Visit RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is one of the famed national parks located in the Southwestern part of Uganda within the East African Rift Valley, in Kasese District. The 1,000km2  park is widely known as home of the third highest peak (Margherita) at 5,109m in Africa, Rwenzori National Park is situated in the midst of vast Rwenzori ranges. The park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008 before it was gazetted in the early 1991.

The 100,100 – hectare park also spreads out irregularly to some parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo while bordering Virunga National Park. Through the National Parks, the government of Uganda owns this protected area with accessible trek and climbing trails. Located in the same range as Virunga National Park of Democratic Republic of Congo, the Rwenzori mountains National park is very famously known for its exceptional hiking tours.

It is how the glaciers which are part of the Nile source, wildlife beauty and beautiful plant life, snowcapped peaks, blends with spectacular views of stunning lakes, magnificent waterfalls and rivers to give the Rwenzori mountains National Park such an enchanting remarkable view that’s worthy of more visits. 

Rwenzori Mountains national park also homes a variety of other peaks apart from the famous Margherita which includes Alexandra that goes up to 5,083 meters on Mount. Stanley and exceeds all the altitude on African land except that of Mount. Kilimanjaro and Mount. Kenya.

All visitors who come to Uganda for tourism activities tour while they bear it in mind that the Rwenzori mountains National park is famously known for it’s hiking, mountaineering and trekking fun activities so they are always ready for the unforgettable hiking experience. It explains why a number of these visitors extend their holidays sometimes for a few couple of days.

Explore Uganda Safaris

Mountain Rwenzori

In 150AD, the famous snow-capped mountain that takes over an area of approximately 70 kilometers wide and 130 kilometers long, glaciated throughout the year was named “Mountains of the Moon” by a geography Ptolemy Alexandrine. About 16000 feet in elevation, the Mountain Rwenzori is a world heritage site and also nears the Virunga National Park. The word Rwenzori was translated to mean rain maker which largely explains the vital role of this mountain to Africa.

The Mountain consists of six massifs and 4 peaks including the Mount Baker, Mount Gessi, Mount. Speke, Weismann’s peak, Mount Luidi di Savoia near Margarita, the highest peak on Mount. Stanley.

HIKING THE Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The low altitude that is the shortest one and its treks last for about 2-4 days and won’t go beyond 4,000 meters while the high altitude will go for approximately 4-12 days above 4000 meters and high altitude are the two types of hiking. Rwenzori mountains routes are generally longer when trekking compared to those of the likes of Kilimanjaro.

There are two hiking trails that can be used to reach to the summit. The central circuit trail and the Kilembe trail are the two routes that goes straight into the Rwenzori peaks. The central commences from Mihunga and takes approximately seven days to the summit. The Kilembe trail is the second type of hiking trail and this will start from Kilembe near Kasese town.

The Rwenzori trekking services offer a number of Mountain climbs and treks using an amalgamation of Nyamugasani, Nyamwamba and Kamusoni River valleys. Another route is that one that ascends to Kilembe and along that route the Nyamugasani valley contains about glacial eight lakes.

In 1895, Professor Elliot Scott was the first to follow the Southern circuit out to Kilembe and this circuit is until date the most used one as it gives enticing experience of the most beautiful landscapes.

The mountains will receive over 3 meters of rainfall annually which in turn brings about higher reaches covered up in Ice and snow and lush fertile vegetation in the lower slopes. A number of the world’s hikers have climbed Mountain Rwenzori and the inexperienced ones may find a hard time especially reaching Africa’s third highest peak.

The hikers are highly advised to be at their best physical and body health in general as the treks are always done on foot especially climbing the Margherita is always a challenging but rewarding experience.

Reaching the Africa’s third highest peak (Margherita) and highest summit is quiet challenging but a good and rewarding experience as it offers stunning views of the alpine vegetation, beautiful river and lakes and snow-capped peaks and hikers can also have the best views of the Queen Elizabeth National Park, big farmlands and Virunga in Democratic Republic of Congo on the descending. 

ATTRACTIONS IN RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Apart from the mountains, lush flora, beautiful bird species and wildlife beauty. There are a lot of other fun activities that keep the travelers and visitors hooked to the place and always coming back for more of it.

The park also offers a wide range of cultural activities that a big number of international visitors find amazing and worthy of more visits while one of the local tribes lives in the foot of the mountain.  The lifestyle of the Bakonzo, history and their daily life is exceptionally interesting and they always performing enticing cultural dances to the visitors. So one can visit their home villages of Ruboni and Bulemba Indahiro cultural trail, the trail that revels more of the cultural history of the Bakonzo tribe.

There are also a number of cultural healers that the Bakonzo tribe believe in their healing powers and black smiths who work on a unique number of historical tools. There is a cultural historical Bakonzo museum full of their history, cultural dresses, art pieces, crafts and informative culture.

Another fascinating history of the Bakonzo is how they always congregate on the second day of September for their annual pilgrimage in remembrance of their late great King Kibazanga Isaiah Mukirania.

During the early days, King Kyibazanga Isaiah played such a big role of protecting the Bakonzo people from their oppressing neighbors which were the Batooro. This is one of the special cultural experience that shouldn’t be missed in case visitors are looking for one for in East Africa and Africa at large. In the memory of the great King, the day is full of celebrations, sacrifices and cultural performances attended by huge population of the Bakonzo people.

Lake Mahoma is the most famous lake in this park and absolutely easy to access compared to the other 19 lakes in this park. The park has approximately 20 aesthetic lakes with beautiful views that keep visitors hooked to the park.

Nothing beats a feeling of a long nature walk with focused deep breath. The soothing feeling shall clear up your mind and help you relax, relieve stress and stay calm. Numerous number of visitors are always interested in these trekking activities.

Locals are being employed to guide and take visitors through the nature walks along the slopes of Mountain Rwenzori. Several stunning birds are sighted here, Chameleons, a big number of birds and butterfly species, etc.

Rwenzori mountain and other several mountains aside, the park has beautiful wildlife, bird species and botany life that also attracts a number of tourists from all over the world.

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park homes a variety of over 70 mammal species and out of these 6 are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley from Rwenzori climbing mouse, otters and colobus to leopards, mongoose, Sitatunga, giant forest hogs, buffaloes, chimpanzees, black, blue and white monkeys are some of the primate species. Approximately 15 butterfly species and over 218 bird species are recorded in the Rwenzori Mountains National park including 19 of these which are endemic to the Albertine rift.

A variety of these bird species are found in the forest zone from blue headed, long eared owl, lag den’s bush shrike, Montane Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Night Jar, western green tinker bird, black-collared apalis, dwarf honeyguide, crimson wings, Fly catchers, Scarlet tufted Malachite, bamboo warblers, Shell golden winged sunbird to evergreen forest, archer’s robin chat, Stripe-breast tit, strange weaver, cinnamon chested beer eater, bearded vultures, barbets, long tailed cuckoo and swifts, white starred Robbin, slender billed starling and Rwenzori Turaco.

There is also the horned chameleon, the famous reptile in the park and it’s only in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is also one of the right spots for bird watching in Uganda

There’s plenty of lush vegetation in the park, beautiful landscapes and this is due to the blend of dry and cold weather conditions influenced by high amounts of rain.

WHEN AND HOW TO GET TO RWENZORI

From June to August and December throughout February is always considered the best time to explore Rwenzori mountains National Park in Uganda.

To get to Rwenzori Mountains National park is mostly easy when you start from the Capital City of Uganda, Kampala. From Kampala, you can drive for approximately six hours to seven hours up to Kasese district, in western region.

However, some visitors consider the road means of transport as slow and inconvenient so they will opt for a flight from Uganda’s main airport, Entebbe international Airport. The journey by flight goes for only one hour and 30 minutes or sometimes 2 hours to the nearby Kasese town.

SAFARI ACTIVITIES IN UGANDA

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

After reading about the mountain gorillas, meet them physically and watch the silverback protect its family, mothers nurse and youngsters play. Half of the total population of the mountain Gorillas call Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park home.

Mountain Gorillas are only found in the pearl of Africa, around the vast Virunga chain of mountains which spans through Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo. All trekkers must be 15 years and above, with a valid Gorilla trekking permit which can only be used once-the date of the activity.

Gorilla trekking permits are purchased from Uganda wildlife Authority, or through a licensed tour agency and costs 700Usd for foreign non-residents, 250,000ugx for East African residents and 600$ for foreign residents. 

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzees trekking is done in Kyambura gorge, Kibale national park, Kalinzu forest and Budongo forest. This is one of the must-do safari activities in Uganda, and thus one of the best for holiday goers. Get to experience the silence of the jungle, know what the forest has, and encounter other forest inhabitants.

The Gorilla trekking experience is done in the morning and afternoon hours, taking about 1-4 hours on foot. It is open for only persons aged 16 years and above in groups of not more than 8 persons. One can combine chimpanzee trekking with other activities like game viewing, boat cruise, hiking, birding and more. At Kibale forest National Park, you will visit Isunga community for the top of world hike and coffee experience.

Game drives and camping safaris

Akagera national park is the only place where game drives are done in Rwanda. The park is located in the eastern part of Rwanda, with a wide range of flora and fauna, cool weather, and classic lodging options.

Game viewing in Akagera National Park is rated as one of the best in the continent, and offers high chances of encountering among others; the African elephants, cape Buffaloes, lions, leopards, Rhinoceros, forest genet, zebras, wild dogs and more. There are birds, plants and more to explore during your stay in the park. Game drive is best in the morning and late evening hours.

Boat cruises

Boat cruise experiences in Murchison falls national park, Lake Victoria, Lake Mburo, Bunyonyi and Kazinga channel are quite unmatched. The best way to explore water, and uncover the aquatic world. Get closer to Nile crocodiles, hippos, kingfisher, water duck, shoebill stock and more, the papyrus swamps, and cool water breeze. This experience takes about 1-3 hours, in either morning or afternoon hours.

Bird watching tours.

Uganda is a host to 10% of total bird species in the world. Birds are found across the country, in the swamps, lake shores, mountains, river shores, and forests. For bird enthusiasts, you get to learn of these birds by name, and character.

Take time to capture numerous photos of the many species notably; Turacos, eagles, Kori bustards, shoe bill stock, cranes, francolins, Albertine owlets, kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori Turacos, regal sunbirds, mountain masked Apalis, Red-billed quale, western nicator eagles, African Jacana, eastern black korhaans, lover birds, guinea fowls and more.

Hiking and Mountaineering activities.

Nature walk and hiking are some of the best safari activities done in your holiday. It is an activity where everything is within your presence, notably; the birds, plants, water and more. It is a much practical way of uncovering Mother Nature and doing physical exercise.

Spend a few nights above the ground, by hiking to the summit of Mount. Rwenzori; one of the tallest mountains in the continent of Africa. Other destinations include; Mountain Elgon which offers a scenic view of the magnificent caldera, coffee plantations and more.

Other activities in Uganda include; City tours, cultural tours, night life, and religious tour.

F.A.Q.

There is no standard price for Uganda, Rwanda or Congo gorilla permit –each country has its rates. In Uganda, the charges vary depending on the visitor category. The foreign non-residents are charged USD 700 to have their gorilla permits booked, USD 600 for foreign residents and Ugandans (East Africa citizens) pay shs. 250,000 per person. To have a gorilla permit secured/booked, you need USD 1500 for Rwanda and this is most ideal for luxury/high-end travelers interested in visiting the endangered mountain gorillas.

When booking a gorilla permit, it is also a good thing to have a destination of your desire in mind. The key places to consider a must-visit on gorilla tour include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park –these are gorilla trekking destinations for tourists on a tour in Uganda. In Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is where you can locate habituated mountain gorilla families and crossing the D.R. Congo, you can explore Virunga National Park.

It is a good thing to also understand when best to book your gorilla permits to avoid having issues on actual date of gorilla trekking. Considering our experience, we always recommend our clients to have their permits booked early enough at least 2-4 months. This can save you from last minute stress, especially if you plan to travel during the dry season also considered to be the peak season. The peak months of the year fall around June, July, August to September, and December, January to February.

Gorilla permits are among the relevant documents visitors must have to be allowed to track gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Not any gorilla permit should be presented on actual gorilla trekking adventure but a valid one. Booking gorilla permits is part of making the entire gorilla trip complete and should be done early enough before the actual visit to see mountain gorillas or eastern lowland gorillas.

To have your gorilla permit booked, there is a process one should undergo through and is generally tedious. Considering your tight schedule back home, you may wonder how easier you can have your permit booked in advance to avoid last minute stress.

The easiest way to secure your gorilla permit in Uganda or Rwanda is by dealing with a recognized tour operator/company on the ground. This is where our reservation team comes in. As part of your gorilla safari requirement, our team being on ground will ensure that your permit is booked early enough and everything else that is needed for gorilla trekking is put together.

The beauty about dealing with local safari company such as ours is that we have knowledge on the different gorilla groups and surrounding communities plus various accommodation facilities for your night stay. This is in addition to making the entire gorilla permit booking process easier on behalf of our clients.

There is also an option of booking the permit directly through the reservation team of respective park authorities. But the challenge is that you must undergo through the long process to have your permit booked and this may not favor you depending on your schedule. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is an organ in charge not only for conservation of wildlife in the Pearl of Africa but also sets prices for tourism activities in the parks including gorilla permits. In Rwanda, you can contact Rwanda Tourism Board/Rwanda Development Board to have your permit booked.

The East African tourist visa is a joint visa that permits one to travel to specific countries within East Africa, namely Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda only. A joint tourist visa can be used several times for various purposes as long as it’s not overdue. 

Tourists should therefore find it important to always remember that the tourist visa lasts for only 90 days.  Processing the tourist visa takes a maximum period of two working days. It is also important to note that the tourist visa prohibits employment.

The process of applying for a tourist visa has been made easier since it can be done with the help of a tour operator or by the individual themselves online through the Ministry of Internal Affairs immigration portal. Visitors are required to log in to the portal, go ahead and accept the terms and conditions for the tourist visa, select the Visa / permit type, the subcategory and category, complete the application form and upload the required documents. 

A reference number will be generated and sent to you through your email, submit it and proceed to payment. It’s important to note that the payment can be made using Visa cards.  An approval letter will be sent to your email after the above process.

Report at the immigration office or border post for the biometric capture with all the necessary documents, receipt of payment, approval letter and your passport. Visitors should regard it as important to enter through the home country issuing the visa.

The East African tourist visa costs a fee of $100 only, meaning that it can be obtained by all travelers ranging from the budget to luxurious ones.

  • Persons aged 15 years and above are allowed to trek gorillas.
  • Avoid sneezing in the presence of gorillas.
  • Always stay away from gorillas by observing distance
  • Do not try to feed gorillas
  • Do not chew in the presence of gorillas
  • Do not take photos with flash light on.