The Rwenzori mountains is one of the most unique destinations in the world. The Rwenzori Mountains is an eastern equatorial African mountain range. It borders Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Glaciers formed from these mountains are the source of river Nile. The Rwenzori Mountains stand at a height of 5109 metres, a length of 120 kilometers, and a width of 65 kilometers.
The mountains resulted from the uplifting of crystalline rocks three million years ago. The rocks comprised of granite, gneiss, quartzite and amphibolite. Increased warping and uplift led to the formation of paleolake Obweruka, a great depression. A further uplift split the paleolake Obweruka into the present day Lake Albert and Lake Edward.
Five canopies of vegetation cover the Rwenzori Mountains. They include the Alpine zone of 3,500 to 4,500 metres, the Heather zone of height 3,000 to 3,800 metres, the Bamboo zone of 2,800 to 3,300 metres, and the Evergreen forest zone of 2,800 metres height.
Furthermore, the mountains have six peaks, Stanley (5,109m), Mount Speke (4,890m), Mount Baker (4,843m), Mount Emin (4,798m), Mount Gessi (4,715m), and Mount Luigi di Savoia (4,627m). Mount Stanley consists of other peaks with Margherita being the highest. The highest Rwenzori peaks are permanently snowcapped. Virunga National Park and Rwenzori National Parks are also located within the range.
Several threats face Rwenzori mountains ecosystem. Amongst the challenges are population growth, tourism development, collection of bamboo by locals, and agricultural practices. Recent insecurity caused by rebel pursuit has brought down the management efficiency and encouraged poaching. This is the reason as to why the facility featured on the list of world heritage endangered sites between the years 1999 to 2004. Growth of people population around the park has also pressurized resources in the forest. However, the communities surrounding the park receive sensitization on the need for conservation and they reap benefits from ecotourism activities in Rwenzori.
Climate change has also greatly affected Rwenzori mountain glaciers. By the year 1906, Rwenzori Mountain had forty-three glaciers spread on the six mountains covering an area of 7.5 kilometers squared. This was same as half of the glacier in Africa. Surprisingly, by the year 2005 less than half of the forty-three glaciers had remained covering 1.5 kilometer square of the area. Scientists like Richard Taylor of University College of London have made conclusions that the decline resulted from global climate change. Studies are also underway to divulge the effects of this climate change on biodiversity and vegetation.
3. Flora and Fauna
Rwenzori Mountain National Park has many different lineages of animals that are endemic to Albertine Rift system. The park also comprise of other endangered animal species. Notably for its botany, the park has a diversity of trees and plants; hence, it ranks among the world’s most beautiful sceneries. The park has five clear zones of vegetation that change according to altitude. Furthermore, the park is also a home to four primate species, 15 species of butterfly, and 89 species of birds. Rwenzori National Park wild life differs with its elevation, hence the species of animals common include Hyrax, Duiker, Black and White Columbus, Chimpanzee, and forest elephants. At 1800 meters on Rwenzori mountains, there are birds of different species that include Handsome Francolin, Strange weaver, Stripe-breast Tit, Rwenzori Batis, and Collared Apalises, among others.
The natural vegetation on Rwenzori Mountains comprises of five clear distinct regions, determined by aspect and altitude. Afro-alpine moorland and heath covers the high altitude areas and goes up to 3,500 metres to the snow line. This kind of vegetation is rarely found in Africa. The mountains are also popular for their unique species endemic to the Albertine Rift in high altitude like lobelias, giant heathers and groundsels.
A large variety of vegetation and animals with different biospheres creates a wonderful experience for trekking. Trekking on Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda is truly a unique experience. Trekkers behold the magnificent glaciers, the beautiful valley of nine lakes, crags and snowcapped peaks, backdrop of rocky cliffs, and bearded lichen hanging from giant heathers. The unique trekking and beautiful experience offered by Rwenzori Mountains is incomparable in the whole world.
The red Duiker or Rwenzori black-fronted is among the preserved species seemingly confined to the park. The Alpine zone is the largest covering 99,600 hectares, 70% of which elevates to more than 2,500 meters. Splendid waterfalls, stratified vegetation and crowded wild flowing rivers present Rwenzori Mountains as a feature appealing to the sight. Rwenzori national park has snow-capped mountaintops, V-shaped valleys, loose flowing rivers and real blue lakes. These exemplary features with natural magnificence cannot be matched all over Africa. Rwenzori Mountains also exhibits continuous temperatures, moisture, and great distinctions due to altitude variation. More fascinating also is the fact that Rwenzori sustains lushest montane in the whole Africa.
Rwenzori Mountains, being a world heritage offers visitors an opportunity to interact with nature. Varieties of plants from bamboo forests, montane cloud forest, heavy rain forest, and alpine vegetation are a great site. Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies in southwestern of Uganda; it lies in Kasese, Kabarole and Bundibugyo districts. It began in 1991 and was put under UNESCO world heritage in 1994 because of its great natural beauty. The park covers an area of 1000 kilometers squared and has many glaciers, lakes and water falls besides having the third highest mountain peak. The park consists of eastern half and center of Rwenzori Mountains. It also rates as the most beautiful mountain areas with snowfields. Rwenzori Mountain Park hosts seventy mammals, 217 birds of different species, and nineteen Albertine Rift endemics.
The park also provides a world class mountaineering and hiking destination. A nine to twelve day trek enables skilled climbers to reach Margherita summit. Huge tree heathers on the Rwenzoris, bright colored mosses, and giant lobelias create beautiful scenery. At 1,800 metres on Rwenzori Mountains, there are birds of different species that includes the long eared owl, handsome francolin, cinnamon chested bee-eater, Rwenzori Batis, Greenbuls, and Golden winged sunbird, amongst others. Chameleons also thrive in Rwenzori Mountains. Visiting the footsteps of the Rwenzori Mountains gives a chance to interact with cultures from communities around. Visitors can enjoy activities such as drumming, dancing lessons, and village stays at Ruboni village.