Africa’s highest mountain range, the 5100 metro Rwenzori – or mountains of the moon- is the snowy source of the Nile referred to by early geographers ,17 centuries before European explorers market it on their maps. The high Rwenzori is a montane wonderland, the trails to the snow peaks following glacier carved valleys filled with fantastically colored mosses and rare afro alpine plants that include giant forms of lobelias, heathers and groundsels. Expeditions use a chain of basic huts and campsites to ascend the mountain from KIlembe and Nyakalengija.
The 120km Rwenzori chain is regarded to be the legendary snow capped mountains of the moon, described by Ptolemy in AD150. Reaching an elevation of 5,109 m, it is also Africa’s tallest mountain range, exceeded in altitude only by the free standing Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. The distinctive glacial peaks are visible for miles around, but the slopes above 1,600m are the preserve of Hikers, who rate the Rwenzoris to the most challenging of all African mountains.
Foreign visitors have been entranced by the mount Ruwenzori area of western Uganda since Henry Stanley and Emin pasha passed thorough in 1889.
For this is, arguably, Uganda’s most dramatic and scenic region. Between Lake Albert in the north and Lake George in the south, the terrain rises above the plains of Semuliki Valley for over 4,000 meters to the snow capped summits of the Rwenzori. Between these extremes, the landscape is pocked with crater lakes and covered with tea plantations, tropical rainforests, savanna and farmland. Varied and abundant wildlife includes big game on the rift valley floor in Queen Elizabeth National Park, rare forest birds in semiliki National Park, primates in the depths of Kibale forest, and the bizarre, giant Afro-alpine plants that grow in the shadow of the Rwenzori snow peaks.
Opportunities for exploring without a vehicle include trekking on the Rwenzori, chimpanzee tracking in Kibale forest and scenic walks among the Ndali crater lakes.
FLORA AND FAUNA: A variety of large mammals inhabits the lower slopes, but the Rwenzoris are notable more for their majestic scenery and varied vegetation. The trails lead through rain forests rattling with monkeys and birds, then tall bamboo forest, before emerging on the high altitude moorland zone, a landscape of bizarre giant lobelias, towered over by black rock and white snow, lloking for all the world like the set of a science fiction film.
CLIMATE: Altitude affords the Rwenzori region a pleasantly cool climate. Conditions are hotter – with a mean maximum of 28oC (80of) –and drier on the low-lying valley floor.
LANDSCAPES: This distinctive region is dominated by the 5100 meter Rwenzori mountain, the western and southern slopes of which drop into the plains of the western – Albertine – rift valley (620 to 900 meters above sea level). The green and hilly Fort portal plateau to the east is dotted with volcanic craters.
CULTURE AND PEOPLE:
The Rwenzori is home to the Bakonzo mountain people while the semliki valley is inhabited by the Bwamba tribe and a community of Batwa pygmies. The country side east of the mountain lies in the kingdom of Toro, home of the Batoro.
Accommodation; hostels and campsite trail head, basic hiking huts along the loop trail. Nearby Kasese is a midrange hotel, several budget lodgings, and a campsite.
Accessibility; The Nyakalengija trail head lies off the Fort Portal road, 22km from Kasese. Transport can be arranged in Kasese.