PARK AT A GLANCE
Rwenzori Mountains National Park was gazetted in 1991 covering a size of 996km2. The Park was recognized as a world heritage site in 1994 by UNESCO and later a RAMSAR site. The explorer Henry Stanley placed Rwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888 labeling it “Rwenzori” a local name which he recorded as meaning “rain maker” or “cloud king”. The Rwenzoris were christened the mountains of the moon by Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD150. Rwenzori’s highest peak Margherita towers at 5109 m above sea level on Mount Stanley which is bisected by the border with the Dr Congo.
The elusive mountains of the moon whose snow capped peaks are often veiled by clouds is Africa’s tallest mountain range exceeded in altitude by Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya, carrying Africa’s third, fourth and ﬁfth highest peaks that are visible from miles around. Some of its peaks (incomparable, beautiful and mist-shrouded) carry permanent snow and glaciers, while the lower slopes are covered with dense forest. The alpine highland glaciers, snow ﬁelds and blue cirque lakes make Rwenzori one of Africa’s most beautiful mountain parks.
The Mountain’s slopes above 1,600m are the preserve of hikers who rate the Rwenzori to be the most challenging of all African mountains. A variety of large mammals inhabit the lower slopes but the Rwenzori Mountains are notable more for their majestic scenery and varied vegetation.
It’s ﬁve distinct vegetation zones – montane forest, bamboo forest, tree heath-bog, Hagenia-Rapanea scrub and afro-alpine moorland – provide a unique backdrop to one of the most magniﬁcent national parks in the world. Several endangered species and very unusual cloud forest ﬂora like giant heathers, groundsels and lobelias, characterize the ranges as ‘Africa’s botanic big game’.
Rwenzori Mountains are the homelands of the Bakonjo and Bamba peoples. The indigenous people are Bantu speaking community who have lived in the foothills of the mountains for generations, and whose culture is adapted to the steep slopes and climate of Rwenzori.
HOW TO GET THERE
Rwenzori Mountains are located within four districts of Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kabarole and Kasese districts in Western Uganda bordering Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The two major entry points to ascend to the Peaks (Nyakalengija central circuit and Kilembe Trail) are located near Kasese town, while the third Nature walk trailhead is at Kazingo near Fort Portal town in Kabarole District. The Nyakalengija trailhead which is 22 km oﬀ the Kasese-Fort Portal road and 25 km north of Kasese town can be reached from Kampala via Fort Portal road (375km) or via Mbarara and Queen Elizabeth National park (450km).
Transport can also be arranged on chartered ﬂights from Kampala at either Kajjansi airﬁeld or Entebbe International airport to Kasese airﬁeld. Aero link has morning flights from Entebbe which lands in Kasese at 10:00am or 9:50am, pre-booking and reconfirmation is key.
The Rwenzori Mountains are very wet with rain falling on most days even in the dryer months. Above 2,500 m clouds can persist for several days and annual precipitation above the foothills averages 2,500 mm, peaking twice in March-May and August-December. Monthly rainfall can reach 375 mm. Snowfall is regular and ice frost forms in freezing mists on the mountains. At high elevations the diurnal temperature range is moderate, swinging daily from above to below freezing, alternating between ‘winter’ at night and ‘summer’ by day.
WHEN TO VISIT:
Anytime of the year.
Treks are guaranteed to depart with a minimum of one person. Treks go on all year round however, the month of June, July and August then late December, January, February are the driest and best month to trek although some say the wet seasons are the best as the mountains are often covered in snow making spectacular scenery
This is the most attractive activity on the legendary “Mountains of the Moon”. It’s diverse heavily snow capped peaks are one of the few pristine and spectacular landscapes of the world.
The ranges are scenic:
With pristine and spectacular landscape that comprise of waterfalls, blue cirque lakes, snow clad peaks and stratiﬁed vegetation which is an attraction not only for visitors, but also creates potential for research as well as resources for the nearby communities.
Home to 18 species of mammals:
The park is also home to 18 species of mammals, 217 species of birds, 9 species of reptiles and 6 species of amphibians.
Large mammals that include; elephant, buﬀalo, giant forest hog, bush buck, chimpanzee and leopard are present but rarely seen, however in the forest zone, droppings of elephants are frequently seen, while noisy chimpanzee, Blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys are common. In the Rwenzori’s are also some unique and rare animal species like the three horned chameleon, the Rwenzori colobus, Rwenzori Turaco and the Rwenzori double collared sunbird.
The park is also a cultural heritage for the neighboring communities. Eighteen charismatic sacred sites have been identiﬁed, mapped and protected as worship areas.
Aesthetic values of the Rwenzori’s can be put into three categories of trekking, nature walks and peak climbing:
This is done along the established routes; a 7- day trekking along the central tourism circuit, and a 10 -day trekking along Kilembe route through Scenic Nine lakes, panoramic view of Virunga National Park, to Kitandara connecting to the central circuit leading to the peaks. Shorter hikes can be arranged.
Standard Nature walk trails, traverses the forested vegetation zones, to oﬀer back to earth interaction with nature, including bird watching, scenic views, waterfalls, butterﬂies.
The trail loops to the peaks are challenging, but rewarding hikes, taking all vegetation zones and glaciers. There are ascents to major peaks within the Rwenzori ranges along both routes.
These include ascents to Margherita (5,109 m) on Mountain Stanley, Vittorio Emmanuelle (4,889 m) on Mountain Speke and Edward (4,842 m) on Mountain Baker.
These hikes oﬀer commanding and panoramic views of other peaks within the ranges. However, high peaks should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers.
Recommendations for basic items to come with for Hikers:
- Mountain Checklist (Some of the items can be hired for the whole trip)
1 day bag (for Small bag but enough to carry your packed lunch Rain gear drinking water and a camera)
1 sleeping bag
A pair of mountain boots
1 jogging suit
Pairs of woolen socks
Pairs of trekking trousers, cotton shirts warm
Woolen cap, gloves
A torch, headlamp including. Batteries
1 trekking bag
1 pair of jogging shoes
1 sun hat
Pairs of socks
1 pair of snow glasses
Leggings up to the knee (Gaiters)
Rain proof and warm gear
1 elastic bandage,
Water purification tablets
Vitamin C tablets
Basic accommodation facilities are provided by concessionaires along the two main access trails to the peaks (Kilembe by RTS and Central circuit by RMS). We recommend for you to bring your personal sleeping bag. Additional community camp sites and basic lodging facilities exist within the Rwenzori gateway leading to the central circuit trail head. Other options include sleeping in Fort portal with a wide selection of hotels there but it requires waking up early.
RUBONI COMMUNITY CAMP (Budget)
Fully owned and operated by the local community, Ruboni community camp is the pioneer of Community tourism in the Rwenzori Mountains area for over the last 15 years. The camp’s location next to the park’s main gate makes the camp, a perfect base to explore the surrounding villages and mountains. At the camp, you find a range of one-day guided walks, serviced guest rooms, a restaurant with a bar, and other local encounters.
RWENZORI TURACO CAMP (Basic)
Rwenzori Turaco is a member of the Uganda Community Tourism Association and is located at the base of the Rwenzori Mountains in Western Uganda.
The campsite offers a restaurant, bar, safari tents, bandas and a camping site in case you want to camp. The restaurant offers typical Ugandan food cooked traditionally.
EQUATOR SNOW LODGES (Upper class)
Situated at the gate way to the Rwenzori Mountains, Equator snow lodge is surrounded by exceptional eco-system that the Rwenzori Mountains are famous for, and built parallel to the Mubuku River right the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains.
The Lodge works in close collaboration with Raboni Community and Rwenzori Mountaineering services. The Restaurant and Lounge areas are designed around the history of the Rwenzori Mountains with displays of significant historical illustrations.
TREKKERS HOSTEL (Budget)
Trekkers hostel is 12 km from Kasese town in the deep valley at the end of the road leading to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Behind the hostel meanders that Nyamwamba River which is the valley the Kilembe trail follows deep into the Rwenzori mountains National Park. The surroundings are diligently green and you can enjoy the cool weather as the hostel is situated at 1,450 meters which is nearly 500metres in height above Kasese town.
Most treks start from the hotel for the Kilembe route at 8:30am and can be arranged for any day that suits your schedule provided there are spaces available.
HOTEL MARGHERITA ( Moderate)
Hotel Margherita is situated some few kilometers west of Kasese town, in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains otherwise known as the “Mountains of the Moon”.
While at Margherita hotel, many visitors are always awe struck with the views of the Rwenzori whilst they prepare mentally for their own assault on the mountain.
SANDTON HOTEL KASESE (Moderate)
Sandton Hotel is located at the heart of Kasese town where guests can enjoy mountain views of the misty mountains of the moon. Featuring a terrace and a bar, the hotel also features free WiFi and a restaurant.
All units in the hotel are equipped with a kettle, wardrobe and a private bathroom. A Full English/Irish or continental breakfast can be enjoyed in the breakfast area. Sandton Hotel Kasese also provides a business center and there’s an onsite ATM machine that guests can use.
KYANINGA LODGE (Upper Class)
Set against the stunning backdrop of Lake Kyaninga and the Rwenzori Mountains beyond, Kyaninga Lodge is set within Fort portal town about 2 hours drive to the Rwenzori Mountains base. At Kyaninga, choose to relax in one of the nine exclusive cottages made from hand carved logs; enjoy superb dining, and a wealth of adventures wait.
The gardens provide a stunning setting for relaxation, reflection, and space for games. There is even a lawn tennis court for you to enjoy. With amazing wildlife on your doorstep, take a guided walk around the beautiful Kyaninga Crater Lake and Forest. See how many species of primate you can spot.
FORT MOTEL (moderate)
Perched on a beautifully manicured hill overlooking the quaint town of Fort Portal is Fort Motel, built around a refurbished old colonial house and has a swimming pool, spa, steam bath and an open air dining.
Fort Motel offers boutique hotel accommodation in Fort Portal, Uganda’s gateway town to the Rwenzori Mountains which can be viewed from most rooms of the hotel.