Rwenzori Mountains National Park is the most unique among all the national parks in Uganda due to the attractions that can’t be witnessed in any other park. These include; mountain climbing, game viewing, bird watching, nature walks and hikes, primate tours and cultural encounters.
One gets to experience a rare but memorable mountain-climbing experience to its beautiful glacial peaks that can only be rivaled by the Alpine mountains of Europe. With the highest of these being Mount Stanley (5,109m), Mount Speke (4,890m) and Mount Baker (4,843m) all bearing permanent snow and glaciers for which you need to traverse the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails to reach. Unlike Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro, the Rwenzori Mountains are not volcanic; they are unique from the latter.
This Rwenzori Mountains National Park cover 996 km sq. and it protects the upper slopes of the mountains which run for almost 120 km along the Uganda Congo border west of Kasese and Fort portal.
Wildlife and Vegetation in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
This national park is best recognized for its unique vegetation that you will encounter as you climb its peak including the tree heathers, bamboo and the afro-alpine. The beautiful afro-alpine zone with its symbolic giant groundsel and lobelia, is one the rarest botanical species and is only found in the high mountainous areas at altitudes 3800 meters.
The park hosts 70 mammal’s species and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics. Among the rare vegetation, you will also find various mammals such as elephants, chimpanzees, Rwenzori Otters and leopards, which can be very difficult to see in the dense forest.
The park is blessed with over 20 lakes including; Lake Mahoma in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit, Lake Bujuku which lies at the apex of the deep, glacier-carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of Mounts Stanley, Mount Baker and Mount Speke.
What to see in Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
The Rwenzori Mountains are home to the rarest species and have a large but varied concentration of birdlife and wildlife and a lot more attractions for travelers to see including:
With 70 Mammal species, 6 are endemic to Albertine Rift, four are endemic to the park and, the park has proven to be a home to a number of wildlife.
Other mammals include elephants, Rwenzori Otters, leopards, primates such as chimpanzee, Angola colobus, black-and-white colobus, blue monkeys, small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.
Here, you will find diverse and beautiful flora which hikers who climb the Rwenzori route have the opportunity to see the beautiful vegetation ranging from tropical rainforest, tree heathers, montane forest, afro-alpine and bamboo. The afro-alpine is characterized with emblematic forms of Senecio (groundsel) and lobelia, which is one of the world’s unique botanical communities.
- Bird species
The Park is an important birding area and is home to 217 species of birds, 17 of which are endemic to the Rwenzori Park. The forest zone contains a diversity of birds including the Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Sunbird, Long-eared Owl, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Rwenzori Batis, Archers’ Robin-chat, White-starred Robin with even the rare Montane Sooty Boo-boo, Greenbuls, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Slender-billed Starling, Strange Weaver, as well as the Golden-winged Sunbird, and several varieties of Barbets, Apalises, ILladopsis, Flycatchers and Crimson wings.
- The Rwenzori Snow Peaks
The Rwenzori comprises six different mountains including Mounts Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m), all of which bear permanent snow and glaciers and the equatorial snow peaks can be reached by hiker through the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.
There are over 20 beautiful lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the most accessible of all is Lake Mahoma (2,651m) in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit. Other lakes include Lake Bujuku, which lies at the apex of the deep glacier-carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of Mountain Stanley as well as Mounts Baker and Speke. Various streams of rivers start from the mountain, forming lifelines for the various flora and fauna in the flood plains.
It is the trailhead mainly used by hikers to the seven-day Central Circuit to the high peaks and the beginning point for nature walks through the traditional homesteads of the local Bakonzo community.
- Bulemba houses
These are the historical remains of first King of the Rwenzururu kingdom and the historical leaders identified by the names of Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga, who are believed to have played a significant role of saving the Bakonzo tribe from the Batooro oppression.
Top things to do in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The park is mostly known for its mountaineering as the main activity in the area with concentration of waterfalls, blue cirque lakes, hot springs, uncommon vegetation and a destination where one carry out research. Below are some of the activities you can enjoy on your visit to this wonderful park:
The park is habitant to over 217 species of birds with spectacular birding opportunities mostly in the montane forest including Bee-eaters, Robins, Sunbirds, Barbets, Rwenzori Turaco, Long-eared Owl, Bearded Vultures, Black and Swift Eagles, which can be seen soaring and looking for prey.
- Cultural encounters
Travelers to Rwenzori Mountains National Park can decide to visit the serene farming village identified as Ruboni, which is home to an estimated 2,000 Bakonzo people living at the foothills. As visitors walk with the villagers, they can observe their daily activities which range from rearing their traditional animals and crops to preparing delicious Ugandan meals with the freshest ingredients. The guide can also lead visits to meet the blacksmith and traditional healer of the area. Guests can also meet basket weavers and storytellers, and enjoy a vibrant dance performance organized by the locals to entertain the visitors who have paid tour to them.
- Hiking and Nature walks
The park also provides opportunities for nature walks within the central circuit zone. These include trails up to Lake Mahooma and Buraro Chimpanzee forest walks through the communities of Kichwamba to reach the Karangura ridge and hiking to Bundibugyo area through Bwamba pass.
- Volcano climbing
The Rwenzori has two trials for climbing the great Mt. Rwenzori and they include:
- The Central Circuit Trail
This is a challenging seven-day climb and provides a circular tour of the high Rwenzori. From the trailhead at Mihunga, the route ascends to the Bujuku Valley via Nyabitaba. Clients joining the Central Circuit after Bujuku traverse the Scott Elliot and Fresh field passes to descend through the Mubuku Valley. Climbers can scale the snow peaks though many consider the exceptional scenery ample reward for their exertions.
- Kilembe Trail
The trail ascends the southern slopes of the Rwenzori from a trailhead at Kilembe near the town of Kasese. The route along the lovely Nyamwamba Valley passes glacial lakes and stunning views before joining the Central Circuit at Lake Kitandara. The standard route scales Mount Baker, though the scenery makes shorter treks rewarding enough.
Where to stay in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Park has many establishments to accommodate in the towns surrounding it, The Park is often not very busy and accommodations are typically available, it is always safer to book in advance. You could be looking for where to stay before you head to or from the Rwenzori National Park and there are number of lodges in Kasese and also near Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Best time to visit Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park receives the highest amount of rainfall on the Eastern slopes, which begin from March-May and September-mid December.
The park is good at any time of the year, but the best time to visit is during the dry season that takes place during the months of June-August and December to February. These are the driest months and are the best seasons for a trek. The conditions on the mountain are challenging even to experienced hikers since mountain Rwenzori is renowned for its steep, slippery trails with regular rainfall, cold temperatures, high altitude, fog, steep terrain and mud.
How to get to Rwenzori Mountains National Park
- By Road
It is 42km from Kasese town to Nyakalengija gate which is one of the entry points and around 390km from Kampala to Kasese via Fortpotal. It can be accessed using the route that goes through Queen Elizabeth National Park from Mbarara.
- By Air:
Chartered planes are available from Entebbe airport or Kampala (Kajjansi) to Kasese where you find the nearest airfield to the park.