Rwenzori Mountains National Park, also known as Mountains of the moons is located at the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo within the Rwenzori Ranges. Standing at an elevation of 5,109 meters above sea level, the Rwenzori Mountains’ rivers are believed to be some of the sources of River Nile. The mountains were formed during the Pliocene epoch period as a result of the uplifting block of crystalline rocks 3 trillion years ago. The vegetation ranges from tropical rainforests, giant groundsel, bamboo zone, giant lobelia, heather, and snow.
The permanently snow-capped peaks have glaciers. Mount Margherita peak and Mount Stanley are the third highest peaks in Africa. Mount Speke comes in 4th position and lastly Mount Baker coming in as the 5th highest peak. This is the only national park in Uganda that offer stunning mountaineering experiences.
Ptolemy Claudius, a geographer of the Greek empire gathered information about the snow-capped mountains of Africa and they considered them to be the source of the Nile. He then named them “mountains of the moon”. Sir Samuel Baker and Gessi Romolo were the first to glimpse at the mountains of the moon from a distance. The following year in 1989, Henry Stanley instructed his deputy W.G. Stairs to carry out a trip to the mountains and he managed to climb up to 3,254m where he observed snow-capped peaks.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is home to 70 species of mammals. Some of the wildlife inhabit the Uganda safari park are; Hyrax, L’Hoest monkeys, black and white Colobus monkeys, elephants, chimpanzees and duikers among the rest.
Mountain Climbing in Rwenzori
Mountain climbing is the main activity at Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Hiking can be done at the foothills of Mount Rwenzori for those who don’t want to conquer the peak. Different hiking trails have been set up for you to have a feel of the mountain, providing spectacular views. Even at the foothills, you can compliment your hiking by fishing using local methods in the flowing streams. Below are some of the trails used to climb to the peaks.
Kilembe Trail. This route passes through the Nyamwamba valley going through glacial lakes then joins central circuit from Lake Kitandara. This route was established recently and provides some of the striking views of the Baker peak in the way.
Central Circuit. This trail starts at Mihunga. It is the hardest to use though it passes through the Nyabitaba and Bujuku valley before going the central circuit and to Mubuku valley. Despite being the hardest, it provides the most beautiful views than the other routes. There are porters available that can help carry tourists’ backpacks while hiking the mountains of the moon. The guides are also well trained and skilled in mountain climbing, providing you with absolute knowledge about the respective mountains and their diversity.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a birder’s paradise. Being home to 217 species of birds, 17 of the bird species can only be found within Rwenzori and nowhere else in the world. Some of the birds found in Rwenzori Mountains National Park include the Rwenzori batis, cinnamon chested bee-eater, barred long-tailed cuckoo, Rwenzori Turaco, handsome francolins, long-eared owl, Archers robin chat, strange weaver bird, white-starred robin, slender bellied starling, montane sooty boubou, bush shrike, blue-headed sunbird, Regal sunbird and white stared bush robin to mention a few.
Ruboni Community Group
The foothills of the Rwenzori mountains are occupied by the Bakonzo, also known as Bakonjo people. The farming village of Ruboni is one of the communities you can visit while at Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The villages show a picture of the Bakonjo’s day to day activities. You get to learn how to weave baskets, how the Bakonjo use different plants for ailments and most of all enjoy the performance from the local traditional dancers who always have so many of mysterious stories to tell about the ancient mountains. It’s a great moment here.
Hiking & Guided Nature Walks
The guided nature walks and hikes in the Rwenzori Mountains can be done through Lake Mahooma, Buraco Chimpanzee Forest Trail, and Kichamba trail. Nature walks give you spectacular views of the farmlands and settlements. You also get to meet various wildlife on the way, especially primates; not forgetting the different species of birds.
Tourists visiting Rwenzori Mountains National Park can sleep in Hotel Margherita, Katara Lodge, Rwenzori International Hotel, Tropical Savannah Guest House, Equator Snow Lodge, and many more. Please note that when you are hiking, you will sleep in shelters built within the hiking points.
When to go
The best time for visiting Rwenzori Mountain National Park is during the dry season; in the months of June to August and December to February. These are the best months climbing the mountain because the trails are not muddy and slippery. However, it should be noted that Uganda’s climate is very unpredictable. Even in the dry season, rain can fall though the chances are minimal.
Tourists visiting Rwenzori Mountains National Park for mountaineering experiences will have to bring along sleeved warm clothing, raincoats, jackets, enough drinking water, energy snacks, good hiking boots, garden gloves, insect repellents, sunscreens and hats among others. Rwenzori Mountains National Park can be reached from Kampala through Kasese within 5 and a half hours. Alternatively, you can also fly in to Kasese and then drive to the park if you are not a fan of traveling for long hours on the road.