Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located in Uganda which is found in the East African region on the African continent just slightly above the equator line on the geographical co-ordinates 00o 22’N 29o57’E. Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies 398 km or 6-hour drive away from Kampala city the capital of Uganda in the southwestern district of Kasese. Rwenzori Mountains National Park is boarded by Democratic Republic of Congo in west as it lies on the boundary between Uganda and D.R. Congo, Bundibugyo district in the north, Kanungu district in the south and Kabarole in the northeast, the savannah plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park and eastern escarpments of the western arm of the great East African rift valley in the east. This park covers about 996 sq. km of mountain Rwenzori. Rwenzori Mountains is located in the Albertine rift valley on the border of Uganda and D.R. Congo. In Uganda, this Rwenzori mountain covers the districts of Kasese, Kabarole, Bundibugyo, and Ntoroko spanning a distance of about 120 km long and 65 km wide. The Rwenzori Mountains were formed as a result of uplift due to the movement of the tectonic plates in the rift valley.
This movement caused an upward thrust of the old basement rock complex from the surrounding plains hence forming a stiff rugged mountain range. The Rwenzori Mountains is made up of igneous rocks that were thrust upwards during the formation phase, the igneous rocks from the steep and rugged profiles of mount baker, Stanley, and portal. The Rwenzori Mountains experiences a variation in temperature given its variation in height. The area below 2000m above sea level experience temperatures between 25-30oC, areas between 2000m-3000m above sea level have their temperature in the range of 15-20oC, areas between 3000m-4000m have their temperatures varying between 0-10oC and areas above 5000m have temperatures ranging between 0- -10oC. The highest peak of the Rwenzori mountain is Margherita at 5109m above sea level and it’s the third-highest on the African continent only behind to mt. Kenya and mt. Kilimanjaro. The Rwenzori Mountains has five distinctive overlapping vegetation zones which include savannah grassland zone below 2000m above sea level, afro montane forests zone between 1800-2800m above sea level, bamboo forest zone between 2500-3300m above sea level, the heather zone between 3000-3800m above sea level and afro-alpine moorland zone between 3500-4500m above sea level. With all these variations in temperature and vegetation, Rwenzori Mountains becomes a sanctuary for a variety of wildlife and this includes 217 bird species with 19 Albertine rift endemics, 70 mammal species and a variety of vegetation species
The mysteries surrounding the Rwenzori Mountains started captivating European medieval geographers as early the 1st-2nd century AD and in 150AD, an ancient Greek-Roman geographer called Cladius Plotemy wrote of a mountain deep in the heart of Africa was the source of the mighty river Nile, he named this mountain as “Mountains of the Moon”. As time passed, early geographical explorers took up a task to discover the source of the longest river in the world and in 1888, Henry Morton Stanley successfully became the first white man to see MT Rwenzori, he added it on the world map on 08th may 1888 naming it Ruwenzori which is a local Bakonzo word which means “Rain Maker”. Rwenzori National Park was gazetted into a National Park in 1991 and in 1994, it was added among the World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization. Between 1996-2004 the park experienced a lot of insecurity rising from rebel groups like the M23 rebel group, Allied Defense Forces that had made it their hideout place but all of these have now been flushed out of the mountain forests especially on the Ugandan side making it peaceful and enjoyable to climb. In 2009, Rwenzori Mountains National Park was added among the Ramsar Sites.
With an altitude of 5109m above sea level, Rwenzori mountain is Africa’s third-highest mountain only exceeded by mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro in Kenya and Tanzania respectively. Rwenzori is also home to Africa’s fourth and fifth highest peaks. On MT Stanley block, is peak Margherita which is the highest peak standing proud at an impressive height of 5109m above sea level, and is snowcapped throughout the year. Margherita’s peak was named by Duke Abruzzi after the Queen Margherita of Italy after his expedition to this splendid peak in 1906. Rwenzori mountain also has many glacial features such as lakes like Lac du Speke, lake bujuku and the standard lakes as you climb towards its peaks. These are formed as a result of glaciation and also the existence of massive valleys up in the mountain. On a clear day, these peaks can be spotted from as far as Kabarole giving you a one of kind and memorable view.
With a count of about 217 bird species, 19 of which are endemic to the Albertine rift, Rwenzori Mountains National Park is any birder’s destination. Some of the birds to look out for while in this park include;
The Rwenzori turaco has a body length of 45cm and an average body weight of 211-256g and has a monkey-like “chk chk chk” or “ik ik ik growing” call sound
The blue-headed sunbird has a body length of 12-14 cm and an average weight of 10-16 grams. This species makes a relatively quiet twittering with a series of loud chips that come after every 3-4seconds
Regal sunbirds have a body length of 10-11 cm and an average weight of 5-8 grams. The adult male regal sunbird has its head and underparts colored in an iridescent golden-green dark wing and tail and also a boldly marked red and yellow breast and belly but the adult females have dull olive upperparts and yellowish, faintly streaked underparts. These birds make a sound of repetitions of rapid twittering with rising and falling notes. Red-throated alethe – The red-throated alethe has an average body length of 12cm with a body weight of 30-45grams. Male red-throated the have a black crown encircled by the broad grey line from forehead through supercilium to the nape. The red-throated alethe make a monotonous and noisey single downslurred “piiiyuu” sound
Kivu ground thrush
The kivu ground thrush is also called the Abyssinian ground thrush. It has a body length of 19-20 cm and an average weight of 43-65grams. The male kivu ground thrush bird is pale olive brown from cheeks to hind crown and underparts, with darker wing-coverts and double white spotted wingbars. It makes a voice call that has a low concealed perch with a deep twilight.
Dusky and Shelly’s crimsonwing
The dusky crimson wing birds have an average length of 11cm and average weight of 14 grams. The males have their heads in red nape grey with dark crimson red upper parts but the upperwings and tail blackish grey with the side of the neck to chin, throat and underparts being dark grey. This species makes a call voice of a soft “tzeek” or “tsit” sound and also a soft trilling “geegeegeegee” sound
The Rwenzori nightjar has a cholate brown drapled plumage and it has a male nightjar body length of 22-24cm or 9ich with body weight 43-55g while the female nightjar weighs between 41-57g. the male Rwenzori nightjar white spots on its four primaries and also its tail edge is white. The female nightjar is buff colored spots on its four primaries. The Rwenzori nightjar makes an “ank ank ank” sound call that is followed by a high pitch whistle of “peeeee, pee-uuu”
This is a small, active black and white flycatcher like bird with dark bluish black underparts, a white stripe along the wing and black thighs, the Rwenzori batis has also glossy bluish black breast band in its underparts. Both the male and female Rwenzori batis look alike athough the males have red eyes while the females sometimes have orangey red eyes. The young ones are also similar to adults except that their plumage has a more rufous cast. This species has a length of 11-12 cm and an average weight of 8-15.5 grams. This bird habituates in the afro montane forests at an altitude between 1340-3300 m.
This bird species has a dark reddish brown plumage, grey head, redlegs and bills with a rufous grey under part and brown iris. The younger handsome francolin has a duller plumage but in adulthood both male and female birds look the same with a wing spans of up to 35 cm long.
The dwarf honeyguide has an average body length of 12cm with the male weighing in between 11-15g and female weighs between 12-13.5g the dwarf honeyguide has a stubby bill. Both the male and female dwarf honeyguide have olive, green and grey and grey color with a white mark on loral area. The dwarf honey guide makes a “tuutwi” sound call
Rwenzori Mountains has been described by UNESCO as the Africa’s Botany Big Game, this simply due to presence of some of the rarest vegetation covers in the world. Rwenzori National Park has five distinctive vegetation types that keep on changing with the rise in altitude. These vegetation types include the following.
This is a vegetation zone characterized by high temperatures usually between 28-35oC for the biggest part of the year, there is usually short rainfall seasons and long dry spells, the savanna vegetation zone has open grasslands with short scattered trees. The open grasslands form an eco-system with a complete food chain from producers to primary consumers to secondary consumers/predators to decomposers and scavengers. The producers usually are made up of grass and trees, primary consumers are made up of browsing and grazing animals like impalas, zebras and cows. Secondary consumers are made up of all predators that consume the primary consumers or herbivores, the predators can be lions, leopards and jackals. Decomposers/ scavengers. These dispose of whatever has remained off after the predators have consumed their prey. Decomposers can include termites’ bacteria fungi and scavengers include marabou stocks, hyenas. The savannah vegetation zone is found below 2000m above sea level on the Rwenzori mountain.
Montane forests cover the lower slopes of the mountain Rwenzori; the montane forests are characterized by hard wood trees species like the African mahogany- This tree is also called khaya or I dont know tree. It belongs to the khaya genus. This tree is a very large tree towering up to 65m tall with a straight trunk and grows in an area with fertile soils. This tree species is highly sought after by loggers due to its fine wood which is very beautiful for furniture making. The montane forests exist on the lower slopes of Rwenzori between 1800-3000m above sea level.
The bamboo trees have a hollow stem; certain bamboo tree species can grow very rapidly growing up to 91 cm in a single day. bamboo trees rarely flower and some species have been recorded to flower once in a period of over 65 years and when they do flower they usually die off. The bamboo forests are found between 2500-3500m above sea level on the Rwenzori mountain,
Tree heath and bog
Tree heather can also be referred to as heather and have a variety of species counting to 4250 known species. Heather can grow in infertile and acidic soils. Heather tree species usually have hermaphrodite flowers and these flowers have their petals in various shapes like narrowly tubular petals, funnel form petals and widely un shaped petals. Examples of tree species under heath include cranberry, blueberry, and huckleberry. The heather and bog zone is found between 3500-4000m
Hagenia rapanea scrub and Afro-alpine moorland.
Afro- alpine moorland has a diverse wildlife consisting of marshy deltas, open montane grasslands, lakes, peat bogs, enclaves of high elevation forests, snow fields, giant rosette plants and various species of lobelias. This vegetation zone can be found between 4000-4500m above sea level on the Rwenzori mountain. With all these present, it safe to say that this park is any botanist Disneyland!
Mammals in Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The park is a habitat to a wide variety of mammal species. Some of the mammals that have been recorded to be existing in this park include
The forest Elephants
These are relatively smaller than their cousins the bush elephants. The forest elephants have an average height of 2.5m or 8.2ft with 900kg or 1980 Ib as average body weight their tusks are longer and narrower than the those of the bush elephants growing up to 1.5m or 5ft and weighing between 45-100Ib or 23-45 kg. this is because they need these tusks to navigate through the thick undergrowth in the forest jungles where they habituate.
These are close relatives of humans alongside gorillas and orangutans, there are two species of chimpanzees, Common chimpanzee species and the Bonobo species, Rwenzori National Park has the Common chimpanzees’ species. An adult Common chimpanzee can weigh between 40-60 kg with a height of 1.6 meters or 5ft3inches while an adult female can weigh between 32-47kg with a height of 1.3 meters or 4feet3inches. Common chimpanzees have coarse black hair except on their toes, face, fingers, palms of hand and the soles of their feet. The chimpanzees have a firm grip because their thumbs and big toes are opposite to each other. These chimpanzees reach puberty stage between 8-10 years and they have a life span of up to 40 years in their natural habitat, this can increase to up to 50 years of age in captivity. The chimps have a gestation period of 8 months, these chimps live in groups called communities ranging between 15- 150 members and each community is led by a dominant male called an Alpha male.
These monkeys have a black colour with a strip of white colour on the side of their body, limbs and around their face, these monkeys live in groups of 5-15 members led by a male, their weight ranges between 4-14 kg, they have a body length of up to 75 cm or 30 inches. The black and white colobus are herbivores primates and they have a gestation period of 4-6 months,
This belongs to the pig family and is considered the largest of all wild pigs. The forest hogs have extensively black hairs on the surface but the smaller hairs that lie near the skin of the hogs have a deep orange color. The hairs of the forest hogs tend to become less pronounced as the animals grows to old age. These pig species have tusks protruding out of their mouths but these tusks are smaller than those of warthogs but bigger than those of bush pigs, these tusks have a length of 35.9cm or 14.1in in adult male forest hogs. When running this animal will lift its tail and direct it towards the direction to which its running to. It has a body length of 1.3-2.1m or 4ft3in -6ft11in and also an average shoulder height of 0.75-1.1m or 2ft6in-3ft7in. the body weight of these hogs can range between 100-275kg or 220-606ib. female giant forest hogs are usually smaller than their male counter parts. The giant forest hog lives in groups called sounders with one adult male and usually one female and its offsprings.
These monkeys have a short, dark brown coat with a chestnut color across its back and a dark under belly. They have a pale moustache with light grey cheeks. their body length ranges between 32-69 cm, with a long hooked like tail that has a length of 48-99 cm, adult males weigh up to 6 kg while adult females can weigh up to 3.5 kg. the L’Hoest monkeys live in groups with many females and only one male which stays temporary with the group for mating. They have a gestation period of about 5 months and they maintain an herbivorous diet.
The Rwenzori red duiker is a small antelope found in the mountain Rwenzori region this duiker has an average weight of 15 kg and a shoulder height 45cm with small horns that are about 8cm long. the Rwenzori duiker has a rufous coat that is light at the underbelly and darker at the back. Some of these animals like leopards are very rare to sight and elephant droppings are usually seen indicating these animals’ trails.
On the peripherals of this park, are the Bakonzo and Bamba people. The Bakonzo or Bamba or Bambuti people are generally short and dark skinned people who live on the lower slopes and plains that surround Rwenzori Mountains in the districts like Kasese and Bundibungyo. According to population census results of 2014 census, there are 850,646 Bakonzo in Uganda hence representing 0.025% of the country’s population. The Bakonzo people are closely related to the Nande people of eastern D.R. Congo in their ways of living and both the Nande and the Bakonzo are occupying the slopes of the Rwenzori mountain.
Majorly, there are two theories that can explain the existence of the Bakonzo. One theory suggests that, the bakonzo migrated from mt Elgon led by kintu who is believed to the first Muganda with the rest of Baganda people and moved west wards but unlike the Baganda tribe of people who decided to settle on the shores of Lake Victoria, the Bakonzo continued migrating west wards and finally settled on the lower slopes of Rwenzori Mountains because the place had the same climatic conditions just like mt Elgon where they had come from. their migration is believed to have occurred between 1000AD -1300AD. The other theory that explains their existence suggests that the Bakonzo have never migrated from any other place as they have lived only in this region because it is believed that the first Bakonzo emerged from the caves of Rwenzori Mountains and settled on its slopes then intermarried each other to give birth to the entire Bakonzo community.
Bakonzo carry out circumcision of the boy child as sign to mark transition from childhood to adulthood, initially the circumcision practice was carried out after long intervals of between 15-18 years and this meant that even boys as young as 5 years had to be circumcised because the next phase of circumcision would arrive when they are already mature and they needed to be circumcised in order to get married as girls would only be married to circumcised boys. In recent times, circumcision can be done by anybody, anytime and anywhere unlike long ago where there were rituals to followed. Long ago, circumcision among the bakonzo, circumcision had to be done by the bamba as it was a taboo for a mukonzo to circumcise a fellow mukonzo. Just like many other African societies, when it came to courtship and marriage among the bakonzo, the parents of the children had to do the scouting for a good suitor for their child. When a child was born, other families with young children that would want to have their child marry a child from this family brought gifts to the family with a new born child as a way of showing their interest in the new born child, the parents of the new born child would carefully examine the gifts brought to them from other families to determine a family that would potentially take their child when time came for marriage. This therefore meant that there was no courtship done by the young couple before marriage was conducted. Courtship could be done by men who had the potential to marry a second wife as they had to look for the second wife all by themselves. This was all possible since polygamy was allowed in the bakonzo culture. Virginity was highly treasured and girls that conceived before marriage were killed. During marriage, the boy’s family had to pay bridal price and this consisted of mainly goats and an animal skin and a digging stick. The digging stick symbolized the girl’s labor force that has been lost by the bride’s family, while the animal skin was to replace the one she had used as she was growing up and in case of a divorce, all the bride wealth paid by the boy’s family had to be returned, and this made it difficult for divorces to happen as the bride’s family would not want to return the bride wealth they had attained from their girl child’s marriage.
When it comes to naming of children, the Bakonzo are unlike other African cultures that name their children using clan names, for the Bakonzo, naming is done following the child’s birth positions in the family. The Bakonzo have a total of 13 names for boys and girls that are born by one wife, Boys have 7 names given to them following their birth positions and these are; 1st born is named Baluku/ Mumbere, 2nd born is named Bwambale, 3rd born is Masereka, 4th born is Kuule, 5th is named Thembo,6th is named Mbusa and 7th is named Ndungo. The girls have 8 names and they are 1st born is Masika, 2nd born is Biira, 3rd born is Kabugho, 4th is Mbambu, 5th born is named Ithungu, 6th born is named Kyakimwa, 7th born is Nziabake, and the 8th girl is called Bulubasa. in case the man has more than one wife, the same names will be used by the other wives for their children. This means that in a polygamous family, there can be 2 or more Balukus’ or Masikas’ in case when two wives give birth to their first born children as boys or girls, this also means that a man can have 2 sons from different mothers when both of them are being called Baluku while a woman can only have 1 Baluku or Masika. Besides naming following the child’s birth position, the Bakonzo can also name their children depending on the situation existing in their communities or families for example in case both parents were virgins by the time of conception of their 1st born, he or she will be named Nzanzu or Kanyere, another scenario is when a child is born when both its grandparents either maternal or paternal are still alive will be named Kasoke for a boy child and Musoki for a girl child. Also when there is change in the sex of the new born child from the sex of the previous child, the Bakonzo will name the new child Muhindo if it’s a boy and Mbindule if it’s a girl. The birth of twins brought a lot of happiness to the family which the father proudly bragged about during social events like in drinking places and the twins were given different names from the names that we have already talked about regardless of their general birth position in the family but are rather named according to their 2 special birth positions, the one who is born first is called Nguru and the one who is born last is called Ndobya, the child who is follows the twins immediately is named Kitsa, whether a boy or girl while the one who follows Kitsa is named Kamalha mindless of its sexes. The bakonzo have a title for their twins which is “Abahasa” their mother is called “Nyabahasa” while their father is called “Isebahasa” or “Salongo”. When a woman gave birth among the Bakonzo, she was not supposed to sleep in her marital bed until the bleeding had stopped, but when it came to Nyabahasa, the story didn’t end only at not sleeping in her marital bed, when the mother of twins or Nyabahasa declared she was ready to return to her marital bed, there was a ritual that had to be performed before she could return to her marital bed and it was called Oluhasa. The oluhasa involved construction of a small temporary hut in the family’s compound and inside this hut, the nyabahasa was to have sexual intercourse with the isebahasa’s oldest nephew and this was fine by the isebahasa because it was done to ensure that the twins have a healthy life and to prevent them from dying at a tender age. The entire community looked forward to this ceremony as it was held amidst great feasting by the entire community present. Due to the presence of many people feasting and jubilating and who are aware of what’s happening inside the hut, the nephew may even fail to have sexual intercourse with the mother of twins so he would be exchanged with another nephew to complete the ritual.
The bakonzo believed in 2 supreme gods ie Kalisa and Nyabarika. Kalisa was depicted as a half man like god with one arm, leg, eye, half a nose and half mouth but the structure of the Nyabarika god is unknown. The Nyabarika god was very powerful and welded powers over life death, ability to bare children or not, famine and good harvest while the Kalisa god was majorly for hunting powers. This therefore meant that these two gods had to be appeased by the bakonzo in order to have success in their way of life as hunters and farmers. Many small sized huts for the gods were constructed and in these huts sacrifices of animals and food stuffs were offered to appease these gods, these huts are believed to still be in existence in the areas of Nyamugasani. As of today, the bakonzo are predominantly agriculturalists and have managed to use the fertile soils of the mountain to grow crops like maize and bananas. This however, has led to increased occurrences of landslides during rainy seasons within this region especially in Kasese as more and more mountain vegetation is cleared to give way for agriculture to take place in the upper slopes of Rwenzori.
For any activity to be carried out in this park, a separate park entrance fee has to be paid at the park offices and this fee is 35$ foreign nonresidents adults while children 5$, 25$foreign residents adults while children 5$, 15000ugx east African citizens adults while children 2500ugx, 3000ugx local university students and high school students and 1500ugx for local primary pupils.
Mountain climbing. Rwenzori being the third highest mountain in Africa, presents an opportunity for mountain climbers to try and conquer this thrilling adventure to the summit of the mountain. There are two main climbing routes.
Day one starts off with a briefing at the Rwenzori mountaineering services center about how the entire hike will be conducted, the route which you are going to use is made known to you and the resting places along the route are also clearly mentioned as well as all the dos and don’ts. After the briefing, you proceed to Nyakalengijja and now the climb starts off officially, from here you move through the communities of the bakonzo people and you will be able to observe their way of life as you will see them go about their daily chores. You will now reach the Rwenzori National Park gate where you will be received and registered before you continue with your hike.
Day one will also take you through the thick afro montane forests of mt. Rwenzori as you will now be between 2000-3000m above sea level. While here, please enjoy the view of various bird species habituating in these forests like Rwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, cinnamon cheasted bee-eater, strange weaver and long eared owl and animal species like L’Hoest monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, duikers and occasionally seen forest elephants. Day one takes you through a stretch of 8km to Nyabitaba hut. Dinner will be served here and you will have an overnight stay here as well as you refresh for day 2.
Day two kicks off with breakfast being served at Nyabitaba after which gear up and start scaling up again. You will move to the Kurt Shafer bright located on the confluence of Mubuku and Bujuku rivers. After the Kurt Shafer bright, you will proceed through a vegetation zone with a mixture of afro montane forests, bamboo forests and rocks covered by the wet and slippery moss. While in this zone, you will still be able to sight or hear the twittering of various forest bird species and other animal species that habituate within the area. You will now arrive to Nyamulejju rock shelter which used to serve as a night camping site for early climbers but today, it will be your stop over spot for a lunch break.
While here please look out for the breath taking view of Mount Stanley and Speke especially when there is clear weather. After your lunch break, you will continue scaling up through the alpine forests to the john matte hut where you will have your dinner from and also spend your 2nd night here. For those who are tough hearted and thrill seekers, the john matte hut is located very near lake Bujuku so you can decide to take a cold shower or swim in it and it’s so refreshing and reinvigorating especially after the day’s climb. At john matte hut you can have a glimpse of glory in form of the Margherita glacier in between Mount Stanley and Margherita peak on clear visibility. This marks the end of day two. Day two takes you through a stretch of about 11km.
Day three begins with having breakfast. After the breakfast, the journey to the top continues and it will now take you through the bigo bog area. The bigo bog is a swampy area in the mountain valleys which contains the giant lobelias, being a swampy area it was the hardest part of the trek up for early climbers as mobility was very limited but this is all now in the past as walking boards over the bigo bog were constructed to make it easy for climbers to cross the area.
This also came with a chance for climbers to take time appreciate the beauty of the forever flowering groundsels and also the giant lobelias. After a steep hike further, you will be welcomed to lake Bujuku that will give you a splendid view of mount Baker, Speke and Stanley all at the same time on clear visibility. You will continue to the Bujuku hut where dinner will be served and have an overnight stay. Day three takes you through a stretch of 5km.
Day four starts off with having breakfast at Bujuku hut then proceeding through the upper bigo bog and then further continue through the steep slopes of lake Bujuku on its western end leading you to Scot Elliot pass which is 4372meters above sea level. As you continue on your way up, you will pass through more upper swamps then a beautiful ground gully, you will go over the steep side of this ground gully with the help of a metal ladder. You will now come to a junction with two passes, the pass on the left, takes you through scot Elliot pass and it goes down to lake Kitandara.
The trail pass on the right leads you to Elena hut via a steep ridge on the large boulders of Mount Stanley. When you decide to go to Elena hut, you will meet it on the rocky part of Mount Stanley, while here, you will feel the cold breeze of mountain Rwenzori as you are now at the highest mount of the Rwenzori mountain and this also gives you a front row seat to have a direct view on clear visibility of mount baker and Speke which are beside Mount Stanley. Dinner will be served and have a night stay here bringing your fourth day of adventure to a close. Day four takes you through a stretch of 5-7 hours of hiking
Day five begins with having a very early breakfast at around 02:00hrs then prepping for the day’s hike and this involves putting on your warmest water proof jackets, head socks, warm hand gloves, harnesses, head lumps and packing your sunglasses in your back pack. You will hike to the top following the Stanley plateau and also through Stanley’s steep slopes which will require you to climb with the help of climbing ropes. You will now arrive on the Margherita glacier and when you arrive here, the guide will teach how to use crampons and an ice axe to aid your mobility through the ice.
You will move through the glacier to the Margherita peak on the summit of Mount Stanley which is the highest point of Rwenzori mountain at 5109m above sea level. While at the summit, you will have a sweeping view of the entire Rwenzori surrounding on clear visibility lake Ireen and mount Speke. Have a short break and photo moments to memorize your victory over the Rwenzoris forever then you will start descending back to Elena hut for a lunch break, this is now followed by another descend later in the afternoon to Kintandara via the scot Elliot pass and this descent gives you one of the most beautiful scenic views of the Rwenzori mountains. When you finally arrive at Kitandara hut, dinner will be prepared and served and you will have an overnight stay here bringing yet another fully packed day of adventure and happiness to a dramatic end. This day takes you through a stretch that leads you from 4563m to the peak at 5109m and then descends back you to 3979m.
For a climber who doesn’t wish to go all the way to Mount Stanley, day four and five are usually combined by taking you via another trail from Bujuku hut straight to Scott Elliot pass. This pass is a bit rough but only for a short stretch then it returns to easy all the way up to Kitandara hut.
Kick off the day with a satisfying breakfast then proceed through the mount baker base but you are required to take caution as the trail is somehow slippery but navigable, the trail continues through the steep headwall that makes a continuation of the mount baker base on the southern side of Rwenzori Mountains coming to a fresh field pass. From here the descend continues through a muddy patch leading you to the Bujangolo rock shelter base camp. This camp at Bujangolo played host to Duke Ambruzzi on his historic Rwenzori expedition in 1906. Finally, you will arrive at Guy Yeoman hut which is located on the banks of river Mubuku. Dinner will be served and an overnight stay will be done here closing yet another of this great expedition. Day six leads you on yet another stretch of about 5-7 hours of hiking bringing from 3979m above sea level to 3505m above sea level.
After breakfast being served, you embark on yet another descend through the bamboo forest on a slippery and muddy path that requires to take extra caution as you navigate the vertical muddy or steep rock path to Nyabitaba. On arrival to Nyabitaba hut, you will have a lunch break after which you will continue to your final mountain Rwenzori descend to Nyakalengijja where your journey to the peak began from. This descend takes you a minimum of 8-10 hours to finally bringing the entire quest to an end.
Day one: Nyakalengijja – Sine hut,
Day two: Sine hut- Kalalama camp (3147m) – Mutinda camp (3688m)
Day three: Mutinda camp – Bugata camp (4062m)
Day four: Bugata camp – Butawu camp (3974m)
Day five: Butawu camp – Margherita camp (4,485m)
Day six: Margherita camp – Margherita peak (5109m)- Butawu camp (3974m)
Day seven: Butawu camp – Bugata camp
Day eight: Bugata camp- Kiharo camp (3460m)
Day nine: Kiharo camp – Rwenzori park offices
Trekking the Rwenzoris requires a bit of prior preparations so as to have the best experience. Some of requirements needed include the following.
You should plan to climb Rwenzori mountain between January, February and march as it usually dry during these months hence good for climbing due to clear visibility and at least low rainfall amounts. It can be very hard to climb during rainy season as some parts of the trail become so boggy that mobility is limited and very strenuous
You should be in a good health condition as it is straining to hike up the mountain Rwenzori. In case you have health problems, there are 2 other short trails on the mountain which also offer a very satisfying experience so don’t just seat back and let others enjoy, you can also still take part in the thrill of scaling up the mountain. You should also find out if you have a sickness for high altitudes since the climb involves you scaling to high altitudes. In case you have altitude sickness, please don’t give up on taking this adventure of a life time but simply ascend slowly and as you continue upwards you are advised to take a day off to acclimatize to high altitude and then proceed with the adventure up.
When planning to climb the Rwenzoris please take out a travel insurance to cover you especially when you want to go all the way to the top.
You will also need to sign a non-disclaimer form at the park entrance before you start climbing and also provide contacts of whom to contact in case of an emergency.
Other things you may need include a water proof back pack with extra water proof and warm clothes, sunscreen, mosquito repellants and simple snacks like dried banana chips and biscuits, water bottle as you need to drink a lot of water to keep rehydrated like two litres per day, you shouldn’t worry about where to get water from as porters collect and boil for you drinking water every evening and by morning time trust me it will be really chilled for you to sip on. Your foot ware can be gumboots or wellington boots as the English call them but high ankle boots with good gaiters can do a good job as well. Remember that on this journey you will pass through boggy areas so you need boots that keep out water.
Services of climbing the Rwenzori mountain are provided by either Rwenzori Trekking Services and Rwenzori Mountaineering Services in Uganda. These companies can arrange various Rwenzori trekking expedition packages. A 7-day trek of Rwenzori with Rwenzori Mountaineering Services can cost about 1100$ and this price includes services like: park guides used while on the trek, all porters used to carry your much needed requirement, trekking gear like helmets, crampons head lumps, and safety ropes, accommodation and food while in the mountain. An amount of 35$ per day for 7 days will also be needed to be paid at the park gate in cash and separate from the $1100. This package price also excludes transfer costs from point of entry into Uganda to the mountain and any accommodation or meals outside the mountain trek. You are advised to carry extra money to tip the potters and the park rangers for appreciating their services, you can tip each of them any amount you feel like depending on your appreciation of their service rendered to you but tipping isn’t mandatory so no one should coerce you into tipping if you don’t feel like doing so.
Besides getting thrilled by this captivating adventure, improved body physical fitness and viewing various species of wildlife. Anybody who treks the Rwenzori mountain should feel proud because they have contributed towards the conservation of this magnificent wildlife habitat, improving the livelihoods of local residents like porters who are paid to ferry all the much needed climbing requirements up the mountain.
Rwenzori National Park has 2 nature walk trails that offer shorter treks on the Rwenzori mountain besides the central circuit trail and the Kilembe circuit trail that are used for longer treks that go all the way up to the top of the Rwenzori mountain. For anyone who cannot make it to the top, these 2 shorter nature walk trails can offer an amazing and fair trade off for the missed opportunity to go all the way up to the top as you will be able to trek the Rwenzori mountain in just 1-3 days only unlike the longer trails which will require you a minimum of a week to scale the up to the higher peaks. The 2 shorter nature walk trails are Mahoma nature trail and Kazingo nature walk trail, both of these nature trails are operated by Uganda wildlife authority hence they are open to all tour operators unlike the longer circuit trails that are privately operated ie Rwenzori Mountaineering Services and Rwenzori Trekking Services and can only be accessed by tourists that have booked through these two companies that run these trails.
These walks take you through the montane forests up to lake Mahooma, Buraro chimp forest passing through Kichwamba communities and arrive to Karangura ridge. While on this trail, you will be able to have a spectacular view of the Baker and Portal peaks from a distance when there is clear weather and don’t miss out to the various bird and mammal species you may come across. Nature walks in Rwenzori can be carried out during both day and night time. Day time walks cost 30$ for foreign non-residents, 15$ for foreign residents and 1000ugx for east African residents while night time walks cost 40$ for foreign non-residents, 20$ for foreign residents and 20000ugx for east African residents
Besides the joy obtained in seeing the diverse wildlife of Africa’s botany big game and improving on your personal fitness, carrying out nature walks helps in furthering the conservation efforts in the Rwenzori mountain and also improving on the economic status of local residents like guides
This has been made possible courteous by the Ruboni community. During this walk, you will be able to see how the local residents go about their daily lives at the foothills of this giant mountain from farming to food preparation, black smith activities, use of medicinal herbs to heal ailments, weaving and an energetic performance from the Bakonzo dance and drama. Have a one on one chat with the eagerly awaiting local bakonzo elders who will take you on a literature journey through telling you stories about their dramatic ancient past and how their culture has evolved up to where it is toady This community walk will not disappoint because on a clear day, just look out for the elegant and proudly standing Baker and Portal peaks above the horizon and the various birds and tree species on your way through the community.
Tourists can engage in activities under the Ruboni community walks like village tour at 15$ per person, hill hikes, waterfalls walk and forest hike at 15$ per person each walk, traditional dance 5-10 people at 50$ and an overnight hill walk at 100$ per person. These activities can be carried out throughout the year. When you engage in any of these invigorating and mind blowing activities, not only will you have an everlasting impression imprinted in you forever but you will also have successfully contributed towards the preservation of this authentic culture and also improve on the social economic status of the local residents as the money you pay is used in improving social service structures like local health centers and local schools within the Rwenzori region and also payment of wages to local residents involved like local tour guides.
This park can be accessed using both air and road transport means
There are two major routes
Kampala- Mbarara- Bushenyi- Kasese route. This route leads you to a journey of about 450 km or 7-hour drive passing through Queen Elizabeth National Park to Kasese town. Nyakalengijja on your way to the park center from is 17 km or less than an hour-drive off Kasese Fort portal road. The road between Kampala and Kasese is fully tarmacked and in good condition.
Kampala – Fortportal- Kasese route which is 398km or 6-hour drive to Kasese town then proceed to Nyakalengija 25km north of Kasese town.
You can still use public means to go to Kasese by buying a local bus ticket which can cost between 30000-35000ugx from Kampala to Kasese. The total journey time from Kampala- Kasese can be 10 hours depending on the bus company operator you are to use. For example, the Post bus service is reviewed by many as the safest but it’s a bit slow, another bus company that operates on this route is link bus service. Bus services to Kasese from Kampala can be accessed from the Kisenyi bus terminal in Kampala.
Chartered flights from Entebbe international airport and kajjansi airfield are available to Kasese landing at Kasese airstrip or mweya airstrip.
Aerolink club has daily flights operating from Entebbe international airport to Kasese airstrip or mweya airstrip the flight usually departs in the morning but timing may change depending on the flight routing. Aerolink club uses an 11 seater and 2 flight crew Caravan aircraft equipment that is highly comfortable. The cost of this flight varies from 230-260$ one way per person depending on the seasonal demand.
Fly Uganda. Fly Uganda operates private flight charters around Uganda from Kajjansi airstrip. The minimum number of passengers required is 2 passengers. The flights usually depart from Kajjansi airfield in the morning hours but this is subject to flight routing and demand. The cost for a flight to Kasese with fly Uganda ranges about 290$ per person one way
Air-Serve Limited and Mission Aviation Africa (MAF) also do private charters to Kasese.