In Africa, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park is one of Uganda’s least explored and undiscovered places. The park is special because of the spectacular scenery that is unique to the area. Just like with Mount Elgon National Park in Mbale, the key attraction is mountain climbing. Climbing the Rwenzori mountains is one of the best things to do while in Uganda.
The Rwenzori Mountain Services (RMS) works with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to organize most of the mountain hiking activities while also maintaining the trails and accommodation on top of the mountains.
Visitors to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park can also take part in nature walks, site seeing, and cultural visits – more of which we shall discuss below:-
Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains:
Some of the world’s best mountain hikers have climbed the Rwenzori Mountains. Mountain hiking in the park is organized to world class standards. Inexperienced hikers may find reaching the highest peak (Margherita) extremely strenuous. Shorter and less strenuous hikes can be arranged around the mountain without going all the way up to the snow capped peaks.
There are two hiking trails that are used by hikers to get to the summit. The first one is the Central Circuit Trail that starts from Mihunga taking 7 days. The Rwenzori Mountaineering Services is the only one that organizes hiking in this route. The second trail is the Kilembe trail that starts from Kilembe near Kasese town.
This is a new route that was recently opened and is run by the Rwenzori trekking services. It takes 5 days to reach one of the peaks. In order to explore all the three highest peaks, one should set aside at least 9 days.
Climbing to the highest summit Margherita offers opportunities to marvel at the snow-capped peaks and alpine vegetation. Descending the mountain rewards hikers with more sustained views of the vast farmlands, Queen Elizabeth national park and the Virunga ranges in DR Congo. Climbers will also encounter beautiful lakes and rivers high up on the mountains.
The most convenient way of arranging a hiking adventure to the park is to use the services of a tour operator. A tour operator can help organize transport and book accommodation while also working with the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services to arrange for porters, guides and cooks.
The overall cost of hiking to the summit of the mountains includes the cost of 2 porters, guides, a cook, rescue mission, accommodation and heating. Commercial videos or filming attracts a charge of $200 per day plus an additional $1,000 that is refunded once a hiker shares a copy of the video with the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
There is a standard park entrance fee of $30 per day. For more details about the hiking trails, stages and huts, check out our 9 Days Mount Rwenzori hiking tour package.
Forest and Foothill Hiking:
Inexperienced mountain climbers have an option of hiking on the mountain slopes and forest or taking part in activities like hand fishing along some of the streams on the mountain hills. While in the forest, look out for the three horned Rwenzori chameleon. This rare reptile is only found in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The male chameleon has 3 horns while the female has none.
UNESCO labeled the Rwenzori area a key Birding Area. The park and its mountains support several species including the African Long-eared Owl, Archers’ Robin-chat, Barbets, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Sunbird, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Collared Apalises, Crimson wings, Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwings, Dwarf Honeyguide, Evergreen Forest and Bamboo Warblers, Flycatchers, Golden- winged sunbirds, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds, Golden-winged Sunbird, Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike, Greenbuls, Grey-chested Illadopsis,.
Other species are; Grey-winged Robin, Handsome Francolin, IIladopsis, Kivu Ground Thrush, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Lammergeiger, Long-eared Owl, Montane Masked, Montane Rwenzori Nightjar, Montane Sooty Boubou, Olive Woodpecker, Oriole-Finch, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Alethe, Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Turaco, Slender-billed Starling, Strange Weaver, Stripe-breast Tit, Western Green Tinkerbird, White-collared Olive-back and White-starred Robin,
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park offers opportunities for cultural experiences with one of the local tribes living at the foot of the mountains. Tourists can go and visit the village of Ruboni to learn about the daily lifestyle and history of the Bakonzo tribe. The Bakonzo people arrange cultural dance performances while sharing information about their history.
The other interesting cultural experience is to go for the Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail. This trail gives more exposure to the intriguing culture of the Bakonzo. There are opportunities to visit a traditional healer and local blacksmiths. Visitors learn how to make fire locally and weave baskets.
The Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail also takes visitors to the Bakonzo traditional Museum. The local museum has a collection of traditional items of cultural and historical importance to the Bakonzo (Rwenzururu) including art pieces and locally made dresses.
The Bakonzo gather and make an annual (2nd September) pilgrimage to remember their great King Isaiah Kibanzanga Mukirania. The king played an important role in protecting the Bakonzo people from oppression by their neighbors the Batooro.
If one is visiting the Rwenzori area around September and is looking for a special African experience, then this is it. The day is filled with celebration, sacred rites and sacrifices in memory of the great king.
Nature walks can be arranged near the boundaries of the park by companies like the Rwenzori Mountain Services (RMS) and the Backpackers in Kilembe. Walks arranged by the RMS usually follow the central circuit zone used for mountain climbing.
The area around the starting point for mountain hiking is forested and with beautiful scenery and leads up to the lake Mahooma and the chimpanzee forest of Buraro. The other places to visit during nature. Your tour company can help you arrange nature walks with any of these companies.