Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains – the fabled Mountains of the Moon – lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Ruwenzori mountain range. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation.
The Rwenzori Mountains are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine – to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.
For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.
Rwenzori Mountains at a glance
- SIZE: 996km2
- The park was gazetted in 1991 and was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008.
- Highest point: 5,109m above sea level on Mt Stanley’s Margherita Peak. Mt. Stanley is bisected by the border with the DR Congo.
- The Ruwenzori is not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains but is a block of rock up faulted through the floor of the Western Rift Valley.
- The Rwenzori’s were christened the “Mountains of the Moon” by the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150.
- The explorer Henry Stanley placed the Ruwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888. He labeled it ‘Ruwenzori’, a local name which he recorded as meaning “Rain-Maker” or “Cloud-King.”
- The oldest recorded person to reach Margherita Peak was Ms Beryl Park aged 78 in 2010.
UGANDA SAFARI DESTINATION
THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON
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RECOMMENDED RWENZORI SAFARIS
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Equatorial Snow Peaks
The high Rwenzori comprises six distinct mountains. Although located just miles north of the equator, the highest of these – Mounts Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m) – all bear permanent snow and glaciers. The snow peaks can be reached by hiking the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.
Land of the Triffids
The misty, boggy, glacier-carved valleys of the high Rwenzori form a strange botanical world inhabited by triffid-sized forms of lobelia, heather and groundsel, crisp “everlasting flowers,” garishly coloured mosses and gnarled trees draped with curtains of lichen. The result is an otherworldly setting which, over the years, has been compared to the forests of the Jabberwock, the Seven Dwarves and, inevitably, Tolkein’s Middle Earth. These strange plants rank among the world’s botanical treasures, being found only on the highest mountains of East Africa.
There are over 20 lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The lowest and most accessible is Lake Mahoma (2,651m) in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit. The beautiful Lake Bujuku lies at the head of the deep, glacier carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of Mounts Stanley, Baker and Speke. In the Nyamwamba Valley, ascended by the Kilembe Trail, dams created by glacial moraine have created a string of eight delightful lakes. Several rivers and streams orginate from the mountain forming lifelines for the fauna and flora in the flood plains and supporting local communities.
Marvel of Ruboni
Ruboni, found at the southeastern foot of the Rwenzori Mountains, is the trailhead for the seven-day Central Circuit to the high peaks. It is also the starting point for hill walks, bird and nature treks and walks through the traditional homesteads of the local Bakonzo community. Accommodation catering for a range of budgets offers gorgeous mountain views up the Mubuku valley.
Visitor Information Centre
Until the new Visitor Information Center is complete, all information regarding park activities will be available at Rwankingi Park Headquarters (close to Ruboni Community Camp), at the trailheads and the offices of the Rwenzori tour operators. Guides and porters, along with trekking equipment, can be booked by visitors at these locations.
Bulemba houses the remains of Rwenzururu people’s first King, Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga, who is believed to have saved the Bakonzo tribe from the Batooro oppression. Each year on 2nd September, every Mukonzo attends the pilgrimage to this sacred site to make sacrifices.
Birding in Rwenzori Mountains
The park sits within the bird rich Albertine Rift, arguably one of the world’s most critical birdlife corridor. Birding opportunities are greatest in the montane forest. Bee-eaters, robins, sunbirds and barbets are some of the 220 species found in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. These include several Albertine endemics and 17 species that are endemic to the park, making Rwenzori Mountains National Park an important birding area (IBA).
The forest zone at an altitude of about 1800 hosts a diversity of birds that includes the Rwenzori Turaco, the barred long-tailed cuckoo, long eared owl, handsome francolin, cinnamon chested Bee-eater, Archer’s Robin chat, White-starred Robin, Rwenzori Batis amongst many others.
Cultural Encounters in Rwenzori Mountains
Walk with Bakonzo villagers through their homesteads in the foothills of the Rwenzoris as they demonstrate their daily activities, from tending to their animals and crops, to preparing meals with the freshest ingredients. You can enjoy the cultural dances, traditional costumes and hear their fascinating folklore.
Hiking and Nature Walks in Rwenzori Mountains
Follow the trails up to Lake Mahooma and Buraro chimp forest; through the communities of Kichamba to the Karangura ridge; and to Bundibugo area through Bwamba pass. The communities of Ruboni and Turaco View also offer guided forest walks of various lengths just outside the park.
Mountain/Volcano Climbing in Rwenzori Mountains
The terrain within the Rwenzoris offer some world class hiking and mountaineering opportunities in Uganda. For mountain climbing enthusiasts, the challenging steep slopes of the Rwenzori Mountain range would be ideal to tackle. One can choose between two scenic routes to the top of the Rwenzoris – Africa’s third highest peak! This is either the Central Circuit or via the Kilembe Trails.
Mount Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m) are the highest peaks of the mountain range all with permanent snow and glaciers. The trails pass glacial lakes, gorgeous viewpoints, dramatic mountain passes and lush valleys.