Rwenzori mountain National Park
Rwenzori mountain National Park
Few things in life are as exhilarating as visiting a wild untamed park that is dotted with arrays of abundant fascinating flora and fauna. Uganda is one of the few African countries that are home to such parks. Due to her strategic location in the tropics, she boasts of 30% of Africa’s terrestrial biodiversity. Here are 10 National parks within her boundaries that will inspire you with a true sense of African adventure.
MOUNTAIN RWENZORI NATIONAL PARK
This park is a collection of towering, mesmerizing block mountains with an hourglass shape. This Highland sits in the Albertine Rift Valley and is the third highest mountain in Africa, standing at an elevation of 16,762ft / 5109 meters above sea level. Its summits are snowy all year. You never know how truly beautiful this park is until you have hiked it. Each day comes with its share of wonders and pleasant surprises that unclutter the mind of stress.
Be warned; the climbing challenge it offers is untamed, but it is worth dying for. See, on average, it takes most tourists five days to scale Mountain Kenya and Kilimanjaro – all the way to their highest peaks, Batian (17,057 ft) and Uhuru (19,341 ft) respectively. So most mountaineers come expecting to humiliate Rwenzori because it is relatively shorter than the two: only to be humbled. It might be only as tall as 16,762 ft, but it is not a walkover. Rather, its 6-12 day hike is a sweet pain in the right spot. Its rugged terrain is punctuated with lots of steep hills to climb and awkwardly sharp valleys to manoeuvre. It is wetter than other East African mountains, with annual rainfall ranging between 2,000 to 3,000 mm. If she were a woman, I would say she is a beautiful one with a hot temper. Fortunately, she knows how to make up for her temper, for her valleys are a place of sumptuous tranquility; perfect for meditation.
From the minute you set foot on Rwenzori Mountain National park your senses come alive at the sight, smell, sound and taste of nature's well kept secrets. This is mostly because the two main trails that lead up its summit are en-route different vegetation zones; zones with abundant bird species, gorgeous crater lakes, forest elephants, forest buffaloes and primates like chimpanzees. The most exciting part of the adventure is reaching the glacier and snowy zones. It’s one thing experiencing snow in cool continents like Europe and Asia, but it is a whole other thing encountering it in a continent scorched by sunshine for much of the year.
Mountaineering isn’t the only activity one can pursue here. The park comes across as a premium birding destination, seeing as it has some of the most sought bird species in Africa. It has 241 bird species, 19 of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift. The most striking species in its lower zones are Rwenzori Turraco, a brightly coloured red, green and blue bird with strident cackling call. Then there is the Handsome Francolin and Olive pigeon. In the Bamboo forest zone, you could see the Archer's Robin-chat, a small bird with a call like a squeaky hacksaw. Otherwise, the Alpine Zone boasts of several kinds of sunbird like the scarlet-tufted Malachite, African Black Duck, and White-necked raven.
The oldest person ever recorded to have hiked Rwenzori is Beryl Park, a Canadian National. She climbed it at the age of 78 in 2010.
The park was gazetted in 1991 and was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008.
Its highest point is 5,109m above sea level on Mt Stanley's Margherita Peak. Mt Stanley is partly in Congo and part of it is in Uganda.
Unlike East Africa’s other major mountains, Rwenzori is not volcanic; it is a block of rock up-faulted through the floor of the Western Rift Valley.
Want to hike Rwenzori?
One or 2 persons are charged $1,200 each, and 3 or more pay $1,100 each, plus an UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) gate entrance fee of $35 per day which is paid separately in cash. The Price includes all porters, food (meals) and accommodation whilst on the mountain.
There are two agencies that offer guiding hiking excursions to it all year round. These are Rwenzori Mountaineering Servicers and Rwenzori Trekking Services. You can reach them via http://www.rwenzoritrekking.com/ and https://rwenzorimountaineeringservices.com/ respectively.
Tag along with enough warm gear that can sustain the body at winter temperatures. Rwenzori’s weather is moody. One minute it is sunny, and the next minute it is freezing.
The adventure is pre-booked.
The best times to hike Rwenzori are months in the dry seasons, that is, June to August and December to February. In the wet season, the floor of the mountain is slippery and thus hard to maneuver over.
Man can best understand the value of something when he is benefitting from it in one way or another. For that, UWA has helped the communities living around the park establish Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, a mountaineering agency that manages the second busiest hiking trail in the park; the Central Circuit. This has in turn created over 200 direct jobs for the locals, most of whom serve as porters to tourists hiking the mountain.
Also, UWA in partnership with WWF is working towards the creation of alternative sources of livelihood for the farmers living around the park. One such is a Coffee project, an initiative benefitting over 300 households thereby reducing their dependency on the park through vices like poaching.