Rwenzori Mountains National Park, with a geographical area of 966 sq km, protects the upper slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains sometimes referred to as the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ – the snowy source of the Nile River referred to by early geographers. Africa’s highest range, with six distinct mountains above 4600m translates into a montane Wonderland in which misty snow
peaks loom above glaciated valleys filled with fantastic giant forms of lobelias, heathers and groundsels. Rwenzori is Africa highest range. Its loftiest peaks include Margherita (5,109m) and Alexandra (5,083m) on Mt Stanley. These are exceeded in altitude by only Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya both of which are extinct volcanoes standing in isolation above the surrounding plains. The Ruwenzori ranges contain four other glacial peaks besides Mt Stanley. These include Mt Speke (4,890m), Mt Gessi (4,715m), Mt Emin (4,791m), and Mount Luigi da Savoia (4,627m).
The Ruwenzoris are not only famous for challenging hiking and climbing possibilities. They have a well-deserved reputation for being very wet at times. This was best summedd up by a comment on the wall of Bujuku hut: ‘Jesus came here to learn how to walk on water. After five days, anyone could do it.’ The ranges support a diversity of fauna including 70 mammal and 177 bird species, several of the latter being Albertine Rift Endemics. The park is the only one in East Africa where the Angola colobus has been recorded. Besides, the black-and-white colobus monkeys are widespread on the mountains. Similar to other East African mountains, the Rwenzoris can be devided into several altitude zones, each with its own distinct microclimate and flora and fauna. The forest zone which commences around 1,800m has the most varied fauna. Some of the mammals present here include Angola colobus, black-and-white colobus, blue monkey, chimpanzees, elephants, golden cat, servalline genet, yellow-backed duiker, and giant forest hog among others.
The forest zone accommodates a diversity of birds including Rwenzori Turaco, handsome francolin, white-starred forest robin, Archer’s Ground Robin, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, long-eared owl, Rwenzori Batis, bar long-tailed cuckoo, Lagden’s bush shrike, golden-winged sunbird, blue-headed sunbird, strange weaver and a variety of barbets, flycatcher, greenbul, apalis, montane sooty boubou, illadopsis, slender-billed starling and crimsonwing.
Beyond the altitude of 2,500m, true forest gives way to dense bamboo forest stands. Between the altitudes 3,000m and 4,500m, the open vegetation of heather andd Alpine zones is renowned for its otherworldly quality: forest of giant heather plants, and giant lobelias and groundsel up to 10m high. The beautiful Lobellia wollanstonii and Senacio addmiralis are most common above 3,800m. Mammals are rare above the forest zone, but there a few birds worth looking out for: the Lammergeyer (bearded vulture) and black eagle are occasionally seen soaring overhead, whereas the alpine and scarce swifts andd scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird are confined to high altitude habitats in East Africa.