Rwenzori Mountains National Park

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Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzori Mountain National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage situated in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border and covers an area of over 996 sq km. The Rwenzori Mountain is an uplifted tilted block that lies in the center of the Western branch of the East African rift valley system. It is famously named “Mountains of the Moon” for its snow-capped peaks and is the third highest point in Africa. The region’s glaciers, waterfalls, and lakes make it one of Africa’s most beautiful alpine areas.  The Rwenzori Mountains are the highest and most permanent sources of the River Nile and constitute a vital water catchment. The explorer Henry Stanley placed the Rwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888. He labeled it ‘Ruwenzori’, a local name which he recorded as meaning “Rain-Maker” or “Cloud-King.”

The lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo, and rich, moist montane forest, and the mountain slopes are draped with giant lobelias and giant heathers. 

These mountains offer a unique and pristine landscape of alpine vegetation studded with charismatic giant lobelias, groundsels, and heathers which have been called “Africa’s botanical big game”. The mountains offer spectacular snow-capped peaks, glaciers, V-shaped valleys, fast-flowing rivers with magnificent waterfalls, clear blue lakes, and unique flora contributing to the area’s exceptional natural beauty.

The major 3 peaks are Mt. Margherita at 5109 m, Mt. Albert at 5087m, and Mt. Alexandra at 5083 all on Mt. Stanley. There are 4 glacial peaks on the mountain and these are Mt. Emin 4791m, Mt. Gessi 4751m, and Mt. Luigi da Savoia 4627m. This mountain range is 110km by 50km wide and is not only known for its challenging hiking but also supports a diversity of animals.  The mountain is divided into several altitudinal zones ranging from the forest zone 1800m, to the dense bamboo forest 2500m, to open vegetation of heather, known for the giant lobelias and giant heather plants to alpine zones 3000m to 4500m. 

Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Rwenzori mountain range. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation.

Some of the Primates include the black and white colobus monkeys and blue monkeys. The hiking is done along 2 routes with ascends from Nyakalengija to the central circuit (8 days) and the other from Kilembe near Kasese.

Trekking the Rwenzori is offered through Rwenzori Mountaineering Services overseeing the Nyakalengija Trail and Rwenzori Trekking Services overseeing the Kilembe Trail. The Cultural Heritage boosts 18 sacred sites to the local community. The best time of the year for hiking is during the dry seasons from mid-December to the end of March and from June to mid-August. The walking trails and accommodation huts are in good condition to facilitate the trekking of the Rwenzoris. Rwenzori Mountains National Park is managed and operated by Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Top things to do in the Rwenzori Mountain National Park

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. Hiking packages of the Rwenzoris start from 4-day treks – 12-day treks to the summit of Margherita the highest peak. For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks and community-based tour packages incorporated with cultural tours.

Mountain Climbing

There are two routes of hiking experiences in the Rwenzoris. The low-altitude treks won’t take you beyond 4,000 meters and typically last 2-4 days. The high-altitude treks take you to peaks above 4,000 meters and last between 4-12 days. 

The central circuit trail

This trail ascends the Mubuku and Bujuku valleys from Nyakalengija to the central circuit that winds between the main peaks. The central circuit takes 8 days / 7 nights and starts from Mihunga gate at 1651m.

It is the shortest route to Margherita Peak and begins from the Eastern Part of the Mountain. It starts at the Mihunga trailhead, and to Bujuku via Nyabitaba and John Matte.  From the Bujuku, the trail then leads to other peaks, over to the Scott Elliot Pass, then to Kitandara lakes.

It then proceeds over the fresh field pass to Bujuku Valley. A great change in surroundings takes you through 5 different vegetation zones from the tropical valleys at around 1,000 meters climbing gradually through gorges and valleys up to the top of Mount Stanley which is rocky. 

It passes through the lower and upper bigo bog, where the walk boards were put up to make movement through the boggy area much easier. The central circuit trail route can lead you through Mount Baker, Mount Stanley, Mount Speke, and sometimes the Weismann Peak of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. 

The central trail is a habitat for different mammals and bird species such as hyrax, forest elephants, Forest Elephants, L’Hoest monkeys, Black and White colobus monkeys, three-horned chameleons, and Rwenzori Turacos among others. 

The Kilembe Trail

This trail starts from Nyamwamba(Kilembe), Kamusoni, and Nyamugasani River Valleys above Kilembe near Kasese. The trail is the Southern Circuit and is the longer route to the peak taking  9 – 10 days to ascent Margherita Peak. 

The Kilembe trail trek starts from the Rwenzori mountains national park Mulyambuli Rangers Post proceeding to Sine Camp, then to Mutinda Hut via Kalama Hut.

The trek then continues to Bugata camp, then to Hunwick’s camp (3,874m asl), which leads to Margherita camp. It is from this point, that it continues to Margherita Peak, after which you descend back to Butawu Hut.

Proceed to Hunwick’s camp (3,874m asl), then to the Kiharo camp, and finally to the entry point to exit the mountain.

Birding in the Rwenzoris

The park is home to over 217 bird species, with 17 bird species as Albertine Rift Endemics out of 24 recorded in the country. It has varied vegetation providing habitat for different bird species.  The best bird watching is in the montane forest. 

Look out for these species in the park, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird, Rwenzori Streaky Seed-eater,  Rwenzori Puffback, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, Rwenzori Olive Thrush, Rwenzori White-starred Bush Robin, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Handsome Francolin and Strange Weaver.

Other bird species include Montane Masked and Collared Apalis, Stripe-breast Tit, Tiny and Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Long-eared Owl, Western Green Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Rwenzori Hill Babbler Grey-winged Robin, Cinnamon Bracken Evergreen Forest, and Bamboo Warblers, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Mountain Sooty Boubou, White-collared Olive-back, Red-faced, Dusky, and Shelley’s Crimsonwing and many more.

Guided Nature walks

The communities adjacent to the park offers guided walks along the slopes of mountain Rwenzori. One can follow River Mubuku for views of Baker and Portal peaks or sometimes views of the highest peak – Margherita. Look out for squirrels, Vervet monkeys, chameleons, and several spectacular birds.

The forest is home to a huge variety of local trees, plants, birds, and small mammals and reptiles. The trail takes you through the village as you meet the farmers and see the different crops being grown. Relatively simple trekking takes you to the forest: a paradise of natural sounds, jungles, and rivers flowing from the Rwenzori Mountain’s glaciers.

On this trail, you have a high chance of finding the three-horned chameleons, primates crossing from the park, and a long list of birds and insects. Spend time in the jungle with vines and woods as you have always dreamt of. The guide will share with you a lot of information about the crops, plants, and animals to give an insight into how the local people relate to nature.

Community-Based Tourism

Ruboni Village Tour

Engage with the Bakonzo living on the foothills of the Rwenzoris. Take a trail where you get to learn more about their daily activities like gardening and animal husbandry, preparing daily meals – from farm to meal. Take a visit to the blacksmith, traditional healer, basket weavers, and dance and storytelling performances. 

At the blacksmith workshop, you will see how the local household tools are made by hand with a hammer, on river rocks. Get to experience the crafts weaving process to produce domestic items out of natural fibers. The traditional healer will demonstrate the use of local herbs and other natural products to cleanse the people of their misfortunes and heal simple ailments. 

Visit farmland where you participate in farming bananas, coffee, vanilla, and other crops. Learn about coffee processing and banana processing by the local community.  After participating in the farming, harvesting, and processing, you head back to the trailhead.  

Traditional Dance and Storytelling

In the evening, for two hours, starting from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, Guests are welcome to join and participate in this traditional dance and storytelling session.  The local community introduces the Bakonzo culture and gets to learn about their traditional dances and cultural beliefs.  Take a look at the souvenir displays in the local craft shop, and interact with the locals to learn more about Uganda, the Rwenzori Mountains, and its people. 

We design tailor-made safaris for Rwenzori, enquire with our team of experts, and get started on plans for your next Rwenzori Trek. 

Where to stay in Rwenzori Mountain National Park

Equator Snow Lodge. 

The Lodge is the only Alpine Lodge in Uganda and is the perfect base prior to starting the Rwenzori Hike. It is 2.3 km from the center of Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Kasese. The lodge features 4 spacious cottages built with round river rocks from the Mubuku and each room has a private bathroom, a fireplace, and a seating area.  Other facilities include a central area with a cozy lounge and fireplace, a bar, and a restaurant.

The accommodation along Central Circuit Trail is in the form of huts that are tolerant to all weather conditions. These include  Nyabitaba (2651m), John Matte (3505m), Bujuku (3962m), Elena (4541m), Kitandara (4023m), and Guy Yeoman (3505m). 

The accommodation along Kilembe Trail are Sine hut (2596m), Mutinda camp (3582m), Bugata camp (4100m), Hunwicks camp (3874m), Margherita camp (4485m), Kiharo camp (3430m). 

The best time to visit Rwenzori Mountain National Park 

The months of June to August and from December to February are the dry season and the ideal time to visit Rwenzori Mountains National Park.  For mountaineers, the climbing window from June to August is the best time to attempt an ascent to Margherita Peak of Mountain Rwenzori. There is little rainfall and the trails are not slippery and making it easier to navigate the park. 

The months of March to May and from September to November are the wet seasons and shrouded in mist. This is a low season because of the heavy rains, muddy trails, and slippery rocks in the Rwenzori Mountains

How to get to Rwenzori Mountain National Park

By Road

Rwenzori Mountains National Park can be reached by two routes from Kampala to Kasese and from  Kampala to Fortportal via Mubende. The shortest route is via Fort Portal which is 300km, while the longest way is via Masaka through Mbarara, Bushenyi to Kasese for 350km. If you want to check out the Equator line, via Kasese is the ideal route to take. 

By Air

Daily scheduled flights can be arranged from Entebbe International Airport to Kasese Airstrip which takes 1hr and 30 minutes followed by a 40-minute drive to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The scheduled flights are operated by Bar Aviation and Aerolink.  

Best Time to Visit

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is chilly and wet – expect daytime temperatures of 10-15°C, with much colder nights. January-February and July-August are the driest months, but heavy rain is possible at any time, so come prepared. The best time to climb the mountain is from June through to August and from December to February.

Best time to go: December to February and June to July (Dry seasons)
High Season: June to September (More people visit Uganda since it is the peak time for gorilla tracking)
Low Season: March, April, May, October and November (A number of camps and lodges close)
Best Weather: Mid-December to February (Less rainfall)
Worst Weather: Mid-March to May and mid-August to November (High rainfall, roads can become impassable)

Tailored Uganda Safaris

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