ABOUT RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda. The Park was established in 1991. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of its outstanding natural beauty. The park includes most of the centre and eastern half of the Rwenzori Mountains, a mountain range rising above dry plains located just north of the equator. The Rwenzori Mountains are steep, rugged and very wet. They owe their origins to thrusting of the earth’s crust associated with the creation of the Albertine Rift, which makes them geologically quite different to the other high East African mountains which are volcanic. The park is noted for its botany, which has been described as some of the most beautiful in the world.
CLIMATE IN RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
The climate in Rwenzori Mountains national park is tropical, affected by altitude, topography and the seasonal movements of the inter tropical convergence of the southeastern monsoon with winds from the northeast. Most of the plains at the foot of the range lie in a rain shadow and receive as little as 750mm of rain a year. The mountains trap the humid air of the Congo basin and are very wet, rain falling on most days even in the dryer months. The temperatures at an altitude of 3,000-4,000 meters are around 10-15 degrees Celsius during the day while at night it is around 2-6 Celsius.
The park includes Africa’s third, fourth and fifth highest peaks in an alpine highland of glaciers, snowfields and lakes of astonishing beauty. The park is famous for its botany which is one of the most beautiful in the world. It protects five distinct vegetation zones, many rare, endemic and endangered species, and the richest montane flora in Africa – a very unusual cloud forest of giant heathers, groundsels and lobelias, draped in cushions of luxuriant mosses. These distinctive vegetation zones change according to changes in altitude.
WILDLIFE AND BIRDS OF RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
The Ruwenzori mountain slopes is home to various wildlife species including mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Some of the animal encounters include elephants, leopards, bush bucks, giant forest hogs, bush bucks and many more. There are also various primate species in the Ruwenzori mountains like blue monkeys, olive baboons and black and white Columbus monkeys and many more. The park also boasts more than 89 species of birds. Some of the birds include the Ruwenzori collared birds, Queens turaco, Shelley’s crimson wing, dwarf honeyguide, red faced woodland warbler, Kivu ground thrush, strange weaver, barred long tailed cuckoo, purple breasted sunbirds, collared apalis and montane masked to mention a few.
- Hiking – There are two types of hiking experiences in the Rwenzoris: high altitude and low altitude. The low altitude treks won’t take you beyond 4,000 meters and typically last 2-4 days. High altitude treks take you to the peaks above 4,000 meters, and last between4-12 days.
- Bird watching – Rwenzori national park harbors more than 89 bird species with 19 species being endemic to only Rwenzori national park hence making it a birding area for birders. Birding in Rwenzori majorly starts in the morning at Ruboni to the Montane forest. This is where birders are able to view different unique species such as Blue headed sunbird, Long eared owl, Rwenzori Batis, Crimson wings, Montane sooty bou bou, Stripe breast tit, Black and swift eagles among others.
- Cultural encounters – This activity gives visitors an opportunity to interact with the local communities. Some villages such as Ruboni is home to the Bakonzo who live in the foothills of the mountain. Upon interaction with them, you will learn about their daily activities like farming, animal rearing, taste
their traditional dishes, visit the traditional healers and more which makes your visit rewarding.
- Mountain climbing – The park is also one of the most popular destinations for mountain climbing. Visitors hike to the snow-capped mountain peaks.
- Game Viewing – Wildlife viewing in this park is rewarding. The park’s wildlife varies with elevation. Its species include the forest elephant, chimpanzee, hyrax, black-and-white colobus, L’Hoest’s monkeys, Rwenzori duiker, and Rwenzori turaco among others.
ATTRACTIONS IN RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
- Vegetation – Rwenzori national park is covered with beautiful Tropical rain forest, Tree heathers, Bamboo, Afro-alpine, Montane forest and plant species like groundsel, lobelia which is one of the most beautiful in the world among others.
- Wildlife – The park is home to a big number of mammal species with six species endemic to the Albertine rift and four species endemic to only Rwenzori park. They include Elephants, Leopards, small Antelopes, Bushbucks, Rwenzori Otter, Black and white colobus monkey and Blue monkeys among others.
- Equatorial Snow peaks – Rwenzori park comprises of 6 mountains which are located in the north part of the equator. Mount Stanley Margherita is the highest and third highest in Africa at 5109m above sea level. Mount Speke at 4890m. Mt. Baker at 4843m. Mount Gessi at 4715m. Mount Emin Pasha at 4791m and Mount Luigi da Savoia at 4627m above sea level.
- Birds – Rwenzori national park is home to over 89 bird species with 19 endemic to Rwenzori national park. They include Handsome francolin, Cinnamon chested bee-eater, Rwenzori Turaco, Golden winged sunbird, Blue headed sunbird among others.
- Lakes – Rwenzori national park consists of over 20 lakes. The main one is Lake Bujuku. It lies at the top of a deep and curved glacier Bujuku valley in the shadows of Mount Stanley, Mount Speke and Mount Baker. There is also Lake Mahoma in the central circuit forest.
- Bulemba houses – They are historical remains of the first king of Rwenzururu kingdom Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzaga. He is also believed to have saved the Bakonzo tribe from batooro oppression. The Bakonzo people offer sacrifices during the pilgrimage to the sacred site on 2nd September every year. This acts as a remembrance of their first king.
There are a number of accommodation facilities around the park. They include Margherita hotel, New Saad Hotel, Rwenzori Mountain Service Bunkhouse. Also Rwenzori international hotel which is 3km from town, White House hotel, located in Kasese town and Fort portal among others.