Rwenzori national park is Uganda’s most interesting hiking destination and Africa’s most beautiful mountain areas. Rwenzori national park is situated in south western Uganda in the east African rift valley in Bundibugyo, Kabarole and Kasese districts bordering Democratic Republic of Congo between Lake Albert to the north and Lake George to the south. Mount Rwenzori is the third highest mountain range in Africa rising up more than 16700 feet above sea level and its highest peaks are always snow-capped while the lower slopes are covered in Moorland, Bamboo, Montane forest and the mountain sides covered with tree heathers, colourful mosses, giant lobelias, flowers among others. Rwenzori national park harbours 70 mammal species, 217 bird species and occupied with beautiful water falls, unique plat life, mountainous vegetation, snow fields and 6 glacial peaks including Mt Speke, mount Stanley, Mt Gessi, Mt Emin Pasha, Mt Luigi di Savoia and Mt Baker.
Getting to Rwenzori National Park
This park can be accessed by air transport where you can book a chartered flight from Entebbe airport to Kasese Airfield and later connect by road to Rwenzori national park.
The park can also be accessed by the road where you use public means or a private vehicle from Kampala via Fort Portal to the park or from Kampala via Mbarara and Queen Elizabeth national park then connect to Rwenzori national park which takes 4 to 5 hours.
Attractions in Rwenzori National Park
- Equatorial Snow peaks, Rwenzori park comprises of 6 mountains which are located in the north part of the equator with mount Stanley Margherita as the highest and third highest in Africa at 5109m above sea level, Mount Speke at 4890m, Mount Baker at 4843m, Mount Gessi at 4715m, Mount Emin Pasha at 4791m and Mount Luigi da Savoia at 4627m above sea level which are covered with permanent snow and glaciers.
- Vegetation, Rwenzori national park is covered with beautiful Tropical rain forest, Tree heathers, Bamboo, Afro-alpine, Montane forest and plant species like groundsel, lobelia among others.
- Wildlife, Rwenzori national park is a home of 70 mammal species with six species endemic to the Albertine rift and four species endemic to only Rwenzori national park and they include Elephants, Leopards, small Antelopes, Bushbucks, Rwenzori Otter, Black and white colobus monkey, Blue monkeys, Chimpanzees, Reptiles, Amphibians among others. Wildlife in Rwenzori national park is difficult to spot due to the dense forests.
- Bird species, Rwenzori national park is a home of 217 bird species with 19 endemic to Rwenzori national park including Handsome francolin, Cinnamon chested bee-eater, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Turaco, Barred long tailed cuckoo, Golden winged sunbird, Slender billed starling, Blue headed sunbird among others.
- Lakes, Rwenzori national park consists of over 20 lakes with the main being Lake Bujuku that lies at the top of a deep and curved glacier Bujuku valley in the shadows of Mount Stanley, Mount Speke and Mount Baker. There is also Lake Mahoma which is found in the central circuit forest.
- Bulemba houses, these are historical remains of the first king of Rwenzururu kingdom Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzaga who is believed to have saved the Bakonzo tribe from batooro oppression. The Bakonzo people offer sacrifices during the pilgrimage to the sacred site on 2nd September every year as remembrance of their first king.
- Ruboni, this is an area located in the south eastern part of Rwenzori Mountain and acts as a starting point for nature walks, birding and community walks while visiting the homesteads of the Bakonzo community and trailheads for hikers to the high mountain peaks in Rwenzori national park.
Activities carried out in Rwenzori National Park
Mountain climbing, Rwenzori national park is one of the popular destinations for mountain climbing where visitors hike to the snow-capped mountain peaks. Mountain climbing is an adventurous activity in Rwenzori national park which requires hikers to be physically fit. There are two trailing trails in the park that hikers follow for example
The central circuit trail, this trail starts from Mihunga trailhead via Nyabitaba and Bujuku valley. This trail is organised by Rwenzori mountaineering services and takes 7days climb to reach the top where you will be able to view the fascinating snow-capped peaks.
Kilembe trail, this trail starts from Kilembe near Kasese town in the southern part of Rwenzori national park and you will pass via the glacial lakes and Nyamwamba valley and join the central circuit at Lake Kitandara. During this trail hikers will be able to explore the three highest peaks, vegetation cover, plant species and sight some wildlife.
Bird watching, Rwenzori national park harbours 217 bird species with 19 species endemic to only Rwenzori national park hence making it a birding area for birders. Birding in Rwenzori majorly starts morning at Ruboni to the Montane forest where birders will be able to view different unique species such as Blue headed sunbird, Long eared owl, Rwenzori Batis, Barred long tailed cuckoo, Crimson wings, Montane sooty bou bou, Purple breasted sunbird, Stripe breast tit, Western green tinker bird, Golden winged sunbird, Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome francolin, Cinnamon chested bee-eater, Strange weaver, Black and swift eagles among others.
Nature walks/ hiking, this is an exciting activity where you walk within the forest foothills on foot with an armed ranger especially within the central circuit. There are different trails taken while hiking for example trails to Lake Mahoma and Buraro chimpanzee forest, hiking through the communities of Kichwamba to Karangura ridge and Bundibugyo through Bwamba. There are also guided forest walks by the Ruboni and Turaco Communities which are done outside the park. During this walk visitors visit river Mubuku and will also be able to view the Margherita snow-capped peak, view squirrels, vervet monkeys, three horned chameleon, bird species such as Rwenzori Turaco, tiny sun bird, cinnamon chested bee-eater, participate in activities such as hand fishing along the streams among others hence giving them lifetime experiences on their safari in Uganda.
Cultural encounters, this is an activity which gives visitors an opportunity to interact with the local communities around the park for example the Ruboni village which is home to the Bakonzo who live in the foothills of the mountain where you will learn about their daily activities like farming, animal rearing, taste their traditional dishes, visit the traditional healers, craft shops and engage in entertainment such as traditional dances, music, drama which makes you visit rewarding.
Rwenzori Turaco view campsite, this is a small village of Mihunga near the snow-capped peaks of Rwenzori. The campsite harbours Bankozo people who lived in the area for over 300 years without electricity and water. During community walks you will visit the schools, craft demonstrations like dances, drama among others.
Bulemba- Ihandiro cultural trail, this walk takes 6 to 7 hours through the holy valley where you will visit the local blacksmith who reveal spiritual importance of the Bakonzo traditional stool, basket weaving, fire making skills among others. you will also go through Kamusonge river whose water is believed to be sweet and quenches your thirst, visit the traditional thatched museum with equipment’s that were used during the Rwenzururu struggle, traditional dresses and other historical objects and also view the Bakonzo making pilgrimage in remembrance of their great king Isaiah Kibanzaga who protected them from oppression by the Batooro hence learning more about other people’s cultures and traditions.
The park is an adventurous hiking destination in Uganda where great hikers can climb for 7 days to reach the top of the mountain which offers great views of the peaks, vegetation, some animals and birds among others hence gaining lifetime experiences on your safari in Uganda.