Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains (1)
The primary attraction of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park is mountain climbing, similar to Mount Elgon National Park in Mbale. PHOTO/BrilliantUganda

Are you planning a trip to Africa? Here are a few compelling reasons to visit Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda.

In 1991, the Rwenzori Mountains were designated as a national park. The National Park is located in the south-western corner of Uganda, adjacent to the huge Virunga National Park, and encompasses over 100,000 hectares. 

The park is 386 square miles in size and is bounded by the districts of Kabarole, Bundibugyo, and Kasese. 

The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994 and a Ramsar site in 2008 because of its natural beauty, unique species, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers, and mountains. 

These categories attest to the mountains’ scientific significance on a global scale. The term ‘Rwenzori’ generally translates as ‘Rainmaker,’ emphasising the mountains’ significance in Central Africa.

The park’s primary features are the Rwenzori mountain ranges. They are Africa’s highest/largest mountain ranges. 

The National Park offers breathtaking vistas of glaciers and snow-capped mountains just a few kilometres from the equator, where it borders the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park (DRC).

Here is a list of compelling reasons to visit the Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda when you are planning a trip to Africa.

Animals and Plants

Apart from the mountains, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park is well-known for its vegetation, wildlife, and birds. 

The mountains support the richest montane vegetation in Africa due to their altitudinal range, nearly constant temperatures, humidity, and strong insolation. 

There is an incredible diversity of animals, many of which are peculiar to the Albertine Rift and appear odd.

The natural vegetation has been categorised into five separate zones, with height and aspect determining the majority of the zones. 

The higher altitude zones, which are covered in heath and Afro-alpine moorland, extend from around 3,500 m to the snow line and contain some of the continent’s most unusual flora varieties.

Giant heathers, groundsels, lobelias, and other indigenous species are among the most notable. 

At the foot of the mountain is an African savannah, which is home to several species of mammals, including black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, buffaloes, bushbuck, chimps, golden cats, giant forest hogs, red duiker, forest elephants, rock hyrax, Rwenzori Colobus, Rwenzori otters, the Rwenzori climbing mouse, Sitatunga, servalline gene The Rwenzori National Park is one of the best spots in Uganda to go birdwatching. 

The park has been home to 217 bird species and fifteen butterfly species. Three-horned chameleons are the most sought-after reptile.

Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains 

Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains national park (2)
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is primarily known for mountain climbing, just like Mount Elgon National Park in Mbale. PHOTO/BrilliantUganda

Similar to Mbale’s Mount Elgon National Park, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park’s primary attraction is mountain climbing

The Rwenzori Mountains have been climbed by some of the world’s top climbers. 

The Rwenzori Mountain Services (RMS) collaborates with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to organise the majority of mountain trekking activities, as well as maintain the paths and housing on the peaks. 

The hiking experience is world-class in its organisation. For inexperienced hikers, reaching the highest peak (Margherita) may prove quite difficult. Shorter, less arduous climbs around the mountain without ascending to the snow-capped peaks are possible.

The top is accessible via two hiking trails. The Central Circuit Trail, which begins in Mihunga and takes seven days to complete, is the first. 

The only organisation that conducts trekking along this route is the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services. 

The Kilembe trail, which begins in Kilembe near Kasese town, is the second trail. This is a recently opened route that is operated by Rwenzori trekking services. 

One of the peaks takes five days to climb. At a minimum, nine days should be planned aside to explore all three of the highest peaks. 

Climbing to Margherita’s highest point provides views of snow-capped peaks and alpine greenery. Descending the mountain affords hikers more sustained views of the extensive farmlands, Queen Elizabeth national park, and the Virunga highlands in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Additionally, climbers will meet stunning lakes and rivers high in the mountains.

If you did not have your climbing equipment, you can rent some from Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, albeit the quality may be compromised.

Utilizing the services of a tour operator is the most convenient way to arrange a hiking excursion in the park. A tour operator can assist in organising transportation and lodging while also coordinating porters, guides, and cooks with the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services. 

The whole expense of hiking to the mountains’ summits includes the cost of two porters, guides, a cook, a rescue mission, housing, and heating. 

Commercial video or filming incurs a daily fee of $200, plus an additional $1,000 that is returned if a hiker gives a copy of the video to the Uganda Wildlife Authority

The usual daily admission charge to the park is $30.

Hiking in the Forest and Foothills 

Inexperienced mountain climbers might choose to hike on the mountain slopes and through the forest or participate in activities such as hand fishing along some of the mountain streams. 

Keep an eye out for the Rwenzori chameleon, which has three horns. 

This critically endangered reptile is found only in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Male chameleons have three horns, but female chameleons lack them.

Birdwatching

UNESCO designated the Rwenzori region as a World Heritage Site for Birds

The park and its mountains are home to a variety of species, including:

  • the African Long-eared Owl
  • Archers’ Robin-chat
  • Barbets
  • Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo
  • Blue-headed Sunbird
  • Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater
  • Collared Apalis and Flycatchers
  • Sunbirds with golden wings
  • Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds
  • Golden-winged Sunbirds
  • Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike
  • Greenbuls Illadopsis with a grey chest
  • Grey-winged Robin Iladopsis
  • Kivu Ground Thrush
  • Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Lammergeiger
  • Long-eared Owl
  • Montane Masked
  • Montane Rwenzori Nightjar
  • Montane Sooty Boubou
  • Olive Woodpecker
  • Oriole-Finch The red-faced Crimsonwing
  • the red-faced Woodland Warbler
  • the red-thighed Sparrowhawk
  • the red-throated Alethe
  • the Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds
  • the Rwenzori Batis
  • the Rwenzori Turaco Starling with a slender bill
  • Strange Weaver
  • Stripe-breasted Tit
  • Western Green Tinkerbird
  • White-collared Olive-back
  • And White-starred Robin

Cultural Experiences

Cultural contacts with one of the indigenous tribes who reside at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains are possible in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. 

Tourists can travel to Ruboni village to learn about the Bakonzo tribe’s daily lives and history.

The Bakonzo people host cultural dance events in addition to imparting knowledge about their ancestors.

The Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail is another intriguing cultural experience. 

This route provides additional insight into Bakonzo’s fascinating culture. Visit a traditional healer and a blacksmith in the area. Visitors are taught how to build fire and weave baskets using only natural materials. 

Additionally, the Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail connects visitors to the Bakonzo traditional Museum, which contains various traditional artefacts, including artwork and locally created garments.

The Bakonzo assemble and perform an annual trip on September 2nd to commemorate their great King Isaiah Kibanzanga Mukirania. 

The king was instrumental in defending the Bakonzo against oppression at the hands of their Batooro neighbours. 

Visitors are welcome and one can get a real African experience during this festival. The day is marked by festivity, sacred rites, and sacrifices in honour of the great ruler.

Nature Walks

Companies such as Rwenzori Mountain Services (RMS) and Backpackers in Kilembe may arrange for nature walks near the park’s limits. 

The RMS walks often follow the primary circuit zone that is used for mountain climbing. The area surrounding the mountain hiking trailhead is forested and scenic, leading up to Lake Mahooma and Buraro’s chimp forest. 

Other natural areas to visit. Your tour operator can assist you in reserving nature walks with any of these organisations.

Hotel Margherita at Rwenzori Mountains Park (1)
In the park, midrange lodging options include Hotel Margherita, Rwenzori International Hotel, Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge, and Sandton Hotel. PHOTO/HOTELS.COM

Several options for lodging

The majority of lodging options are located near the base of the mountains and provide breathtaking views of the park and surrounding mountains.

Hotel Margherita, Rwenzori International Hotel, Ihamba lakeside Safari lodge, and Sandton Hotel are among the park’s mid-range accommodations.

Katara Lodge, Equator Snow Lodge, Tropical Savannah Guest House, Tours Holiday Inn, Ruboni Community Camp, Mihunga Safari Lodge, and Rwenzori Backpackers are just a few of the lodges.

Rwenzori Backpackers is a budget accommodation facility that is primarily utilised by people who are hiking the Kilembe Trail. 

The lodge features plush mattresses, hot baths, as well as a bar and restaurant.

If you are looking for a complete Uganda travel experience, we also recommend checking out our guide to Kidepo Valley National ParkKibale National ParkLake Mburo National Park and Semuliki National Park.