The Rwenzori Mountains, the fabled “mountains of the moon” (first described by the Greek philosopher and geographer Ptolemeus in the 2nd Century) are capped with a splendid world of ice and snow, massive ice-rime sculptures and wonderful and luxuriant alpine vegetation. They provide a magnificent environment for both experienced climbers and casual day hikers. The lower slopes are great hiking country and the scenic beauty is a backdrop to a unique habitat for many rare and endemic plants and animals.
The Rwenzori Range, 120 km long and 48 km wide, is a huge block of precambrian rock rising to over 5000 m high, making it the highest non-volcanic mountain in Africa.
Unlike Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya which are of volcanic origin, the mountain chain was forced up during the formation of the East African Rift Valley system (in the Poliocene and Quartenary era). The range includes the third highest peak in Africa, the 5,109m Mt. Stanley (named after the explorer who saw the mountains in his 1887 expedition), Mt. Alexandria (5,083 m) and Mt. Speke (4,089 m).
Rwenzori means “rainmaker”, and the areas’ average annual rainfall is 5 m. The ice covered peaks are only visible a few days in the year. The best time to visit is during the dry months: July to August, and December to January.
Decreasing temperatures with increasing altitude have resulted in a remarkable zoning of vegetation. The most striking plants can be found above 3,000 m, where areas of giant tree heathers support unique aerial epiphytic gardens. The alpine zone includes the giant lobelias and groundsels, hallmarks of the Rwenzori.
Among the animals found in the Rwenzori are chimpanzee, colobus monkey and other primates, leopard, forest hog, elephant and Rock Hyrax. You may spot the three-horned chameleon – an important part of local folklore. The birdlife is magnificent, and includes the Rwenzori Turaco, francolin, olive pigeon and the white-necked raven.
The local people, the Bakonzoo, are a sturdy mountain people, many of whom work for Rwenzori Mountaineering Services.
Activities in the Park
The trek of Central Circuit Trail usually takes six to seven days. Shorter trips can be arranged but do not reach the high peaks. Hiking is arduous and the weather may be poor. “Trekking the Rwenzoris”, a brochure, is available from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Climbing the Rwenzoris
Information on climbs, and details of guides (mandatory) and potters can be obtained from:
Rwenzori Mountaineering Services
P. O. Box 33 Kasese
- Base Camp
- Hotels in Kasese