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Rwenzori Mountain National Park Uganda

Scadoxus multiflorus (Fire Lilly)Four fifths of the Rwenzori range is in Uganda and only one fifth in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The smaller portion has been protected as a National park since the northward extension of Parc National d'Albert in 1929, and is now incorporated into Virunga National Park. By contrast, the Uganda Rwenzori had no statutory protection whatsoever until 1941, when all the terrain above, 7,000 ft (about 2,200 meters) was made a central government Forest Reserve. This arrangement worked reasonably well until the general deterioration government services in Uganda during the 1970s. It was not until the new government of president Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986 that infrastructure and government services were revived. In that year, under the sponsorship of WWF international and the New York Zoological Society, Dr. Peter Howard made a study of the range and presented a proposal for a National Park. At about the same time, Guy Yeoman, a British veterinary scientist working in East Africa, was conducting an extensive series of research trips into the range and waging a campaign for National Park status for Rwenzori. As a result of his concentrated personal efforts and many publications, including his1989 book, 'Africa's Mountains of the moon'; he was invited in 1990 by the European community to outline a plan for a national park. Finally, in May 1991 Rwenzori Mountains National Park was created. Some of Guy Yeoman's work was included in a submission made on behalf of the Uganda government by Dr.Derek Pomeroy and the professional staff of the Environment Faculty Makerere University, which led to the designation of the Rwenzori as a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1994. This should help secure the further institutional strength and financial resources needed to protect the fragile environment.

The Uganda Mountain Club with the construction of the Bujuku-Mubuku hut system originally developed the system of trails, huts and rock shelters in the Rwenzori during the 1940s and 1950s. Recently two new huts have been added, John Matte Hut and Guy Yeoman Hut, a USAID contribution, and every season sees some further development of a smaller shelter, a park warden station or a bog-protecting (but rather unsightly) boardwalk.

At the park headquarters in Ibanda, Rwenzori Mountaineering Services operate modest accommodation. More luxurious accommodation can be found in Kasese town.

The climate in the Rwenzori is wet. The Rwenzori have two annual rainy seasons: from March to May and from September to mid December. Rainfall varies with altitude, reaching up to 2,000-3000 millimetres per year and is heaviest on the eastern slopes facing the prevailing winds.

There are dry seasons usually from June to August and mid December to mid March, but even then there can be periods of sustained rainfall.

Tourist attractions
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is famous for mountaineering. For those who like this activity, the Rwenzori will reward you with a lifetime experience.

A trip to the Rwenzoris is an exhilarating and rewarding experience but one which must be planned. The key to an enjoyable visit is "be prepared." The hike to the central circuit takes six or seven days, reaches altitude over 14,000ft (4,267m) and should not be undertaken lightly. Conditions are a challenge to even an experienced hiker, particularly one from North America or Europe unprepared for the peak's engineered, poorly maintained, steep and slippery trails, frequent rain and remoteness from rescue facilities.

Rainfall and cold temperatures, not to mention bog, mud; steep terrain and high altitude make it a very strenuous trip. Since during much of the year mud, rain, mist and wind occur daily, adequate clothing (and mental attitude) for these conditions are a must.

You should consider very seriously not making the attempt in other months since the difficulty is much greater and so is the likelihood of damage you and your porter will cause to the trail. At any season, raingear, a good sleeping bag, warm hat and gloves, heavy socks, gumboots and gaiters, and a walking stick for balance (and probe the mud) are strongly recommended. A basic first aid kit is a necessity. At elevations as low as 10,000ft (3,048m) some people develop headaches or more serious problems due to altitude. Certainly you should not start if you are already ill or have an infection, which may worsen.

Porters will be carrying heavy equipment and food, leaving you a small pack with raingear, warm clothes (on higher sections), camera, water bottle, snacks and lunch. You should have already purchased your own food (in Kasese or Kampala) and brought simple utensils for cooking. Gas stoves are in two huts and charcoal is supplied for other occasions, but your own paraffin stove is cleaner, faster and require less use of local resources. Building fire and using local wood is prohibited in the park.

Link to 'Rwenzori Mountain National Park' page of Uganda Wildlife Authority



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