At an elevation of 5,109m above sea level, stands out Mt.Rwenzori National Park. The Park is located in Western Uganda along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Kasese district. The park lies on the east side of the Western Albertine rift valley and covers a total area of about 1,000Km².Mt.Rwenzori National Park is well known because of its most significant feature, Mt.Rwenzori, which is literally named after the park. The mountain is the third highest in Africa, having its highest peak Margherita at an elevation of 5,109m. Two of its other peaks are the fourth and fifth highest peaks in Africa, Mount Speke and Mount Stanley respectively.Mt.Rwenzori is also known as the Mountain of the moon with 70% of its surface above 2,500m altitude. It was formed about 3 million years ago by drifting. There were several movements on the earth’s crust that resulted into major drifting, resulting into an Uplift of the Underlying Crstalline rocks, forming Africa’s biggest Block mountain, Mt.Rwenzori. The mountain has 6 massifs separated by deep gorges. They include Mount Luigi di Savoia(4,627m), Mount Gessi (4,715m), Mount Emin (4,798m), Mount Baker (4,843m), Mount Speke (4,890m) and Mount Stanley (5,109m).
Mt.Rwenzori National park was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 because of its magnificent natural beauty, and also recognized as a Ramsar site later in 2008. However, history of the park dates back in 150CE when a Greek geographer, Claudius Ptolemy, referred to the mountain as a Lunae Montes, a Greek word which means ‘Mountains of the Moon’.In 1906, an Italian Duke of Abruzzi became the first European to reachMargherita peak. It is at this time that the first detailed Map of the mountain was produced.For a long time, all the explorers that had moved in the areas near the park didn’t really know that there was a mountain in existence. The mountain’s summits were covered with snow and clouds. Therefore it was hard for the explorers to identify the mountain. For instance, in 1876, Henry Morton Stanley took his first glimpse at the area from a distance, but didn’t recognize the mountain. But in 1888 when he explored the area more, he was able to view the mountain. He was astonished by the magnificent looks of the mountain, covered with snow and clouds at its summits. On the 7th June 1889, Military commander William Grant Stairs approached the mountain (Mount Emin Pasha) and climbed until 3,254m. He dint climb further because of the thick vegetation he encountered at the height. Later in 1891, other explorers, Emin Pasha and Dr. Franz Stulman approached the mountain and inspected it. They confirmed that it was truly a mountain; and in 1900, John EmundSharroke, an Englishbiologist, climbed the mountain until 4,541m altitude. He became the first European explorer to reach the glaciers of the mountain. When the Duke of the Abruzzi, Prince Luigi Amedeo made quick expeditions of all major snow and Ice Peaks in 1906; he made a mapping of their complex, geography and gave them Italian names. He had moved along with mountain guides, biologists, surveyors, geologist, photographer and about 150 porters. Later, more explorers flocked the area to visit the mountain.
Vegetation as a Tourist Attraction of Mt.Rwenzori National Park
Apart from the Mountain, the national park happens to have vegetation as the second most tourist attraction, rather than wildlife. It is characterized by altitudinal vegetation that varies from tropical rainforest, montane forest, tree heathers, Afro-alpine and bamboo.
- At the base of the mountain, there is savannah grassland which covers up to around 1524m altitude.
- Above is the rainforest which covers from around 1,524to 2,286m altitude. Its characterized by lianas, giant ferns, banana plantation
- Beyond is the bamboo forest that goes to about 2,895m altitude. The bamboo grows up to3ft in a single day and reaches about 300ft in a month.
- Above is the health zone that goes up to about 3,657m. It’s characterized by heather trees with mosses and liverwort on the ground. The trees grow up to 40ft tall of more.
- Higher, is the alpine zone that covers up to 4,419m. On the lower section,it has trees such as the groundsel and giant lobelia; and on the upper section it has rocky terrain covered with black lichens and brown mosses.
- Highest above 4,419m to the highest peak Margherita at 5,109m, the mountain is covered by snow and storm swept glaciers.
Birds as a Tourist Attraction in Mt.Rwenzori National Park.
Mt.Rwenzori National park is habitant to about 217 bird species which include 17 endemic Albertine Rift Valley species’ endemic to Mt.Rwenzori National Park. Some of the bird species include malachite sunbird, long eared own, black eagle, long tailed cuckoo, Long-eared Owl,RwenzoriBatis, Slender-billed Starling, Handsome Francolin, Archers’ Robin-chat, Greenbuls, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, the rare Montane Sooty Boubou, Crimson wings, Apalises, Flycatchers and many more bird species.
Lakes and Rivers as a Tourist Attraction in Mt.Rwenzori National Park
The park has over 20 lakes spread in different points of the park. Some of the easily accessible lakes include Lake Mahoma in the central circuit of the park, in Ruboni; Lake Bukuju is surrounded by steep rock faces that shelter it from the winds in Bukuju valley in the shadows of Mounts Stanley, Speke and Baker. From a distance, it appears out of the mist with a breathtaking view. You can just hear the little trickle of melt water flowing into the lake from the glacier. The melted water also flows down by Nyamwamba River into the Nyamwamba valley and Kilembe.
Massifs as a Tourist Attraction in Mt.Rwenzori National Park.
The mountain is named after a British explorer, Sir Henry Morton Stanley. Stanley took his first glimpse at the area from a distance, but didn’t recognize the mountain. But in 1888 when he explored the area more, he was able to view the mountain. He was astonished by the magnificent looks of the mountain, covered with snow and clouds at its summits. He reported the mountain to other Europeans as the Ruwenzori. However, the natives used to call it Rwenjura, a bantu word which means ‘hills of rains’.
The highest summit on Mount Stanley is Margherita Peak.The start point for the hike is at Elena hut. The hike leads up to the first rocks, across the snow and to the ice Stanley Plateau towards Alexandra Peak. Alexandra peak is the second highest summit on the massif at 4990m. East of the ridge of this peak, is the the standard route for Margheritawhich descends on a steep slope, then climbs the dramatic Margherita Glacier to the Col between Margherita Peak and Alexandra Peak. From here, you can ascend north to a short but steep rock wall which is leads to the summit. At this point, a rope will be required for the extensively crevassed glacier and the summit rocks. The peak marks the boundary between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It is the third highest massif in the Mt.Rwenzori range and it is named after a British explorer, Sir Samuel Baker. The massif has four peaks which include Wollaston (4626m), Moore (4623m), Semper (4794m) and Edward (4843m). The hike starts at the beautiful lakes at Kitandara, up towards a field to where the landscape levels out. You will hike further past several small ponds to a small saddle just west of the ridge, proceeding up to the west of the actual ridgeline. The route takes you up to the summit without having to move through the glacier.
It is the second highest massif in the range with a number of summits which include Ensonga (4865m), Johnson (4834m), Vittorio Emanuele (4890m) and others. The massif is named after a British explorer, John Hanning Speke. Speke believed that the range was the source of River Nile. However, he died before he could prove it. The trail starts west of the massif from Bujuku in Ruboni. It heads north, up a very steep slope via numerous rocks and vegetation. You continue up the Southwest ridge to the summit. The great glaciers that used to lie alongthe north side of Mt. Speke melted, leaving only a Glacier on the South; and several small bodies of ice towards the direction of Ensonga Peak.
Ruboni Community as an Attraction of Mt.Rwenzori National Park.
The community is located in Ruboni near the main gate of Mt.Rwenzori national park, Nyakalengija gate. Ruboni community is composed of Bakonzo people, a Bantu tribe, with a total of about 2,000 individuals in the area. Bakonzo people are also known as Bakonjo or Konzo. They live in hills and mountains at an altitude of about 2,200m. Traditionally, they are agriculturalists, cultivating crops such as beans, sweet potatoes, rice, wheat, cassava, bananas and other crops. They speak the ‘Rukonjo’ language, which is 77% similar to that of the Nande in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were part of the Rwenzururu movement against the Toro Kingdom, a Kingdom in the neighbouring District, Fort Portal. In 2008,they were recognized as a Tribe in the Rwenzururu Kingdom, Uganda’s first Kingdom to be shared by Two tribes. The second tribe in the Kingdom is the Amba. During the colonial period, the Bakonzo had been placed under the Toro Kingdom.
The tribe highly emphasizes on the point of Circumcission. You are not a Man Unless u are Circumcised. The Bakonzo, just like the Bagisu of Mbale in Mt.Elgon National park, Eastern Uganda; have circumcision as one of their most entrenched cultural practices. Unlike the Bagisu who carry out an entertaining ceremony of Circumcision Known as Imbalu, the Bakonzo people do not make any celebrations, neiher do they force any one to get circumcised. There is no mobilization of Circumcision just like the way Bagisu people do. Before the influence of modernization, Marriage among the Bakonzo was arranged by the parents. when a woman gave birth to a girl child, the fathers with sons came with gifts visited their intended future in-laws with gifts. It is from these gifts that the girl’s parents decided which family would take their daughter for marriage. The gifts were a symbol of interest in the newly born girl baby, by the different fathers, on behalf for their young sons. They would also determine the financial status of the boy’s family. When the girl was 7yrs old, she was to be moved to the boys family and start familiarizing with her intended husband. At the age of 12yrs, she would start having a sexual relationship with the boy. It is believed among the Bakonzo that at that age, she is ready t conceive. If the girl conceived twins (Abahasa), she would get the title of Nyabahasa. However, she would have to have a onetime sexual intercourse with the boy’s nephew in order to go back to her husbands’ bed. The event was known as Olhuhasa. A house would be built in the middle of the Boys compound, where the event was to happen. If the olhuhasa didn’t happen, it is believed that the twins would die.
Bakonzo have unique criteria of naming their children. Bakonjo are given names depending on their birth positions in the family. Baluku/Mumbere, Bwambale, Masereka, Kule, Thembo/Mbusa are names given from the first to fifth sons respectively. Masiko/Musoki, Biiro, Kabugho, Mbambu, Ithungu, Kyakimo and Nziabake are names given from the first to seventh daughter respectively.
However, today, some of the cultural tracks of the Bakonzo have died out because of Modernization and Education.
- Mountain climbing.
Hiking/Nature Walks as a Tourist Activity of Mt.Rwenzori National Park
The mountain has a series of trails to hike the mountain. The easiest Massif to hike is that of Speke because of its steady landscape and penetrable vegetation. Most difficult to hike is that of Stanely and Baker. They have very steep slopes at about 60°. Usually, it takes a maximum of 7 days to reach the summit of the Mountain.
The Central Circuit Trail
The trail starts at Mihunga, ascending towards Bujuku valley via Nyabitaba. The trail to the summit takes 4 to 7 days depending on the itinerary chosen.
Itinerary of the Central Circuit Trail.
Day 1: Nyabitaba Hut (2,652m)
Transfer to the Parks headquarters at Nyakalegija to be briefed about the hike ahead. Your language will be weighed to determine the amount to be paid to the porters and also not to carry excess weights. The trail runs along the western bank of the MubukuRiver; sloping down towards the river through equatorial forest. At the river, you will cross over using a bridge and from this point which takes about an hour to reach. You will then hike further through ferns and forest; and later, reach the Nyabitaba hut.
Total time: 4-5Hrs.
Day 2: Hiking to John Matte (3414m)
Hiking to John matte marks the beginning of difficult trekking. The hike is the longest and most tiring. It starts with the crossing of Mubuku River at Kurt-shaeffer Bridge. It’s at this point that the mountain begins to become steep.This part of the trail leads you through bamboo forest, along a ridge that overlooks the Bujuku River valley. As you climb further, you will be surrounded to the left and right by massive cliffs. As you proceed further, the Moss increases. After 3 hours of hiking, you will have a stop at Nyamileju Hut for lunch and resting. You will proceed further towards Bujuku River valley with a steadily rising hike and later arriving at John Matte. While at John Matte, you are able to view Mt.Stanaly and Mt.Speke.
Total time: 5-7Hrs
Day 3: Hiking to Bujuku Camp (3,962m)
The trail to Bujuku camp heads west out of John Matte; crossing the Bujuku River and heading out over the Lower Bigo Bog. Bog is a kind of high altitude swamp. At this point, gumboots and a walking stick are essential requirements to be used because of the presence of Mud at the point. Upon crossing the Bog, the trail leads to the Bigo hut. At the point, there are interesting plants which include lobelia and Everlasting Flower which is said to have a 40-year flowering cycle. Past Bigo hut, you will be able to view Lake Bukuju. You will trek east of the lake to reach Bukuju camp.It is not an easy task because even during the dry season, the area in muddy. However, it will be worth the crossing.
Total time: 5hrs
Day 4: Hiking to Elena and Ktandara Hut
While at Bujuku Hut, you can hike Mt.Speke or Stanely Directly. If you intend to proceed up to the Margherita peak, you can then proceed to Elena. The trail from Bujuku to Elena starts at with a hike to a fairly huge and intimidating ridge.The climb is quite steep for the most part, and vegetation reduces noticeably the higher you climb; until Scott Elliot Pass where the trail consists of moss covered rocky ground with no trees. The hike up to Scott Elliot pass is one of the hardest of the entire journey. It involves a fairly rapid hike at high altitude. At the Pass, hikers heading to Elena take the right, while those heading to Kitandara hut take the left and start to descend.
Total time: 3 to 4Hrs.
Day 5: Margherita
An early day trek is required because this will be the longest day of the entire Journey. Assuming all is well, you should head out of the camp by 6:30am and head over the large flat rocks, through deep ravines, climbing up to the snow line. You will have to carry crampons, ice axes and ropes. At the snow line, the crampons are attached to your hiking boots, and all members of the team roped and attached together. The trek across the glaciers begins.The ice is extremely hard, rocky solid, and one has to kick hard into the ground with the crampons to gain good stamina. Crossing the Stanley Plateau takes 30 to 45 minutes, and involves little or no climbing. At the southeast end of the plateau, you descend through a rocky ravine with the crampons still on, to join the Margherita glacier. However, due to the fact that the summit is exposed, windy and snowy, you will know stay for long. You will then descend to Kitandara Hut.
Total time: 4 to 5Hrs
Day 6: Descending to Guy Yoeman Hut.
Descending from Kitandara Hut, the temperatures are relatively warm. An early morning descending is advised because the distance from Kitandara to Guy yeoman hut is long.He descent starts over moss-covered rocky ground, the trail descends into the bog covered by Mubuku River valley. Much of the terrain is crossed by small streams, and the descending can be tough as the trail generally consists of either slipperly rock or muddy bog. Further descending, you pass under a major cliff where the Duke of Abruzzi camped as he explored the mountain in quest for the peaks.You will the head further down into the coniferous forests and at last, you will reach Guy Yoeman hut.
Total time: 4 to 6Hrs
Day 7: Descending to Nyakalengija
The last day of trail descends down a steep valley to Kichuchu rock shelter. The trail is quite steep and slippery. Past Kichuchu, the trail heads into bamboo forest; and continuing to descend, you will cross the Mubuku River at Kicucu Bridge. The trail then descends through bamboo forest, following the western bank of the Mubuku River valley. The trail then starts to descend down to Nyabitabaridge, ending at Nyabitaba hut. At this point you will have descended for about 5Hrs. Depending on the conditions, you proceed down to Nyakalengija.
Total Time: 7 to 8Hrs
Lake Mahoma Trail
The trail starts in Ruboni at Nyakalengija gate. The trail leads through a rainforest along the Kyambogho ridge where you will be able to see the MubukuRiver and valley. You will encounter primate species such as the Colobus monkeys, Blue monkeys and sometimes Chimpanzees. Other wildlife include; forest elephants, bird species in abundance such as the Rwenzorituraco and many others. The trail will proceed through the bamboo and heather forest; up along a ridge that leads to the Rukenga Valley, you will be astonished by the view of the everlasting flowers and giant lobelias that can grow up to 8m height.The trail ends at Lake Mahoma that is in a valley. You then descend back to Ruboni on the second day.
Apart from being physically fit and health wise ok, the following requirements must be obtained in order to hike
- Proper Hiking boots
- Camping Gear such as a tent and sleeping bag.
- First Aid Kit and Knife
- A pair of Rain Jacket and Trouser
- A pair of Winter Jacket and Trouser
- Water bottle
- Tourist Backpack
Community Encounters as a Tourist Activity in Mt.Rwenzori National Park.
Ruboni Community Encounter
Ruboni community is located in the foothills of Mt.Rwenzori near the park’s main gate, Nyakalengija gate. It is boarders by a magnificent rainforest, glacial rivers, banana plantations and other vegetation.The community has approximately 2,000 Bakonzo people. Enjoy community walks guided by Bakonzo guides as they illustrate to you the daily activities of their community. Vising the community will give you an idea of how the locals survive without electricity, gas, technology equipment’s and other modern world requirements. The encounter wil involve the following activities:
- You will be taught by the Bakonzo women how to prepare food using firewood and fresh ingredients from the garden.
- You will meet the local basket weavers and they will teach you how to make items such as baskets, mats other items made out of papyrus.
- An encounter with the community’s traditional healer. Learn about how he treats diseases with just local herbs got from the slopes of Mt.Rwenzori.
- You will be entertained by the locals with a dance accompanied with strong energetic drumming. You could get involved in the drumming and dancing.
The money that you pay to visit the community is funded to various projects in the community such as the Child school sponsoring, tree nursery project, small scale animal husbandry and many more.
ACTIVITY RATE US$ Forest Walk 20 Overnight Hike 50 Mahoma Trail 255 Village Walk 20 Hill Climb Walk 20
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 – Luxury
The lodge is located on the foothills of Mt.Rwenzori, near the Nyakalengija gate. It is under the management of the Geo Lodges. It has a total of 16 beds in en-suite cottages.The cottages are built out of round like river rocks from river Mobuku. While at the lodge, you are able to view the Mobuku river just below the hill, the glaciers on the mountain and the stunning rainforest. It has facilities such as a restaurant with a fire place and bar.
ROOM Rate US$ (Full Board) high season Rate US$ (Full Board)
Double 330 250 Single 210 170 Triple 430 350 Children 5-12yrs sharing with adults. 50% of adults 50% of adults
Ruboni Community Camp – Budget lodge
The camp is located on the foothills of Mt.Rwenzori in the village of Ruboni, near the Nyakalengija gate.Ruboni Community Camp is belongs to the Bakonzo people in the area andThe money that you pay to visit the community is funded to various projects in the community such as the Child school sponsoring, tree nursery project, small scale animal husbandry and many more. It has 3 en-suite bandas rooms and 6 standard none self-contained rooms. At the camp, you get to have cultural encounters with the locals who will teach you how to cook using firewood; entertain you with dancing; teach you how to weave baskets and many more activities.
ROOMS RATE US$ Bandas 30 Bed and Breakfast. Standard 25 Camping 12 Bed only
NB: The rate admits to 2 people sharing
Kampala – Masaka-Mbarara-Kasese (386km) 5hrs 50min.
The distance from Kampala to Masaka is 131Km and Lasts for approximately 2Hrs.
From Masaka to Mbarara (also known as the land of Milk because of high number of cattle in the area); the distance is approximately 138Km and lasts for about 1Hr 50min.
From Mbarara to Kasese, the distance is about 155Km and lasts approximately 2Hrs. While connecting from Mbarara to Kasese, you will be able to view Queen Elizabeth National Park starting at Kichwamba area.
Kampala –Mityana – Mubende-Fort portal- Kasese(415Km) 6hrs 20min
From Kampala to Mityana, the distance is roughly 72Km and lasts for about 1Hr 10min.
Mityana to Mubende, the distance is about 80Km and lasts for approximately 1Hr. You are able to view physical features such as Lake Wamala, a fresh water lake shared by the two districts.
Mubende to Fortportal, drive distance is about 146Km and lasts for about 1Hr 52min. The route takes you through the magnificent, breath taking Matiri Central Forest Reserve in kabarole district.
From Fort Portal to Kasese, drive time is about 1hr, covering a distance of about 77Km. You will drive around hills and valleys and will be able to view Mt.Rwenzori National Park all the way from Fort Portal to Kaseses. You will bypass one of Uganda’s Cement manufactures, Hima cement, as you approach Kasese Town. You will also cross rivers of Mobuku and Nyamwamba before you are finally in Kasese town.
A chattered can be arranged from Entebbe international Airport or Kajjansito :
- Mweya Airstrip in mweya (queen Elizabeth National park, and tere after connect to Mt.Rwenzori National Park by road.)
- Kasese Airstrip in Kasese town
The flights usually last for about 30minutes.