The park is owned by the Ugandan government through Uganda National Parks. It is protected, although extraction may be sanctioned by a board of trustees. Kasese, 437 km west of Uganda’s capital Kampala, is the gateway to the park. The town has hotels and lodges, while the park has camping, a good trail network and huts for hikers. The park has excellent trekking and climbing opportunities with spectacular views and unusual scenery. The major tourist activity here is mountain climbing although you are required to spend an overnight at the base of the mountain or in Kasese town.
The Rwenzori, like other tropical mountains, have a range of exotic vegetation organized in discrete vegetation belts distributed across the altitudinal gradient. The montane forest zone extends from about 1,800 to (2,200) 2,400 m, and varies from dense forest (mainly confined to valley bottoms and ridge tops), through bracken or shrub dominated areas with scattered trees, to grassy glades. Common trees include Albizia spp., Dombeya spp., Olea spp., Podocarpus milanjianus, Prunus africana and Symphoniaglobulifera. The bamboo zone, which is dominated by Sinarundinaria alpina, reaches its upper limit at about 2,600 (2,800) m on the west and 3,000 m on the east side. The Ericaceous zone (Fig. 2a), extending from the end of the bamboo up to (3,800) 3,900 m, is characterised by broad-leaved trees (Hypericum spp. or St. John’s Wort, Hagenia abyssinica and Rapanea rhododendroides), arborescent heathers (Erica spp.) draped with Usnea spp. (Old Man’s beard, a lichen), flowering shrubs (typically Helichrysum guilelmii), scattered tree groundsel (mostly Senecio longeligulatus), and giant lobelias (chiefly Lobelia stuhlmannii). The dominant mosses are Breutelia stuhlmannii and Sphagnum spp.
Hiking and Nature walks
The park provides greatest chances for travellers interested in nature walks especially within the central circuit zone. These nature walks include taking trails up to Lake Mahooma as well as Buraro chimp forest; the activity also involves 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 and these are done 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, keep an eye out for chameleons, squirrels, vervet monkeys and many birds.
Bwamba Pass: Before a road was built in 1938 to link Fort Portal with the remote town of Bundibugyo, local people followed the most direct route between these settlements – a tough, 1,500m high trek over the steep north Rwenzori ridge, known as the Bwamba Pass.
The Central Circuit Trail: This challenging but rewarding seven-day climb offers a circular tour of the high mountain Rwenzori. From the trailhead at Mihunga, the route ascends the Bujuku Valley via Nyabitaba for acclimatization before reaching the peaks. Clients joining the Central Circuit after Bujuku will 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 recently reopened Kilembe 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.