Wilderness Journeys in East Africa

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Known as Mountains of the Moon, Rwenzori national park lies in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border.  Rwenzori Mountains National Park is UNESCO’s World Heritage Site located in the Rwenzori Mountains. Almost 1,000 km2 (386 sq. mi) in size, the park has Africa’s third highest mountain peak and many waterfalls, lakes, and glaciers. It is recognized for its diverse and beautiful flora than its fauna. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest

The national park hosts 70 mammals species and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation.  Other mammals include the elephant as well as chimpanzee and Rwenzori otter and leopard. Despite of the fact that wildlife is difficult to see in the dense forest, visitors look out for primates such as colobus (Angola and black-and-white varieties are both present) and blue monkeys; small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon. The Park is habitant to 217 species of birds and these involve various endemic Albertine Rift species. From the total number of 217 bird species, 17 species are endemic to the mountain. There are over 20 lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and these include; Lake Mahoma in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit, Lake Bujuku which lies at the apex of the deep, glacier carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of Mounts Stanley as well as Mount Baker plus Speke.

Attractions in Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

  • Wild life

Mountain Rwenzori National Park hosts a population of around 70 Mammal species, with even the six species which are endemic to Albertine Rift and even the four species which are endemic to the park and three are rare species. Other mammals include the elephant as well as chimpanzee,Rwenzori otter and leopard. Despite of the fact that wildlife is difficult to see in the dense forest, visitors can also look out for primates such as colobus (Angola and black-and-white varieties are both present) and blue monkeys; small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.

  • Flora

Mountains National Park is well recognized for its diverse and beautiful flora rather than its fauna. For hikers who climb following the Rwenzori route get the opportunity to view the beautiful vegetation ranging from tropical rainforest to the tree heathers, montane forest, afro-alpine and bamboo.  The afro-alpine characterized with emblematic big forms of Senecio (groundsel) and lobelia, which is one of the world’s unique botanical communities, only found in the mountains above 3800m in East African.

  • Bird species

The Park habitants 217 species of birds and these involve various endemic Albertine Rift species. From the total number of 217 bird species, 17 species are endemic to the mountain Rwenzori Park making Rwenzori an important birding area. The forest zone contains a diversity of birds including the Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Sunbird, Long-eared Owl as well as Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Rwenzori Batis, Archers’ Robin-chat, White-starred Robin with even the rare Montane Sooty Boo-boo, Greenbuls, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Slender-billed Starling, Strange Weaver, as well as the Golden-winged Sunbird, and several varieties of Barbets, Apalises, IIladopsis, Flycatchers and Crimson wings. The high Rwenzori comprises of six different Mountains. Despite of the fact that they are located just miles north of the equator, the highest of these – Mounts Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m) – all bear permanent snow and glaciers. The equatorial snow peaks can be reached by hiker through the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.

  • The Rwenzori Snow Peaks

The high Rwenzori comprises six different Mountains. Despite of the fact that they are located just miles north of the equator, the highest of these – Mounts Stanley (5,109m), Speke (4,890m) and Baker (4,843m) – all bear permanent snow and glaciers. The equatorial snow peaks can be reached by hiker through the Central Circuit and Kilembe Trails.

  • Lakes

There are over 20 beautiful lakes in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the most accessible of all is Lake Mahoma (2,651m) in the bird-rich forest of the Central Circuit. The beautiful Lake Bujuku which lies at the apex of the deep, glacier carved Bujuku valley in the shadow of Mountain Stanley as well as Mount Baker plus Speke. In the Valley of Nyamwamba they ascended through the tail in Kilembe, glacial moraine deposited in the valley created dam which has formed a string of eight enjoyable lakes. Various streams of rivers start from the mountain, forming lifelines for the various flora and fauna in the flood plains and supporting local communities.

  • Ruboni

This is located at the southeastern foot of the Rwenzori Mountains. It is the trailhead mainly used by hikers to the seven-day Central Circuit to the high peaks. It is also the beginning point for hill walks nature and bird treks and walks through the traditional homesteads of the local Bakonzo community. Accommodation providing a range of budgets offers gorgeous mountain views up the Mubuku valley

  • Bulemba houses

The historical remains of first King of Rwenzururu kingdom, the historical leaders identified by the names of Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga, who is so much believed to have played significant role of saving the Bakonzo tribe from the Batooro oppression. Annually on 2nd September, all the Bakonzo convene and attend the pilgrimage to this sacred site to make sacrifices in remembrance of the great king.

Activities done in the park.

Birding

Due to the fact that the park is habitant to round 217 species of birds, Birding opportunities are greatest in mainly in the montane forest and the most important about this park is that its home of few but rare bird species and among these involves Bee-eaters, Robins, as well as Sunbirds and Barbets are some of the 217 species found in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Besides the ones mentioned the other species to watch in this park involve the Rwenzori Turaco as well as the Long-eared Owl, while at higher altitude and specifically on the slopes one can view the Bearded Vultures, Black and Swift Eagles which are rotating from side to side looking for prey.

Cultural encounters

Ruboni Community Camp .Visitors who decide to take safaris to Rwenzori Mountains national park can discover the calm, polite farming village identified as Ruboni which is home to an estimate 2,000 Bakonzo people living at the foothills of the mountains of Rwenzori. While at this area visitors can walk with the villagers as they show to visitors their daily activities which range from raring their traditional animals and crops to preparing nice delicious Ugandan meals with the freshest ingredients. The guide can also lead visit to meet the blacksmith and traditional healer of the area, guests can also meet basket weavers and storytellers, and enjoy a vibrant dance performance organized by the locals to entertain the visitors who have paid tour to them.

More so the guide leads you along the River full of rocks also called Mubuku River. Ruboni according to the local language of the people living in this area means clear water in and here also visitor is required to follow this crystal-clear stream and visitors enjoy watching villagers passing while carrying crops and wood. At the end visitors are rewarded with clear views of the many colorful native birds such as the Rwenzori Turaco as well as the tiny sunbirds and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters. The area even houses the color changing chameleon as well as squirrels and vervet monkeys among others.

BulembaIhandiro Cultural Trail .This trail is anticipated to take visitors six to seven hours walk through the holy valley and other sites of great cultural importance to the Bakonzo tribe. A community guide will introduce visitors to the traditional healer and also explain how the powers of the healer work and finally visitors are guided to the local blacksmith, who will reveal the spiritual importance of each and every traditional stool of the Bakonzo community. Basket weaving and fire making skills are also demonstrated along the route.

The trail then takes you across the Kamusonge River whose waters are believed to be sweet and react very quickly to slowdown the thirst. After some good time of moving visitors will be given time to rest while enjoying magnificent mountain views as well as shelter from the equatorial sun, Then after the break visitors are requested to continue with the journey for one final hour and this will take them through the museum which is thatched in the traditional bakonzo style. On display of the museum are the equipment’s that were used during the Rwenzururu struggle, also in this museum traditional dresses and the other items of historical and cultural importance to the people of the Rwenzoris are exhibited.

  • Hiking and nature walks

The park also provides opportunity for nature walks within the central circuit zone. These include trails up to Lake Mahooma and Buraro chimp forest; walks through the communities of Kichamba to reach the Karangura ridge; and hiking to Bundibugo area through Bwamba pass.

The communities of Ruboni and Turaco View also offer guided forest walks of various lengths just outside the park. Visitors can follow the River Mubuku, and glimpse views of Baker and Portal Peaks as they hike up to 2,300m above sea level. On a clear day it is even possible to view the snowcapped Margherita Peak – a truly spectacular sight. Along the way visitors always keep an eye out for chameleons, squirrels, vervet monkeys and many birds.

  • Volcano climbing

The Central Circuit Trail: This is a challenging seven-day climb and provides a circular tour of the high Rwenzori. From the trailhead at Mihunga, the route ascends to the Bujuku Valley via Nyabitaba. Clients joining the Central Circuit after Bujuku traverse the Scott Elliot and Fresh field passes to descend through the Mubuku Valley. Climbers can scale the snow peaks though many consider the exceptional scenery ample reward for their exertions.

  • Kilembe Trail

The trail ascends the southern slopes of the Rwenzori from a trailhead at Kilembe near the town of Kasese. The route along the lovely Nyamwamba Valley passes glacial lakes and some stunning viewpoints before joining the Central Circuit at Lake Kitandara. The standard route scales Mount Baker though the scenery makes shorter treks rewarding enough.