Rwenzori Mountains, the renowned mountains of the moon lie in the South-western side of Uganda along the border with Democratic Republic of Congo. What surprises many people is how snow can appear on the equator. This is possible on the Rwenzori Mountains. The Equatorial snow summits include the third highest peak in Africa, while the lower slopes are covered in moorland, bamboo and luxuriant, humid montane forest. Vast tree heathers and vibrant mosses are swathed across the mountainside with huge lobelias and “endless flowers” creating a fascinating fairytale scene. Mount Rwenzori has 6 peaks with the highest being Mount Margherita standing at 16,762 feet and it is permanently snow-capped. The other peaks include Mount speak at 16,043 feet, Mount Baker at 15,889 feet, Mount Emin at 15,742 feet, Mount Gessi at 15,469 feet and mount Luigi di savoia at 15,181 feet. This mountain has continuously been a center of attraction because of its fascinating areas like the waterfalls, snow/glaciers and Lakes.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park preserves the highest parts of the 120 kms long and 65 kms wide Rwenzori mountain range and the Park headquarters are found in Nyakalengija Village at the Mubuku Valley. This National Park covers an area of 998 square kilometers and is shared by 3 districts that is Bundibugyo, Kabarole and Kasese districts, and 70% of the Park area exceeds an elevation of 2500m. The Park was gazetted in 1991 and subsequently became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 due to its spectacular beauty and in 2008 it was declared a Ramsar site. This Park offers shelter to over 70 mammal species and about 217 bird species including 19 species that are Albertine Rift endemics
What to see in Mount Rwenzori National Park
The first thing that makes this park popular is the Rwenzori Mountains itself.
The Rwenzori Mountains has exceptional plant species/different Vegetation zones (types) found in different altitudes. Between 1500 and 2500m is the montane forest, the bamboo forest then follows within 2500 and 3000m, from 3000-4000m is the heather and rapenea vegetation characterized by the huge heathers Erica, Giant Lobelias and Senecio. From 4000-4500m is the Alpine vegetation zone characterized with never-ending flowers (Helichrysum).
There are 70 species of mammals in this Park such as Forest Elephants, Bushbucks, Golden cats, Giant forest hogs, Hyrax, Buffaloes, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, Blue monkeys, Angola Colobus, chimpanzees, Yellow-backed duiker, Black and white colobus, Golden Monkeys and Leopards among others. These mammals are mainly found on the lower slopes of the mountain, though they are not in large numbers.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a home to 241 bird species including 19 species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift for example long-eared owl, Rwenzori Batis, White stared Robin, slender-billed starling, Cinnamon, Long-tailed cuckoo, Rwenzori Turaco, the Handsome francolin, the Malachite sunbird, Blue-headed sunbird, Golden-winged sunbird and Black eagle among others. Other species of birds include the Mountain bustards, olive pigeons, White-necked Raven
Things to Do
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is an exceptional destination in the sense that it attracts majority of its Uganda safari travelers to enjoy the most thrilling mountaineering adventures of a lifetime. Some of the key tourist activities that take place in this national park include Mountain climbing or mountaineering (the key activity), bird watching, hiking/nature walks and cultural encounters with the neighboring Bakonzo villages to experience cultural performances and taste local dishes
The park is known to be a world-class mountaineering and hiking destination in that more than 80% of visitors of visit this park purposely visit it for mountaineering/hiking. This adventure usually takes 9-12 days and involves skilled climbers who go up to Magherita summit (undeniably the highest peak of this mountain). Hikes on Rwenzori Mountains offers along the Nyakalengija central circuit or Kilembe trails-these are explored by hikers or climbers on Uganda hiking holiday and Mahoma trails, Ruboni etc are perfect for visitors who want the easy to hike trails. These are the best for nature walks in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Hiking to the summits of Rwenzori Mountains is a great opportunity of a lifetime for hikers as they get to explore more about the Margherita Peaks which stretches up to 5109m. Trekking to Margherita is for energetic hikers and about 8 days or more can earn you a complete round trip. Visitors on Rwenzori Mountaineering are led by experienced guides and stopovers will be made at the set huts en-route.
When it comes to hiking or guided nature walks, Rwenzori Mountains National Park should be a must-visit. The nature walks in this park offer exceptional on-foot-walk experiences to all nature loving visitors in the Pearl of Africa. Tourists walk through the marked trails including the Buraro chimp forest trail, Lake Mahoma trail and most of these trails include visit to communities such as Kichwamba and Karangura ridge. The other important areas to start your nature walk include Ruboni or Turaco communities; Bwamba pass for great bamboo forest experience etc.
For birders, Rwenzori Mountain National Park holidays never disappoint. You stand a chance to identify diversity of avifaunal species which make a total population of about 217 bird species including bee-eaters, illadopsis, crimson wings, cinnamon chested, barred long tailed cuckoos, Rwenzori turacos, slender billed starling, golden winged sunbird, Rwenzori batis, lagden’s bush shrike, apalises, montane sooty boubou, barbets to mention but a few.
There is also a chance to engage in community tours or cultural encounter while on Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Community tours at Rwenzori Mountains NP are perfectly done at Ruboni Village where you get to meet the Bakonzo local residents who inhabit the base area of Rwenzori Mountains. On a cultural or community tour, you can walk up to the rocky River Mubuku or keep an eye on variety of bird species including tiny sunbird, cinnamon chested bee-eaters, Rwenzori Turacos.
Where to stay
The accommodation facilities in and around Mount Rwenzori National Park include Equator Snow Lodge, Rwenzori International Hotel, Mihunga Safari Lodge, Ruboni community Camp, Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite, Tours Holiday Inn Camp base and Rwenzori Base camp Guesthouse
How to reach Mount Rwenzori National Park
This Park is just 25 kms from Kasese town. There are two routes that can be used to access this Park. The first route is Kampala to Mubende to Fortportal highway to Kasese (for 70km) to the right then to Mount Rwenzori National Park. The second route is Kampala to Masaka to Mbarara then through Queen Elizabeth National Park (10 km from Kasese Town) then to the left.
Besides the wildlife species that Uganda is known for, exceptional mountaineering to the Mountains of the Moon is an extraordinary Adventure worth trying. Add Rwenzori Mountains National Park on your bucket list and the experience will totally blow your mind.
Best time to Travel
Rwenzori Mountains National Park welcomes all holidaymakers at any time of the year to spend their Uganda safari holidays. The best season of the year, however, is the dry season and there are two phases experienced each year; the first phase beginning June to August, and December to February. They are the most preferred months of the year for Uganda safari holidaymakers who are interested in visiting Rwenzori Mountains National Park for mountaineering or mountain climbing.