Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a scenic Uganda safari destination and a national park situated in the Western Uganda in Budibugyo, Kasese districts, the park covers an area of 996 square kilometers stretching around Rwenzori Mountains one of the highest mountain ranges in Africa standing at 5109 meters above the sea level as its highest point.
Rwenzori Mountains national park lies along the border of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo and stretches through Kabarole, Bundibugyo and Kasese, in 1994 the park was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due its biodiversity comprised of rare plants, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, hotsprings, glaciers and mountain ranges.
Rwenzori Mountains are the main tourist attraction feature in the park, the mountain ranges are some of the highest ranges in Africa with Mount Stanely’s Margherita being the 3rd highest peak in Africa at 16,763 feet, Mount Speke ranked as 4th and Mount Baker as 5th in Africa. Rwenzori Mountains lies astride the equator and consists of 6 peaks the 3 of them that are Mt Stanley, Mt Baker and Mt Speke are permanently covered with snow.
Rwenzori Mountains also referred to as Mountains of the Moon were named by Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150. Locally the mountains are known as Ruwenzori loosely translated as rain maker. Mountain Rwenzori was formed as a result of faulting process and is a block of rock faulted through the floor of the Western Rift Valley, the slopes of the mountain are covered by various vegetation covers including montane forest, bamboo forest, tree heath, hagenia-rapanea scrub and afro-alpine moorland.
Wildlife and birdlife in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains national park hosts 70 mammal species including Elephants, Giant forest hog, Rwenzori Otter, golden cats, duikers, bushbucks and Leopard, these animals are rarely seen due to thick forest cover. There are also primates including primates such as blue monkeys, Angola colobus monkey, black-and-white colobus monkeys and Chimpanzees.
Rwenzori Mountains national park is one of the best birding spots in Africa hosting a total of over 177 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics which are found in the forest zone, these birds include Rwenzori Turaco, Long eared owl, Archers’ Robin-chat, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Blue-headed and Golden-winged sunbird, white-starred Robin, Slender-billed Starling, and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater among others.
Rwenzori Mountains national park boosts about 20 lakes found in the mountain ranges, these lakes include Lake Mahoma, Lake Bajuku found in the valley of Mount Stanely, Baker and Lake Kitandara created by dams of a string on 8 lakes.
Safari activities to do in Rwenzori Mouuntains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains national park is one of the amazing and least explored national parks in Uganda, fortunately there are a variety of activities used to explore the park and these include
Climbing Rwenzori mountains is the major safari activity to do in the park and is one of the thrilling safari activities to do during your safari in Uganda, Mountain Rwenzori also refered to as the Mountains of the moon standing at the altitude of 5109 meters above the sea level is one of the best mountains in the world to climb/hike. Climbing Rwenzori Mountains leads to the peaks of the mountain that are Margherita the highest peak, Mount Speke, Mount Baker, Mount Gessi, Mount Luigi da Svoi and Mount Emin Pasha.
Climbing Rwenzori Mountains is done using 3 hiking trails to reach the summit that are Central circuit trail, the Kilembe trail and a newly opened trail run by Rwenzori trekking services. Central Circuit trail starts from Mihunga taking 7 days to reach the summit and Kilembe trail starts from Kilembe near Kasese town, the new trail takes 5 days to reach one of the peaks. For climbers who need to explore all the three peaks of the Mountain you require a total of 9 nights.
Climbing Rwenzori Mountains offers a chance to marvel at the snowcapped peaks of the mountain and alpine vegetation and while descending hikers are rewarded with views of vast farmlands, Queen Elizabeth national park and Virunga ranges found in Democratic Republic of Congo. On this safari you need to carry basic items such as sleeping bag, warm clothing, raincoat, waterproof over trousers, plastic bags to keep wet clothing and energy giving snacks. Hiker climbing Mountain Rwenzori should consider symptoms and treatment of hypothermia and other forms of altitude sickness, above 2500 meters altitude sickness can affect any hiker regardless of age, fitness or any previous mountain hiking experience.
Rwenzori Mountains national park is a Key birding Area as labeled by UNESCO in Uganda being it is a habitat to a huge population of wildlife including some of the Albertine rift endemic species. Birds to look out for during bird watching in Rwenzori Mountains national park include African Long-eared Owl, Archers’ Robin-chat, Barbets, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Sunbird, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Collared Apalises, Crimson wings, Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwings, Dwarf Honeyguide, Evergreen Forest and Bamboo Warblers, Flycatchers, Golden-winged sunbirds, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds, Golden-winged Sunbird, Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike, Greenbuls, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Grey-winged Robin, Handsome Francolin, IIladopsis, Kivu Ground Thrush, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Lammergeiger, Long-eared Owl, Montane Masked, Montane Rwenzori Nightjar, Montane Sooty Boubou, Olive Woodpecker, Oriole-Finch, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Red-faced Woodland Warbler and Red-thighed Sparrowhawk among others.
Nature and Hiking walks
Nature and hiking walks in Rwenzori Mountains national park arranged and offered in the communities adjacent to the park and these are done under the guidance of a guide, these activities are arranged by Rwenzori Mountain Services (RMS) and the Backpackers in Kilembe. Nature and hiking walks are usually done following the central zone which is also used for mountain climbing, the nature and hiking walks starts from a forested areawith beautiful scenery leading up to Lake Mahooma and chimpanzee forest of Buraro. Another trail falled is River Mubuko tral for views of Baker and portal peaks and on clear days you get views of Margherita, also look out for squirrels, vervet monkeys, chameleons and several birds.
Cultural experience is offered in the Bakonzo community in the village of Ruboni on the foothills of Rwenzori Mountains, while visiting the area you will learn about the daily lifestyle and history of the Bakonzo tribe through demonstration of their daily activities like gardening and animal husbandry, preparing of local meals from farm to ready meals, visiting the black smith and traditional healer, visit the basket weavers and be entertained by local dances and drama.
The Bulembo – Ihandiro cultural also offers cultural experience, this trail takes you on a visit to the Bakonzo traditional Museum hosting a collection of traditional items of cultural and historical importance to the Bakonzo (Rwenzururu) including art pieces and locally made dresses.
How to get to Rwenzori Mountains national park
Rwenzori Mountain national park in the western region of Uganda, most safaris to this scenic national park start from Kampala the capital of Uganda. From Kampala road and air means of transport are used to get to park for a safari, by road it is a drive of approximately 5-6 hours using Kampala – Kasese via Mbarara route or Kampala – Kasese via Fortportal route.By air transport, chartered or scheduled flights are offered from Entebbe or Kajjansi airstrip to Kasese airfield serving the park.
Accommodation in Rwenzori Mountains national park
In Rwenzori Mountains national park there are a number of lodges and camp offering accommodation to travelers/tourists visiting the park while on a Uganda safari, the accommodation is offered as luxury, midrange and budget and they include Hotel Margherita, Rwenzori international Hotel, Katara Lodge, Equator snow Lodge, Tropical Savannah Guest house, Tours Holiday Inn, Ruboni Community Camp, Mihunga safari lodge, Rwenzori Turace View Campsite, Ihamba Lakeside safari lodge among others.