The Rwenzori mountain national park
Rwenzori mountains national park protects the upper slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains which run the Ugandan –Congo boarder west of Kasese and Kabarole districts. The Rwenzori mountain ranges are referred to as the mountains of the moon and have also been cited as a source to the Nile river Africa’s longest river by some geographers.
Rwenzori Mountain is the highest mountain range in Africa and its highest peaks are Margherita peak (5109m) and the Alexandra (5083m) on mountain Stanley and are exceeded by only Kilimanjaro and Kenya Mountains both of which are extinct volcanoes. The others include Speke (4890m), Emin pasha (4791m), gessi (4710m) and lui gi da savoia (4627m).
The Rwenzori mountain ranges is well known for its challenging hikes and climbing safaris but the ranges harbor diversity of animals which include over 70 mammal species, and over 177 bird species several of which are Albertine rift endemics. The Rwenzori mountains national park is the only park in Uganda where the Angola colobus has been recorded though it requires careful examination as they are similar to the black and white colobus monkeys. The mountain range is divided into several altitude zones which start with the forest zones at 1800m and has varied fauna and the animals one is likely to spot at this point are colobus and blue monkeys plus elephants, chimpanzees and yellow backed duikers.
Above an altitude of 2500m the forest cover gives way to the dense bamboo stands and between 3000m and 4500m the open vegetation of heath and alpine zones start. Mammals are scarce above the forest zone however there are a few birds that are occasionally seen soaring over head like the lammergeyer/ bearded vulture and the black eagle while the scarlet tufted malachite sunbird are practically restricted to high altitude habitats in this mountain range. There are a number of trails and huts on the mountain set up purposely for hikers. The peaks are hiked by experienced hikers which takes six to seven days though it is possible to do shorter three days hike through the forested foothills to the moorland zones.
The Rwenzori national park was forced to close tourism operations in 1997 as a result of instability along the Congolese border though I was later re-opened in July 2002. There are now two routes up to the high Rwenzori which are explored by the central circuit that winds between the main peaks. The established route is the ascent along the Mubuku and bujuku valleys from nyakalengija while another route along nyamwamba valley above Kasese has been reopened.
How to get there
Here is a list of the routes to the park
Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese (386km) 5hrs
Kampala-Mityana-Mubende-Fort portal- Kasese (415Km) 6hrs 20min
Kampala-Mityana-Mubende-Ibanda Kasese (405Km) 6Hrs
A chattered flight is also possible to the park from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield near Kampala to:
Mweya Airstrip in Mweya
Kasese Airstrip in Kasese town
The nyakalengija trail head is 22km northwest of Kasese. The parks sign post is just off the tarmac road along the fort portal highway next to an electric substation between the road bridges over Mubuku and sebwe rivers
Tourist attractions and activities
A hike into the Rwenzori is an exhilarating and rewarding travel experience however adequate preparation should be made. The conditions on the mountain are somehow challenging to even an experienced hiker. The central hike circuit can take 6 nights or 7 days and reaches an altitude of 4,267m above sea level. While on the hike, you will have to spend nights at various huts along your hiking journey which are well maintained and you will have porters to help with the luggage you need to go along with you. There are different starting points to the different trails you can take on your hike. They include; Nyakalengija circuit and Kilembe trail which are located near Kasese town while the Kazingo (nature walk trailhead) is found near Fort portal town. For those not interested in the entire hike to the top, you can carry on a 3 days hike in the lower foothills of the mountains that take you through beautiful scenery and birding spots.
The activity is done at the most significant feature in the park, Mt. Rwenzori. It can be done on all the glaciers on the mountain. The easiest to hike is Mount Speke which requires less hiking experience. Most difficult to hike is Mount Stanley and Baker.
Rwenzori Mountain’s is one of the best birding spots in uganda being a home to some Albertine rift endemics. The mountain ranges have got a varied vegetation cover which enables different bird species to call it home. Birds that are occasionally seen in the mountain are the Rwenzori turraco, long eared owl, bearded vultures and swifts. Nature walks can be done around Ruboni just outside the park; and also follow the river of Mubuku; a forest at Nyabitaba; a trail to Lake Mahooma and Buraro Fores inside the park.
The activity involves getting exposed to the Bakonzo community who live on the slopes of the mountain. It will include visiting traditional healers, blacksmith, basket weavers and also watching the Bakonzo do their traditional dance.
Where to stay
Equator Snow Lodge
It is an Up-scale lodge near the Nyakalengija park gate on the foothills of the mountain.
The lodge has a maximum of 16 beds
|ROOM||Rate US$ (Full Board) high season||Rate US$ (Full Board)
|Children 5-12yrs sharing with adults.||50% of adults||50% of adults|
Ruboni Community Camp
It’s a budget lodge in ruboni. It has 3 en-suite bandas rooms, 6 standard rooms
Tours Holiday Inn
It’s a budget hotel located in Ibanda trading centre. It has 15 en-suite rooms and an extension building. It accommodates up to 40 people.
US$45 (single) US$65 (double) all prices are for Breakfast and Bed.