Rwenzori National Park is one of the ten gazetted national parks in Uganda. The park stretches over an area of 996 square kilometers sharing borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo and gets its name from the magnificent Mountain Rwenzori. Found in the western district of Kasese, the park’s outstanding attraction is the Rwenzori mountain ranges which also doubles as the highest point in Uganda, a fact that draws countless hikers in pursuit to conquer this majestic mountain.
The park was established in 1991 and was inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage and Ramsar site in 1994 and 2008 respectively. The park in addition protects over 70 mammal species and more than 215 bird species while boasting of at least 19 species endemic to the Albertine Rift, and arguably some of the world’s most outlandish vegetation in form of giant lobelia and unique moss.
The Rwenzori mountains are also identified as the “mountains of the moon “and hold the record for being the 3rdhighest mountain range on the African continent after Mount. Kilimanjaro and Mount. Kenya. Its lower slopes are concealed within a montane rainforest, bamboo and rich moorland while its highest peaks are blanketed in sparkling white snow that accounts for its local name “Ruwenzori” loosely translated as “Cloud King”. Unlike other fabled mountains of east Africa that are volcanic, Rwenzori is a block mountain that was formed by faulting as opposed to volcanic activity.
The park’s chief attraction is the mountain ranges that pose a worthy challenger to conquer by proficient hikers from all over the world. Margherita, the third highest peak in Africa can take a 7 to 12-day hike to reach the top of snowy capped peak at Mount. Stanley. The trek takes you through amazing trails of the rainforest of bamboo, moorland and heather plus the unique enormous lobelia as you approach higher altitudes. For the less daring or time-limited hikers, a few shorter and easier ranges are available for hiking including mount. Speke,Gessi and Baker that can be done with four to five days.
Interested guests can engage in splendid cultural experiences with the Bakonzo the local people who inhabit the districts where the park is located. These people are known as skilled climbers due to the nature of the terrain they live in. Stroll through the beautiful homesteads and get the pure experience of them running their day to day activities from farming, preparing different cuisine, fascinating dance and folklore of one of the most enthralling tribes of Uganda.
The park boasts of a number of splendid mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Over 70 mammals are hosted in the park including forest elephant, buffalo, duikers, Rwenzori colobus, golden cats, Uganda clawed frog, rock hyrax, leopard, bushbuck, Rwenzori climbing mouse, mongoose, L’Hoest’s monkeys and giant forest hogs can be encountered even while adventuring lower slopes of the “Mountains of the Moon”.
The park is also home to the three-horned Rwenzori chameleon a sight to look out for while hiking or wildlife viewing.
The Rwenzori national park is one of Uganda’s prime bird-watching sites without any doubt. On top of having over 17 recorded Albertine rift endemic species, the park also hosts over 200 other species that grant ardent birders an exhilarating time while in this park.
Bird species that can easily be encountered on a bird watching safari in Rwenzori include Rwenzori turacos, dwarf honeyguides, scarlet tufted malachite sunbirds, montane Rwenzori nightjar, bearded vultures among others. Birding here will absolutely leave you not the same due to its vibrating unique birdlife.
Just like other tourism destinations of Uganda, the park is ideal for visiting any time of the year to relish the wonderful attractions and activities this virgin park offers to its esteemed guests. The dry season is suggested especially for hiking as conditions are more favorable for navigating the treacherous trails. This is attributed to lower chances of rainfall that may disturb on your hiking expedition though this can’t be guaranteed.
A visit to Rwenzori national park guarantees an authentic and unadulterated safari experience as the park is one of the least explored parks in Uganda. Plan a safari to this virgin wilderness to walk on the ground where only a few have dared to conquer, and even more rewarding if you reach Uganda’shighest point – Margherita peak.