Rwenzori mountains national park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is one of the 10 national parks in Uganda that is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The national park derives its name from the Rwenzori Mountains which is located within the national park. Mount Rwenzori is popularly known as the ‘Mountains of the Moon,’ majestically stand at an altitude of 5,109 meters above sea level. Rwenzori Mountains can be found in the Southwestern region of Uganda on the Uganda- Congo border.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is about 996 square kilometers in size and was established in 1991. The major tourist attraction of the national park is Mount Rwenzori, which is popular for its mountaineering activities.
The national park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The park has got a variety of plant life and unique bird species such as the Rwenzori Blue Turaco, Rwenzori nightjar, and the Rwenzori Batis among others.
Mountain Rwenzori national park is home to about 70 species of mammals, 217 bird species and comprises stunning water falls, beautiful plant life and 6 glacial peaks, which include Mount Speke, Stanley, Gessi, Luigi di Savoia, Baker and Emin Pasha.
Attractions in Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
There are quite a number of wonderful things to see during your visit to Rwenzori Mountains national park, and these include;
- Wildlife; Rwenzori national park shelters over 70 mammals species including 6 species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley area and four that are only endemic to Rwenzori national park. Some of the wildlife species that you can sight in the national park include; the elephant, chimpanzee, Rwenzori otter, antelopes, bushbucks, the three-horned chameleon and the leopard among others.
- Rich birdlife; Rwenzori Mountains National Park has over 217 recorded bird species, with 19 of these species endemic to Rwenzori national park including Handsome Francolin, the Cinnamon chested bee-eater, Barred long tailed cuckoo, Slender billed starling, and the Blue headed sunbird among others.
- The equatorial snow peaks which include Mount Speke, Stanley and Baker among others. The national park comprises six mountains which are all located in the northern part of the equator with mount Stanley’s Margherita peak, as the fourth highest peak in Africa. Other mountains include; Mount Baker standing at 4843m, Mount Emin Pasha at 4791m, Mount Gessi at 4715m, and Mount Luigi da Savoia at 4627m above sea level, and all these mountains have their peaks covered with snow and glaciers.
- Vegetation; Rwenzori national park is consists of a beautiful, lush green tropical rain forest, tree heathers, bamboo, afro-alpine, and montane forests.
- Ruboni head trail; this is the starting point for most nature walks in Rwenzori mountains national park. It is located in the Southeastern part of Rwenzori Mountains, and is also the starting point for other park activities such as birding and community walks.
Activities done in Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Tourists visiting Rwenzori mountains national park can take part in a number of activities that are offered by the park, and these include;
Climbing mount Rwenzori in Uganda is one of the most thrilling and adventurous activities anyone could think of doing. Rwenzori Mountain is one of the highest mountains on the African continent and among some of the popular destinations in the world for mountaineering activities. Mountain climbing activities in Rwenzori national parks requires hikers to be physically fit and having some experience in climbing mountains is a plus. The oldest person ever recorded to have successfully reached the Margherita peak was Ms. Beryl Park in 2010 at age 78. There are two hiking trails in the park, which include;
- The central circuit trail which starts at the Mubuku River, which ascends a steep ridge of glacial moraine to Nyabitaba Hut, and ends Margherita peak. Hikers using this trail will take 7 days to reach the summit. The snow-capped mountain peaks mark the highlight of any mountaineering activity on the mountain.
- Kilembe Trail; This trail beings from Kilembe near Kasese town which located in the southern part of the national park. This trail takes hikers through the glacial lakes, Nyamwamba Valley and joins the central circuit at Lake Kitandara. Hikers using this trail will be able to explore the three highest peaks, vegetation cover, plant species and sight some wildlife.
Rwenzori Mountains national park is the ideal place to be for bird lovers. The national park has over 217 bird species with 19 of these species endemic to only Rwenzori national park. Birding activities in the national park usually commence in the morning at Ruboni trailhead, and take birders to the montane forest where you will be able to sight amazing birds like the Rwenzori Blue Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Golden winged sunbird, the Western green tinker bird and so many more.
Guided Nature Walks:
Visitors in Rwenzori national park can take part in hiking or forest walks while in the park. The real appeal of Rwenzori lies, arguably, not in the joy of reaching the top, but in the opportunity to hike through superb mountain scenery enlivened by equatorial snow and outlandish vegetation. Bearing this in mind, shorter to lesser peaks are becoming increasingly popular amongst hikers in the park. Some of the popular hiking destinations are found along the Kilembe trail, and include the 4627m Mount Luigi da Savoia which offers hikers with stunning views of the afro-alpine vegetation, patches of equatorial snow and glaciers. The Nyakalengija Trailhead offers a two day hike to the scenic Lake Mahoma in the bamboo forest. There is also the Kazinga trail that offers hikers a day long traverse of the north Rwenzori ridge between the Fort Portal plateau and Bundibugyo town in the Semliki Valley on the western side of the mountain. Hikers should look out for the three-horned chameleon and Rwenzori colobus monkey.
Accommodation in Mountain Rwenzori National Park.
Visitors looking for where to stay while visiting the national park can find accommodation in the following places; Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite, Ruboni Community Camp, Hotel Margherita, Equator snow lodges, and Katara lodge among others.
How to get to Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Visitors interested in visiting Rwenzori mountains national park can travel to the park either by road or air. The park can be reached from Kampala within 5-6 hours by road. Alternatively, visitors can choose to fly in to Kasese airfield from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield.
The beauty of the Rwenzori Mountains is what makes Mount Rwenzori national park a unique tourism destination in Uganda. Visitors planning to travel to Uganda, ‘the Pearl of Africa,’ should not miss including a visit to this amazing national park on your travel bucket list.