MT. Rwenzori National Park

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a Ugandan national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Rwenzori Mountains.  Almost 1,000 km2 (386 sq. mi) in size, the park has Africa’s third highest mountain peak and many waterfalls, lakes, and glaciers. The park is known for its beautiful plant life. Rwenzori Mountains National Park was established in 1991. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of its outstanding natural beauty. Rebel militias occupied the Rwenzori Mountains from 1997 to June 2001. The park was inscribed on UNESCO's list of heritage between 1999 and 2004 because of insecurity and a lack of resources in the park. CLICK HERE TO BOOK WITH US THIS A UGANDA HIKING SAFARI TOUR

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located in southwestern Uganda on the east side of the western (Albertine) African rift valley. It lies along Uganda's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and borders the DRC's Virunga National Park also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for 50 km (31 mi).  It is situated in the Bundibugyo Kabale, and Kasese districts, 25 km (16 mi) from the small town of Kasese. It is 996 km (246,117 acres) in size, 70% of which exceeds an altitude of 2,500 m (8,202 ft). The park is 120 km (75 mi) long and 48 km (30 mi) wide.

The park comprises most of the Centre and eastern half of the Rwenzori Mountains, a mountain range rising above dry plains located just above the equator. The Rwenzori Mountains are higher than the Alps and are ice-capped. Mount Stanley is located in the park. Margherita Peak, one of Mount Stanley's twin summits, is Africa's third highest peak with a height of 5,109 m (16,762 ft). Africa's fourth and fifth highest peaks (Mount Speke and Mount Baker) are also located in the park. The park has glaciers, snowfields, waterfalls, and lakes and is one of Africa's most beautiful mountain areas

The park is noted for its botany, which has been described as some of the most beautiful in the world. There are five distinct vegetation zones in the park, which change according to changes in altitude. The park has 89 species of birds, 15 species of butterfly, and four primate species. The park's wildlife varies with elevation, and its species include the forest elephant, chimpanzee, black and white Colobus, duiker and Rwenzori Turaco. CLICK HERE TO BOOK WITH US THIS A UGANDA HIKING SAFARI TOUR

The magical “Mountains of The Moon” lie in Western Uganda on the Congolese border, with snow-covered, equatorial peaks rising to a height of 5110 m and lower slopes blanketed in moorland and rich montane forest with bamboo on the lower slopes. Most of the park is accessible to hikers with outstanding panorama and 19 Albertine Rift endemics, amongst them; Rwenzori Turaco and Shelley’s Crimson-wing would be ample reward for the courageous, backpacking birder. The Rwenzori Mountains have been selected as one of the World’s Best Hikes by National Geographic. Rwenzori Mountain service in conjunction with the Uganda wildlife Authority organizes the hikes.

The Mountain has six massifs separated by deep gorges; Mount Stanley (5,109m), Mount Speke (4,890m), Mount Baker (4,843m), Mount Emin (4,798m), Mount Gessi (4,715m) and Mount Luigi di Savoia (4,627m). Mount Stanley is the largest and has several summits with Margherita being the highest point. Mountain is usually enveloped in clouds.

The park is home to over 70mammals and 217 bird species which you get to enjoy during Uganda safaris. It has some of the world’s rarest vegetation. The mountains of the moon are world-class mountaineering and hiking destination.

Mountains of the moon are better for visitation during January-February and July-August and take 6- days for the mountain loop and 3 days for a hike. Margherita is the highest peak of Mt. Rwenzori and it can take a nine to twelve-day trek to reach the peak. CLICK HERE TO BOOK WITH US THIS A UGANDA HIKING SAFARI TOUR

Hiking the peaks or mountains

Mt. Stanley (5109 meters)
Mt. Stanley is named for Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1841 - 1904), a British explorer who is perhaps most known for finding Dr Livingstone in 1871 on the shores of Lake Tanganyika during one of the six expeditions he took to central Africa during his life. In the mid-1870's he circumnavigated Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika and then continued to the west down the Congo River to the Atlantic. On an expedition in 1888, he made a definite sighting of the Rwenzori Mountains (although others in his expedition reportedly saw the mountains first, and the local people already knew of them as well.) He was the one who reported the name of the range as the Ruwenzori to other Europeans on his return. The name is a collection of Bantu words that together mean 'hill of rains' but was not used for the range by the locals. Many currently in Africa hold a very negative view of Stanley and the colonialism that he brought.

Margherita and Alexandra Peaks

Mt. Stanley was first climbed by The Duke of Abruzzi, J. Petigax, C. Ollier, and J. Brocherel on June 18, 1906, and is a high massif of some eleven summits rising from numerous glaciers including the Stanley Plateau which is the largest mass of ice in the Rwenzori Mountains and is over a kilometre in length. The highest summit is Margherita Peak, which is usually climbed from the Elena hut up first rocks then across the snow and ice Stanley Plateau towards Alexandra Peak, the second-highest summit of the massif. Once nearly at the east ridge of this peak, the standard route for Margherita descends a steep gully then climbs the dramatic Margherita Glacier to the Col between Margherita Peak and Alexandra Peak. From here, one can ascend north to a short but steep rock wall that is climbed to the summit. A rope will be desired for the extensively crevassed glacier and the summit rocks. The peak itself forms the boundary between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The East Ridge of Alexandra Peak (4990 m.) is an excellent climb as well. To the south, there is another cluster of peaks topped by Savoia Peak (4977 m.) An ascent of any of these peaks across the great tropical glaciers is something otherworldly and an experience that will be savoured by most fans of the exotic! 

Mt. Speke (4890 meters) 
 Mt. Speke is named after John Hanning Speke (1827 - 1864) who explored central Africa with Sir Richard Burton in the 1850s. Together, they reached Lake Tanganyika in 1858 then alone, he is believed to be the first European to see Lake Victoria at the source of the Nile. Although he strongly believed that this was the river's source, he was never able to prove it and died in a shooting incident thought to be suicide by many. 

Mt. Speke is the Second highest Massif in the Range and one of two that reaches over 16,000 feet in elevation. Like most of the Rwenzori, it is a long ridge with a number of high summits including Johnson (4834 m.), Vittorio Emanuele (4890 m.) and Ensonga (4865 m.). Like so many of the summits, it massifs, it was first climbed by the Duke of Abruzzi, J. Petigax, and C. Oliver on June 23, 1906. The normal route to the summit climbs west from the Bujuku Hut to Stuhlman Pass, then north up very steep slopes via a couple of possible lines to the Speke Glacier which is climbed for a while. Once the top of this is reached, one continues up the Southwest Ridge to the summit. Although this was formerly an extensive snow climb, it would be possible at this point to bypass the glacier entirely and make the entire ascent in tennis shoes from the hut if the mud isn't too bad. The great glaciers that used to lie on the north side of Mt. Speke have now melted, leaving only a remnant of the Speke Glacier on the South, and several smaller bodies of ice in the direction of Ensonga Peak.

Mount Baker (4843 meters)

 Mt. Baker is the mountain that most people who come to trek in the Rwenzori encircle during their hike through the range. It is the third-highest massif in the range and is named for Sir Samuel Baker (1821 - 1893) who along with his wife were the first Europeans to see Lake Albert to the North of the Rwenzori and Murchison Falls on the course of the Nile during an expedition to discover the source to the Nile.

Mt. Baker contains several peaks, including Edward (4843 m.), Semper (4794 m), Moore (4623 m.), and Wollaston (4626 m). The first ascent route and the standard means to reach the summit is up the south ridge of the peak. Most people start at the beautiful Kitandara Lakes and go up the trail towards Freshfield Pass to where the trail levels out. From here, it is possible to continue up the slope past several small ponds to a small saddle just west of the ridge. Continuing up to the west of the actual ridgeline it is now possible to reach the summit without ever stepping foot on snow or glaciers. It is possible that you might encounter a few 4th class moves on this route. CLICK HERE TO BOOK WITH US THIS A UGANDA HIKING SAFARI TOUR

Mt. Emin (4798 meters)

 Mt. Emin is named for Mohammed Emin Pasha (1840 - 1892) who became a governor of the Equatorial Province in Sudan in 1878, explored central Africa extensively, got isolated with rebel forces after an 1883 revolt, was rescued by Sir Henry Morton Stanley in 1888 but declined to return to Egypt. Later that year he was caught in a second revolt, imprisoned but eventually released. On a later trip into central Africa in 1892, he was murdered in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Peak is the fourth highest Massif in the range and like Mt. Gessi is composed of two main summits connected in this case by a very narrow ridge. The southern peak (Umberto) is slightly higher and was climbed first by The Duke of Abruzzi, J. Petigax, L. Petigax, and C. Ollier on June 28, 1906, by the Southwest Ridge. There have been no further ascents of the peak recorded by this route. The standard route (again almost never climbed is to ascend up the Mugusu Valley to Roccati Pass then turn West into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and climb steep slopes and thick groundsel to the vicinity of the pass between the two main peaks. From here, turn left and work around a minor peak on ledges to the East, eventually gaining the ridge, and following it to the summit. There is a steep drop that might require a rappel, then several additional pitches of possibly 5th class climbing along the narrow ridge. There is a second major summit, Kraepelin Peak, 4791 meters that can be ascended by climbing a gully that heads north-west from near the col between the two main peaks and reaching the summit from the south in fairly short order. 
Like Mt. Gessi, there are no longer glaciers on this massif. 

Mt. Gessi (4715 meters)

This peak is named for Romulo Gessi (1831 - 1881) who was an Italian explorer of the Nile. In 1774 he made a circumnavigation of Lake Albert to the north of the Rwenzori but did not see the mountains. For a number of years, he was a governor of the Bahr-el-Ghazal Province of the Egyptian Sudan but was recalled in 1881 by the Egyptian government. Hundreds of people in his party died en route to Egypt, and he himself passed away shortly after his arrival in Egypt.

Mt. Gessi itself is located to the north of the Bigo Hut and can be accessed by ascending the Mugusu Valley. There are two summits, Iolanda (4715 meters) and Bottego (4699 meters) slightly to its north. The first ascent of the peak was made by The Duke of Abruzzi, J. Petgax, L. Petigax and C. Ollier on July 17, 1906. The ascent route used by the Duke has melted out, though, and is now a series of horribly mossy steep slabs and is not recommended. The standard route, if one could call it that, is to climb up the Mugusu Valley through spectacular Groundsel forests to Roccati Pass, where it is possible to turn southeast and ascend through thick brush and steep slabs, eventually reaching the ridge between the two peaks. All of the glaciers have melted from this once ice-covered massif. 

Mt. Luigi Di Savoia (4627 Meters)

This peak is named for the Duke of Abruzzi (1873 - 1933). Ironically, it is the only one of the six major massifs that he did not make the first ascent of. That honour went to others in his expedition: J. Brocherel, E. Botta and the amazing photographer V. Sella for whom the highest summit of the Massif is named. The Duke of Abruzzi is famed in mountaineering circles for making the first ascent of Mt. St. Elias in 1897, climbing high on K2 in the Karakoram, and nearly reaching the summit of Bride Peak on Chalisa. His expedition to the Rwenzori climbed all six of the highest massifs in the range. He was a military hero as well, rescuing thousands of Yugoslav refugees from Albania during World War I, and spent his final years in Ethiopia where he was much  loved

The massif, like the others, is a long ridge with many summits, including Stairs Peak (4545 m.), Sella Peak (4627 m.) and Weismann Peak (4620 m.). The easiest route of ascent is from the vicinity of Fresh field Pass, where it is possible to ascend up the northern aspect of Sella Peak to its summit. It is the shortest of the six central massifs and was the first to lose its glacial ice. 

Other activities to do at mt. Rwenzori national park

Bird watching

There are countless bird species to watch out for and among which include:- Albertine Rift endemics like; Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Montane (Rwenzori) Nightjar, Dwarf Honeyguide, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Kivu Ground Thrush, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Montane Masked and Collared Apalis, Stripe-breast Tit, Rwenzori Batis, (Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike ), Blue-headed, Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds, Strange Weaver, Dusky and Shelley’s Crimson wings. CLICK HERE TO BOOK WITH US THIS A UGANDA HIKING SAFARI TOUR

Others to pay attention to are; African Long-eared Owl, Western Green Tinkerbird, Lammergeiger, Red-thighed Sparrow hawk, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Grey-winged Robin, Evergreen Forest and Bamboo Warblers, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Montane Sooty Boubou, Golden-winged and Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds, White-collared Olive-back, Red-face and Oriole-Finch. This variety of bird species, which have made Rwenzori mountains the best birding spot because most of these birds are unique and can be found only at Rwenzori while in Uganda for the Uganda safari tour with Nungi safaris Uganda.


There has been extensive glaciation seen in the Rwenzori Mountain. With the retreat of the glaciers since the last ice age, there have been a large number of lakes left behind. Many of these are nestled deep under cliffs and steep slopes, surrounded by the wild and convoluted high altitude vegetation and draped in swirling mists. They are among the most exotic and beautiful lakes in the world. For people hiking the circuit of the central peaks, the first major lake that most encounter is Lake Bujuku at the head of the Bujuku Valley right beneath the three highest mountains in the range. On clear days there are excellent views from the eastern bank of this lake up to the remnant glaciers on Mt. Stanley. Continuing over Scott Eliot Pass, one reaches the two Kitandara Lakes, with the Kitandara Hut located right on the banks of the lower lake. This is one of the most beautiful spots you will find while on the Rwenzori mountain while during the Uganda safari tour with nungi safaris Uganda

Community walks
Ruboni Village walk

Ruboni is a small village of about two thousand people belonging to the Bakonzo people. The village walk introduces you to the lifestyle and daily activities of these people. It’s a three-hour walk where you will see how baskets are woven and you have an opportunity to try out. On this walk, you can visit a home where food is cooked on an open fire and meet village Elders during the Uganda safari tour and Uganda hiking safari tour 

The Hill Hike: The walk starts in Ruboni with an expert guide who knows the path, birds and wildlife. Ruboni in local language means clear water and flows through a mountain stream where you will meet villagers doing their usual activities like carrying crops to the market or home. At the top of the hill hike, the clouds clear and a scenic view of the Mountains of the Moon during the Uganda hiking safari tour with nungi safaris uganda 

Forest Hike: Here you walk through trails in the forest and you will spot Chimps and monkeys. You will be escorted by a guide who is conversant with the forest. You get the opportunity to fish with your hands, how amazing is that! during your Uganda safari tour 

When to Visit

The weather in the Rwenzori is generally wet, with the peaks shrouded in mists most of the time. Although this makes for really wild rime formations on the higher summits and glaciers, it can make mountaineering and route-finding challenges.  During the spring and the fall, this zone of heavy precipitation passes over the Equator. Since the Rwenzori are equatorial, spring and fall are a bad time to visit! During January and February there is a drier "NE Monsoon" and in June and July a drier "SE Monsoon" to travel for your Uganda Hiking safari tour on your Uganda safari tour with nungi safaris uganda  

Accommodation /Camping

There is an extensive system of huts along the main circuit of the Rwenzori. These include Nyabitaba hut at 2650 meters, John Matte Hut at 3380 meters, the Bujuku Hut at 3977 meters, Elena Hut high on the flanks of Mt. Stanley at 4540 meters, the Kitandara Lake Hut at 4027 meters and the Guy Yeoman Hut down the Mubuku River Valley at 3260 meters. 

There are five huts on the Western side of the range in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These include Kyandolere at 1700 meters, Kalongi at 2140 meters, Mahungu at 3310 meters, Kyondo at 4303 meters and the Moraine hut at 4500 meters. All were built in 1942 (Osmaston, 2006).

If you’re to going off of the main circuit, it is possible to camp in tents and frequently under rock overhangs that are very common in the range. 

Traditionally, people trekking the Rwenzori have used the beautiful circuit heading up the Bujuku valley, over the Scott Elliot Pass to the stunning Kitandara Lakes then over Fresh field Pass into the Mubuku Valley. As mentioned above, there are numerous huts along this section, most of which are quite nice.

In 2009, a new route to the mountains, the Kilembe Route, was opened. It begins in the town of Kilembe, and approaches the main peaks from the southeast, joining up with the Central Circuit near the Kitandara Lakes. This route can be used to climb Weismann Peak of Mt. Luigi de Savoia, the peaks of Mt. Stanley or other high peaks in the area. The treks take approximately six to nine days and can include one or several high peaks. This route is operated by Rwenzori Trekking Services

Getting to the park/accessibility

To reach the Park Headquarters at Nyakalengija, one can either travel to Fort Portal or Kasese, both in Western Uganda. Fort Portal, which is 300km from Kampala, can be reached via Mubende town. The total journey time is about 4hrs. Kasese, which is about 350km from Kampala, can be reached via Masaka, Mbarara and Bushenyi. (The Kasese route, though longer at 6hrs, is perhaps more interesting as it passes through the excellent Queen Elizabeth National Park – a recommended stop.) 
Both routes are well-serviced by public transport out of Kampala.

5-10kms outside Kasese on the Kasese-Fort Portal Road, one will find the signpost for the National Park. From the turn-off to the Park HQ is approximately 15kms, travelling through villages, where you can ask for directions during your Uganda safari tour 

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