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Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park extends for over 1000 square kilometers within the western region of Uganda in Kasese district and takes up a significant area of the vast Rwenzori Mountain chain that also includes the third highest peak in Africa-Mount Stanley standing at 5109 meters above sea level. Mount Stanley is bisected by the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park was gazetted in 1991 and recognized a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 as well as a Ramsar Site in 2008. This Park protects the highest areas of the 120 kilometers long and 65 kilometers wide Rwenzori Mountain range, and is an ideal place for World-class mountaineering and hiking.

Rwenzori Mountains’ magnificent waterfalls, glaciers and Lakes make the area one of the Continent’s most breathtaking Alpine areas.

Attractions within

Boasts of numerous natural habitats of outstanding and endangered species as well as diverse and extraordinary floral species that comprise among others the giant heather that make the area worth visiting.

Flora

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is characterized by varying altitudes and vegetation zones. This explains the reason for changing vegetation types in the 5 zones. There are heath and Afro-alpine moorland in the higher area while other popular floral species are Groundsels, Lobelias and giant heathers.

Fauna

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park hosts over 70 species of mammals that include African forest elephants, L’Hoest monkeys, red duikers that are restricted to the Park, Eastern chimpanzees, Hyraxes, black and white colobus monkeys and many others.

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is an Important Bird Area with over 217 species of birds including Albertine Rift endemics and those restricted to the Rwenzori Mountains. Some of the popular species are the Rwenzori Turaco, red-throated Alethe, Purple-breasted sunbirds, Rwenzori batis, white-collared olive back, Dwarf Honeyguide, regal sunbirds, handsome francolin, African long-eared owls, red-faced crimson wing and Kivu ground thrush among others.

Reptiles especially the three-horned Chameleons are only found within the Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

Tourist activities

Mountaineering

Mountaineering is the main tourist activity in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the snow-capped peaks of the Mountain range is usually the highlight of the activity. There are several routes that transverse the verdant valleys, glacial Lakes, forest and mind-blowing viewpoints. The Kilembe route starts form Kilembe near Kasese Town and passes through the southern slopes of the Mountain, glacial Lakes and the stunning Nyamwamba Valley.

The Central Circuit route, the most popular trail lasts up to 7 days and starts from Mihunga (its trailhead) through Bujuku Valley, Nyabitaba and climaxes with the scenic views of the snow-capped peaks of the mountain. Most mountaineering trips in this Park are organized by the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services as well as the Rwenzori Trekking Services.

Nature walks/Hiking

Simpler and easier hikes/walks in Rwenzori Mountains National Park involve walking through Kichwamba communities, Karangura ridge up to Lake Mahoma and Buraro Chimp forest. One of the hiking trails is the Bwamba Pass that passes through isolated mountain villages to the Bamboo forest while relishing the views of the spectacular Rift Valley.

Other walks are offered by Turaco View and Ruboni communities through River Mubuku as well as Portal and Baker Peaks until 2300 until 2300 meters above sea level. While here, you can have a clear view of the snow-capped Margherita Peak in addition to being able to spot the three-horned chameleons, primates especially the vervet monkeys and a number of bird species.

Bird watching

Birding in Rwenzori Mountains National Park offers an opportunity of seeing montane forest, Rwenzori Mountains endemic and Albertine Rift endemic bird species that include the Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters, Stripe-breast tit, strange weavers, Golden-winged sunbirds, Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori bee-eaters, handsome francolins, Kivu ground thrush, Black and swift eagles, Barred long-tailed Cuckoo, Rwenzori batis, Lagden’s bush-shrike, slender-billed starlings, blue-headed sunbirds, white-collared olive backs, bearded vultures and long-eared owls among others.

Cultural tours

Cultural tours around the Rwenzori Mountains National Park involve visiting the nearby Bakonzo and Bamba communities to experience their interesting traditional dances, taste their delicious local dishes, meet the traditional healer who mixes different herbs to treat illnesses, watch how they tend to their crops and animals, see how the women weave different items out of local materials such as papyrus reeds, meet the blacksmith and many other exciting activities.

Cultural tours also involve visiting the nearby natural attractions such as Mubuku River and identifying some of the bird species within the community such as the Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters and sunbirds among others.

Where to stay

There are several places to stay during your visit in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and these include those in the Park, the nearby Kasese, Ibanda and Fort Portal Towns. These places are the Rwenzori Mountains Safari Lodge, Mihunga Safari Lodge, Equator Snow Lodge, Ruboni Community Camp, Rwenzori Backpackers, Hotel Margherita, Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite, Trekkers Hostel, Mountains of the Moon Hotel, Ihamba Safari Lodge, Tours Holiday Inn and many others.

Best time to visit 

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is open all year round, although it is vital to know the months that are ideal for mountaineering (since it’s the main reason tourists visit the Park). The best time to visit the Park is therefore the dry season-June, July and August as well as December, January and February because there are light or no rains during these months and hiking becomes easier with less muddy/slippery trails.

Packing list

Don’t forget to pack long sleeved shirts, safari pants, hiking boots, rain jacket, cotton socks, cotton gloves, sleeping bag (especially for mountaineering), sunglasses, water bottle, toiletries (toothbrush, lip gloss, toothpaste, sunscreen), camera. Flashlight, backpack and snacks among others.

How to get where

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is situated in western Uganda, about 450 kilometers from Kampala and can be accessed through air and road transport. For the latter, there are two main routes for reaching this Park and these include the Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese-Rwenzori Mountains National Park through the Queen Elizabeth National Park. The second route, which is considered shorter, involves driving through the Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal to the Ruboni trailhead.

For air transport, chartered flights can be organized from Kajjansi Airstrip/Entebbe International Airport to Kasese airstrip then continue to the Park by road.

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