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Places » Rwenzori Mountains National Park

About Rwenzori Mountains National Park

This park in size is 996km2; it was gazetted in 1991 and was recognized as a world heritage site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008. The highest point is 5,109 above sea level on Mt Stanley’s Margherita peak. Mt Stanley is bisected by the border with the DRC. The Rwenzori isn’t volcanic like other major in E. Africa Mts but is a block of rock up faulted through the floor of the Great Western Rift Valley. The Rwenzoris were christened “Mountains of the moon” by the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150. The explorer H.M Stanley placed the Rwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888. He labeled it ‘Rwenzori’ a local recorded as meaning “Rain Maker” or “Cloud King.” The oldest recorded person to reach Margherita Peak was Ms Beryl Park aged 78 in 2010.

The Rwenzoris – the fabled Mountains of the Moon – lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Rwenzori mountain range. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation.

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

Major Activities

Wildlife

The park is home to 70 species of mammal, including six Albertine Rift endemics; four are endemic to the park and three are rare species. Other mammals include the elephant, chimpanzee, Rwenzori otter and leopard. Though wildlife is difficult to spot in the dense forest, do look out for primates such as colobus (Angola and black-and-white varieties are both present) and blue monkeys; small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.

Vegetation

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is known for its distinctive flora rather than its fauna. On the route to the peaks, hikers climb through a series of distinct altitudinal vegetation zones; montane forest, bamboo, tree heathers and afro-alpine. The latter, with its emblematic giant forms of Senecio (groundsel) and lobelia, is one of the world’s rarest botanical communities, being limited to East African Mountains above 3800m.

Birding

The park is home to 217 bird species including several Albertine Rift endemics. Among these are 17 species that are endemic to the park making Rwenzori an important birding area (IBA). The forest zone at 1800m contains a diversity of birds including the Rwenzori Turaco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Long-eared Owl, Handsome Francolin, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Archers’ Robin-chat, White-starred Robin, Rwenzori Batis, Montane Sooty Boubou, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Slender-billed Starling, Blue-headed Sunbird, Golden-winged Sunbird, Strange Weaver and several varieties of Barbets, Greenbuls, Apalises, IIladopsis, Flycatchers and Crimsonwings.

Areas of interest

Equatorial snow peaks

The high Rwenzori comprises six distinct mountains. Although located just miles north of the equator, the highest of these - Mounts Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m) - all bear permanent snow and glaciers. The snow peaks can be reached by hiking the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.

Land of the Triffids

The misty, boggy, glacier-carved valleys of the high Rwenzori form a strange botanical world inhabited by triffid-sized forms of lobelia, heather and groundsel, crisp "everlasting flowers," garishly coloured mosses and gnarled trees draped with curtains of lichen. The result is an otherworldly setting which, over the years, has been compared to the forests of the Jabberwock, the Seven Dwarves and, inevitably, Tolkein’s Middle Earth. These strange plants rank among the world’s botanical treasures, being found only on the highest mountains of East Africa.

Lakes

There are over 20 lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The lowest and most accessible is Lake Mahoma (2,651m) in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit. The beautiful Lake Bujuku lies at the head of the deep, glacier carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of Mounts Stanley, Baker and Speke. In the Nyamwamba Valley, ascended by the Kilembe Trail, dams created by glacial moraine have created a string of eight delightful lakes. Several rivers and streams originate from the mountain, forming lifelines for the flora and founa in the flood plains and supporting local communities.

Ruboni

Ruboni, found at the southeastern foot of the Rwenzori Mountains, is the trailhead for the seven-day Central Circuit to the high peaks. It is also the starting point for hill walks, bird and nature treks and walks through the traditional homesteads of the local Bakonzo community. Accommodation catering for a range of budgets offers gorgeous mountain views up the Mubuku valley.

Visitor Information Centre

Until the new Visitor Information Center is complete, all information regarding park activities will be available at Rwankingi Park Headquarters (close to Ruboni Community Camp), at the trailheads and the offices of the Rwenzori tour operators. Guides and porters, along with trekking equipment, can be booked by visitors at these locations.

Bulemba

Bulemba herbergt de resten van Rwenzururu's eerste koning, Jesaja Mukirania Kibanzanga, die wordt verondersteld om de Bakonzo stam uit de Batooro onderdrukking gered hebben. Elk jaar op 2 september, elke Mukonzo woont de bedevaart naar deze heilige plaats om offers te brengen.