Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Uganda
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is situated in south-western Uganda on the east side of the Albertine Rift Valley, along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo where it borders Virunga National Park and runs for about 120km South of Lake Albert and North of Lake Edward. The park was gazetted in 1991 and later designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 to protect its varied vegetation zones and wildlife. Spanning over 996 sq. km, Rwenzori Mountains National Park is Uganda’s most captivating hiking destination with two major six to nine-day trail circuits traversing it.
The park is also known as Mountains of the moon, a name given to it by the geographer Ptolemy in AD 150 and locally known as “Ruwenzori” which means “rain maker” or “cloud-king”. The highest point of the mountain is at Margherita peak with an elevation of 5,109m above sea level, making it the third highest and it is also the hardest to climb in the African continent. Rwenzori is characterized by varied vegetation covers of bamboo forest, tree heath, montane forest, hagenia-rapanea scrub and afro-alpine moorland which harbour about 18 mammal species, 217 bird species, 9 reptile species and 6 amphibian species.
Activities in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
This is the main activity in Rwenzori Mountains National Park where visitors can choose to undertake either the Southern or the Central circuit starting from Kilembe and Nyakalengija respectively. The unique landscape of each zone of the mountain ranges is stunning, providing spectacular views of the lower slopes as you descend through the lush valley, and dramatic passes.
With over 217 species, 19 of which cannot be found in any other national park in the Uganda, Rwenzori offers birding opportunities to bird watchers especially in the montane forest. Some of these birds include the following; the Rwenzori turaco, Long-eared owl, Archer’s robin chat, White-starred robin, Slender-billed starling, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Dwarf honeyguide, Strange weaver, Purple-breasted sunbird, Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori collard bird and Handsome francolin to mention a few.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park boasts of about 70 mammal species some of which include Elephants, Bushbucks, Giant forest hog, Rwenzori otter and duickers. The park also hosts a variety of primate species which include Blue monkeys, Olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, black-and-white colobus, Angola colobus and chimpanzees. The three-horned chameleon is known to be seen only in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The different altitude zones also offer distinctive flora and fauna which include giant heather trees, Lobelia, Giant groundsel to mention a few.
The lower slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains is where you find Ruboni village. A walk to these villages expose you to the friendly Bakonjo you will gladly welcome you with dramatic traditional dances and folk songs. You will also get to participate in their cultural activities such as cooking, visiting their farms, visiting the traditional healer, weaving baskets to mention a few.
Best time to visit Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park can be visited all-year-round. However, it is advisable for hikers to visit during the warmest and driest months between July and October, and also from December to February. These are the safest months to climb as the risks associated with climbing are very low compared to the wet season. The effects of the weather on the body tend to also be very low during this time. Also note that this is the busiest time in the park and therefore expect to meet more climbers compared to the wet season with very few visitor numbers.
How to get to Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park can be accessed by both road and air.
The park can be reached from Kampala to Kasese via Fort Portal or Mbarara. This journey can take about 7-8 hours to enter the park.
Visitors to Rwenzori National Park who would like to fly can transfer from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airstrip to Kasese airstrip, from where they will connect to the park by road. A chartered flight can be booked with one of the domestic flight companies, which flight will take about an hour and a half to arrive.
Where to stay in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Accommodation facilities are available within and out of the park. In the park, camping sites are found in each of the huts. Out of the park, these facilities range from budget, mid-range and luxury. Some of these facilities include the following;
- Hotel Margherita
- Equator Snow Loge
- Rwenzori Turaco View
- Mihunga Safari Lodge
- Ruboni Community Camp