A 9-days hiking safari in Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains, also known as the Mountains of the Moon, is a challenging and rewarding adventure for trekkers seeking to explore Africa’s third-highest mountain range and its unique alpine environment. This impressive range of mountains is located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its highest snow-capped peak Margherita stands at a height of 5109m. It stretches to about 110km in length. This UNESCO world heritage site includes an astonishing range of landscapes, from the bizarre afro-alpine moorland to the thick tropical vegetation on the lower slopes and lastly the glaciers at the highest reaches in the southern hemisphere. The pack is known for its beautiful plant life, the pack has Africa’s third highest mountain peak and many waterfalls, lakes and glaciers.
The Rwenzori Mountains, initially known as the Ruwenzori, is a block mountain range set between the East African states of Uganda and the D.R. Congo. The Rwenzori Mountain range rises up to 5109m and its centre point features the 3rd highest peak “Margherita.” The Rwenzori Mountain which is also popularly referred to as Mountains of the Moon lies on the rift valley floor but what makes it unique is that isn’t a volcanic mountain.
The Rwenzori Mountain/Mountains of the Moon is also one of the very few black mountains on the planet with permanent snow and glaciers one reason most climbers prefer trekking to its summits compared to even Kilimanjaro Mountain. The Rwenzori Mountains cover an area of 4800kms, length of 120kms and width of up to 65kms. Its highest point “Margherita” sits on Mount Stanley at 5109m. Reaching an elevation of 5,109m, Rwenzori Mountain is one of Africa’s tallest mountain ranges, exceeded in altitude only by the free-standing Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. The Rwenzori range has 6 major peaks, Mt Stanley (5,109m), Mt Speke (4,890m) Mt Baker (4,843m), Mt Emin (4,798m), Mt Gessi (4,715m) and Mt Luigi di Savoia (4,627m). The highest peak in the Mt Stanley complex is called Margherita peak (5,109) and it is this peak which makes the Rwenzori Mountains the 3rd highest range in Africa. Unlike the two highest mountains in Africa (Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya), the Rwenzori Mountains are not volcanic but predominantly old quartzite and gneiss. Despite its existence almost at the Equator, the mountain has distinctive glacial peaks visible miles away as one travels in the Western part of Uganda. Its slopes which are above 1,600m are the preserve of hikers, who rate the Rwenzoris to be the most challenging of all African mountains.
There are five different Vegetation Zones found in the Rwenzori Mountains. These are grassland (1000-2000m), montane forest (2000-3000m), bamboo/ mimulopsis zone (2500-3500m), Heather/ Rapanea zone (3000-4000m) and the afro-alpine moorland zone (4000-4500m).The park has also got a wide variety of large mammals which inhabits the lower slopes. These include elephants, buffaloes, chimpanzees, blue monkeys, Rwenzori colobus monkeys, duikers, forest hogs, hyrax and leopards. Rwenzori National park is also one of the most important bird areas in Uganda. The park has recorded 195 species which include the Rwenzori Turaco, Francolins, Olive Pigeon, White Necked Raven and Mountain Buzzards, as well as other rare, threatened and endemic species.
Formation Of The Rwenzori Mountains
The Rwenzori Mountain ranges formed due to a shift in the Earth’s crust about 3 million years back. The shift resulted in an uplift of the rock comprising quartzite, gneiss and granite. The shift in the tectonic plate is believed to have pushed the mountain block upwards and tilted it to make high peaks. Erosion and deposition of sediment over years resulted in the moulding of the range which today is referred to as the Rwenzori Mountain ranges. The Rwenzori Mountain range has a composition of 6 massifs each of them separated by deep gorges. While on the Rwenzori Mountaineering experience, the 6 peaks/mountain massifs to trek through include Mount Baker/Kiyanja, the 3rd highest of the 6 Rwenzori Mountain massifs. Mt. Baker sits at an altitude of 4843m and features multiple subsidiary peaks like Edward peak. Mt. Baker’s ridge was first hiked by Rubert Grauer in 1906.
Mountain Stanley is 5109m high, making it the highest of all the 6 Rwenzori Massifs with Margherita its highest summit. The Margherita peak features 11 subsidiary peaks and boasts of incredibly spectacular glaciers which include the Stanley plateau. Mt Stanley is what marks the Uganda and D.R. Congo boundary.
Mount Speke, is Rwenzori Mountain’s 2nd highest peak sitting at an altitude of 4890m. It has 4 summits including Johnston at 4834m, Ensonga at 4865m, Vittorio Emanuele at 4890 and at 4572m, there is Trident summit. Mt. Baker, Speke and Mt. Stanley make up a triangle that encloses the Bujuku Valley. It takes its name from John Speke, the renowned English explorer. Mt. Emin, 4798m is Rwenzori Mountain’s 4th highest peak. It has 2 peaks that are linked by a narrow ridge including Umberto on the southern side and Kraepelin. Mt. Gessi lies at an elevation of 4715m and is accessible via the Mugusu Valley. The Gessi peak was initially covered by ice & glaciers but they melted. Its 2 twin peaks include Loloanda and Bottego. Luigi di Savoia Mountain takes its name from the Duke of Abruzzi who climbed most of the 6 Rwenzori Mountains peaks.
The Rwenzori Mountains make up part of the Albertine rift which is the western rift valley arm of the East Africa rift. It boasts of high peaks, and beautiful gorges carved by glaciers making its topography unique. Mountain Rwenzori is the only African mountain range that represents glacial equatorial basement rock which formed due to the earth’s uplift. The Rwenzori Mountain ranges cover Uganda’s the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Congo’s Virunga National Park which takes 20% of this range. The best hikes in the Rwenzori Mountain ranges include the Central Circuit, Forest, and Margherita.
Flora And Fauna Of The Rwenzori Mountains Range
Mountain Rwenzori is endowed with a diversity of fauna and flora. It boasts of its distinct vegetation variation ranging from African savanna at 1676-2286m, tropical forest to Alpine meadows, heath, bamboo and snow. These harbours a range of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park’s diverse wildlife including 70 mammal species especially bushbucks, hyrax, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, 3-horn chameleons, duikers, elephants etc. Over 217 bird species range within the varied habitats of the Rwenzori Mountains including the Rwenzori Turacos, blue-headed sunbird, montane sooty boubou, Rwenzori batis, Archers’ robin chat, long-eared owl, barred long-tailed cuckoos, slender-billed starling. Other important birds include tiny sunbird, greenbul, Apalis, golden-winged sunbirds and more.
Activities To Do In Mountains Rwenzori National Park
When you think of the best destination to engage in mountaineering adventures in East Africa or Africa, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park never misses out on the list. The park shelters the Rwenzori Mountains also best known as Mountains of the Moon, an exceptional block mountain offering breathtaking mountain climbing experiences to climbers or hikers on Uganda safari holidays. Mountaineering adventures here offer a world-class experience to Margherita Peak (5109m) and hikers can take on any one of the many trails leading to the Rwenzori Mountains’ different peaks. Other peaks include Mount Speke, Mount Luigi, Elena, Baker and Mount Gessi. The climber may require 7 days or more to challenge themselves to make a complete hike to the stunning peaks of the Rwenzori mountain ranges. Interestingly, every designated trail has something unique to offer ranging from glacial lakes, scenic valleys and a lot more. The existing trails to explore while on mountaineering adventure here include the Central Circuit Trail. This begins at Mihunga ascends to Bujuku Valley then passes through Nyabitaba. It offers a perfect view of the mountain’s snow peaks but you will need some physical wellness to make a complete hike. The Kilembe trails exist on the southern slopes of the Rwenzori Mountain ranges. This is found next to Kasese town and takes hikers through the Nyamwaba Valley path navigating via glacial lakes and breathtaking viewpoints. It is possible to book your mountaineering adventure with our reservation. Mountaineering adventures in Rwenzori Mountains National Park are perfectly carried out during the dry season beginning from June to September and December to February.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a designated UNESCO Heritage Site and also a significant bird-watching spot Uganda safari tourists shouldn’t miss to explore and experience. Birding in different habitats in and around this park involves identifying diverse bird populations ranging from the dusky crimson wings, collared Apalis, barred long-tailed cuckoos, blue-headed sunbirds, African long-eared owl, Archer’s robin chat, Kivu ground thrush, red-faced woodland warbler, purple breasted sunbirds, Rwenzori batis, slender-billed starling, white collared olive back, Rwenzori turacos, strip breast tit, golden-winged sunbirds, nightjars, dwarf honeyguide to mention but a few. For an enjoyable bird-watching experience, ensure you have a good camera and a pair of binoculars.
Cultural tours while on Uganda safari in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park are perfectly conducted from any one of the nearby local communities. Visitors can walk to interact with local residents, learn about their daily lifestyles, history, traditions, and cultures, and enjoy their dances, and music performances. They include Ruboni village where you can get insight into the Bakonzo’s unique cultures, practices, dances and a lot more; the Bulimba-Ihandiro cultural trail that takes you to a traditional healer and local blacksmiths as well as the Bakonzo traditional museum. Other places to enjoy cultural encounters here include Rwenzori Turaco View Campsite.
Nature Walks And Hiking
Nature walks can be incorporated with other Uganda safari activities in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. A nature walk offers tourists a perfect opportunity to interact with nature, enjoy the great sight of diverse wildlife, and birds, and view the scenic surrounding areas. The different trails take enthusiastic nature lovers on an amazing panoramic view of Lake Muhooma and Buraro chimp forest.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park shelters the 3 horned chameleons which you can spot while on a wildlife safari. Other wildlife species to spot out include bushbucks, Rwenzori colobus, Uganda clawed frogs, rock hyrax, Rwenzori climbing mouse, mongoose, forest elephants, red duikers, blue monkeys, golden cats, giant forest hogs, and others.
Trekking in the Rwenzori Mountains is a challenging but incredibly rewarding experience. The mountains are known for their unique flora and fauna, including giant lobelias and groundsels, as well as pristine alpine lakes and dramatic landscapes. Ensure you are physically prepared and well-equipped for this demanding adventure. Experienced guides and porters are essential for a safe and enjoyable trek in this high-altitude environment.
Please note that this is a general itinerary, and the actual duration, activities, and accommodations may vary depending on your preferences, available time, and the specific arrangements made with you. It is advisable to consult with us to customise your itinerary and make any necessary adjustments.