Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Park at a Glance

  • Size: 996km2
  • The park was gazetted in 1991 and was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008.
  • Highest point: 5,109m above sea level on Mt Stanley’s Margherita Peak. Mt. Stanley is bisected by the border with the DR Congo.
  • The Rwenzori is not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains but is a block of rock upfaulted through the floor of the Western Rift Valley.
  • The Rwenzoris were christened the “Mountains of the Moon” by the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150.
  • The explorer Henry Stanley placed the Rwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888. He labeled it ‘Ruwenzori’, a local name which he recorded as meaning “Rain-Maker” or “Cloud-King.”

The oldest recorded person to reach Margherita Peak was Ms Beryl Park aged 78 in 2010.

The Rwenzoris – the fabled Mountains of the Moon – lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Rwenzori mountain range. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation.

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

The different habitats generate a great diversity of species of rare plants and animals listed on the IUCN Red List. They include 70 mammals and over 217 species of birds including 19 Albertine rift endemics like Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori nigh jar. Any specialist birder and nature enthusiast watcher out there must visit this park for rare sightings.

There are extensive trails such as the central circuit that give access to the summit glaciers with good hut accommodations. Plan your trekking expedition in advance and come prepared with technical logistics you need.

There are a variety of activities ranging from short day hikes to 12 days including natural walks, hiking, bird watching and the memorable cultural encounters of the indigenous forest tribes of Bakonzo and BaTwa village visits featuring their myth of deity god, traditional cuisine, dance performances and storytelling, crafts

Located in western Uganda on border with DRC, the 437 km journey from Kampala to Kasese town approximately takes 7-8 hours drive. Spend a night in Kasese the nearest town with affordable lodges, guest houses and camping opportunities make it a backpacker’s dream destination.

Hiking the Rwenzoris

Hiking Rwenzori ranges to its highest peak, margherita takes between 6-7 days and takes climbers through stunning nature and biodiverse mountain ecosystem.

Margherita Peak which is notably Africa’s third highest peak offers its real beauty in the climb up through Kilembe route, the valleys, forests and flora is diverse with trees and variety of ferns. The trees are populated with numerous bird species and primates and as you walk up the trails there are endless chances of viewing chimp nests in the tall trees. Lucky climbers may catch a glimpse of the resident chimpanzee as they scamper away.

Climbing to the Margherita Peak is more of a hard scramble than a climb except for a few difficult moves across mountain terrain and during snow periods it becomes more difficult to navigate, however the rewards and exaltation of conquering the top is worth the efforts with clear views across Albert Peak to the DRC (Congo) then east across the spectra of the Rwenzori massif.