Guide to Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains

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Rwenzori Hike

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects diverse natural habitats where most of its endangered species, flora are all confined. It is one of the ten national parks that Uganda boasts of and undoubtedly, one of the bucket-list hikers destinations.

Where is Rwenzori Mountains National Park located?

Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies in Western Uganda, approximately 5-7 hours’ drive from Kampala capital. The main part of the legendary Rwenzori Mountain ranges/chain also best known as the Mountains of the Moon is encompassed by the Rwenzori Mountains National Park of Uganda.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located along the Eastern side of the Western or Albertine African Rift Valley. It is found on border area of Uganda with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and also borders the Virunga National Park of the D.R. Congo. Unlike most African safari parks, Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a recognized as the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The park is situated strategically in Kasese, Bundibugyo and Kabarole districts and from Kasese, it is only 25kms, from Virunga National Park Congo it is 50kms. It is about 6-7 hours when you travel starting from Kampala and this all varies depending on the route taken.

Size of Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park sits on a vast area of about 1000sq.kms/100,000ha in Western Uganda. 70% of the park exceeds an elevation of 2500m with the highest point rising 5109m. It is a home to ice-capped Rwenzori Mountain chain, the third highest peak on the African continent and the area is characterized by magical waterfalls, glaciers, glacial lakes, rivers, vegetation making it one of the very few most spectacular alpine protected areas.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park encompasses most of the Central and Eastern half of the chain Rwenzori Mountains, a block mountain range which rises above dry plains set just North of the Equator crossing. The chain Rwenzori Mountains are believed to be higher than the Alps and interestingly, they are ice-capped. Mt. Stanley is found within the Rwenzori Mountains National Park of Uganda and it is where the most sought after Margherita Peak is set. At the Mount Stanley is where one of the twin summits is and that is where you find the third highest peak in Africa rising at the height of 5109 meters.

The 4th and 5th highest peaks are located on Mount Baker, and Mt. Speke. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park features snowfields, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and it is generally one of the most stunning mountain protected areas on African continent. The other major attraction that makes Rwenzori Mountains National Park stand out is its stratified vegetation which include heather, alpines, lobelia, montane etc. Other than Mount Stanley, other mountain massifs that make up the Rwenzori Mountains of the Moon include Mount Luigi di Savoia 4627m, Mt. Gessi 4715m, Mount Emin 4791m, Mount Speke 4890m.

Wildlife

Rwenzori Mountains National Park features a range of habitat where most of its faunal and floral species exist. The park boasts of its outstanding species ranging from endemic to the Albertine rift species. The alpine vegetation with 5 distinct zones are all worth exploring on Uganda safari in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The higher elevation zones feature mostly the heath & afro-alpine moorland which extends from 3500m to the snow line area. It is in Rwenzori Mountains where you can find the rarest vegetation that Africa is known for. The important vegetation/floral species include groundsel, giant heathers, lobelia to mention but a few.

The important wildlife species vary with altitudinal range of Rwenzori Mountains National Park. They include among others black and white colobus monkeys, Ruwenzori duikers, forest elephants, hyrax, chimpanzees, l’hoest monkeys, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians also come in abundance. Most of these range within the montane forests of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

Birds

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is recognized among the very few important bird areas in Uganda with sum of about 217 bird species. These include most of the Albertine rift endemic bird species and the important birds to expect to identify include among others stripe breast tit, black and swift eagles, blue headed sunbirds, Rwenzori turacos, barred long tailed cuckoo, handsome francolins, golden winged sunbird, crimson wings, Rwenzori batis, long eared owl, purple breasted sunbird.

Hiking/climbing the Rwenzori Mountains of the Moon

Climbing Rwenzori Mountains is the reason why most adventure seekers make their journey to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. On a Uganda safari in Rwenzori Mountains National Park, hikes begin from 2 demarcated routes/trails each leading to the numerous peaks of this block mountain. They include the central circuit trail which is 7 days climb and leads hikers from Mihunga trailhead through Nyabitaba and Bujuku Valley. The other trail is Kilembe which extends from the Nyamwamba valley and joins the central circuit at Kitandara Lake. It is an ideal trail to embark if you are to explore 3 of the Rwenzori Mountain highest peaks, flora and also look out some of the interesting animal species.

The Rwenzori mountaineering expeditions are organized and run by a few companies that include the Rwenzori Mountaineering services (RMS), Climbing Rwenzoris, and Rwenzori Trekking services. The RMS is a local community tourism group founded to offer/generate for the Bakonzo local residents income as one way for them to benefit from tourism on the mountain that has been central to their lives. Most of them serve at the park/mountain as guides and porters while profits are used to support a number of the community run initiatives.

Other tourism activities Rwenzori Mountains National Park worth engaging in while on Uganda safari include cultural encounters/community walks- the important cultural trails to embark on include Bulemba-Ihandiro cultural trail, Rwenzori turaco view campsite. Bird watching/birding is another exciting and worth engaging activity while on safari in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and it lets you to sight most of the Albertine rift bird species. Nature walks or hiking which is perfectly carried out along Buraro chimpanzee forest, Lake Mahoma trails.

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