Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Overview

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a very unique tourist destination in Uganda as it offers its visitors extra and exciting attractions that cannot be found in any other Uganda national park including the famous mountain climbing,  game viewing, bird watching, nature walks and hikes, primate tours and cultural encounters.

The park offers a rare 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 that can be reached through the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.

Rwenzori mountains are unique as they are not volcanic in origin like the counterparts of Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro. This Rwenzori Mountains National Park covers 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.

Vegetation in Rwenzori Mountain National Park

Considering it’s  uncommon flora species, this national park is best recognized for its unique vegetation that you will encounter as you climb its peak, through a stunning progression of varied altitudinal vegetation covers.

rwenzori-mt

The vegetation covers in Rwenzori mountains include; The tree heathers, bamboo, montane forest and the afro-alpine. The beautiful afro-alpine zone with its symbolic giant groundsel and lobelia, is one the most rare botanical species only found in the high mountainous areas at altitudes 3800 meters.

The vegetation in the park hosts 70 mammals species and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, the mammals include the elephant as well as chimpanzee and Rwenzori otter and leopard though the wildlife is difficult to see in the dense forest.

There are over 20 lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park 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

Attractions in Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

The Rwenzori Mountains are home to the most rare species and have a high concentration of birdlife and wildlife and alot more attractions leading travellers to it including:

Wildlife

The Park hosts a population of around 70 Mammal species, with 6 species which are endemic to Albertine Rift, 4 species which are endemic to the park and 3 rare species. 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.

Flora

The Park is well recognized for its diverse and beautiful flora, hikers who climb following the Rwenzori route get the opportunity to view 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.

Bird species

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.

Lakes

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.

Ruboni

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.

Bulemba houses

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:

Birding

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.

Cultural encounters

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.

Volcano climbing

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 viewpoints 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

By Road

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

By Air:

Chartered planes are available from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi) to Kasese to the nearest airfield to the park like Kasese or Mbarara Airfield.

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