Hiking the mountains of the moon in Mount Rwenzori National Park
How to get there.
Mount Rwenzori National Park can be connected from the following areas;
- Rwenzori National Park can also be connected to by Air travel. Aero link operates scheduled flights to Kasese from Entebbe International Airport. Other charter carriers offer charter services from either Kajjansi or Entebbe Airport to Kasese.
- You can also connect using public means by boarding buses that connect from Kampala to Kasese daily.
The Mountains of the moon as was noted by the Greek geographer Ptolemy in 150AD rise to 5,109m making it the third highest mountain in Africa and the tallest mountain range in Africa since Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895) and Mount Kenya (5,199m) are free standing. This makes it worth exploring while on Uganda safari. The Mountain has got series of peaks including Mt Stanley (5,109m), Mt Speke (4,890m) Mt Baker (4,843m), Mt Emin (4,798m), Mt Gessi (4,715m) and Mt Luigi di Savoia (4,627m). The towering peaks have got snow despite their closeness to the equator. The flowing glaciers form the remote sources of River Nile which isd the world’s longest river and present unique scenic views. First explored by Henry Morton Stanley in 1889, the mountain was first summited by the Duke of Abruzzi in 1906.
Mount Rwenzori National Park has got more impressive and rewarding flora than its fauna. While on safaris in Uganda, a traveler can explore this lush vegetation that thrives at various altitudinal ranges of Mount Rwenzori. Rising from the altitude above the farmlands of the Bakonzo, there lies montane forest at 1500-2500m giving way to Bamboo stands and messy tangles of Mimulopsis at 2500-3000m. This is followed by Heather- Rapenea zone at 3000-4000m marked by giant tree heathers (Erica spp.), garishly colored mosses and drab beards of lichen. The impressive giant lobelia forms (Lobelia spp.) and groundsels (Senecio spp.) thrive in this region and continues to the following Alpine zone at 3800-4500m where they meet wiry but pretty thickets of Helichrysum or everlasting flowers. The raised landscapes of Bujuku valley contain Bigo bogs that are marked by tussocks of sedge (Carex spp).
Mount Rwenzori National Park has got counts of wildlife including; buffalo, bushbuck, Elephant, leopard giant forest hog and chimpanzee. Due to the topography, this wild life is rarely encountered. Other species like hyrax, blue monkey and black and white colobus can be easily seen.
There are 217 bird species that thrive in Rwenzori National Park and 19 of these are restricted to the Albertine rift. Birds in Rwenzori include among others; cinnamon-chested bee-eater, hand francolin, Rwenzori turaco, long eared owl, barred long-tailed cuckoo, flycatcher, Archer`s ground robin, greenbul, white-starred forest robin, strange weaver, golden-winged sunbird, crimson wing, Legden`s busg shrike, montane sooty boubou, Rwenzori batis among other birds. The Malachite sunbird thrives in the higher Alpine slopes.
The slopes of Ruwenzori Mountains have supported the Bakonzo and Bamba tribal groups for centuries past and the Rwenzori landscapes are regarded as sacred grounds where they worship and meet their ancestral gods. They have a belief that Kitathamba thrives in the higher mountain slopes amidst snow and glaciers while his wives dwell in the lower moorland and the ridge communities are headed by ridge leaders. The Omusinga (King) of Mukonzo derives his power directly from Kitathamba. Periodical prayer sacrifices were made to ensure the thriving of good harvests, peace and aversion of calamities.
Mount Rwenzori National Park contains 217 species of birds of which 19 are restricted to the Albertine rift. This enables birders on Uganda safaris to encounter memorable birding experiences with the opportunity to spot a range of birds that may not be seen on lower altitude areas like Malachite sun bird. Other bird species that can be encountered include; Robins, Barbets, Bee-eaters, Long eared owl, Rwenzori Turaco, Bearded Vultures, Swifts and Black eagles.
There are ranges on nature walks that are designed for first time hikers and limited time travellers to explore the Rwenzori Mountains. The walks traverse the central circuit passing through Buraro Chimp forest and Lake Mahoma while others go through Kichamba communities extending to Karangura ridge. The Bwamba pass which acted as direct route connecting Fort Portal and Bundibugyo before the road was constructed in 1938. It involves 1,500m hike across the northern Rwenzori ridge which makes it an active hike to encounter while on safari in Uganda.
- Mountain climbing.
Summiting Rwenzori Mountains formerly known as Lunae Montes – the Mountains of the moon is such thrilling adventure that you can ever have in your life time. Rising up to 5,109m, Margarita peak is snowcapped and is the highest point in Uganda and the third in Africa. Though Rwenzori Mountains were listed among the challenging mountains to climb on African continent by the African travel Magazine, they can be summited which makes any Uganda safari undertaker interested in summiting it walk in the footsteps of the Duke of Abruzzi who first reached its top in 1906. The two trails are designed to enable you achieve your memorable experience in Uganda. These trails include; Kilembe trail and Central circuit rail.
The Central Circuit Trail: The central circuit starts at Mihunga and takes seven (7) days round trip.
Day 1: Climb from Nyakalengija (5400ft /1646 m) to Nyabitaba Hut (8700ft /2652m)
Day 2: Nyabitaba- John Matte hut (11200ft/3414 m)
Day 3: John Matte – Bujuku Hut (13000 ft 3962 m)
Day 4: Bujuku Hut – Elena Hut (14,700 ft /4430 m)
Day 5: Lake Kitandara hut – Guy Yeoman hut (10700ft/3261m)
Day 6: Descend from Guy Yeoman hut to Nyabitaba Hut
Day 7: Descend from Nyabitaba hut to Nyakalengija.
Kilembe Trail: The Kilembe trail starts at Kilembe and lasts Nine (9) days round trip including summiting Margarita peak.
Day 1: Climb to Sine hut (2,585 m)
Day 2: Sine Hut to Kalalama Camp (3.147m) to Mutinda Camp (3.688 m)
Day 3: Mutinda Camp to Bugata Camp (4.062 m)
Day 4: Bugata Camp to Butawu Camp (3.974 m)
Day 5: Butawu Camp to Margherita Camp (4,485 m.)
Day 6: Margherita Camp to Margherita Peak (5.109 m) down Butawu Camp (3.974 m)
Day 7: Butawu Camp to Bugata Camp
Day 8: Descend to Kiharo Camp (3,460 m.)
Day 9: Descend back to the Ranger post
Mount Rwenzori National Park is surrounded by a range of tribal groups particularly the Bakonzo and Bamba who have thrived in this area for centuries past with great traditions and practices that are worth encountering while on safari in Uganda.
Ruboni Community Camp. The village of Ruboni is considered as settlement area of the Bakonzo for over 2,000 years and they have accumulated a lot of heritage which can be explored on Uganda safari. You can mix up with the community as they undertake their daily routine like animal rearing, cultivation, food preparation along with other activities. The visit to the traditional healer, blacksmith, craft makers and story tellers will give you a detailed host – guest interaction.
Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail. The Bulemba – Ihandiro cultural trail takes about 6-7 hours traversing the holy valley and other cultural sites of the Bakonzo. You are accompanied by the indigenous guide who will take you to the traditional healer’s home called Muhima as he demonstrates his powers to you. You can also visit the black smith who reveals the value of the Konzo traditional stool. The basket weaving and fire making encounters are incorporated on this trail. Pass by Kamusonge River whose waters are thought to be sweet and faster in quenching thirst. The Konzo Museum can also be explored on this trail exposing the instruments that were used in the Rwenzururu struggle for succession.
Equator Snow Lodge.
This is situated at Rwenzori National Park’s entrance offering an upmarket accommodation which is molded out of stones from River Mubuku. The lodge offers. The lodge offers impressive views of Rwenzori Mountains. It features spacious dining area and impressive works of art. The accommodation is offered in its cottages with bathrooms and windows having clear views of the forest.
Ruboni Community Camp
Ruboni Community Camp is situated at the gateway to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. It has a wide range of choice from camping (own tents), to 6 private rooms with individual washrooms (hot water brought on request) or three self-contained bandas. The camp has got solar lighting, restaurant, balcony, mosquito nets, and private bath rooms, hot overhead showers, running water and showers in bandas.
Ruboni Turaco View Camp.
The Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite is positioned in the village of Mihunga and derives its name from the local bird endemic – the Rwenzori Turaco. It features a restaurant, bar and composting toilet. Accommodation is offered in its seven (7) rooms in Banda setting and has camping provision. The rooms feature private bathroom while the camping site has eco-san showers and toilets.
Rwenzori Mountains / Mihunga Safari Lodge.
This is situated in Mihunga village adjacent to Nyakalengija where the central circuit starts from. Accommodation is provided in 5 self-contained wooden cottages, dining and restaurant with the kitchen preparing inter-continental food. The lodge has generator powered electricity and hot water is available
This is ideal for mountain climbers that are to use the Kilembe circuit. It is operated by the Rwenzori trekking services.