24/7 Support number 256-758-540-802

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

  • Magareta Peak

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located in Uganda. It has a range of mountain peaks that are over 5,000 meters above sea level. It is home to the Margarita Portal, which is the highest point in the park. The portal peaks are at an altitude of 5,109 meters from sea level and have snow all year round.

The Rwenzori Mountains, which in AD 15O, the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy referred to as the “Mountains of the Moon” are located on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These ice-capped mountains are taller than the Alps. With a height of 5,109 meters (16,762 feet), Margherita Mountain, one of Mount Stanley’s twin summits, is Africa’s third highest peak. The park also contains Africa’s fourth and fifth tallest peaks (Mount Speke and Mount Baker).

The park is one of Africa’s most stunning mountain landscapes, including glaciers, snowfields, waterfalls, and lakes. On May 24, 1888, explorer Henry Stanley placed the Rwenzori Mountains on the contemporary map. He named it ‘Ruwenzori,’ a native term that means “rainmaker” or “cloud-king” in Swahili.

The park encompasses the majority of the Rwenzori Mountains, a mountain range rising above parched plains just north of the equator.

Ms Beryl Park, 78, was the oldest person to summit the Margherita Peak.

Ms Beryl Park with her guides
Ms Beryl Park with her guides

The Rwenzoris are Africa’s tallest mountain range, despite the fact that its peak is only the third highest on the continent after Mount Kenya and Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro. There are routes that lead to the peaks from Kilembe, Mihunga, and Katebwa. There is no doubt about it: climbing the mountain is challenging. Your time spent in the Rwenzori region will undoubtedly be among your most challenging and satisfying successes. It takes a week or more to get to (and leave from) Mount Stanley because of the chilly, rainy, and treacherous terrain. However, the mountain may be climbed with the help of native Bakonzo porters and guides, and the rewards are immense.

WILDLIFE

In addition, there are 217 bird species, 9 reptile species, and 6 amphibian species in the park. Mammals located in the forest zone, such as elephants, chimpanzees, buffaloes, bushbucks, giant forest hogs, and leopards, are seldom spotted while hiking. Blue monkeys and the rare Rwenzori colobus can also be seen. There are often elephant droppings, and chimpanzees may be heard. Among the species of importance are the Rwenzori double collared sunbird, strange weaver, Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori batis, Handsome francolin, Rwenzori nightjar, Archer’s robin-chat, and red-throated alethe, which are among the 217 bird species found in the park.

In the tough environment further up the mountain, wildlife is rare, but keep a look out for the endangered lammergeyer swooping overhead and the scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird feasting on lobelia flowers.

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park’s flora is the major “wildlife” draw because, at over 5000 meters altitude, it provides the ideal environment for the “botanical big game” that is unique to East Africa’s highest mountains. Montane forest is located in the lowest of these zones, between the park’s perimeter and the 2500m contour. This gives place to bamboo (2,500–3,000 m), then groves of Rapanea and enormous heathers draped in garishly colored mosses and lianas, epiphytes, and lichens (3000-4000m). Above 4,000 meters, the slope opens up into moorland that is peppered with the Rwenzori’s famed enormous lobelia and groundsel species, some of which are endemic and iconic.

LOCAL PEOPLE

One of Uganda’s indigenous tribes, the Bakonzo people have long resided on the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains. Their culture and faith are centred around the mountain.

Also held in high regard by the locals is the power of Kitasamba, a chief deity whose natural habitat is a mountain’s top and whose name is never uttered there. On the mountain, 18 sacred Konzo locations have been located, mapped, and designated as places of devotion.

ACCESS

The Rwenzori Mountains lie along the Uganda-Congo border in western Uganda. The main trailheads are accessed from the tarmac Fort Portal-Kasese road. Kasese, is 375km from Kampala via Fort Portal (which is 300km from Kampala) and 450km passing via Mbarara.

The Kilembe Trailhead lies at the head of the Nyamwamba Valley, 15km west of Kasese. The Central Circuit Trailhead is located in the Mubuku Valley at Mihunga, 22km from the Fort Portal-Kasese road, 25km north of Kasese. For the Bukurungu Trail, turn off the main road at Nyakigumba, midway between Kasese and Fort Portal, and drive for 6km to the trailhead at Katebwa. To reach the shorter Kazingo Trail, follow the surfaced Bundibugo road out for Fort Portal for 9km, then turn left at Bukuku for 5km. Air transport can also be arranged to Kasese from Kampala’s Kajjansi airfield or Entebbe International Airport.

CLIMATE

The climate on the Rwenzori Mountains is cold and extremely wet; Rainfall is heaviest (sometimes reaching 300mm/month) during March-May and August-December, though even in the drier months some daily rain is common. Though daytime temperatures average 100C, after dark they drop below freezing. It is common for visibility to be obscured by mist and (on the peaks) snow.

WHEN TO VISIT

The Rwenzori is best climbed during the drier months of January and June-July.

ACCOMMODATION

UWA’s concessionaire operators (see below) provide accommodation in basic shelters on the Kilembe and Central Circuit routes. These are provided with wooden sleeping platforms/bunks and climbers should bring their own sleeping bag and camping mat. Kilembe trailhead is served by the Rwenzori Trekking Services Hostel while Nyakalengija has a choice of community-run budget lodgings and the upmarket Equator Snow Lodge. Both trailheads can also be reached from hotels in Kasese and Fort Portal town and tourist lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park.