Exploring Rwenzori Mountains National Park

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Rwenzori Mountains

The Ruwenzoris are some of Africa’s biggest block mountains. The mountain forms a border between Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), measuring about 120 km (75 miles) long and about 64 km (40 miles) wide. With the highest peak at 5,109 m (16,761 ft) high, the mountain has several jagged peaks that have made it an important geographical future in the region.

The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene.

Rwenzori National park is a made up of mountains of the moon – the park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation – that makes the park worth visited for mountain hiking and viewing other attractions – imagine standing at the highest point of Uganda (Margherita – the highest peak at 5,109 m).

Hiking in the Rwenzori

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. The full circuit trail (Rwenzori hike) takes between 7 – 11 days trek  depending on the fitness of the hikers to reach the summit of Margherita. It is the toughest hike so, maximum level of fitness is needed however, and weak hikers can reach a certain level and descend back.

The first sightings of Rwenzori was by the expedition of European explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1889 and William Grant Stairs who climbed to 3,254 meters (10,676 ft) though the first ascent to the summit was made by the Duke of the Abruzzi in 1906. There are 2 primary routes that can be taken to the summit – The Central Circuit Trail from the trailhead at Mihunga, the route ascends the Bujuku Valley via Nyabitaba for acclimatization before reaching the peaks.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

Flora and Fauna

The Rwenzori has numerous fauna and flora. Its vegetation cover includes tropical rain forests, bamboos, and alpine meadows. The Rwenzori’s animal population includes forest elephants, several species of antelopes, primates and birds.

Three Horned Rwenzori Chameleon

Formation of Rwenzori Mountain:

It is a block mountain formed through faulting processes. The mountains are composed of metamorphic rock, which is believed to have tilted and squeezed upwards during plate tectonic activity and continental drifting, leading to the present mountain.

Directions to Mt. Rwenzori:

You can reach the mountain by Road OR Air:

Access: By road: From Kampala via Mbarara to Kasese, or from Kampala through Fort Portal and then 75km south on the Fort Portal/Kasese road. The park is 25km from Kasese town.

By air: Chartered planes are available from Entebbe/Kampala to Kasese and then by road.

Top Areas of Interest

Areas of Interest are the tourist destinations – places endowed with attractions.

Ruboni area:

It is found at the southeastern foot of the Rwenzori Mountains, 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 and walks through the traditional homesteads of the local Bakonzo community. Accommodation catering for a range of budgets offers gorgeous mountain views up the Mubuku valley.

Visitors’ Information Centre –All information needed in the park is steadily – it can be found at the visitor Information OR at Rwankingi Park Headquarters – at the trailheads and the offices of the Rwenzori tour operators. Here you can book Guides and porters, along with trekking equipment.

The Bulemba house:

In Bulemba houses, you can find the remains of Rwenzururu’s first King, Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga, who is believed to have saved the Bakonzo tribe from the Batooro oppression.

Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails:

Snow Capped peaks –Mt. Rwenzori comprises of six distinct mountains. Although located just miles north of the equator, the highest of these – Mounts Stanley at 5,109m, Speke at 4,890m and Baker at 4,843m – all bear permanent snow and glaciers due to low temperatures at the summit of the mountain which sustains the presence of ice.

The Vegetation areas:

The misty, boggy, glacier-carved valleys of the high Rwenzori form a strange botanical world inhabited by triffid-sized forms of lobelia, heather and groundsel, crisp “everlasting flowers,” garishly coloured mosses and gnarled trees draped with curtains of lichen. The result is an otherworldly setting which, over the years, has been compared to the forests of the Jabberwock, the Seven Dwarves and, inevitably, Tolkein’s Middle Earth. These strange plants rank among the world’s botanical treasures, being found only on the highest mountains of East Africa.

Lakes region:

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 in the shadow of Mounts Stanley, Baker and Speke. 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 originate from the mountain, forming lifelines for the flore and flora in the flood plains and supporting local communities.

For more information about the park visit Climbing Rwenzoris for a complete guide and information on how you can plan a great experience.

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