Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is considered to be the highest mountain range on the african continent. Rwenzori Mountains has six glacial peaks that include Mount Speke, Mount Stanley, Mount Gessi, Mount Emin Pasha, Mount Luigi da Savoia and Mount Baker. The major peaks can be conceivably compared to those of Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. These two peaks, Margherita (5.109m) and Alexandra (5.083m) on Mount Stanley are daring for any adventurous mountain climber in Africa.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park found in the south western part of Uganda on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo cover 998 sq km and was named after the famous Rwenzori Mountains which is also referred to as the legendary ‘Mountains of the Moon’. The mountain has unique glacial peaks noticeable miles away as one travels in the Western part of Uganda despite its being almost at the Equator.
The Rwenzori Mountains offer stunning scenery to the national park. The mountain slopes are above 1,600m and are a safeguard of hikers, who rate the Rwenzoris to be the most challenging of all African mountains. Rwenzori has five various vegetation Zones and these are grassland include (1000-2000m), montane forest (2000-3000m), bamboo/ mimulopsis zone (2500-3500m), Heather/ Rapanea zone (3000-4000m) and the afro-alpine moorland zone (4000-4500m), which has forests of giants heather plants, giant lobelias and groundsels. The Rwenzori mountain vegetation is according to the altitude.
There are about 70 mammal species recorded which consist of of elephants, chimpanzee golden cat, yellow-backed duiker, buffaloes, blue monkeys, Rwenzori colobus monkeys, forest hogs, hyrax and leopards plus many more.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is physically exceptional with over 177 bird species like the Francolins, illadopsis, robin, Rwenzori turaco, apalis, owl, Archer’s ground robin, Olive Pigeon, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, White Necked Raven, barred long-tailed cuckoo, golden-winged sunbird, Lagden’s bush shrike and Mountain Buzzards plus many other threatened and endemic species which are rare somewhere else.
Rwenzori Tour Activities.
Safari activities at Rwenzori Mountains National Park include:
– Mountain hiking/Climbing tours
– Trekking safaris
– Wildlife tours
– Birding safaris
For visiting tourists on a holiday in Uganda, be keen on taking the central circuit which lasts 6 nights 7 days to complete and enables one to see the main peaks. Other shorter hikes can take up to 4 days. Generally, hiking is the familiar holiday activity to undertake in the park and it takes you via all the vegetation zones and leads you to the frosty peaks. On the other hand, with climbing, the high peaks should be tried by skilled climbers only, for safety reasons. Nature walks that expose one to various animal and bird species are also commonly undertaken by visitors.
Kasese town, a close neighbour to Rwenzori has many affordable accommodation facilities of all classes of people. There are also Rwenzori Safari Lodge and Ruboni Community Camp at Nyakalengija, where the park offices are found.
Accessing the Park
To get to Rwenzori Mountains National Park, you can either use road transport or air transport means. To reach the Park Headquarters at Nyakalegija, one can either travels through Fort Portal or Mbarara to Kasese, all in Western Uganda. Fort Portal, which is 300km from Kampala, can be reached via Mubende town. Total journey time is about 4hrs. Kasese, which is about 350km from Kampala, can be reached via Masaka, Mbarara and Bushenyi. The Kasese direction, although longer at 6 hours, is believably more exciting as it goes through the exceptional Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Park, a recommended break in your trip. We can properly arrange a chartered plane and you land at Kasese Airstrip from where you are able to move a short distance to the park offices in Nyakalengija.
Health and safety measures while mountaineering
The high elevation and the wet conditions of the Rwenzori and can badly affect visitors who are not experienced. Note that the following health problems are possible and you have to be prepared:-
3. height sickness,
4. AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness)
5. HAPE (High altitude sickness pulmonary edema)
6. HACE (High altitude cerebral edema)
What you need for successful mountain hiking
Alongside having physical fitness, you have to to ensure that at least the following equipment are in your custody prior to hiking the Rwenzoris:-
1. Hiking Boots, Gum boots: A strong set of hiking boots is essential, principally in the early stages of the climb and in the trek across the glaciers. Gum boots are vital equipment in the mud-covered sections of the mountain trail.
2. Rucksack: A powerful waterproof bag is neccessary. Most times, Rwenzori can be wet. This will help maintain your essential items dry as you hike.
3. Cooking utensils: If you intend to do your own cooking, a light stove, some plates and cups should be in your possession. It is possible to hire a cook for the trip but still plan to have at least the bare essentials like the plates, cups, forks, knifes and others.
4. Warm stuff: After the first camp, the mountain gets much colder below 10°C and certainly below freezing at some camps. Good warm shirts and pants, a decent sleeping bag are all necessary. A good pair of warm waterproof gloves is necessary for whoever is hiking up to the peaks.
5. Emergency kits: Emergency medication is essential. For a large part of the expedition, you will be at least a day away from even the best emergency services.
6. Food: Most climbers carry their own food. Some food can also be bought at the Park Headquarters. You need energy giving food, glucose packs, sweetened juice mixers, chocolate and dry porridge mix are recommended. No need to carry water as the mountain provides lots of natural, sparkling, safe drinking water.
7. Equipment: All camps have huts but you may wish to carry a tent as it can improve trip flexibility and ensure to bring the common camping gears like the lighter, torch, toiletries, GPS to mention. However keep in mind that while you will have porters to help you out carry your equipment, there is a hard limit (22kg) as to how much each porter will carry: You therefore have to hire more porters if you have lots of kit.
The Park Headquarter has limited number of tents, rucksacks and boots for hire, be sure to speak to them before-hand to establish availability. Park offices also provides crampons, ice axes and ropes for hire, for those planning to try any of the peaks but you may bring your own. Warm objects can usually be bought in Kampala. Food and medicines can be acquired from any decent supermarket in Kampala or Kasese.
Rwenzori Mountains Climbing Tips
Planning your Rwenzori trekking is not considerably different from planning any other trip. Keeping in mind that trekking necessitates a large measure of constant physical energy for days up to the end where definite fundamental rules are relevant. One should also be reasonably fit, with good cardiovascular and respiratory performance.
Excellent advice for Rwenzori Trekkers
1. Be on familiar terms with your body: Don’t set your body through more pressure than it can handle. Once you tired, take a rest. Hiking should not be taken on like a competition. At higher altitudes especially from day 3 and beyond, watch out for signs of “Altitude Sickness” (brought on by low oxygen), which include shortness of breath, headache, loss of appetite. Harsh Altitude Sickness can be critical. Keep your guides informed of how you are feeling, so that they can give advice to you as a result. Do not assume your situation will automatically get better.
Safety First: Mountain rescue is a complex and dangerous undertaking. Certainly at camps like Kitandara, an evacuation will usually take two days and involves a host of porters and rangers.
Energy foods: Eating energy foods will greatly boost your experience as it will trim down exhaustion. Sugary snacks like chocolates, glucose biscuits and many more are generally very helpful all along the hike. Salty snacks like crackers help prevent muscle cramps.
Drink Lots of Water: Water is fine for you, principally at higher altitudes, where it helps reduce the effects of altitude illness. Clean drinking water is in plenty on the mountain from a number of springs.
Keep Warm: keeping warm will assist in good spirits as it prevents sickness. At higher altitudes, it is likely to fall with no notice: A warm pair of waterproof gloves is advised.
Interact with The Guides: Uganda Wildlife Authority has trained Park guides. Speak to your guides; ask questions as much as possible. The relationship you create with your guides, rangers and porters, the more they will share attention-grabbing insights.
Sunburn: look out for sun burn. Wear a top and if your skin colour calls for it, wear sunscreen.