Mountain Rwenzori National Park lies in the South-western corner of Uganda along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo next to the great Virunga National Park. The Rwenzori Mountain national park covers an area of 386 square miles and its boundaries pass through the districts of Kabarole, Bundibugyo and Kasese. Because of its natural beauty, rare plants, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers and the mountains, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.

The Rwenzori Mountain national park ranges are the main features of the park. They are the highest/largest mountain ranges in Africa. Mount Stanley’s peak Margherita is the third highest peak in Africa at 16,762 feet. Mount Speke follows closely at number four while Mount Baker is number five in Africa. Apart from the three mentioned already, the other mountains among the Rwenzori ranges are Mount Gessi, Mount Luigi da Savoia and Mount Emin Pasha.

How were the Rwenzori Mountains formed? Unlike the Kilimanjaro Mountain that was formed by volcanic eruptions, the Rwenzori Mountains are part of a huge rock that was squeezed/lifted from the floor of the East African Rift Valley.

The Rwenzori mountains were first mentioned by Claudius Ptolemy from Alexandria as early as 300. He referred to them as “the Mountains of the moon” and alleged that it was the source of great river Nile. These allegations were confirmed as truth in 1888 by the great British explorer Henry Morton Stanley when he accidentally sighted the mountain ranges while on an expedition around the shores of Lake George. It was Stanley who gave the mountain ranges the name Rwenzori (borrowed from the natives). The first notable hiker of the mountain was the Duke of Abruzzi, Prince Luigi Amedeo da Savoia of Italy. While forcing his way through the thick forests in 1906, he discovered the mountain in full with its beautiful lakes and the snowcapped peak of margherita

Wildlife and Plants found in Rwenzori Mountain national park

Apart from the mountains, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park is recognized for its botany, birds and animals. The national park has pristine landscape with a high density of trees and other vegetation. The combination of sunshine, cold and heavy rainfall supports plant life seen nowhere else on earth. At the base of the mountain, there is an African savanna that is home to several species of mammals like the black and white Colobus monkeys, blue, monkeys, buffaloes, bush buck, chimpanzees, golden cats, giant forest hogs, red duiker, forest elephants, rock hydrax, Rwenzori Colobus, Rwenzori otters, the Rwenzori climbing mouse, Sitatunga, servalline genet, Mongoose, Leopards, the Uganda clawed frog and L’Hoest’s monkeys. The Rwenzori mountains National Park is one of the best places to go Uganda birding while on the Uganda birding safaris because over 217 species of birds and fifteen of butterflies have been recorded in the Rwenzori National Park. The most sought out reptile is the three-horned chameleon.

How is Rwenzori Mountain national park managed?

The government of Uganda through the Uganda Wildlife Authority runs the Rwenzori national park. The challenges facing the national park come mainly from community encroachment in the park, poor funding and global warming that has reduced snow cover on the peaks. The main tribes living at the foothills of the mountains are the Bamba and Bakonjo. These tribes have lived in these areas for countless generations and have adapted to life at the foot of the mountains. They survive by cultivating the slopes using terracing and keeping a few domestic animals though population increase has put a strain on available land forcing some people to resort to illegal logging. The shortage of funding has been addressed by lobbying for more funds from the government, international and local non-governmental organizations.

Things to do at the Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is one of Uganda’s least explored and undiscovered places. The Uganda national park is special because of the spectacular scenery that is unique to the area. Just like with mount Elgon national park, the key tourist attraction is mountain climbing. Climbing the Rwenzori mountains is one of the best things to do while on a Uganda hiking safari. Nungi safaris works hand in hand with The Rwenzori Mountain Services (RMS) and Uganda Wildlife Authority to organize most of the mountain hiking activities while also maintaining the trails and accommodation on top of the mountains. Visitors to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park can also take part in nature walks, site seeing, and cultural visits – more of which we shall discuss below in details:

Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains: Some of the world’s best mountain hikers have climbed the Rwenzori Mountains. Mountain hiking in the Rwenzori national park is organized to world class standards. Inexperienced hikers may find reaching the highest peak (Margherita) extremely strenuous. Shorter and less strenuous hikes can be arranged around the mountain without going all the way up to the snowcapped peaks.

There are two hiking trails that are used by hikers to get to the summit. The first one is the Central Circuit Trail that starts form Mihunga taking 7 days. Nungi safaris works together with The Rwenzori Mountaineering Services organizes hiking in this route. The second trail is the Kilembe trail that starts from Kilembe near Kasese town. This is a new route that was recently opened and is run by the Rwenzori trekking services. It takes 5 days to reach one of the peaks. In order to explore all the three highest peaks, one should set aside at least 9 days of Uganda Hiking. Climbing to the highest summit Margherita offers opportunities to marvel at the snow-capped peaks and alpine vegetation. Descending the mountain rewards hikers with more sustained views of the vast farmlands, Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Virunga ranges in DR Congo. Climbers will also encounter beautiful lakes and rivers high up on the mountains.

The most convenient way of arranging a Uganda hiking adventure to the Rwenzori national park is to use the services of a tour operator like Nungi safaris or any of your choice. A tour operator can help organize transport and book accommodation while also working with the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services to arrange for porters, guides and cooks. The overall cost of hiking to the summit of the mountains includes the cost of 2 porters, guides, a cook, rescue mission, accommodation and heating. Commercial videos or filming attracts a charge per day Authority. There is a standard national park entrance fees per day. For more details about the hiking trails, stages and huts, check out our Uganda hiking safari tour package.

Forest and Foothill Hiking: Inexperienced Mountain climbers have an option of hiking on the mountain slopes and forest or taking part in activities like hand fishing along some of the streams on the mountain hills. While in the forest, look out for the three horned Rwenzori chameleon. This rare reptile is only found in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The male chameleon has 3 horns while the female has none.

Uganda Birdwatching Tour: UNESCO labeled the Rwenzori area a key Birding Area. The park and its mountains support several species including the African Long-eared Owl, Archers’ Robin-chat, Barbets, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Sunbird, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Collared Apalises, Crimson wings, Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsoning’s, Dwarf Honeyguide, Evergreen Forest and Bamboo Warblers, Flycatchers, Golden-winged sunbirds, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds, Golden-winged Sunbird, Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike, Greenbuls, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Grey-winged Robin, Handsome Francolin, IIladopsis, Kivu Ground Thrush, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Lammergeiger, Long-eared Owl, Montane Masked, Montane Rwenzori Nightjar, Montane Sooty Boubou, Olive Woodpecker, Oriole-Finch, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Alethe, Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Turaco, Slender-billed Starling, Strange Weaver, Stripe-breast Tit, Western Green Tinkerbird, White-collared Olive-back and White-starred Robin,

Uganda Cultural Experiences: The Rwenzori Mountains National Park offers opportunities for cultural experiences with one of the local tribes living at the foot of the mountains. Tourists can go and visit the village of Ruboni to learn about the daily lifestyle and history of the Bakonzo tribe. The Bakonzo people arrange cultural dance performances while sharing information about their history.

The other interesting Uganda cultural experience is to go for the Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail. This trail gives more exposure to the intriguing culture of the Bakonzo. There are opportunities to visit   a traditional healer and local blacksmiths. Visitors learn how to make fire locally and weave baskets. The Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail also takes visitors to the Bakonzo traditional Museum. The local museum has a collection of traditional items of cultural and historical importance to the Bakonzo (Rwenzururu) including art pieces and locally made dresses.

The Bakonzo gather and make an annual (2nd September) pilgrimage to remember their great King Isaiah Kibanzanga Mukirania. The king played an important role in protecting the Bakonzo people from oppression by their neighbors the Batooro. If one is visiting the Rwenzori national park area around September and is looking for a special African experience, then this is it. The day is filled with celebration, sacred rites and sacrifices in memory of the great king.

Uganda Nature Walks: Nature walks can be arranged near the boundaries of the Rwenzori national park by community groups like the Rwenzori Mountain Services (RMS) and the Backpackers in Kilembe with the help from Nungi safaris logistics. Walks arranged by the RMS usually follow the central circuit zone used for mountain climbing. The area around the starting point for mountain hiking is forested and with beautiful scenery and leads up to the lake Mahooma and the chimpanzee forest of Buraro. The other places to visit during the nature.

How to Reach Rwenzori Mountains National Park

There are two ways of reaching the Rwenzori national park from Uganda’s capital Kampala. The first is by using public or private transport. Driving from Entebbe /Kampala to Kasese takes between five to six hours. Given the mountainous nature of the area, it is important to use a good 4 Wheel drive car. Most visitors to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park use the services of a tour operator like Nungi Safaris for transportation from the capital Kampala/Entebbe. Some visitors may consider the journey by road to be too long and go for the second option which is by using a chartered flight from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airstrip to Kasese. The journey by plane takes only one hour and a half.  Nungi safaris can arrange to pick you from the airstrip to your hotel or the park.

What to Pack when visiting the Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

Before visiting the Rwenzori Mountains national park for any activity, it is important to note that the temperatures around the park are extremely cold even during the dry seasons. Avoid hiking during the rainy months between March – June and September – October. The Rwenzori Mountain national park area receives rain throughout the year but the amount intensifies during the wet season. The area can get very cold and the trails are slippery and full of mud. Other factors to take into consideration are: –

The mountain climbing equipment provided (rented) by the Service providers may not be of the highest possible quality. It is important to bring your own Mountain hiking gear, waterproof clothes, sleeping bags, crampons, harnesses, plastic bags and walking sticks. Also remember to come with a good camera and sun glasses to protect the eyes. If you wish to cook your own food while hiking the mountain, you need to arrange for a good stove.

To successfully climb to the top of any of the peeks in the Rwenzori, a hiker needs to be in great shape and free of any lung or heart problems. Eat less fat and more fruit or carbohydrates during the hike. Dehydration has stopped many a climber from completing the mountain hike. Try to drink as much water as you can and do not try to push yourself too hard.

Beware of illnesses related to staying too long in altitudes beyond 3500 meters. Look out for symptoms like breathing difficulty, fatigue, headache, nausea, hand/feet swellings and sleeplessness. If possible, come with supplies of oxygen.

Where to Stay in Rwenzori Mountains National Park

There are plenty of accommodation facilities that you can stay in while preparing for the Rwenzori Mountain climbing tour in Kasese town and around queen Elizabeth national park while on the Uganda hiking tour. However, as you climb mountain Rwenzori going up, there are always camps that are stationed in the mountains to give you shelter for a night until you descend. So, no fancy accommodation when climbing mountain Rwenzori. But at the end of the climb, you can choose to relax at one of the best lodges and hotels for a night or two around Kasese town or Queen Elizabeth National Park