Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies within the western Uganda districts of Bundibugyo, Kabarole and Kasese, on the western Rift Valley and along the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo border. This 995 square kilometer Park was gazetted in 1991 and later designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and Ramsar Site in 2008 due to its tremendous biological diversity of National, Regional and International Importance. For tourists interested in mountain climbing, the Rwenzori Mountains should appear on top of your bucket list.
Dubbed the Mountains of the Moon, the Rwenzori Mountains represent the uniqueness of Uganda given the fact that they are snow-capped yet crossed by the Equator. The highest point here is the Margherita Peak of Mount Stanley towering to 5109 meters above sea level. The bock Mountain range
The low and high slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains offer shelter to several wildlife species totaling up to 70 species of mammals including the rare Rwenzori Colobus, Golden cats, Vervet monkeys, buffaloes, elephants, Rwenzori otters, Duikers, giant forest hogs, genet, Mongoose and Rock hyrax among others. There are also extraordinary species of Reptiles especially the three-horned chameleon that can only be seen from this area.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a haven to a number of endangered, rare, endemic and threatened species of birds hence making it one of the top 10 Birding Areas in Uganda. There are more than 200 species of birds including over 19 Albertine Rift endemics in addition to some of the Planet’s rarest species. Common species to look-out for include Archer’s ground robin, handsome francolin, long-tailed Cuckoo, White-stared forest robin, slender-billed starling, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Lammergeyer, long-eared owls, Rwenzori turaco, strange weavers, Archer’s robin-chat, blue-headed sunbirds, montane sooty Boubou and many others.
Other attractions in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
There are over 20 Lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the frequently visited is Lake Mahoma found in 2651 meters above sea level while Lake Bujuku at the apex of the deep glacial Bujuku valley will take your breath away.
Different elevations of the Rwenzori Mountains have unique vegetation zones with unique species of flora and these zones are the bamboo forest, Afro-alpine zone with lobelia and Seneca snakeroot and many others.
Equatorial snow peaks
The snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains are important attractions themselves. Mount Stanley is the highest Mountain in the Rwenzori Mountain range towering at 5109 meters above sea level and others are Baker standing at 4843 meters above sea level and Mount Speke at 4890 meters above sea level. The snow-capped peaks of these mountains are one of the reasons tourists always wish to hike them.
Tourist activities in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains are one of the top World-class mountaineering and hiking destinations for both physically and relatively physically fit climbers. The 9-12 days climb to the Margherita peak (highest peak) to see the giant lobelias as well as everlasting flowers is perfect for physically fit and skilled mountain climbers. The popular trails to try out on your visit to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park are the Kilembe and Central circuit trail among others.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is endowed with more than 200 species of birds including the Albertine Rift endemics but the commonest and frequently sighted ones are strange weavers, barbets, handsome francolin sunbirds, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori turaco, Long-eared owls, Slender-billed starlings, Lagden’s bush-shrike, Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters and many others.
Have a village walk with the Bakonzo through their traditional homesteads in the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains to see how they conduct their daily activities ranging from cultural dances, tending to their gardens to preparing delicious traditional meals.
Walk through the off-beaten tracks of Rwenzori Mountains to interesting areas like the communities of Kichwamba, Lake Mahoma, Bundibugyo area, Buraro Chimp forest and Bwamba pass to spot the birds, animals and many others.
Where to stay
Rwenzori Mountains National Park has spectacular accommodation facilities that make tourists’ safaris complete. The best up-market Lodge for tourists visited this Park is Equator Snow Lodge.
The most exquisite mid range accommodation facilities within and around Rwenzori Mountains National Park are Hotel Margherita, Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge Rwenzori International Hotel and Sandton Hotel among others.
Budget accommodation facilities to stay while visiting Rwenzori Mountains National Park are Ruboni Community Camp, Mihunga Safari Lodge, Tours Holiday Inn, Trekkers Hostel, Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite and Rwenzori Backpackers among others.
Best time to visit Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Time is one of the critical factors for achieving memorable experience when hiking the third tallest Mountain in Africa. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park can be explored any time of the year but the suitable time is the dry season-Months of January, February, June, July, August, September and December because trails are less slippery and muddy. However, light showers should be expected at any time of the day or night.
How to get there
The Rwenzori Mountains can be accessed by both road and by air transport. For the latter, chartered and scheduled flights can be arranged from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Kasese Airstrip then connect to Rwenzori Mountains National Park by road.
For road transport, your journey to the Park’s main trailhead (Ruboni) starts from Kampala then through Masaka, Mbarara, Bushenyi and Kasese Towns or through Mubende, Fort Portal Towns then Kasese and finally to Rwenzori Mountains National Park (375 kilometers). Alternatively, travel through Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Bushenyi-Kasese (Queen Elizabeth National Park) to Rwenzori Mountains National Park for 450 kilometers.