The Rwenzoris is also know as the fabled Mountains of the Moon. It is home to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. it lies in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border.
The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa. The lower slopes are in the moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest.
Huge tree-heathers and colourful mosses are draped across the mountainside. There are giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairy-tale scene.
The park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Rwenzori mountain range.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species. They include 19 Albertine Rift endemics. Here you will also find some of the world’s rarest vegetation.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita. It is the highest peak of the Mount Rwenzori. Though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.
If you prefer something a little less strenuous you can enjoy nature walks. This is to the neighbouring Bakonzo villages. You can also have homestead visits with home cultural performances. They offer accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.
Mount Rwenzori National Park at A Glance
- Size: 996km2
- The park was gazetted in 1991 and as a World Heritage site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008.
- Highest point: 5,109m above sea level on Mt Stanley’s Margherita Peak. Mt. Stanley is bisected by the border with the DR Congo.
- The Rwenzori is not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains. This is a block of rock upfaulted through the floor of the Western Rift Valley.
- The Rwenzoris were christened the “Mountains of the Moon”. This was by the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150.
- The explorer Henry Stanley placed the Rwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888. He labelled it ‘Ruwenzori’. It is a local name which he recorded as meaning “Rain-Maker” or “Cloud-King.”
- The oldest recorded person to reach Margherita Peak was Ms Beryl Park aged 78 in 2010.
Things to Do in Mount Rwenzori National Park
Hiking and Nature Walks in Rwenzori Mountains
You can follow the trails up to Lake Mahooma and Buraro chimp forest. the trail goes through the communities of Kichamba to the Karangura ridge. You will proceed to Bundibugo area through Bwamba pass.
The communities of Ruboni and Turaco View also offer guided forest walks. The walks are of various lengths just outside the park
Mountain/Volcano Climbing in Rwenzori Mountains
Keen climbers can choose between two scenic routes to the top of the Rwenzoris. Just remember that this is Africa’s third highest peak! The trails pass glacial lakes, gorgeous viewpoints, dramatic mountain passes and lush valleys.
Cultural Encounters in Rwenzori Mountains
You can walk with Bakonzo villagers through their homesteads. This is in the foothills of the Rwenzoris. Here, they will show you their daily activities. This is from tending to their animals and crops, to preparing meals. See cultural dances, traditional costumes and hear their fascinating folklore.
Birding in Rwenzori Mountains
Birding opportunities are greatest in the montane forest. Bee-eaters, robins, sunbirds and barbets can be seen here. They are some of the 217 species found in Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Wildlife in Mount Rwenzori National Park
Mount Rwenzori National park is home to 70 species of mammal. They include six Albertine Rift endemics; four are endemic to the park and three are rare species. Other mammals include the elephant, chimpanzee, Rwenzori otter and leopard.
Though wildlife is difficult to spot in the dense forest, do look out for primates. here you can see colobus (Angola and black-and-white) and blue monkeys.
There are small antelope like bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is known for its distinctive flora rather than its fauna. En route, hikers climb through a series of distinct altitudinal vegetation zones. Montane forest, bamboo, tree heathers and afro-alpine form the zones.
Afro-alpine is characterized by its emblematic giant forms of Senecio(groundsel) and lobelia. It is one of the world’s rarest botanical communities, being limited to East African mountains above 3800m.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is home to 217 bird species. These includes several Albertine Rift endemics. Among these are 17 species that are endemic to the park. This makes Rwenzori an important birding area (IBA).
The forest zone at 1800m contains a diversity of birds. They include the Rwenzori Turaco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo and Long-eared Owl. You also have Handsome Francolin, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater and Archers’ Robin-chat. White-starred Robin, Rwenzori Batis, Montane Sooty Boubou and Lagden’s Bush Shrike are here too. So is the Slender-billed Starling, Blue-headed Sunbird, Golden-winged Sunbird and Strange Weaver. There are several varieties of Barbets, Greenbuls, Apalises, IIladopsis, Flycatchers and Crimsonwings.
Places of Interest in Mt Rwenzori National Park
Equatorial snow peaks
The high Rwenzori comprises six distinct mountains. The highest of these – Mounts Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m). All the three bear permanent snow and glaciers. You can get to these snow peaks can by hiking the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.
Land of the Triffids
Rwenzori has misty, boggy, glacier-carved valleys. They form a strange botanical world inhabited by triffid-sized forms of lobelia. Here you will also find heather and groundsel, crisp “everlasting flowers,”. There are garishly coloured mosses and gnarled trees draped with curtains of lichen. The result is an other worldly setting. They, over the years, have been compared to the forests of the Jabberwock. Comparison has also be made with the Seven Dwarves and, inevitably, Tolkein’s Middle Earth. These strange plants rank among the world’s botanical treasures. They are found only on the highest mountains of East Africa.
There are over 20 lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The lowest and most accessible is Lake Mahoma (2,651m). in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit.
The beautiful Lake Bujuku lies at the head of the deep, glacier carved Bujuku valley. This is in the shadow of Mounts Stanley, Baker and Speke.
This is in the Nyamwamba Valley, ascended by the Kilembe Trail. Dams created by glacial moraine have created a string of eight delightful lakes.
Several rivers and streams orginate from the mountain, forming lifelines. This is for the flore and flora in the flood plains and supporting local communities.
Ruboni is found at the southeastern foot of the Rwenzori Mountains. It is the trailhead for the seven-day Central Circuit to the high peaks. It is also the starting point for hill walks, bird and nature treks. You can also start walks through the traditional homesteads of the local Bakonzo community.
Bulemba houses the remains of Rwenzururu’s first King, Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga. He is believed to have saved the Bakonzo tribe from the Batooro oppression. Each year on 2nd September, every Mukonzo attends the pilgrimage. This is a tour to this sacred site to make sacrifices.
How to get to the Mountain Rwenzori 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.
You can take only about an hour and a half if you used a plane. Contact your tourism 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.