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Rwenzori Mountain National Park is located within the “Mountains of the Moon”, as Mount Rwenzori is called. Mountain Rwenzori is situated in Western Uganda in the East African Rift Valley and straddles also to the Democratic Republic of Congo and its conservation area known as Virunga National Park. Mountain Rwenzori is the third highest in Africa rising up more than 16,700 feet above sea level and its highest peaks rise above the clouds and are permanently snow capped.
The Rwenzori Mountain ranges are higher compared to the Alps and they have glaciers which are one of the sources of the longest river on earth, the River Nile. Margherita Peak is the highest peak on the ranges making it the 3rd highest peak in Africa together with its twin peak, Mount Stanley, which is within the park. The 4th and 5th highest peaks, Mount Speke and Mount Baker, are also within the park. The mountain ranges were first brought to the worlds notice in CE 150 by Alexandrian geographical researcher and photographer, Pletomy, when he described a stunning mountain which he christened “mountain of the moon.” Later in 1899, English explorer, Henry Morton Stanley, was as spell bound as Pletomy when he beheld the ranges and christened them the “Cloud Mountains.”
The Rwenzori Mountain national park, which is the conservation area for the mountain, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers almost 1000 sq. km and strides across the districts of Kabarole, Kasese and Bundibudyo. It includes most of the center and the eastern half of the mountain and is known for its beautiful plant life coupled with waterfalls, glaciers and a lot of other unique mountainous vegetation. The park has glaciers, snowfields, waterfalls and has been portrayed as one of the mainly attractive Alpine areas around the world.
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How to Get to Rwenzori Mountain National Park
The journey from Kampala to Kasese will take you about 5 hours and a half if you take the public means by bus. Most bus parks can be found in and around Kampala like Link Buses which takes that route. It could take you about that same time if you are traveling privately in your own car though a four wheel drive vehicle is advisable since western Uganda is mountainous.
However you can take only about an hour and a half if you used a plane. Contact your tour company to book a flight to Kasese. Your first stop will be Fort Portal from where you will travel south to Kasese. From Mubuku, it is 15 minutes in the north of Kasese; you can organize transport means after passing the Bugoye power plant to the gate. Porters, guides and other people to help you will be easily availed to you.
Things to do in Rwenzori Mountain National Park
Hiking and Nature Walks in Rwenzori Mountain National Park
On your hiking adventures in Rwenzori Mountain National Park, you will follow the trails up to Lake Mahooma and Buraro chimp forest through the communities of Kichamba to the Karangura ridge; and to Bundibugo area through Bwamba pass. The communities of Ruboni and Turaco View also offer guided forest walks of various lengths just outside the park
The park provides opportunity for nature walks within the central circuit zone. These include trails up to Lake Mahooma and Buraro chimp forest; walks through the communities of Kichamba to reach the Karangura ridge; and hiking to Bundibugo area through Bwamba pass.
The communities of Ruboni and Turaco View also offer guided forest walks of various lengths just outside the park. Visitors can follow the River Mubuku, and glimpse views of Baker and Portal Peaks as they hike up to 2,300m above sea level. On a clear day it is even possible to view the snow capped Margherita Peak – a truly spectacular sight. Along the way, keep an eye out for chameleons, squirrels, vervet monkeys and many birds.
Bwamba Pass: Before a road was built in 1938 to link Fort Portal with the remote town of Bundibugyo, local people followed the most direct route between these settlements – a tough, 1,500m high trek over the steep north Rwenzori ridge, known as the Bwamba Pass. The Abanya Rwenzori community group leads visitors over the mountain rwenzoris through isolated mountain villages to visit the bamboo forest and enjoy superb rift valley views
Rwenzori Mountain National Park Hiking
Rwenzori Mountain Trekking is done starting from normally kasese town. You will need to arrive atleast a day before the start of your trekking. There are many options of Mountain Rwenzori trekking or climbing that ranges from just a day Mountain Rwenzori Trekking to 8 days trekking reaching the snow zone of Mountain Rwenzori. Our Rwenzori Trekking options are tailor-made to fit your travel style and fitness. Rwenzori trekking is one of the most outstanding ranges in Africa but its not an easy trek. Infant most visitors that have climbed both Kilimanjaro and Rwenzori think Rwenzori was way harder however the scenery, lakes and beautiful vegetation are a true reward. The final rocks on Rwenzori trekking s to the top of Margherita Peak is definitely the highlight of the trek. You will be faced by a feel of achievement when you touch the summit of Mount Stanley, the third highest mountain in Africa.
Birding in Rwenzori Mountain National Park
UNESCO labeled the Rwenzori Mountain National Park a key Birding Area. The park and its mountains support several species including the African Long-eared Owl, Archers’ Robin-chat, Barbets, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Sunbird, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Collared Apalises, Crimson wings, Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwings, Dwarf Honeyguide, Evergreen Forest and Bamboo Warblers, Flycatchers, Golden-winged sunbirds, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds, Golden-winged Sunbird, Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike, Greenbuls, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Grey-winged Robin, Handsome Francolin, IIladopsis, Kivu Ground Thrush, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Lammergeiger, Long-eared Owl, Montane Masked, Montane Rwenzori Nightjar, Montane Sooty Boubou, Olive Woodpecker, Oriole-Finch, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Alethe, Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Turaco, Slender-billed Starling, Strange Weaver, Stripe-breast Tit, Western Green Tinkerbird, White-collared Olive-back and White-starred Robin.
Cultural Experiences in Rwenzori Mountain National Park
The Rwenzori Mountain National Park offers opportunities for cultural experiences with one of the local tribes living at the foot of the mountains. Tourists can go and visit the village of Ruboni to learn about the daily lifestyle and history of the Bakonzo tribe. The Bakonzo people arrange cultural dance performances while sharing information about their history.
The other interesting cultural experience is to go for the Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail. This trail gives more exposure to the intriguing culture of the Bakonzo. There are opportunities to visit a traditional healer and local blacksmiths. Visitors learn how to make fire locally and weave baskets. The Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail also takes visitors to the Bakonzo traditional Museum. The local museum has a collection of traditional items of cultural and historical importance to the Bakonzo (Rwenzururu) including art pieces and locally made dresses.
The Bakonzo gather and make an annual (2nd September) pilgrimage to remember their great King Isaiah Kibanzanga Mukirania. The king played an important role in protecting the Bakonzo people from oppression by their neighbors the Batooro. If one is visiting the Rwenzori Mountain National Park around September and is looking for a special African experience, then this is it. The day is filled with celebration, sacred rites and sacrifices in memory of the great king.
Overnight Hill Trek ( Short cut to the long and Costly Rwenzori Hike )
This activity in Rwenzori Mountain National Park is organized by Ruboni Camp is call it shortcut option to the long and costly Rwenzori trekking. In a few hours of walking and one night of outdoor camping, you will be able to take memories of the highest peak of the Rwenzori Mountains. The price is good too. Just a small budget of your trip covers everything on this trek. It is probably the cheapest trek you will find in Uganda that gives you an opportunity to experience Uganda’s highest point easily, cheaply, and affordably.
This activity in Mountain Rwenzori involves spending a night on the community peak that is 2400 meters high. You trek through the villages, farms, and on the hills leading you to the scenic ridges, giving you one of the most rewarding views. These ridges overlook the Mountains and residential communities in the Mubuku valley. You will be amazed by this trail that is off the beaten path. The trekking is entirely clear, full of scenic picture moments. In the early morning and late evening, while on the top, you will have a chance to take a clear view of Margherita peak, if the day is clear.
Wildlife Viewing in Rwenzori Mountain National Park
Mountain Rwenzori base is covered by savanna grasslands which is a home to variety of mammal species that include ;blue monkeys ,bush buck ,golden cats ,giant forest hogs ,red duiker ,forest elephant ,Rwenzori colobus , Rwenzori otter ,Rwenzori climbing mouse ,genet Mongoose ,leopards ,Uganda clawed frog ,L’hoest’s monkeys ,rock hydrax and many more.
Tips for packing list When visiting Mountain Rwenzori
Before visiting the Rwenzori Mountains national park for any activity, it is important to note that the temperatures around the park are extremely cold even during the dry seasons. Avoid hiking during the rainy months between March – June and September – October. The Rwenzori area receives rain throughout the year but the amount intensifies during the wet season. The area can get very cold and the trails are slippery and full of mud. Other factors to take into consideration are:-
- The mountain climbing equipment provided (rented) by the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services may not be of the highest possible quality. It is important to bring your own hiking gear, waterproof clothes, sleeping bags, crampons, harnesses, plastic bags and walking sticks. Also remember to come with a good camera and sun glasses to protect the eyes. If you wish to cook your own food while hiking the mountain, you need to arrange for a good stove.
- To successfully climb to the top of any of the peeks, a hiker needs to be in great shape and free of any lung or heart problems. Eat less fat and more fruit or carbohydrates during the hike. Dehydration has stopped many a climber from completing the mountain hike. Try to drink as much water as you can and do not try to push yourself too hard.
- Beware of illnesses related to staying too long in altitudes beyond 3500 meters. Look out for symptoms like breathing difficulty, fatigue, headache, nausea, hand/feet swellings and sleeplessness. If possible come with supplies of oxygen.
Best Time to Hike Rwenzori mountain
Mount Rwenzori National Park is located along the equator and because of this; most parts are wet compared to other parts in East Africa. The highest rainfall amount is experienced in the eastern slopes and rains kick start from March to May and from September to mid-December. For excellent tour, you can opt to travel to this park from June to September as most parts remain relatively drier.
Rwenzori Mountain National Park Hiking Routes
This is the recent opened Kilembe trail that rises in the southern slopes of the Rwenzori from a trailhead at the Kilembe just near the town of Kasese. This route is along the Nyamwamba Valley that goes through the glacier lakes and the spectacular view points before joining the central circuit at Lake Kitandara. The standard route also shows Mount Baker has got scenery that makes shorter treks. It was opened in June 2009 and is one of the best trails in Africa, linking Kilembe to the various peaks in the Rwenzori Mountains
Ascending from Nyakalengija in Mahoma trail walking through the rainforests along the Kyambogho ride where Mahoma offers you an opportunity to have a scenic view of the Mubuku valley and the Rwenzori Mountains. As you move, you will expects to see blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, some birds like the Rwenzori Turaco, three horned chameleon. Having a long night from Omuka Kizza, you continue with the trail as moving through the bamboo and heather forest, this is where you expect to see some forest elephants or their footprints in this area
Rwenzori Mountains Cultural Trail
A short hiking adventure where you explore Mountain Rwenzori National Park and Culture of the people around the park. Therefore visiting culture tour and Nature walk to Rwenzori offers you an opportunity to see different trails with an experienced guide from the locals. Enjoy the cold breeze of Rwenzori spiced by the roar of the boulder filled River Mubuku where elated rewarding experience beings with eye-catching view of gigantic tree covered by the green canopy of giant ancient trees and plants through luxury lovely forest
Bulemba Ihandiro Cultural Trail
Visiting the numerous sites of great cultural value to the traditional occupants of the Rwenzori Mountains known as the Bakonzo people. Gazetted in 1991, the Rwenzori Mountain National Park is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uganda (designated in 1994), covers an area of over 1000 square kilometers (386 square miles) and is popular for harboring Africa’s third highest Mountain peak as well as numerous Lakes, waterfalls and glaciers. It is also a home to several mammal species such as forest elephants, hyraxes, primates like black and white colobus monkeys and L’Hoest’s monkeys and many others as well as several bird species including the Rwenzori Turaco, the Rwenzori batis and the Archer’s Robin-chat among others
The Central Circuit Trail
This is the most popular trail in Rwenzori Mountain National park. This is so challenging and a seven day climb will give you a rounded tour of the high Rwenzori. This trailhead is at Nyakalengija, 22 Km from Kasese off the Fort portal Road. Nyalalengija, where you finalize arrangements takes place. There is a campsite and safe parking near the office. From Nyakalengija, it’s a 10Km, Just from the trailhead at the Mihunga; the route raises the Bujuku Valley via Nyabitaba for the acclimatization before arriving at the peaks. Where you will join the central circuit after the Bujuku that passes the Scott Elliot as well as fresh field that goes through the Mubuku Valley
FAQ About Mountain Rwenzori/ Rwenzori National Park.
Why is Mountain Rwenzori called Mountains of the Moon?
The term “Mountains of the Moon” was used to explain the mountain range from which the Nile river was believed to have its source according to the Greek scholar Ptolemy of the 2nd Century C.E.).
It is believed that Rwenzori Mountains streams make are sources of the Nile, therefore in the ancient times, Rwenzori mountains were termed as the mountains of the moon
Why is Mountain Rwenzori Snow Capped ?
Mountain Rwenzoris are snow capped throughout the year because the highest peak of the Rwenzori reaches up to 5,109 metres (16,762 ft). This is a high point and therefore snow covered throughout the year.
How was mountain Rwenzori formed ?
The Rwenzori Mountains were formed due to a shift in the Earth’s crust about 3 million years ago. This movement caused an uplift of rock made up of gneiss, quartzite and granite. It is thought that tectonic plates pushed the mountain block upwards and tilted it to form the highest peak mount Stanley
How long does it take to climb Mountain Rwenzori?
It takes 6-7 Days to climb Mountain Rwenzori reaching the peak and descending using the central trail.
How much does it cost to climb Mountain Rwenzori?
The cost of climbing Mountain Rwenzori is from \$300 USD per person. Prices tend to decres when travelling in group.
When Can you climb Rwenzori Mountains?
The best time to climb Mountain Rwenzoris is during the dry months of June to August and January and February. Please note that these months fall in the busy tourist season in the country. However there are still very few tourists that climb Mountain Rwenzoris less than 2000 people.
Named after a Welsh-American colonialist and journalist Sir Henry Morton Stanley, Mount Stanley is the highest among the six peaks in the Rwenzori ranges in Uganda. Mount Stanley is at an elevation of 5,109 m (16,763 ft), making it the 3rd highest point in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) and Mount Kenya at (5,199 m)
Mount Stanley is surrounded by several other peaks also covered in glaciers and all part of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park run by the Uganda government . It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992.
There are various routes to reach Mount Stanley but you will need to spend at-least 7 days of trekking. Trekking to reach mount Stanley is not a walk in the park. It is exhausting and challenging.
You must have a good level of physical and mental fitness . Mount Stanley trekking requires walking long distances at altitude, passing through forests, rivers muddy trails and finally ice-hiking making it very challenging.
Mount Stanley trekking is considered tougher than Mount Kilimanjaro. The good news is that the risk of altitude sickness is lower since the trekking is longer providing you with the much needed time to acclimatize. Almost all our clients 99% have so far managed to climb up to Mount Stanley
Formation of Mountain Rwenzoris
The Mountain Rwenzoris are about 120-kilometers long, and 65-kilometer-wide mountain ranges that stretch along Uganda and DR Congo and not far from Lake Edward, Created by tectonic plate shift about three million years ago, quartzite, and other crystalline rocks were forced up from the base of the Albertine Rift.
The Rwenzori Mountains, are built from elevated granite squeezed by tectonic plate movement in the late Pliocene age. As a consquence, they are Africa’s greatest mountain ranges.
The Rwenzori mountains are composed of six separate mountains, and despite them neighboring the equator, Rwenzoris three highest peaks – Mount Stanley (5,109m), Mount Speke (4,890m), and Mount Baker (4,843m) – all have permanent snow and glaciers on them.
Each year, the mountains get almost 3 metres of rain. This is good for it keeps the snow and mud off the trail and also keep the 20 lakes in the mountains alive. Dams created by glacial moraine formed a chain of eight extraordinarily magnificent lakes in the Nyamwamba Valley, you go up on the Kilembe Trail. Water also moves from the mountains in a chain of rivers and streams, sustaining life in the plains below over a large area.
Accommodations in Mountain Rwenzori
Perfectly situated at the gateway to the Rwenzori Mountains, where the road ends and the mountain begins, you will Equator Snow Lodge. For the first time, there is a luxurious lodge accommodation at the foothills of Rwenzori Mountains, built parallel to the Mubuku River and surrounded by the exceptional eco-system that the Rwenzori Mountains are famous for.
Equator Snow is a sensational destination for the experienced mountaineer, the casual trekker or the ordinary traveler. Working in close collaboration with the Raboni Community and Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, a selection of mountaineering activities can be organized from Equator Snow Lodge ranging from guided mountain walks with low endurance hikes, to climbing the mountain peaks for the technically more competent. You may choose just to rest and relax at Equator Snow Lodge with its Spacious Mountain cabins, and wooden decks, it is designed for comfort and relaxation.
The Rwenzori Mountains have been declared a World heritage Site. Accordingly, the public restaurant, lounge and areas are designed around the history of the Rwenzori Mountains, with displays of significant historical illustrations. Come and experience the legend that has surrounded the Mountains of the Moon, as they were named by Greek historians more than two thousand years ago.
Margherita Hotel (Mid-Range)
Margherita hotel is situated some few kilometres west of Kasese town, Western Uganda in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains otherwise known as the “Mountains of the Moon”. Also close to the hotel are the Kilembe Mines set in a majestic valley with the Rwenzori range as a backdrop. Margherita hotel is a perfect for guests seeking to visit Mountain Rwenzori
Mihunga Safari Lodge (Budget)
Mihunga Safari Lodge is located close to Nyakalengija in the village of Mihunga presenting an ideal base to trek the Rwenzori Mountain following the central circuit while on safari in Uganda. Mihunga Safari Lodge is a budget / basic accommodation facility owned and operated by Rwenzori Mountaineering Services and presents accommodation in 5 en suite wooden cottages.
Mihunga Safari Lodge (Budget)
This camp gives you the best choice between a contained Banda, the furnished rooms with the natural finishing to hire and pitches your own tent; both of these options are with hot showers. Each of the bed is also fitted well with the mosquito net and these rooms are lit with hydroelectric power that gives you a chance of charging the gadgets. As you spend your time at this camp, you will enjoy the beautiful sounds of the bubbling streams as well as the views of the Rwenzori peaks from your different rooms or the restaurant veranda