Are you thinking of a mountaineering trip in Africa? The Rwenzori Mountains is one of the top destinations visited by travelers that wish to explore the snow-capped mountains within Africa.
Trekking the green, mist-shrouded Rwenzori Mountains is like stepping into a wonderland. An incredible experience will stay with you for a lifetime when a person talks about the Rwenzoris!
Where Are the Rwenzori Mountains?
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located in South Western Uganda. It is shared by Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In Uganda, these mountain ranges are found in Rwenzori National Park while in Congo it found in Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park.
The Rwenzori Mountains are composed of various ranges and they are located within the great Albertine Rift valley. The ranges run for 130 km north to south along the border between western Uganda and eastern DRC. The Ugandan portion of the mountains can be found in the southwest of the country. Visitors that visit Rwenzori Mountains can addon wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park which is the closest Park.
The Rwenzori Mountains were gazetted in 1991 and are protected as a national park in Uganda. The word Ruwenzori means “rain-maker” and the mountains bring an average of over 5 meters of rainfall to the area each year. Rwenzori is 120 kms long and 43 kms wide and includes a fantastic icy world and afro-alpine vegetation. The peaks lie in misty clouds, snow and glaciers often not seen form a far.
The Rwenzori is one of Uganda’s best-kept secrets with its highest peak in Uganda being the Margherita Peak. A complete circuit trail to reach the peak takes 7 Days. The less explored Rwenzori Mountains national park offers visitors a quiet and untouched corner of incredible natural beauty and diversity to explore. It offers some of the very best multiday treks in Africa with the longest trek being of 9 Days trek via Kilembe Trail and 7 Days to the Central Circuit. Travelers that have booked their Rwenzori trekking with Active African Vacations are never disappointed!
Quick Facts about the Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains Are a UNESCO Site
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of its outstanding natural beauty and covers almost 1000 sq. km. It lies within the districts of Kabarole, Kasese and Bundibugyo. It includes most of the center and the eastern half of the mountain is known for its beautiful plant life coupled with waterfalls, glaciers and a lot of other unique mountainous vegetation.
Peaks of the Rwnzori Treks
The Rwenzoris can be trekked with a local guide. Depending on the duration of your trip, you will select on the peaks that you wish to explore on your Rwenzori Expedition;
• Mt. Gessi (15,470 feet/ 4,715 m) - All of the glaciers have melted from this once ice-covered massif
• Mt. Emin (15, 741 feet/ 4,798 m) - There are no longer glaciers on this massif.
• Mt. Speke (16,043 feet/ 4,890 m) - There used to be huge glaciers on the north side of Mt. Speke, but they have all melted. The Speke Glacier on the south side still exists, albeit much smaller. There are also several smaller glaciers near Ensonga Peak.
• Mt. Stanley (16,762 feet/ 5,109 m) - There are still many glaciers, including the Stanley Plateau which, at over one kilometer long, is the largest glacier in the Rwenzori Mountains.
• Mt. Luigi Di Savoia (15, 328 feet/ 4,627 m) - This was the first to lose its glacial ice.
• Mount Baker (15,889 feet/ 4,843 m) - There are no glaciers on the way to the peak.
How to get to Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains can be reached at the trailhead at Nyakalengija, 22km from Kasese, off Fort portal - Kampala Road. At Nyakalengija are park offices from where you’ll pay some small park fees. Charter flights are available from Entebbe to Kasese with Aero Link.
Rwenzori Trekking Routes
There are exciting tours for travelers looking to climbing the Rwenzoris. Whether you are a first timer or an experienced hiker, the Rwenzori Ranges offer First-class mountaineering opportunities.
Trekkers who wish to explore go on simple hikes without summiting any peaks can also hike the Central Circuit Trail and the Kilembe Route. The popular Central Circuit Trail takes about eight days to complete, while the Kilembe Route has variations you can choose from. If you are planning a Rwenzori mountaineering expedition to explore its highest peaks, there are two routes managed by different companies;
Rwenzori Central Circuit Route:
The Rwenzori Mountaineering Service is the original operator. Owned by a local community comprised of the people that live adjacent to the mountain, this agency runs the popular Rwenzori Circuit Trail. This is the oldest trail that is used by trekkers interested in hikes to the Magherita Peak.
It’s the shortest trek to reach to the peak of the mountain in Rwenzori Mountains. Though there can be some variations on the route, the trail will take typically 6-7 days to reach the peak and descend back.
The Kilembe Route
This was opened in 2009 and it is managed by the Rwenzori Trekking Services. This route begins in Kilembe in the south-east, joining the central circuit at the Kitandara Lakes. This route takes 7-9 days depending on the hikers’ strength. This route is longer than the Rwenzori Central Circuit
Best Route to Choose
There are many advantages of one route over the other. You are advised to select the route that fits into your strength as well as interests.
The Central Circuit Trail enters the mountain ranges from the east and does a large, anticlockwise loop well as Kilembe Route. On the other hand, the trail takes you into the mountains from the south and follows a longer and narrower circuit, which runs in a northwest–southeast direction.
The Central Circuit Trail is considered a little prettier than the Kilembe Route but for the Kilembe Route, you can avoid the notorious Bigo Bog crossed on the Central Circuit Trail.
All in all, both routes are amazing and you will have a memorable trek to the third highest peak in Africa!
Rwenzori Trekking Costs
The Cost of trekking Rwenzori mountains depends much on many factors and key focus is the route of the trek selected by the travelers, size of the group and the number of days you are looking to spending in the mountains.
A day trek in the Rwenzoris cost US$40 based on two pax and US$35 for three pax excluding the park entrance fee. A 7 Days trek to margherita peak costs from US$ 1200 per person excluding the park entrance fees.
Those interested in combining a gorilla trek with a climbing expedition, the price starts from US$3000 per person including the gorilla permit, chimpanzee permits and Rwenzori trekking permit.
You cannot go on a self-guided tour to Rwenzori Mountains. The policy is all mountain tours are accompanied by a mountain crew consisting of a local guide, porters and cook.
Other Interesting Safari Activities in Uganda
Most travelers that select to go on treks have the option to explore the unique safari experiences including the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Forest and chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest and the best trip is 12 days gorillas & Rwenzori trek.
Those interested in visiting the mountain gorillas are required to book their gorilla permits in advance to avoid being disappointed.
Never miss a stop over at the Equator line in Queen Elizabeth National Park or a lion tracking experience in the Kasenyi plains.