Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies in the Rwenzori Mountains in south-western Uganda, on the eastern side of the western Albertine African rift valley, along Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and bordering the Virunga National Park. The 996 km2 Park is famed for having the third highest peak in Africa and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The 120 km long and 48 km wide Park includes most of the centre and eastern half of the Rwenzori Mountains, an ice-capped mountain range towering over arid plains. Mount Stanley is situated in the Park and the Margherita Peak, one of Mount Stanley’s twin summits, is Africa’s third highest peak, rising to 5 109 m. The continent’s fourth and fifth highest peaks, Mount Speke and Mount Baker, are also located in the park. Also found in the Park are waterfalls, glaciers, lakes and snowfields. Rwenzori has a wide variety of flora and fauna species and is famed for its botany which is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. There are five distinctive vegetation zones in the Park, which change according to changes in altitude.
The Park’s wildlife differs with elevation and some of the animals found include species include L’Hoest’s Monkey, the Forest Elephant, the Duiker, the Chimpanzee and the Black-and-white Colobus Hyrax. It also has 89 bird species, 15 butterfly species and four primate species.
Rwenzori can be reached by road, on two routes, one from Kampala through Mupende to Fort Portal which is 300 km away and taking up to 4 hours and the other from Kampala, via Masaka-Mbarara-Bushenyi to Kasese, 350 km long and taking about 6 hours. By air, 30 minute chartered flights can be arranged to the Kasese airstrip.
The Park can also be reached from DRC with the routes starting in Kigali Rwanda, taking a bus to Gisenyi then crossing over into the DRC and proceeding to Beni. From there, one would continue in the direction to Kasindi to Mutangwa the expeditions starting point.
There are various accommodation facilities in and around the mountain range, offering from luxurious to budget accommodation services to guests visiting the Park. Tours Holiday Inn Camp Base is set along the main road towards Nyakalenjija, in Ibanda trading center. The establishment offers 15 self contained rooms plus an extension building with five self contained rooms and can accommodate up to 40 people. There is an operational a bar in the front which also serves external visitors, a cozy and private dining room for dinner and breakfast as well a kitchen preparing a variety of food from continental to local.
The Ruboni Community Camp, one of the oldest accommodations in Nyakalenjija located next to the Park gate offers two self contained bandas or cottages and four not self contained rooms with a shower and flushing toilet just outside. There also is a restaurant, set a bit higher on the slope of the hill as well as a kitchen which serves continental and local cuisine.
Mihunga Safari Lodge is situated after Nyakalenjija, in Mihunga village as you go towards the gate of the National Park, on the right side. The Lodge, established in 2010, offers five self contained, wooden cottages, a restaurant, a dining hall and a kitchen where continental and local food is prepared.
The Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite is a new lodge situated in the Mihunga village. The Campsite offers three room’s accommodation in bandas and the camping site with eco-san toilets and showers, a restaurant serving traditionally cooked typical Ugandan and a bar.
Best times to visit
Though Rwenzori is open to visitors all year long, the best times to visit are the dry seasons of June to August and December to February where roads are dry and easy to manoeuvre around. Game spotting is also easier during these months of thin vegetation.
Weather and climate
Temperatures in the Park vary according to altitude. Temperatures around the 3 000 to 4 000 m mark are usually recorded at around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius during the day and 2 to 6 Celsius during the night whilst temperatures at camps 4 and 5 during the day can vary from 1 to 12 Celsius with temperatures dropping to – 5 to + -3 degrees Celsius at night. The weather in the Rwenzori is wet and the peaks are covered in mist most times.
Other safety considerations
The warmer areas around the Park have mosquitoes thriving in them, making malaria prevalent. Visitors are thus urged to take precautionary measures against malaria and these include taking anti-malarial tablets, sleeping under treated net, covering bare skin at dusk and using insect repellent spays and creams.