As early as 150 AD, Alexandrine Photographer, Ptolemy wrote of a snow capped Mountain range deep in the heart of Africa, which he claimed was the source of the world’s longest River, The Nile. He called it “Mountains of the Moon.”
Indeed, over centuries, Mountaineers who later explored Ptolemy’s mountains found the high Rwenzori glaciers and snow peaks whose melt waters certainly represent the highest springs of the Nile. The alpine highland of glaciers,snowfields, hot springs and blue cirque lakes make Rwenzori one of Africa’s most beautiful mountain parks. Reaching an Elevation of 5109m, Rwenzori is Africa’s tallest mountain range exceeded in altitude by Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya, carrying Africa’s third, fourth and fifth highest peaks that are visible for miles around. Some of its peaks incomparable, beautiful and mist- shrouded carry permanent snow and glacier, while the lower slopes are covered with dense forest.
The Mountain slopes above 1,600m are the preserve of hikers who rate the Rwenzoris to be the most challenging of all African mountains. A variety of large mammals inhabit the lower slopes but the Rwenzori are notable more for their majestic scenery and varied vegetation. Its five distinct vegetation zones montane forest, bamboo forest, tree heath-bog, Hegenia, Rapania scrub and afro- alpine moorland provide a unique back drop to one of the most magnificent national parks in the world. Several endangered species and very unusual cloud forest flora like giant heathers, groundsels and lobelias, characterize the ranges as Africa’s botanic big game’.
In 1991, Rwenzori Mountains were gazetted as a national park and is both a World Heritage and RAMSER site.
Attractions to Rwenzori national park;
Mountain climbing is the most attractive activity on the legendary “Mountain of the Moon” that lies
Between altitudes 0, 06 degrees south and 0, 46degrees North and longitudes 29degrees : 47degrees west and 30degrees, 11degees East, Its diverse heavily snowcapped peaks are one of the few pristine and spectacular landscapes of the world.
Although variety of large mammals inhabits the lower slopes, the Rwenzori’s are notable more for their majestic scenery and varied vegetation. The ranges are scenic with pristine and spectacular landscape that comprises of waterfalls, hot springs,blue cirque lakes, snow clad peaks and stratified vegetation which is an attraction not only for visitors, but also creates potential for research as well as resources for the nearby communities.
The peak is also home to 18 species of mammals, 217 species of birds, 9 species of reptiles, and 6 species of amphibians. Elephants, buffalos, giant forest hog, bushbucks, Chimpanzees and leopards are present rarely seen. However primates such as the black and white colobus monkeys and the blue monkey may be seen. In the Rwenzori’s are also some unique and rare animal species like three horned chameleon, the Rwenzori colobus, Rwenzori turaco and the Rwenzori double collared sunbird.
The park is also cultural heritage for the neighboring communities. Eighteen sacred sites have been identified, mapped and protected as worship areas.
Activities in Rwenzori Mountains National park
Aesthetic values of the Rwenzori’s can be put into three categories of trekking, nature walks and peak climbing.
This is done along two routes; a 7 Day trekking of the central tourism circuit, 5 Day trek along Kilembe route to the southern part of the park. Shorter hikes can be arranged.
There are trees in the park which allows visitors up close interaction with nature.
The six- day loop trail is the tough but rewarding hike taking in all vegetation zones and glacier peaks. There are ascents to major peaks within the Rwenzori ranges along both routes. These include ascents to Magherita (5109m) on Mt Stanley, Vittorio Emmanuelle (4889m) on Mt Speke, and Edward (4842M) on Mountain Baker. These hikes offer commanding and panoramic views of other peaks with in the ranges. However, high peaks should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers.
Accessibility to the park
By road; The Park is located near Kasese, western Uganda bordering virunga national park in the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) in the west. The Nyakalengija trail head which is 22km off the Kasese- Fort portal road, and 25km north of Kaesese can be reached from Kampala via Fort portal road (375km) or via Mbarara and Queen Elizabeth national park (450km).
By Air, Transport can also be arranged on chartered flights from Entebbe to Kasese Airstrip in Kasese town.