Rare species of beautiful birds, breathtaking views of hills and valleys and flourishing landscape with unique vegetation of moorland and bamboo are some of the reasons Mount Rwenzori is a classic hiking safari destination in Africa. Amazingly, it is the third highest mountain on the continent with the highest peak standing at 5,109m above the sea level. Rwenzori Mountains National Park exists to protect the highest parts of the Rwenzori ranges that are famously known for reserving their beautiful glaciers throughout the year yet they are situated a few kilometers from the equator. The park also protects the lower parts of the mountains covered with luxurious lush with over 70 species of mammals and about 217 bird species. Also known as “Mountains of the Moon”, the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains are large and visible from a distance, enjoy the stunning views of the towering mountains in the Albertine rift valley.
Historical background of Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains were first talked about by the Alexandrine geographer known as Claudius Ptolemy in AD 150. He referred to them as “Mountains of the Moon” and this is its famous nickname up to date. Ptolemy also alleged that these mountains are the source of the River Nile and this was confirmed as truth by Henry Morton Stanley, a British explorer who traversed the country in the 1870’s and saw the mountain on his expedition around Lake George. It was based on the fact that various rivers flowing from the summit of the mountain as a result of melting snow feed the tributaries of river Nile. Stanley named these ranges Rwenzori, a name that was borrowed from the locals meaning “Rain-Maker”.
In 1888, Henry Stanley placed the mountain on the map and labelled it Ruwenzori. The first notable hikerto mount Rwenzori was the Duke of Abruzzi, Prince Luigi Amedeo da Savoia while the oldest recorded person to reach the highest peak was Ms Beryl Park aged 78 in 2010.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park was gazetted in 1991 and later on in 1994, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and as a Ramsar site in 2008.
Size and location of Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The park covers a total area of 996 sq.km. The mountains extend across Kasese, Kabarole and Bundibugyo districts in western Uganda over a length of 120km and width of 65km. Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located along Uganda’s border with the DRC within the Western Rift valley. The park is contiguous with the Virunga national park in the DRC. The mountain has various ranges, some of the popular ones include Mount Baker, Mount Gessi, Mount Speke and Mount Stanley with the highest peak – Margherita.
To hike to the highest peak of the mountain, organize for a7 to 12 days hiking safari depending on your climbing skills. Hire a car with a driver to drop you at the starting point where you meet with the ranger to get you through the trails of this gorgeous mountain.
Tourist activities and attractions in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The main tourist activity in Rwenzori national park is;
If you an adventurer with much love for hiking or planning for a mountain climbing safari in Uganda, thenyou‘ll surely need to consider the giant Rwenzori mountains. They offer outstanding world-class trekking and hiking experiences beyond what hikers ever thought. Reaching the highest peak may be strenuous for inexperienced hikers but they still have something to enjoy here as shorter hikes are also organized to some parts of the mountains.
Through Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, we organize for the best hiking safaris on Mountain Rwenzori.Whether you want a self drive tour or a guided safari, we provide all the necessary information about regarding the trip including other destinations in close to the park that could make the safari remarkable.
There are two main trails to the top of Mount Stanely namely;
The Central circuit trail which starts from Mihunga in Mubuku Valley. It is located about 22km from Fort Portal- Kasese main road, north of Kasese town.
The Kilembe trail starts from Kilembe just about 20 minutes’ drive from Kasese town. Other trail heads are; Bukunguru trailhead and Kazingo trail.
Trekkers are advised to carry a number of items including warm clothing, gloves, rain gear, energy snacks and strong hiking boots or gumboots. There are porters for hire in case hikers have heavy luggage which they can’t take up to the top.
A lot of interesting things are encountered and seen during the hike; spectacular views of valleys, gorges,neighboring ranges and the rift valley, a number of waterfalls, varying kinds of vegetation like the bamboo forests,primates especially monkeys and lots of birds.
Other activities to do in the park are;
Hiking and nature walks: Visitors to this area enjoy nature walks within the Central circuit to Lake Mahooma and Buraro chimp forest. They get an opportunity to walk outside the park from the communities of Ruboni and Turaco viewfor guided forest walks. Keep the eyes open to spot every bird, the monkeys and chameleons.
Birding: Bird watching in the montane forest of the RwenzoriMountains is one of the most thrilling experiences tourists enjoy in this park. Some of the bird species in the area include the Rwenzori Turaco, sunbirds, Barred long-tailed cuckoo, the African long-eared owl, Blue-headed sunbird, CollaredApalis, Golden-winged sunbirds and Barbets among others.
Cultural experiences: Explore the corners of the surrounding villages with the inhabitants on the slopes of the mountain the Bakonzo.It is normally a great time learning about how they do their daily activities alongside an entertaining thunderous traditional dance.
Climate of Rwenzori Mountains
Best time to visit Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Although these mountains are located in an equatorial area, they have alpine climates. They experiencedirect hot sunshine and high amounts of rainfall. On the top of Mount Stanley is the only place with snow in Uganda.
As you plan for a Uganda safari to climb mount Rwenzori,note that the temperatures around the park are mostly cold even during the dry season. The best time for hiking on Mount rwenzori id the dry season from December to February and late June toAugust.Hiking is not recommended during the wet season from March to May and September to October because the trails become very slippery due to high rainfall amounts around thearea.Temperatures tend to be very low during the wet season.
Normally,temperaturesrange from 10-150 C during the day and 2-60 C at night around 3,000-4,000m and at the peak, they can drop to -20 C during the day and -8 to -100 C at night.
Accommodation at Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Travelers spend the night before the trek in lodges around Kasese such as Hotel Margherita, Rwenzori International Hotel, Equator snow lodge, Ruboni Community Camp, Mihunga safari lodge, Rwenzori Turaco view campsite, and Sandton Hotel. Once you get started with the hike, nights are spent in the basic shelters at the camps provided by Uganda Wildlife Authority concessionaire operators.
Getting to Rwenzori Mountains National Park
From the capital Kampala, the park can be reached via two routes by raod; Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal road and Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese route. Passing via Mubende is the shorter route, it takes about 6 hours while the second route takes about 8 hours. It is important to rent a car good enough for the long journey prior to the hike, 4WD is recommended for the trip.
Alternatively, you can transfer by air from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kasese airfield and then transfer by car to the park or hotel.