to the Rwenzori Mountains, at the base of Bwamba Escarpment at an elevation of 1,099 meters above sea level, near the snow capped Rwenzori Mountains. It is surely one of the most amazing attractions to explore in Uganda. These hot springs were formed by three separate hot springs dispersed a part but are a walkable distance from each other. They are known as; Mumbuga, Nyansimbe and Kagoro. These are all recommended en-routes with activities for Kibale Forest National Park and Rwenzori mountains.
Mumbuga Hot springs.
Mumbuga are referred to as the female hot springs that deposits carbonates and can only be accessed during dry season. One hot spring in this area stands at 1.5meters tall and comprises of travertine cone with terraces. The underground water forms a fountain of 50cm high above the pool emitting gases and boiling at temperatures reaching 98 degrees Celsius.
Nyansimbe Hot springs.
Also known as the Male pool, Nyansimbe hot springs have developed a carbonate cone with a crystal clear pool of hot water whose temperatures reach 86 degrees Celsius that can also be accessed during dry season. The pool has a diameter of 30 metersand depth of over 5 meters whose flow rate is about 15 litres per second.
Kagoro Hot springs.
The Kagoro hot springs are found in the southern most side of the area and boils at temperatures ranging from 60 to 91 degrees Celsius. This hot spring can build travertine cones that get to about 1.5 meters high. The base of the largest travertine cones of the Kagoro hot springs are comprised of Sulphur deposits and are so far the only ones among the Buranga hot springs.
3). Rwagimba Hot springs.
Rwagimba is one of the most unique hot springs of all in Uganda found near River Rwimi in Bunyangabo district. Rwagimba hot springs offer steam baths that draw multitudes to this place. It is also a recommended en-route destination for Kibale Forest National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
4). Kitagata Hot springs.
Kitagata hot springs is close to Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is about one kilometer from Kitagata Trading Center and has a historical importance as one that was often used by the King of Ankole and hence referred to locally as ‘Ekyomugabe’ the King’s spring.
Many visitors travel to Kitagata to take a warm bath or simply watch people bathing in this natural spa. It is believed Kitagata hot spring is well known for curative waters. Patients also drink the Sulphur rich waters to cure them from rheumatism and arthritis. It is not proven though but it is a very busy hot spring where people boil eggs, boil cassava, banana plantains, Irish potatoes or even sweet potatoes in the spring’s hot water.
5). Amoropii Hot springs.
Uganda has also the Amoropii hot springs in Northern Uganda believed to do miracles for its visitors. These hot springs are deeply rooted in the Alur’s tradition of worship because it is believed to have divine powers. The name is derived from an Alur word meaning ‘hot water’.
It is believed that barren women after bathing from this hot spring will bear children as well as those who require a tender fairer skin can also bathe from this hot spring. The people in this community perform a lot of rituals to this hot spring to appease the Amoropii gods.
6). Ihimba Hot springs.
These hot springs are located in Kabale in Western Uganda. They have a long history of the Bahima people which make them a special destination for anyone who loves culture. Like other hot springs in Uganda, Ihimba also has a long trail of notable healing powers among local people though not yet scientifically proven. In this place one can also visit the local Bahima people.
7). Kanangorok Hot springs.
The Kanangorok hot springs are located in Kidepo Valley National Park in the far North Eastern part of Uganda. It is one of the best places to sit and relax in Kidepo National Park while viewing the wilderness. The springs are situated in the northern part of the park beyond Kidepo valley bordering South Sudan border. The name ‘Kanongorok’ refers to a youth called ‘Longorok’ who was sent to fetch water in a gourd by the King of that territory long ago towards South Sudan, but was struck by lightning and he died and water gushed out from that very spot.
Accessing the hot springs is not an easy undertaking but it is worth trying. One wades through the tall grass, thorny acacias, thickets and bush to get there, giving one a true wilderness experience. When one gets to the hot spring, there is a foul smell of Sulphur which is a mineral component that wildlife species feed on to treat their gastronomical ailments.