The Rwenzori Mountains also known as the “Mountains of the Moon” named so by Alexandrine photographer, Ptolemy, are snow-capped peaks. They are known to offer challenging adventure to mountaineers. The 120km mountains is the highest standing block mountain on the African continent lying along Uganda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It spreads across Uganda’s districts of Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kabarole and Kasese. The Rwenzori Mountain is protected as a national park at a size of 996Km2, it was gazetted in 1991 and recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1994 and later a RAMSAR site.
Its significance as the source of River Nile was first mentioned by Ptolemy about 150AD. It is a unique feature rising directly from the Rift Valley floor to an elevation of 5109m above sea-level. The geographer wrote of the snow-capped range in the heart of Africa which he claimed was the source of the world’s longest river because of its glaciers and snow peaks whose melt waters symbolize the highest springs of the Nile.
The mountain was placed on the map by one of the early explorers, Henry Marton Stanley in 1888, May 24th and named it the “Ruwenzori” a local name meaning “Rain maker”. The lovely mists that cover the peaks provide a remarkable backdrop to one of the country’s most elegant National Park.
The Ruwenzori’s are usually very wet characterized by frequent rainfall of about 375mm on average even in the drier months, with regular snowfall. A cloud cover of more than 2500m can continue for numerous days and the annual precipitation above the foot-hills averages 2500mm, peaking two times from March to May and August to December.
People found around the ranges are the Bakonzo and the Bamba. These belong to the Bantu Ethnic group which has survived in the foothills of the Ruwenzori for generations and whose culture is adapted to the steep slopes and climate of the mountains.
Flora and Fauna
The Rwenzori ranges support a variety of wildlife; they are notable for the beautiful scenery and varied vegetation divided into five distinctive zones i.e. Montane forest, the pleasant Bamboo forests, Tree Heath-bog, Hagenia-Rapanea scrub, and Afro-Alpine Moorland which form a unique setting to one of the world’s remarkable park. The higher Moorland zone is known for its several endangered species and unusual cloud forest cover of giant Heathers, Lobelias and Groundsels.
The park hosts over 18 mammal species with the lower slopes being home to a number of large mammals such as Buffalos, Elephants, giant Forest Hog, Bushbuck, and the odd Leopard. Primates like Chimpanzees, Blue Monkeys, and Black and White Colobus are seen and other mammals like the Golden Cat, Servalline Genet and Antelopes. The avian life is well represented with over 217 species of birds including some unique species like the Rwenzori Turaco and the Rwenzori Double Collared Sunbird. Over 6 Amphibian species and 9species of Reptiles exist with some unique and rare specials like the Three Horned Chameleon.
Things to do
- Trekking or Hiking; this is done along two main routes, the 7 day route along the central tourism circuit- the Nyakalengija and the 10 day route along Kilembe.
- Nature walks
- Peak climbing