The Rwenzori Mountains are a world-famous UNESCO heritage site in western Uganda. These ranges which have also been known as the legendary “Mountains of the Moon” are located in one of Africa’s most beautiful Alpine forests. These great ranges offer a stunning view of the glacier and snow-capped mountains.
The Rwenzoris are also attributed to be the source of the Nile, the world’s second-longest river. Its multitudes of free-flowing rivers and the cascading landscapes add to the beauty that these mountains garnish the African pearl’s horizon with.
In an effort to recognize and preserve the wildlife, uniqueness, and rare vegetation at these mountain slopes; in 1991; the mountains acquired a status of a national park and are now well known as Rwenzori mountains national park. Three years later, it was accorded a UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
The Rwenzori Mountains are under the watch of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) on the Ugandan side and under the protection of Virunga National Park on the Democratic Republic of Congo side.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park Size
The Rwenzori mountains national park covers an area of approximately 1000 square kilometers. It lies in the southwestern region of Uganda on the east side of the western arm of the Great East African rift valley between the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Summiting Rwenzori Mountains
The park consists of the center and eastern half of the snow-covered Rwenzori Mountains which are located north of the equator.
The mist shrouded mountains stretch over the districts of Bundibugyo, Kabarole, and Kasese. The Rwenzori mountains soar to heights of 5109 metres above sea level. Indeed, the mountain is the third highest mountain on the African continent (after the Kilimanjaro Mountain of Tanzania and Mount Kenya of Kenya). The mountains offer a unique and pristine landscape.
The Rwenzori Mountain chain is known for its stratified, unique, and amazing vegetation that make it an exceptionally scenic destination. The vegetation cover comprises of the Montane Forest, Bamboo zone, Heather zone, Alpine zone and the Rock and Glacier zone. The unique Alpine flora supports a wide range of flora and fauna.
These mountains are made up of 6 massifs elevating at different heights and among these include; Mount Stanley which protects the highest summit of the mountain – Margherita at 5,109 meters, Mount Speke at 4,890 meters, Mount Baker at 4,843 meters, Mount Emin at 4,798 meters, Mount Gessi at 4,715 meters, and Mount Luigi di Savoia at 4,627 meters.
These massifs especially Mount Stanley have several subsidiary peaks with Margherita as the highest. Others include; Alexandra at 5,091 meters, Albert at 5,087 meters, Savoia at 4,977 meters, Ellena at 4,968 meters, Elizabeth at 4,929 meters, Phillip at 4,920 meters, Moebius at 4,916 meters and Great Tooth at 4,603 meters.
It takes six to eight days to summit the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda. Depending on your mountaineering experience, you can summit the Rwenzoris and back in just six days.
Attractions in the Rwenzori Mountains
With an area of approximately 1000 square kilometers, Rwenzori mountains national park protects several attractions including over 70 mammal species, 217 bird species where 17 of these are endemics, unique vegetation cover, insects, lakes and rivers and many others as explained below;
The park has a number of wildlife species. These include over 70 mammal species and these include six endemics to Albertine Rift. Four species are endemic to the park and three are rare species.
Popular wildlife that can be seen in the Rwenzori are elephants, leopards, Rwenzori otters, and others. There are also different primate species including the baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and others.
However, it should be noted that is not very common to spot these animals during your mountaineering experience. Animals often run for their safety whenever they sense any strangers in their environment.
Rwenzori mountains National Park is remarkably known for encompassing a unique and beautiful flora and fauna. It is one of the most beautiful alpine areas.
The mountains are covered by different vegetation zones that you can encounter during your Rwenzori trek to different mountain summits and peaks. Vegetation zones to cross include; the tropical rainforests, African savannahs, montane forests, bamboo forests to the alpine forests, Heather zone, the Rock and Glacier zone.
3. Bird species
Rwenzori mountains National Park is a home to over 217 bird species including the endemic species from the Albertine rift.
The park contains a variety of beautiful and colorful bird species including the handsome francolin, barred long-tailed cuckoo, blue-headed sunbird, long eared owl, Rwenzori batis, slender-billed starling, strange weaver, flycatchers, crimson wings and others.
4. The snowcapped peaks
The Rwenzori Mountains are made up of other 6 massifs that contain peaks that are permanently snowcapped and glaciated. Among these massifs include Mount Stanley which is the highest with 5,109 meters, Mount Speke with 4,890 meters, Mount Baker with 4,843 meters and others.
These amazing snowcapped mountain summits can be reached after the hike through different hiking trails of the park such as the Central Circuit trail which is governed by the locals, Kilembe trail which is privately governed and Bukurungu trail.
Rwenzori mountains national park is composed of 20 lakes and among these include Lake Mahoma which is the nearest and most accessible in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit trail.
The park also has other lakes like Lake Bujuku lying at the apex of the deep and glacier carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of mountains like Mount Stanley, Mount Baker and Mount Speke.
Regardless of all the above amazing things about the Rwenzoris in Uganda, only a few people visit this mountain. Less than 10,000 people visit the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda. This makes it one of the best mountaineering destinations in Africa for anyone interested in a non-congested destination.