Mountain Rwenzori National Park
Mountain Rwenzori National Park is certainly one of Africa’s most fantastic natural environments with treasures and natural wonders above all other adventure. The ‘mountains of the moon’ are home to lush bamboo forests and unrivaled landscapes ending in the unique topography of Lake Mburo. The Park covers most of the center and eastern half of the range and it includes Africa’s third, fourth and fifth highest peaks in an alpine highland of glaciers, snowfields and lakes rendering it one of Africa’s most beautiful mountain parks.
The Rwenzori mountains harbor the most unique vegetation alongside alpine climates ending into a well-paced exploration with an immersive and fulfilling experience. The snow capped peaks and its lower slopes blanketed by a flourishing bamboo, damp montane forest and moorland, huge tree heathers, vibrant mosses while the large lobelias plus the everlasting flowers, forming an amiable vista offer a sight like no other. With this unique luxuriant vegetation, the park receives higher levels of rainfall compared to other places elsewhere giving an exciting combination of both heavy rainfall alongside great exposure to the sun.
The Rwenzori Mountains in southwestern Uganda are steep, rugged and well watered, rising high above dry plains and are ice-capped and their slopes consist of ancient rocks which were extruded from the surrounding plains during the formation of the western rift valley. These Precambrian rocks have produced soils of low fertility, except on parts of the northern ridge where volcanic ash from the Fort Portal plateau was deposited.
Mt. Rwenzori National Park lies in the west along the Uganda-Congo border protecting the highest parts of the 120 km-long and 65 km-wide Rwenzori mountain range. The Rwenzori mountains are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination for skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita. The elusive mountains of the moon are often veiled by clouds and mist rising up to 5,109m above sea level carry permanent snow and glaciers whose melted waters certainly represent the highest springs of the Nile.
This World Heritage and RAMSAR site includes six glaciers peaks: Mt.Stanley,Mt.Speke (4.890m), Mt.Baker, Mt.Gessi in DR Congo ( 4.715 m), Mt. Emin (4.791 m), Mt. Luigi di Savoia, Mount Stanley, with Alexandra (5.083 m), Margherita (5,109 m) and Albert peaks (5.101 m) as the highest points of the ranges.
The park provides stunning views of the glacier and snow-capped mountains just kilometers from the equator further extending to the Virunga National
Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alongside the alpine highland glaciers, snowfields and blue cirque lakes rendering Mt.Rwenzori National Park one of Africa’s most beautiful mountain parks.
Wildlife & Birdlife
Mt. Rwenzori National Park is home to about 70 various mammal species, including 6 Albertine Rift endemics, 4 of which are endemic to this park and 3 rare species. The mammals living within this park include; the Rwenzori otters, bushbucks, elephants and leopards also watch out for different primates such as the chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, the blue monkeys and the Angola colobus, as well as uncommon reptile species including the 3 horned chameleon.
The park is also home to 217 species of birds. 9 species of reptiles and 6 species of amphibians, they are various bird species to look out for including:- Albertine Rift endemics like; Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Montane Rwenzori Nightjar, Dwarf Honeyguide, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Kivu Ground Thrush, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Montane Masked and Collared Apalises, Stripe-breast Tit, Rwenzori Batis, (Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike ), Blue-headed, Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds, Strange Weaver, Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwing. And the other species to look out for are; Lammergeier, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Long-eared Owl, Western Green Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Grey-winged Robin, Evergreen Forest and Bamboo Warblers, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Montane Sooty Boubou, Golden-winged and Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds, White-collared Oliveback, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Oriole-Finch.
The slopes of Mt. Rwenzori harbor uncommon flora species, thus the national park being recognized for its unique vegetation. On your way to its peaks, you will move through a stunning progression of varied altitudinal vegetation covers including; the tree heathers, bamboo, montane forest and the afro-alpine. The beautiful afro-alpine zone with its symbolic giant groundsel and lobelia, is one the most rare botanical species only found in the high mountainous areas at altitudes 3800 meters
The Rwenzori slopes’ vegetation zones vary as follows: mountain forest zone (1500 – 2500 m); the bamboo zone (2500 – 3000 m); the heather and rapenea zone (3000 – 4000 m), which is characterized by the giant heathers Erica, but also giant lobelias and Senecio; the Alpine Zone (4000 – 4.500 m) with everlasting flowers or Helichrysum.
The Rwenzori Mountains are the home to the ethnic groups of the Bakonjo and Bamba peoples. These indigenous people are Bantu speaking communities who have lived in the foothills of the mountains for generations, and whose culture is adapted to the steep slopes and climate of the Rwenzori.
Mountain climbing: Mt. Rwenzori with its majestic snow-capped peaks offers one of the best mountaineering experience which is largely undiscovered by many travelers. The scenery on the mountain has been called some of the most beautiful on the planet as it is covered in different types of vegetation that you will enjoy as you scale its heights. On the foothills of the mountain is farmland with crops such as coffee, then the beautiful land terrain and plant life of submontane vegetation in the Afro-montane zone covered by luxurious tropical evergreen forest with a high richness in color and species.
Bird watching: The park has a richness in bird life with a dwelling to 217 species of birds and 17 of them can only be found in Rwenzori area including the Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Long-eared Owl, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Strange Weaver, Archers’ Robin-chat, Rwenzori Batis, White-starred Robin, Montane Sooty Boubou, Slender-billed Starling, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Blue-headed Sunbird, Barbets, Golden-winged Sunbird, Greenbuls, ILladopsis, Apalises, Crimson wings and Flycatchers.
Hiking: Hiking in the park varies from the traveler’s preference where you can enjoy day hikes through the forests at the foothills as you enjoy unique activities like fishing.
Cultural encounters: You will have plenty of opportunities to witness the locals at the foothills of the mountain of the moon carrying out their cultural lifestyles and activities like cultural dances or you can opt to visit the Ruboni village where you will learn about the lifestyles of old of the forefathers of the mountains of the moon.
Mountain Rwenzori National Park has various establishments to accommodate you that are around the towns surrounding it. Since this park is not very busy you rest assured of accommodation though it is always safer to book in advance. Some of the lodging options include;
- Hotel Margherita
- Rwenzori International Hotel
- Katara Lodge
- White House Hotel
- Equator Snow Lodge
- Tropical Savannah Guest House
- New Saad Hotel located
- Ruboni Community Camp
- Mihunga Safari Lodge
- Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite
- Rwenzori Mountains Services Bunkhouse
When To Visit?
Mountain Rwenzori National Park is one of the highest landscapes in Uganda rendering it chilly and wet. The best time to climb the mountain is from June through to August and from December to February.
The daytime temperatures range from 10-15°C, with much colder nights with January-February and July-August are being the driest months but heavy rain is possible at any time.
How To Get There?
Mt.Rwenzori National Park is located within four districts Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kabarole and Kasese districts in Western Uganda bordering Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By Road: The park is located in Kasese and is 5 hours from Kampala, western Uganda is mountainous thus a four wheel drive vehicle is advisable. Kasese town can be reached from Kampala via Fort Portal road (375km) or via Mbarara and Queen Elizabeth National park (450km).
The two major entry points to ascend to the Peaks (Nyakalengija central circuit and Kilembe Trail) are located near Kasese town while the third Nature walk trail head is at Kazingo near Fort Portal town in Kabarole District.
By Air: The park can also be accessed by air with chartered flights from Kampala at either Kajjansi airfield or Entebbe International airport to Kasese airfield and it will take you at least 1 hour and then be transfered by your driver guide to your destination.