Distance from Kampala: 415km. Estimated transit time: 6 - 8hrs
The Rwenzori Mountains are relatively unexploited and rarely visited, and thus a visit here provides an unparalleled opportunity to explore East Africa’s mountain wilderness.
The legendary mist-covered Rwenzori Mountains lie along Uganda's western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are sometimes referred to as the 'Mountains Of The Moon'. Rwenzori Mountains national park was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 1994 in order to protect the natural beauty, flora and fauna of the area and the important watershed for the many lakes of the region.
These mountains, first written about by the Greek philosopher Ptolemy, were explored by the British Museum in a scientific expedition in 1905/6. The Duke of Abruzzi (Italy) and his intrepid team pushed explorations to the heart of the range, climbed and mapped all the major peaks, and made important scientific collections and observations in a more powerful expedition starting in 1906.
Today, the park is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in cooperation with the local community under an agreement with the Rwenzori Mountaineering Service, whereby local guides and porters are sourced from the adjacent areas to provide services for trekkers.
Unlike the other major mountainous regions of East Africa, the Rwenzoris are not volcanic but originated from an uplift associated with the western Rift Valley formation. They are still moving! But you are unlikely to ever notice. At the center of the range, there are six peaks carrying permanent snow, three with glaciers. The highest of these peaks, and the third highest peak in Africa, is Margherita rising to 5,019 meters above sea level atop Mt. Stanley.
As the highest mountain range in Africa, climbing the Rwenzoris used to be almost as popular with travelers as Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya. They definitely offer a more demanding climb. There are two main trekking routes available which follow the Bujuku and Mubuku rivers, on the eastern side of the mountains. These can be combined to create a challenging circular trek through the heart of the range. Treks can range from 3 - 10 days, depending on the trail chosen. Special equipment is required for those intending to climb to the peaks. Day hikes in the foothills are also an option.
The Rwenzoris are especially noted for their dense vegetation consisting of a luxuriant forest with abundant flowering plants and the largest and most extensive stands of alpine ‘big game plants’ in East Africa. The park has a wide variety of plants across five distinct vegetation zones. Here the giant lobelias and groundsels are even larger than on the other major East African mountains.
Recent reports show some 150 species of trees and shrubs, 85 mammals, 217 species of birds, 60 invertebrates (of which 25 are new to science), 78 butterflies and 41 moths plus 338 moss and 83 lichen species. Brightly coloured Chameleon can also be found in the foothills.
Mammals found here include tree hyraxes, blue monkeys, black-and-white colobus, black-fronted duikers and the red duikers. The Rwenzori Mountain National Park has three endemic mammals -- Rwenzori duiker, Rwenzori Otter shrew and Rwenzori Colobus monkey. The IUCN Red List of threatened animals includes the Rwenzori duiker, the elephant, the chimpanzee and the Rwenzori Otter shrew.
Excellent birdwatching features conspicuous Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds, Francolins, Olive Pigeons and vibrant Rwenzori Turacos.
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of local Ugandan culture, visits can be arranged to the local community. Locally produced craft items can be purchased from the park tourist office and along the road at various craft markets.
- Hotel Margherita - mid-market
- Ruboni Community Bandas - budget
- Rwenzori Base Camp Guest House - budget
- Rwenzori Mountaineering Services Huts - budget