The Rwenzori Mountains lie along the western border of Uganda and rise to a height of 5,1OO metres. Here are the legendary ‘Mountains of the Moon’; a World Heritage Site – and these incomparable, beautiful, mist-shrouded peaks provide a unique backdrop to one of our most magnificent national parks. In the centre of the range, which boasts Africa’s third highest mountain, some of the peaks carry permanent snow and glaciers, while the lower slopes are covered with dense forest. Walking trails on the lower slopes do not call for mountaineering experience; although the higher you go the fitter you need to be. Excellent walking routes, including the Bujuku circuit, are provided through wonderful and unique scenery.For those who want to attempt a climb, several peaks provide challenges that match those in the Alps. These fabled mist-covered “Mountains of the Moon,” 120 km in length and 48 km in width, were formed from a block which was thrust up during the creation of the western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley. At the centre of the range, there are six peaks carrying permanent snow, three with glaciers.
The highest of these peaks, and the third highest peak in Africa, is Mt. Margherita rising 5100 metre above sea level. The Rwenzori Mountains were gazetted as a National Park in 1991. The Park covers 996 km2 of rugged mountain terrain. Whether they are experienced climbers or casual day-hikers, Rwenzori Mountain National Park offers visitors a unique experience of an Afro-Montane rainforest. The main attraction is the luxuriant vegetation found above 3000 m which includes the giant forms of Lobelia, Heather and Groundsel. Rwenzori Mountains National Park is also home to the hyrax, blue monkey, chimpanzee, giant forest hog and many unique bird species such as the Rwenzori touraco, the handsome francolin and the olive pigeon.
By road, from Kampala via Mbarara to Kasese or from Kampala through Fort Portal and then 75 km South on the Fort Portal / Kasese road. The park is 25 km from Kasese town, then turning left inside to reach Ibanda and Niakalengija, following the sign post on the Kasese Road. Chartered planes are also available from Entebbe /Kampala to Kasese and then by road.
What to do:
A trip into the Rwenzori Mountains is a rewarding experience, which allows you to see the main peaks of the largest mountain range in Africa. The most common trial, the so called central circuit, starts at the National Park Head Quarter in Niakalengija and lasts on average 7 days six nights, hut after hut, reaching at an altitude of up to 4.372 metres at Scott Elliot Pass. You experience five different vegetation zones, from the tropical and bamboo forests up to the alpine zones. The hike does not require any specific climbing experience or training, but it is easy to whoever likes mountaineering. It is possible to complete the trial by ascending the main peaks, like Margherita on Mount Stanley (5.109 m), Mount Speke (4.890 m.), Mount Luigi di Savoia (4.627 m.).
When to go:
The best time for mountaineering is during the dry seasons from mid-December to the end of March and from June through mid-August.
Equipment and organization:
You are recommended to have with you or to hire at the National Park headquarter rucksack, sleeping bag for low temperature and sleeping mat, one plate, cutlery, mug, knife, gumboots, water proof trousers, poncho or rain coat, heavy worm jacket, hand gloves, scarf and cup, jumper, torch, bottle of water. For whoever will climb the peaks some specialized equipment is required in addition: a pair of crampons, snow gloves, snow goggles, climbing boots, rope and ice axe, as you reach the glacier area. The entrance package gives to each person the support of an experienced guide plus four porters, which will carry most of the luggage, so that you are not supposed to have a bag heavier than 15kg.
Food and Accommodation:
The food during the trekking can be organized by the tour operator or the association of the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (RMS), or you can purchase locally before starting the trial. Cooking utensils are available at the huts. A cook can be hired to help the preparation of food. You will spend the nights in huts, which are basic and environmentally friendly structures. Some water supply or streams are located around the huts to provide drinking water and for other purposes. Toilets are also found close to the hut. Before and after the hike on the mountains you can find good and comfortable accommodation in Kasese, Fort Portal or even at Ibanda before entering the park.