Listed as a world heritage site in 1994 because of its beauty and biodiversity, legendary, mist-covered Rwenzori also presumed to be the fabled Mountains of the Moon is positioned in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. It’s the tallest mountain range in Africa and several of the peaks are permanently covered by ice and glaciers. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and everlasting flowers creating an enchanting fairytale scene.
The mountain range stretches about 120km-long and 65km-wide. The national park hosts about 70 mammals with 2 mammal species endemics to the range namely; the Rwenzori climbing mouse and the Rwenzori red duiker plus approximately 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as an extraordinary number of rare Vegetation plants.
The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-days trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.
What to do/see
A trip into the Rwenzoris is an exhilarating and rewarding experience but adequate physical fitness preparation is paramount as it is quite challenging compared to Mount. Kirimanjaro and Mount Kenya respectively. The central hike circuit takes 6 nights and 7 days reaching an altitude of 4,267m above sea level. Well maintained banda/huts are available at specific point to shelter you while resting at night as well as porters to help the guest with the luggage. The other hiking trails are; Nyakalengija central circuit and Kilembe trail located close to Kasese town and Kazingo nature walk trail is located adjacent to Fort portal town. Shorter trails about 3 days on the lower foothills of the fabled mountains with scenic beauty and birding spots are available to inexperienced hiker. Hikers are advised to carry essential needs including a sleeping bag, warm clothing, raincoat, waterproof over trousers, plastic bags for wet clothing and plenty of snacks for a successful hike.
Rwenzoris presumed as the fabled mountains ranks among the best birding spots in the pearl of Africa harboring some of the Albertine rift valley endemics. It has varied vegetation that attracts a number of bird species. Captivating bird watching is conducted in the montane forest and the bird species spotted more often are Rwenzori Turaco, Long-eared Owl, Bearded vultures, and swifts.
Nature walks/Cultural encounters
For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks following River Mubuku for views of Baker and portal peaks or sometimes views of the highest peak – Margherita. Look out for squirrels, Vervet monkeys, chameleons and several spectacular birds. They also organize homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies a few kilometers north of the equator on the Uganda-Congo border. The park trailhead at Ruboni can be reached from Kampala from the north via Fort Portal (375km) or the south passing through Mbarara and Queen Elizabeth National Park (450km). Nyakalengija is 17km off the Kasese-Fort Portal Road and 25km north of Kasese town.
Aerolink operates scheduled and chartered flights to Kasese from Kampala (Kajjansi) or Entebbe International Airport.
Where to Stay
The lodging facilities are quite a distance away in the nearby towns of Kasese and Fort portal. These include; Mountain of the moon, Nyaika hotel, hotel triangle, Ndali lodge, Kibale safari lodge, Kyaninga lodge (Luxury) Turaco treetops, Fort Motel, Equator snow lodge, Hotel margarita, Rwenzori international hotel, Rwenzori Travelers Inn (Midrange and Budget plan).