Rwenzori Mountains National Park has the highest mountain ranges in Africa. Its highest point lies at 5109 metres above sea level on Mt. Stanley’s Margherita peak is the third highest in Africa. It lies astride the equator with six peaks and three of these i.e. Mt. Stanley, Mt. Baker and Mt. Speke are permanently covered with snow. The park covers an area of 996 km2. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and was listed by world geographic among the best hikes in the world. It lies in Western Uganda about 6 hours’ drive from Kampala.
It is known as ‘mountains of the moon’ a name given to it by Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in A.D. 150. Locally known as Ruwenzori, which is translated as “rain maker” or “cloud-king”. The Rwenzori is not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains but is a block of rock up faulted through the floor of the Western Rift valley. The hike will take you through varied vegetation covers which include montane forest, bamboo forest, tree heath, hagenia-rapanea scrub and afro-alpine moorland.
A trip into the Rwenzoris is an exhilarating and rewarding experience but adequate preparation should be made. The key to an enjoyable visit is to be prepared! The conditions on the mountain are a challenge to even an experienced hiker. The central hike circuit takes six nights or seven days and reaches an altitude of 4,267 metres above the sea level. While on the hike you will spend nights at various huts which are well maintained and you will have porters to help with the luggage you need to go along with. There are different starting points for different trails you can take on your hike — Nyakalengija central circuit and Kilembe trail are located near Kasese town whereas Kazingo (nature walk trailhead) is located near Fort Portal town. For those not in for the entire trail, you can have 3 days in the lower foothills of the mountains that take you through beautiful scenery and birding spots.
The park is home to over 200 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics; Rwenzori Turaco, Long eared owl, Archers’ Robin-chat, Lagden’s Bush Shrike etc… The park hosts 70 mammal species including elephants, giant forest hog, chimpanzees and leopard but are hardly seen. The mountain ranges boast of 20 lakeswith Lake Mahoma being the most accessible.
Hikers should consider symptoms and treatment of hypothermia and other forms of altitude sickness. Above 2500 metres, altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of age, fitness, or previous mountain hiking experience. The most effective treatment is descent to lower altitude. Carry the following basic items for your hike,sleeping bag, warm clothing.
The communities bordering the park offer an amazing cultural bonding in form of music, dance and drama, food preparation, craft making and folktales.
You can reach the park from Kampala via Fort Portal or via Mbarara. You can also take scheduled or chartered flight from Entebbe to Kasese Airfield.
Activities in this park include: mountain Hiking, bird watching, nature walks, cultural trail, community walks.