Overview – Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is the most unique among all the National parks in Uganda due to the extra tourist attractions which can never be witnessed in any other Park. These include; mountain climbing, game viewing, bird watching, nature walks and hikes, primate tours and cultural encounters.
One gets to experience a rare but memorable mountain climbing experience to its beautiful glacial peaks that can only be rivaled by the Alpine mountains of Europe. With the highest of these Mount Stanley (5,109m), Mount Speke (4,890m) and Mount Baker (4,843m) all bearing permanent snow and glaciers for which you need to traverse the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails to reach
Unlike Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro, Rwenzori Mountains are not volcanic, giving it the unique esque from the latter.
This Rwenzori Mountains National Park cover 996 km sq and it protects the upper slopes of the mountains which run for almost 120 km along the Uganda Congo border west of Kasese and Fort portal.
Wildlife and Vegetation in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
This national park is best recognized for its unique vegetation that you will encounter as you climb its peak, through an unimaginable progression of varied altitudinal vegetation covers including; the tree heathers, bamboo and the afro-alpine. The beautiful afro-alpine zone with its symbolic giant groundsel and lobelia, is one the rarest botanical species only found in the high mountainous areas at altitudes 3800 meters.
The park hosts 70 mammals species and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, all in the rare vegetation interspersed with various mammals like the elephant as well as chimpanzee and Rwenzori otter and leopard but very difficult to see in the dense forest.
The park is blessed with over 20 lakes and these include; Lake Mahoma in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit, Lake Bujuku which lies at the apex of the deep, glacier carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of Mounts Stanley, Mount Baker and Mount Speke.
Attractions in Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
The Rwenzori Mountains are home to the rarest species and have a large but varied concentration of birdlife and wildlife and a lot more attractions leading travelers to it including:
With 70 Mammal species, with 6 species which are endemic to Albertine Rift, 4 species which are endemic to the park and 3 rare species, the park has proven to be a home to numerous wildlife.
Other mammals include the elephant as well as,Rwenzori otter and leopard and primates such as chimpanzee, Angola colobus, black-and-white colobus, blue monkeys, small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.
It is well organised in a thorough diverse and beautiful flora, hikers who climb following the Rwenzori route get the opportunity to sight the beautiful vegetation ranging from tropical rainforest to the tree heathers, montane forest, afro-alpine and bamboo. The afro-alpine characterized with emblematic big forms of Senecio (groundsel) and lobelia, which is one of the world’s unique botanical communities.
The Park is an important birding area and is home to 217 species of birds, 17 species are endemic to the mountain Rwenzori Park. The forest zone contains a diversity of birds including the Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Sunbird, Long-eared Owl as well as Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Rwenzori Batis, Archers’ Robin-chat, White-starred Robin with even the rare Montane Sooty Boo-boo, Greenbuls, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Slender-billed Starling, Strange Weaver, as well as the Golden-winged Sunbird, and several varieties of Barbets, Apalises, ILladopsis, Flycatchers and Crimson wings.
The Rwenzori Snow Peaks
The Rwenzori comprises six different Mountains including Mounts Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m) – all bear permanent snow and glaciers and the equatorial snow peaks can be reached by hiker through the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.
There are over 20 beautiful lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the most accessible of all is Lake Mahoma (2,651m) in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit. The beautiful Lake Bujuku which lies at the apex of the deep, glacier carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of Mountain Stanley as well as Mount Baker plus Speke. Various streams of rivers start from the mountain, forming lifelines for the various flora and fauna in the flood plains.
It is the trailhead mainly used by hikers to the seven-day Central Circuit to the high peaks and the beginning point for hill walks nature through the traditional homesteads of the local Bakonzo community.
These are the historical remains of first King of Rwenzururu kingdom, the historical leaders identified by the names of Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga, who is so much believed to have played significant role of saving the Bakonzo tribe from the Batooro oppression.
Activities in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The park is mostly known for its mountaineering as the main attractive activity in the area with concentration of waterfalls, blue cirque lakes, hot springs, uncommon vegetation and a destination where can you to carry out research. Below are some of the activities you can enjoy on your visit to this wonderful park:
The park is habitant to over 217 species of birds with spectacular birding opportunities mostly in the montane forest including Bee-eaters, Robins, Sunbirds, Barbets, Rwenzori Turaco, Long-eared Owl, Bearded Vultures, Black and Swift Eagles which are rotating from side to side looking for prey.
Travelers to Rwenzori Mountains National Park can decide to discover the calm, polite farming village identified as Ruboni which is home to an estimate 2,000 Bakonzo people living at the foothills of the mountains of Rwenzori as they walk with the villagers as they show to visitors their daily activities which range from raring their traditional animals and crops to preparing nice delicious Ugandan meals with the freshest ingredients. The guide can also lead visit to meet the blacksmith and traditional healer of the area, guests can also meet basket weavers and storytellers, and enjoy a vibrant dance performance organized by the locals to entertain the visitors who have paid tour to them.
Hiking and Nature walks
The park also 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 Bundibugyo area through Bwamba pass.
The Rwenzori has 2 trials for climbing the great Mt. Rwenzori and they include:
● The Central Circuit Trail
This is a challenging seven-day climb and provides a circular tour of the high Rwenzori. From the trailhead at Mihunga, the route ascends to the Bujuku Valley via Nyabitaba. Clients joining the Central Circuit after Bujuku traverse the Scott Elliot and Fresh field passes to descend through the Mubuku Valley. Climbers can scale the snow peaks though many consider the exceptional scenery ample reward for their exertions.
● Kilembe Trail
The trail ascends the southern slopes of the Rwenzori from a trailhead at Kilembe near the town of Kasese. The route along the lovely Nyamwamba Valley passes glacial lakes and some stunning view points before joining the Central Circuit at Lake Kitandara. The standard route scales Mount Baker though the scenery makes shorter treks rewarding enough
Accommodation in the Mt. Rwenzori National Park.
The Park has many establishments to accommodate in the towns surrounding it and since this park is not very busy you rest assured of accommodation though it is always safer to book in advance. Some of the lodging options include;
- Hotel Margherita
- Rwenzori International Hotel
- Katara Lodge
- White House Hotel
- Equator Snow Lodge
- Tropical Savannah Guest House
- New Saad Hotel located
- Ruboni Community Camp
- Mihunga Safari Lodge
- Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite
- Rwenzori Mountains Services Bunkhouse
Best time to visit Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park receives the highest amount of rainfall on the Eastern slopes which begin from March-May and September-mid December.
The park can be best at any time of the year but the best time to visit is during the dry season that starts in the month of June-September and December to February.
The periods of July-August and December-February are the driest months and experienced hikers are the best seasons for a trek. The Conditions on the mountain are really challenging even to the experienced hikers since mountain Rwenzori is renowned for its steep, slippery trails with regular rainfall plus cold temperatures, high altitude, fog, steep terrain as well as muddy.
How to get to Rwenzori mountains National Park
This park can be reached from Kampala through Fort Portal route or from Kampala to Mbarara to Queen Elizabeth National Park at about 450 kilometers. The park is 2 hours drive from Kibale National Park, 45 minutes’ drive from Queen Elizabeth and about 5 hour drive from Bwindi Park’s northern sector.
- Kampala from the north through fort portal is 375 km away
- Kampala from the south through Mbarara to Kasese is 450 km away
Chartered planes are available from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi) to Kasese to the nearest airfield to the park like Kasese or Mbarara Airfield.