Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is one of the ten Uganda national parks that tourists can visit while on a Uganda safari tour. The Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in south western Uganda in the districts of Kasese, Kabarole and Bundibujo and covers about 1000 square kilometres in size. Mount Rwenzori is the third highest mountain in Africa containing many waterfalls, lakes and glaciers as well as a wide range of plant life.
The National Park was established in 1991, and designated a UNESCO world Heritage site in 1994. The Park is governed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, a body responsible for the conservation and protection of all Uganda national parks. Rwenzori Mountains National Park was designated a UNESCO world heritage site for its outstanding natural beauty.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the east side of the western African Rift Valley. The Park borders Virunga National park of Congo. Rwenzori Mountains National Park is one of the oldest and high altitude protected areas in the central and eastern part of the Rwenzori Mountains. Mountain Rwenzori, the third highest mountain in Africa, has an altitude of 16700 feet above sea level, with a number of peaks which tourists can climb while visiting Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Margherita peak is the highest peak of Mountain Rwenzori, and other peaks that can be seen and visited with a mount climbing activity include Mount Speke, Mount Baker, Mount Stanley, Mount Emin Pasha and Mount Luigi da Savoia. While climbing mountain Rwenzori to get to these peaks, tourists are rewarded with great scenic views and a range of ecological systems.
Mountain Rwenzori lies along the equator, but is snow-capped all year long. The Park has unique plant life with very distinct vegetation zones namely moorland, bamboo, mosses, tree-heathers and a very rich moist montane forest.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park Attractions
There are a number of tourist attractions in the National Park that captivate any traveller that takes time to visit while on a Uganda safari tour. These include;
The National Park inhabits a variety of wildlife species including 70 mammal species in the dense vegetation areas. Six of these mammals are Albertine Rift endemics and four mammal species are endemic to Mountain Rwenzori. Some of the wildlife species tourists can encounter while in Rwenzori Mountains National Park include the Rwenzori Otter, leopards, duikers, hyrax, elephants, chimpanzees, bushbucks, Angola black and white colobus, and blue monkeys among so many others. Reptiles like the three-horned chameleon can also be spotted.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park has about 217 bird species recorded to inhabit the park, with a variety of them endemic to the Albertine rift valley. 17 bird species are also endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Bird species including the handsome francolin, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, archers’ robin-chat, white-starred robin, Rwenzori turraco, blue-headed sunbird, golden-winged sunbird, among so many others can be spotted in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Equatorial snow peaks
The National Park has equatorial snow peaks, 6 in total, which are always covered in snow throughout the year despite being in the equator region. Mount Stanley, Mount Baker and Mount Speke are the most commonly opted for by adventurous travellers seeking to conquer Mountain Rwenzori.
Lakes are another attraction in Rwenzori Mountains. There are 20 lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park, all of which are quite scenic. These include among others Kitandara lakes, Lake Bujuku, and Lake Mahoma. Lake Mahoma is the easily reached of the 20 lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park, at an altitude of 2651m above sea level.
Plant life in Rwenzori National Park is very fascinating, and quite abundant. In the glacier-carved valleys of Mountain Rwenzori, strange flora like rare lobelia, heather, crish, gnarled trees and colored mosses among others can be spotted.
Bulemba Bulemba houses
Bulemba bulemba houses are historical in Rwenzori National Park for they shelter the historical remains of the first king of the Rwenzururu kingdom as well as other historical leaders. The Bakonzo pilgrimage here annually on the 2nd of September to pay homage to their great king.
Rwenzori National Park Activities
With all the above mentioned Rwenzori Mountains National Park attractions, there are a number of activities that tourists can do to experience and explore the attractions. These Rwenzori National Park activities are quite adventurous, and they include;
Mountain climbing/hiking in the Rwenzori National Park is the most done activity for most of the travellers who visit do come to conquer Mountain Rwenzori. Mountain climbing has travellers hiking to any of the six peaks from where they get to see lakes, amazing vegetation cover, animal species and so much more. There are developed climbing/hiking trails travellers follow and they include the central circuit trail which takes about 7 days to complete, and the Kilembe trail.
For a successful mountain climbing/hiking experience of Mountain Rwenzori, travellers are advised to have the following essentials;
- Hiking boots
- First aid kit
- Waterproof and warm clothing like long-sleeved shirts, jackets and so much more.
- A map guide
- Hiking stick
- Porter(s) to carry your bags and also help you with a pull or push
Nature walks are another great way to explore Rwenzori National park. Nature walks in Rwenzori National Park have travellers encountering stunning attractions in the park as well as be rewarded with very scenic views. Nature walks in Rwenzori National Park usually take place in kilembe and the central circuit also used for mountain climbing.
With over 217 bird species recorded in Rwenzori National Park, bird watching is another tourist activity that travellers can enjoy while in the park. Bird species like the Rwenzori batis, white-starred robin, long-eared owl, bearded vulture among others can be seen.
Cultural encounters in Rwenzori National Park has travellers interacting with the local tribes of the Bakonzo, Bakonjo and the Bamba people who engage travellers in their various lifestyle and activities. Travellers get to watch or even take part in various local activities like black smiting, basket weaving, traditional fire making and so many more activities.
When to visit Rwenzori National Park
The National Park can be visited all year round. For great mountain climbing experiences though, the dry season is the best time to visit Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
How to get to Rwenzori Mountains National Park
By road, Rwenzori National Park is about 437km from Kampala, and can be accessed through two main entry points of Nyakalengija central circuit and Kilembe trail in Kasese. By air, there are chartered flights available from Kajansi or Entebbe International Airport to Kasese Airstrip from where travellers get to be transferred to the park.
The National Park has a number of accommodation facilities that travellers visiting can stay in. these range from luxury to budget, thereby accommodating all kinds of travellers. Some of the accommodation facilities in Rwenzori Mountains National Park that travellers can choose from include Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge, Rwenzori Backpackers, Rwenzori International Airport, Katara Lodge, among so many others.
The National Park is a great destination in Uganda for those adventurous travellers. To fully climb Mountain Rwenzori, one needs at least 7 days to complete. There are shorter hikes available though, just get in touch with a reputable and knowledgeable tour operator to help you put together an amazing Uganda adventure safari.