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Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Rwenzori Mountains National Park In Uganda

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is the second tallest mountain in Africa after mountain Kilimanjaro. Also known as the Mountains of the Moon. It is Africa’s world-class hiking, mountaineering and trekking tour destination with some of the world’s rarest vegetation and the third highest point in Africa. This snow capped mountain is located along the border of Uganda bordered by Democratic Republic of Congo.

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 colourful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Rwenzori mountain range.

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.

The Rwenzori Mountains also known as the fabled Mountains of the Moon lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. 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.

The Rwenzori Mountains reach heights up to 5,109 metres (16,762 ft). The highest Rwenzori peaks are permanently snow-capped. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Virunga National Park are located in the range.

Unique Attractions

  • Wildlife (Various animal species)The park is also home to 18 species of mammals, 217 species of birds. 9 species of reptiles and 6 species of amphibians,  Large mammals that include: elephant, buffalo, giant forest hog, bush buck, chimpanzee and leopard are present but rarely seen, however in the forest zone, droppings of elephants are frequently seen, while noisy chimpanzee, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys are common. In the Rwenzoris there are also some unique and rare animal species like the three horned chameleon, the Rwenzori colobus, Rwenzori Turaco and the Rwenzori double collared sunbird.The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is also a cultural heritage for the neighboring communities. Eighteen charismatic sacred sites have been identified, mapped and protected as worship areas.
  • Mount Rwenzori Mountain snow Peaks.
  • Lake Bujuku
  • Birds
  • Mountain Rwenzori Vegetation.
  • Mountains of the MoonMountain climbing is the most attractive activity on the legendary “Mountains of the Moon” that ties between altitudes 0° 06′ South and 0° 46′ North and longitudes 29° 47′ West and 30° 11′ East. Its diverse heavily snowcapped peaks are one of the few pristine and spectacular landscapes of the world The ranges are scenic with pristine and spectacular landscape that comprise of waterfalls, blue cirque lakes, snow clad peaks and stratified vegetation which is an attraction not only for visitors, but also creates potential for research as well as resources for the nearby communities.

Activities:

  • Mountain Trekking
  • Game Drive
  • Cultural Walks
  • Mountain Biking
  • Birding

The unique landscape of the Rwenzori mountain range is outstanding, with still by far the biggest glaciers in Africa, incomparable beautiful, and of very different character to the high single standing volcanoes of Kilimanjaro or Mount Kenya. The Congolese side, which are a lot drier, gives an easy and beautiful approach off the beaten track to reach the summit range.

Rwenzori Mountains is a free-standing, snow-covered, block mountain located with in Uganda, Congo and in Uganda its known as Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

Packing for Rwenzori Mountains will be easy with this equipment list and packing tips. A comprehensive checklist will be send to you as soon as your hike is confirmed. You can also get a comprehensive packing list of what to bring when going for climbing Rwenzori Mountains .

Find there large enough for all climbing gear and clothing. Best Trekking Months. There are two distinct trekking seasons which constitute the best time to climb Rwenzori.

  • They are January-March and June-October. January-March is generally colder than June-October and there is a higher probability of encountering snow on the summit. These are considered to be the best times to climb in terms of weather, and correspondingly are the busiest months (high season). Our group climbs are scheduled to correspond with the dry season.

 

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Overview
Attractions
When To Visit
How To Get There
Where To Stay

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a Ugandan national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Rwenzori Mountains.  The mountain 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 park is known for its beautiful plant life.

There is always occurrence of snowing in the Rwenzori mountains from an elevation of 3,962m asl in the mornings where you wake up to grass filled with snow and frozen water in the bog and streams mostly in the Bujuku valley.

The peaks of Margherita (5,109m asl) on Mount Stanley, Edward (4,890m asl) on Mount Speke and Mount Baker 4,844 m (15,892 ft) are permanently snow capped with the Margherita or Stanley plateau having the biggest snow and Mount Baker having the least.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park was established in 1991. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of its outstanding natural beauty. The park was inscribed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger between 1999 and 2004 because of insecurity and a lack of resources in the park.

Wildlife:

The park is home to 70 species of mammal, including 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 such as colobus (Angola and black-and-white varieties are both present) and blue monkeys; small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.

 

Vegetation:

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is known for its distinctive flora rather than its fauna. On the route to the peaks, hikers climb through a series of distinct altitudinal vegetation zones; montane forest, bamboo, tree heathers and afro-alpine. The latter, with its emblematic giant forms of Senecio (groundsel) and lobelia, is one of the world’s rarest botanical communities, being limited to East African mountains above 3800m.

 

Birds:

The park is home to 217 bird species including several Albertine Rift endemics.  Among these are 17 species that are endemic to the park making Rwenzori an important birding area (IBA). The forest zone at 1800m contains a diversity of birds including the Rwenzori Turaco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Long-eared Owl, Handsome Francolin, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Archers’ Robin-chat, White-starred Robin, Rwenzori Batis, Montane Sooty Boubou, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Slender-billed Starling, Blue-headed Sunbird, Golden-winged Sunbird, Strange Weaver and several varieties of Barbets, Greenbuls, Apalises, IIladopsis, Flycatchers and Crimsonwings.

Mount Rwenzori has got main trails that is the Kilembe trail which summits Margherita peak, it takes about 9-10 days to ascend and descend, the central circuit trail which leads to Elena Hut with magnificent views of Margherita peak it takes about 7 days to ascend and descend.

Best Time To Climb The Rwenzori Mountains

The region is around the Equator and, consequently, doesn’t experience summer and winter weather extremes. It remains attractive throughout the year, despite the change in seasons. It barely causes any significant changes to the range’s fauna and flora.

The Rwenzori Mountain Range has two wet seasons and two short dry seasons. The long wet season starts in March and ends in June, while the short wet season occurs in November. During the wet season, the mist masks the Rwenzori Peaks. Although that helps form snow caps and glaciers at the higher summits, it can also make route-finding and hiking considerably tricky.

One of the dry seasons begins in July and ends in October, while the other falls between December and February. These are the best times to go to the Rwenzoris as they are the driest and warmest months. However, you can ideally expect some rains in such times, although they occur less frequently and often at night.

Bear in mind that the climate around the Rwenzoris is unpredictable. The periods discussed earlier may vary from a year to another. At times, the rains may come early or come late. They may be mild or torrential.

How To Get There:

By Road:

Rwenzori Mountains are located within four district Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kabarole and Kasese districts in Western Uganda bordering Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 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. The Nyakalengija trail head which is 22km off the Kasese-Fort Portal road and 25km north of Kasese town can be reached from Kampala via Fort Portal road (375km) or via Mbarara and Queen Elizabeth National park (450km).

By Air

This can be arranged on chartered flights from Kampala at either Kajjansi airfield or Entebbe International airport to Kasese airfield.

 

Where To Stay: 

Rwenzori Mountains National Park has also got amazing accommodation options for you to stay.

Ruboni

  • Ruboni Community Camp
  • Ruboni Turaco View Camp
  • GeoLodges Equator Snow

Nyakalengija

  • Rwenzori Mountains Safari Lodge (Rwenzori Mountaineering Services)

Kilembe

  • Trekkers Hostel (Rwenzori Trekking Services)
Habitat Zones In The Rwenzori
Interesting Facts
Areas Of Interest
What Is Needed For Climbing Rwezori Mountains

The Rwenzori Mountains have five different zones of habitation, hence generating an amazing world of biodiversity.

1. African Savanna Grasslands

At the base, this zone teems with animals like zebras and elephants. This zone reaches up to around 1,676 meters (5,500 feet). Above it is the Rainforest, reaching up to 2,286 meters (7,500 feet). Here, you’ll come across giant ferns, lianas, and wild banana trees.

2. Bamboo Forest

This type of forest is among the unique habitats you’ll ever walk through. This zone reaches up to 2,895 meters (9,500 feet). Bamboo, a rare kind of grass, grows up to almost 3 feet in a day here. In just two months, it can easily reach over 100 feet!

3. Heath Zone

It’s found above the Bamboo Forest, extending up to almost 3,650 meters (12,000 feet). It’s a land filled with dripping heather trees, covered with lichen and going as high as 40 feet. These trees loom over a comprehensive ground cover of liverwort and mosses. They’re considered a close relative of the low-shrub that grows along the Scottish moorlands.

4. Alpine Zone

It extends up to almost 4,419 meters (14,500 feet). In the lower sections of this zone, you’ll come across plants unique only to the African Alpine zones. Such include the giant lobelia and the tree groundsel. The Alpine zone’s upper sections mainly comprise rocky terrain that’s covered with brown mosses and black lichens.

5. Ice Glaciers

Above 14,500 feet, you’ll find the highest peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains. These peaks are permanently snow-capped and wrapped in storm-swept glaciers. This zone extends up to almost 5,109 meters (16,762 feet).

Facts At A Glance

  • Length: 120 Kilometres (75 Miles)
  • Width: 65 Kilometres (40 Miles)
  • Country: Uganda, DRC
  • The oldest recorded person to reach Margherita Peak was Ms Beryl Park aged 78 in 2010.
  • The park was gazetted in 1991 and was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008.
  • Highest peak (point): 5,109m (about 16,762 Feet) above sea level on Mt Stanley’s Margherita Peak. Mt. Stanley is bisected by the border with DR Congo.
  • The Rwenzori is not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains but is a block of rock upfaulted through the floor of the Western Rift Valley.
  • The Rwenzoris were christened the “Mountains of the Moon” 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’, a local name which he recorded as meaning “Rain-Maker” or “Cloud-King.”
  • Equatorial Snow Peaks

The high Rwenzori comprises six distinct mountains. Although located just miles north of the equator, the highest of these – Mounts Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m) – all bear permanent snow and glaciers. The snow peaks can be reached by hiking the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.

  • Land of the Triffids

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

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 orginate from the mountain, forming lifelines for the flore and flora in the flood plains and supporting local communities.

  • Ruboni

Ruboni, 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.

  • Bulemba

Bulemba houses the remains of Rwenzururu’s first King, Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga, who is believed to have saved the Bakonzo tribe from the Batooro oppression. Each year on 2nd September, every Mukonzo attends the pilgrimage to this sacred site to make sacrifices.

  • Ruboni

Ruboni, 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.

  • Wildlife

The park is home to 70 species of mammal, including 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 such as colobus (Angola and black-and-white varieties are both present) and blue monkeys; small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.

Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains

Some of the world’s best mountain hikers have climbed the Rwenzori Mountains. Mountain hiking in the park is organized to world class standards. Inexperienced hikers may find reaching the highest peak (Margherita) extremely strenuous. Shorter and less strenuous hikes can be arranged around the mountain without going all the way up to the snow capped peaks.

There are two hiking trails that are used by hikers to get to the summit. The first one is the Central Circuit Trail that starts form Mihunga taking 7 days. The Rwenzori Mountaineering Services is the only one that organizes hiking in this route. The second trail is the Kilembe trail that starts from Kilembe near Kasese town. This is a new route that was recently opened and is run by the Rwenzori trekking services. It takes 5 days to reach one of the peaks. In order to explore all the three highest peaks, one should set aside at least 9 days. Climbing to the highest summit Margherita offers opportunities to marvel at the snow-capped peaks and alpine vegetation. Descending the mountain rewards hikers with more sustained views of the vast farmlands, Queen Elizabeth national park and the Virunga ranges in DR Congo. Climbers will also encounter beautiful lakes and rivers high up on the mountains.

The most convenient way of arranging a hiking adventure to the park is to use the services of a tour operator. A tour operator can help organize transport and book accommodation while also working with the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services to arrange for porters, guides and cooks. The overall cost of hiking to the summit of the mountains includes the cost of 2 porters, guides, a cook, rescue mission, accommodation and heating.

What Is Required
For Summit Climbers
First Aid Kit

  • 1 day bag (small bag big enough to carry your packed lunch, rain gear, drinking water, and camera)
  • 1 sleeping bag
  • Walking sticks
  • 1 pair of snow glasses
  • Rubber boots/gum boots (for mud)
  • Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots
  • Several pairs of woolen socks
  • Trekking trousers
  • Warm layers
  • Woolen gap, gloves
  • A torch/headlamp and batteries
  • 1 backpacking backpack (porter will carry)
  • 1 pair of jogging shoes
  • 1 sun hat
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Leggings up to the knee (Gaiters)
  • Photo equipment
  • Pocket knife
  • Vitamin C tablets
  • Altitude sickness medication
  • Sun lotion
  • Lip ointment

  • 1 ice axe
  • 2 harnesses
  • 3 pair of crampons
  • 4 sleeping bag
  • 5 climbing rope

  • Stomach medicine
  • Headache medicine
  • 1 elastic bandage, Elastoplasts
  • Water purification tablets

 

Photos