Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

March 26, 2022
uganda national parks

Have you ever explore Rwenzori Mountains National Park? With a total area of 996 sq kilometers protects the upper slopes of the Mountains Of The Moon, which run for almost 120 kilometers along the Congolese border west of Kasese and Kabarole or Fort Portal. Thought to have been the source of the legend of the mountains of the moon, the snow-capped range is cited as the source of the Nile by the Roman geographer Ptolemy. The Rwenzori is the highest mountain range on the African continent with the highest peak being, Margherita standing at 5,109 meters above sea level followed by Alexandra at 5,083 meters on mount Stanley are exceeded in altitude elsewhere in Africa only by Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, both of which are extinct volcanoes standing in isolation above the surrounding plains. The Rwenzori mountains are unique among the east Africa’s major peaks in that they are not volcanic in origin, but they do rise directly from the rift valley floor and their formation, like that of Kilimanjaro and Kenya, was linked to the geological upheaval that created the Great Rift Valley

The Rwenzori is primarily known for its challenging hiking and climbing possibilities, but the range also supports a diversity of animals, including 70 mammal and 177 bird species, several of the latter being Albertine rift endemics. It’s the only national park in Uganda where the Angola colobus has been recorded, though identification of this localized monkey will require careful examination as the similar and wider spread black and white colobus also occur on the mountain ranges.

Like other large mountains in East Africa,  the Rwenzori range can be divided into several altitude zones, each with its own distinct unique flora and fauna. The forest zone which starts at around 1,800m, has the most varied fauna. The only mammals you are likely to see in the forest are the aforementioned colobus and blue monkeys, though several other large mammals are present, including elephant, golden cat, several genet, chimps, yellow-backed duiker and giant forest hog. At night we always listen to the distinctive call of the southern tree hyrax.

The forest zone is home to a diversity and variety of birds, including Rwenzori Turacco which is now among the top 10 birds on the Uganda checklist, Long Eared Owl, Barred Long-Tailed cuckoo one of the shyest and high canopy spp, Handsome Francolin, Archer’s Ground Robin, Rwenzori Batis very endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley, Montane Sooty Boubou, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Golden-winged sunbird, strange weaver among those to look out for.

There is a good network of trails and huts on the mountains. The peaks are generally only tackled by experienced climbers. Most people stick to the loop trail which takes six to seven days and reaches an altitude of 4,372m. It is possible to do a shorter three day hike through the forested foothills into the moorland zone, or to spend longer on the mountain in order to divert from the main loop to some of the peaks. It should be stressed that hiking in the Rwenzori requires above average fitness and stamina, largely due to the muddy condition of the trails. Most people regard the Rwenzori loop trail to be a tougher hike than the ascent of either Mount Kilimanjaro or Mount Kenya, come try it out on one of our Uganda hiking safaris.

Mammals are scarce above the forest zone, but there are a few birds to look out for, the lamer geyer (bearded vulture) and black eagle are commonly seen soaring overhead while the alpine and the scarce swifts and scarlet-tuffed malachite sunbird are practically restricted to the high altitude habitats in the east Africa.

Mountain climbing in Rwenzori National Park is the most attractive activity on the legendary mountains of the moon that lies between an altitude of between 0 degrees 06’ south and 0 degrees 46′ north and longitude 29 degrees 47’ west and 30 degrees 11’ east. It is diverse heavily snow capped peaks are one of the few pristine and spectacular landscape of the world. Trekking can be done along two routes; a 7 days trek of the central circuit, and a 5 days tour along the Kilembe route to the southern part of the park. Shorter hikes for example for a day can also be arranged. The trees in the park allow visitors and up close with nature on a nature walk.

The six day loop trail is a tough but rewarding hike taking in all vegetation zones and the glacier peaks. There are ascents to major peaks within the Rwenzori ranges along both routes. These include ascents to Magherita (5109m), on mount Stanley, vittorio Emmanuelle (4889m), on mount Speke and Edward (4842m) on Mount Baker. These hikes offer commanding and panoramic views of other peaks within the ranges. However high peaks should only be attempted by experienced hikers only.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located near Kasese western Uganda on the boarder of Uganda and conjoins the west. The Nyakalengija trailhead which is 22km off the Kasese, fort portal road and 25km north of Kasese town can be reached from Kampala via fort portal road (375km) or via Mbarara and Queen Elizabeth National Park (450kms)