Snowcapped Mountains? Glaciers, waterfalls, and alpine forests… in Africa? Yes – this is Rwenzori National Park, one of the most stunning mountain landscapes on the planet. And even more incredible, it is just kilometers from the equator.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unmatched natural beauty, these legendary “mountains of the Moon” feature the third highest peak in Africa, 5,109m (16,761 ft) Mt. Stanley and are the highest source of water for the iconic River Nile.
A wonderland of color, these mountains show off the richest high-altitude flora in Africa. The giant lobelias, groundsels, and heathers adorning these hills are known as “Africa’s botanical big game”, adding still more color to the area’s mountain lakes, rivers, and sparkling waterfalls.
As to the animal variety of “big game”, these lofty forests support 70 species of mammals, including 4 primate species of chimpanzees and monkeys. Especially rare are the L’Hoest’s monkey and Eastern Chimpanzee.
Also inhabiting these wooded slopes, look for forest elephant, hyrax, duiker, buffalo, giant hog, and black and white colobus monkey
The park is especially noted for its 217 species of birdlife, many of which are endemic. As you hike these pristine trails look for the Rwenzori Turaco, long-eared owl, and long-tailed cuckoo. Adding yet more colorful accents, look for the park’s more than 15 species of butterfly.
Though cold, white, and frosty at its higher elevations, the park’s lower regions are a mix of moorland and rich bamboo forests. Visitors will be enchanted by large tree heathers, vibrant mosses, and the bursting flowers of this heavenly landscape.
The Rwenzori (known as the ‘Rain Maker’ or ‘Cloud-King’ as named by the explorer Henry Stanley) is known as a world-class hiking and mountaineering environment. Excursions range from 12-day, technical climbs to the summit of Mt. Stanley to six-day treks, to just 1-day outings along the trails and through the forests.
Also available are nature walks with the local Bakonzo villagers. Explore their homesteads in the foothills of the Rwenzoris and delve into their traditional culture.
Location: The park sits near the equator in western Uganda. Almost 1000 sq. km (386 sq. mi) in size, it encompasses most of the Rwenzori Range, the highest in Africa.
Climate: Although close to the equator, the park experiences cooler temperatures because of its higher elevations. At 4,000 m (13,123 ft.) temperatures range from 15°C (59°F) during the day to 2°C (35°F) at night. At the summit, the mercury can dip to minus 2°C (28°F). The park’s two wet months are April and October, making the trails slippery.
When to go: The park is open year-round, from 07:00 – 18:00 hrs. (7 am – 6 pm)
Best time to visit: The best months for trekking are the drier seasons from late December to March and from mid-June through mid-August. But even during the dry season expect the higher elevations to be shrouded in the park’s ever-present mist, which does burn off for a time each day.
Getting there: By road – take a Natural World Kenya Safaris tour from Kampala. It’s about a 2 ½ hours drive.
By air – about 1 ½ hours from Kampala to Kasese.
Hiking – Enjoy forest day hikes through the foothills of the Rwenzoris. Take in the surrounding farmland with their coffee plantations. At the low elevations, enjoy landscapes of tropical evergreens and the rich birdlife all about.
Mountain Climbing – The Rwenzoris can be challenging with their steep and often muddy trails. But there are treks suited for all skill levels – six, ten- and twelve-day treks will command bragging rights as will technical climbs. All this over some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.
Bird Watching – the park boasts 217 species of birds of which 17 are only found here, hence the UNESCO naming of Rwenzori as a key Birding Area. Enjoy the colorful varieties like the long-eared owl, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, strange weaver, and slender-billed starling.
Cultural Walks – Spend some time with the Bakonzo villagers at the Ruboni Community Camp. There, you’ll see how the locals go about their day, tending their animals and crops. You’ll be able to meet healers, basket weavers, storytellers, and enjoy their dances with its exciting drumming. You might even get a lesson.
From tropical rainforests to flowered alpine meadows to dramatic waterfalls, glaciers, and icy peaks. There is a reason Rwenzori National Park has earned the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage site and key Birding Area. A visit to this legendary park with its world-class peaks will be an unforgettable addition to your African safari.
Join us on safari to Uganda’s very special and unique alpine park for a rich adventure into the high-altitude natural world. Natural World Kenya Safaris will create for you a customized itinerary for this and other premier Uganda parks. We have safaris departing Kigali, Rwanda, and Entebbe.
Natural World Kenya safaris is Member No.FA/440 - Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) bonding scheme. The scheme is insured to guarantee your holiday safari in the unlikely event that a bonded KATO member ceases operating.