Day 1: Kampala to Kasese
Drive from Kampala in the morning and proceed to the western part of the country by either passing through Masaka-Mbarara which is 422km drive by 4*4 vehicle that takes you through Queen Elizabeth national park crossing the Equator line that takes 7-8 hours and arrive in Kasese town or by using Mityana-Fortportal kasese road which is 372km drive that takes 6-7 hour drive to Kasese. On reaching either Mbarara or Fortportal, your driver will stop you for a lunch and then proceed to kasese and to your hotel for an overnight.
Day 2: Nyakalengija to Nyabitaba Hut, 2.652 m.
In the morning after breakfast, you will be picked by your guide and then head to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park Head Quarter at Nyakalengija, 1.646 m. At this point you receive briefing from your guide or the tourism officer. The hike starts through the plantations and homes of the Bakonzo, the people of the mountain, gradually reaching garden plots and elephants grass and then join the forest zone . You follow the Mubuku river, until crossing the Mahoma river. The trail passes through an open bracken fern slopes and a beautiful Forest canopy, up to Nyabitaba Hut, 2.652 m. which is the arrival point for the day. From the location, you are facing on the North the Portal Peaks 4.627m, in front Mount Kinyangoma. During the day, you might see monkeys, the Rwenzori Turaco, three horned chameleons which is endemic in the Rwenzoris, common bulbul birds, yellow eyed tinkle birds, wood pecker, mountain elephants and hearing the voices of the chimpanzee, Kasese town. This hike takes between 5-6 hours.
Day 3: Nyabitaba Hut to John Matte Hut, 3.414 m.
From Nyabitaba Hut you cross the Kurt Shaffer Bridge, through a muddy area. Then the trail climbs up through the bamboo forest. During this day, it takes you to the forest zone up to Kurt Shaffer bridge and then you start the bamboo/memolopsis zone up to Nyamuleju camp which is the old hut before John Maate camp. This point marks the start of the heather zone where you will see the Ericaceous trees, everlasting flowers, giant lobelia and groundsel and its at this point where you can see red duikers, rock hyrax and white Columbus monkeys. The way proceeds through a bog full of typical plants along the Bujuku river. The final point is John Matte Hut, 3.414 m. for spending the night. From Nyabitaba Hut to John Matte it can take approximately 6-7 hours. Enjoy the view of Mount Stanley and snow capped Margherita and Elena Peaks if the weather is clear.
Day 4: From John Matte Hut to Bujuku Hut, 3.962 m.
From John Matte Hut you cross the Bujuku River and enter the lower Bigo bog, a grassy bog where you experience how to jump from tussock to tussock. Currently, there is a constructed walk board on both lower and upper bigo bogs that makes a clear view of the mountain sceneries. And this is the point where you start the alpine savannah zone of little vegetation. During this day you will be able to see the beautiful gardens of gaint lobelia, asanasio black berries, wild carrots, Alcamilla, lake Bujuku, sun birds, red duikers, rock hyrax and more.
Depending on the weather, you may be able to view the peaks of Mount Stanley, Mount Baker and Mount Speke. You finally arrive at Bujuku Hut, 3.962 m. From Bujuku, here starts the diversion for whom intends to climb Mount Speke. For those climbing Margherita and Alexandra peaks it is advised to proceed to Elena Hut for overnight. This day hike takes between 4-5 hours.
Day 5: Bujuku Hut – Elena Hut (4541m).
From Bujuku, the trail takes you through more bog, while climbing the steep slopes west of the lake and through the magical Groundsel Gully as it ascends to Scott-Elliot Pass at 4372m. At the head of the gully a metal ladder takes you over a steep section after which the trail is divided into two. The trail on your right leads up to Elena Hut and Mount Stanley on a steep trail over large boulders, while the trail on your left leads to Scott-Elliot Pass and down to Kitandara Lakes. During this day, you be able to see Mount Speke glacier on Victoria Emmanuel, Margerita peak on Mount Stanly and the nice view of Lake Bujuku, amazing rock path and so many others. Finally you will reach for an overnight at the Coolly & Icy Elena Hut. This day hike takes between 4-5 hours.
Day 6: Elena Hut – Margherita peak (5109m) and then Kitandara
For those aiming at reaching Margherita peak (5109m), continue to the base of the Stanley Glacier. To reach the summit of Margherita, the climb takes about 5-7 hours depending on the weather conditions and the pace of climbing this mountain. This tough walk takes you over three glaciers, slippery rock, ice and very exposed areas which are open on many sides. Note that this climb is for only physically fit and technical climbers. Climbing on to the glaciers, cross the Stanley Plateau and proceed with the ascent. Acclimatized to fog, altitude sickness and coolly weather, scramble up to the summit of Margherita the highest peak of the Rwenzoris. Given the high altitude and the tough conditions even if you do not reach the peak, don’t get disappointed.
Reaching back to Elena hut, prepare for sloping down to Kitandara hut through Scott-Elliot pass, where there are spectacular views back to Bujuku Lake and Mount Speke, up to Mount Stanley and down to the Kitandara Lakes. After the trail that passes you through an alpine zone of sparse vegetation with beautiful gardens of flowering Asanasios, giant lobelias, and rough boulders, descend to the twins Lakes of Kitandara where you will enjoy the shores of Kitandara Lake which is worthy beach life and overnight at the Kitandara Hut. This also takes you to 2-3hours but ascending down throughout the hut. However, basing on the time reached at Elena hut after margarita, you talk with your guide to have another night at Elena hut which will lead to an extra day.
Day 7: Kitandara Hut to Guy Yeoman Hut, 3.261 m.
From Kitandara, take on the trail that ascends steeply up the headwall, spreading out from the base of Mount Baker and continuing along the south side of the mountain to Fresh field Pass 4.282 m. At this point you can view into the Congo to the west and Mount Stanley to the north. From the pass, take on the long trail passing through bogy and slippery rocks that leads you to Bujongolo rock shelter the base camp for the historic expedition by the Duke of Abruzzi in 1906. The hut is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of mountains, vegetations dominated by the giant lobelias and rivers. Overnight at Guy yeoman and this takes 5-6 hours.
Day 8: Guy Yeoman Hut back to Nyabitaba Hut, 2.652 m.
In this day you complete the central circuit by going back to Nyabitaba Hut. The trial is attractive along the valley of the Mubuku and Kichuchu rivers, rich in plants and flowers of the heather zone before reaching the bamboo forest. Time to reach Nyabitaba is about 4- 5 hours. Eventually, you decide to descend directly to Nyakalengija, adding 2-3 more hours or stay at Nyabitaba hut for an overnight. Here it may depend on the decision of the client to either make it a one way journey from Guy Yeoman Hut direct to Nyakalengija or to have an overnight at Nyabitaba. However most clients prefer to make it one way journey from Guy Yeoman Hut direct to Nyakalengija/Park Head Quarter. Picked by your driver to Kasese town for an overnight.
DAY 9 : Kasese -Kampala
In the morning, take breakfast and drive to Kampala either through Kasese-Fortportal road (372km) or Mbarara-Masaka road (422km) to reach Kampala /Entebbe for a flight back home.
Bird watching being great fun, the alluring beauty of the various bird species in Rwenzori Mountains National Park, shall turn your bird watching tour into an unexpected memorable experience. The Park has over 217 bird species for example the amazing Handsome francolin, slender-biled starling, Blue-headed sunbird, the lagden’s bush shrike , the Rwenzori Turaco, Long-eared Owl, Bee-eaters, Robins, Sunbirds, Barbets and many others. However, the harsh environment around the Rwenzori Mountains makes it difficult for most bird species to choose it as the best place for their habitation making the montane forest their most favourable home, therefore the montane forest is the best opportunity area for bird watching. The high slopes of the Rwenzori mountains also provide a favourable view at bird species like the Bearded vultures, Swifts, and Eagles that are always circling up in the sky searching for prey.
Through hiking, tourists are able to view the Physical geography in Rwenzori mountains National Park, with features like the vegetation, earth’s surface with various soil types, landforms, hills, rock exposures cliffs, and many others, as well as experiencing the beautiful natural climate, making it like wonderland.
Before the building of the road that links Fort Portal to the remote town of Bundibugyo in 1938, the local people always followed the Bwamba Pass which was difficult and it always took them a tough 1,500 high trek over the steep north Rwenzori ridge to reach Bundibugyo, but however, though the road was constructed, tourists can still hike to Bundibugyo through Bwamba Pass since hiking is really an interesting activity.
The wide range of the Park creats a favourable environment for nature walks through the central circuit zone where we find trails up to the Buraro chimp forest and lake Mahoma. Tourists can also walk via the Kichamba community to reach karangura ridge, and as the hiking goes on, visitors can have a clear view at the beautiful bird species around, the squirrels, chameleons and vervet monkeys.
Tourists can also catch sight of Peaks like Mount Baker and Portal Peak of Mountain Rwenzori as they follow River Mubuku through their walk up to 2,300m above sea level and on a beautiful clear day they can have a view of the Margherita Peak that is snow capped, and outside the park, Ruboni and Turaco communities provide favourable guided forest walks.
The central circuit Trail.
In order to reach the Peaks of Mountain Rwenzori, tourists undergo a circular movement which is a challenging seven-day climb around the high Rwenzori Mountain , right from the trailhead at Mihunga as they climb and ascend through Bujuku valley via Nyabitaba, as they adjust to the changes in the environment. And In order to descend through the Mubuku Valley, tourists can move across the Scott Elliot and Freshfield passes, and this is basically for those tourists who join the central circuit after Bujuku.
The Kilembe Trail
Through the recently re-opened Kilembe Trail, tourists can ascend from the southern slopes of the Rwenzori mountains from the trailhead at Kilembe near Kasese town, and before joining the central circuit at lake Kitadara, tourists can catch a site of the glacial lakes and other stunning view points around. However, though the scenery makes treks rewarding enough, the standard route scales mount Baker.
THE RUBONI COMMUNITY CAMP
At the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains, is the home of the Bakonzo known as Ruboni village with a population of around 2,000 Bakonzo.
The bakonzo, carry out farming, which is one of the major activities from which they get their daily food. The farming is favoured by the favourable climate around the Rwenzori mountains enabling the growth of their crops hence making farming at Ruboni village peaceful.
The local people at Ruboni (the Bakonzo) carry out other activities such as basket weaving, animal rearing, preparation of various cultural dishes and many others, therefore, while at this camp, tourists can have nature walks together with the local people, as they help them explain and demonstrate how these activities are carried out. While at Ruboni, tourists really enjoy the amazing cultural dances of the Bakonzo tribe, as well as meeting the traditional healer and Blacksmith.
Ruboni, meaning (clear water) ,at this village, tourists are able to come across the rocky Mubuku River with crystal clear fresh water, and being guided by a tour guide, you shall move along the path at the river passing by villagers carrying out their daily activities as they carry wood and crops. You shall aslo have a view of peaks such as Mount Baker and Portal Peaks rising above the forests and if it’s a clear day, you shall also catch site of the snow capped Margherita Peak. Not only that, you shall come across the velvet monkeys, chameleons, squirrels amidst the beautiful trees and vegetation, as well as having the view of the beautiful colorful birds in the sky and around the trees such as the Bee-eaters, tiny birds, Rwenzori Turaco and many others.
THE RWENZORI TURACO VIEW CAMP SITE
The rugged landscape of the snow capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains directly faces Mihunga village.
Mihunga is a small village that has acted as a habitation for the local people of the Bakonzo tribe for over 300 years, this community has endured with the climate around the Rwenzori mountains and the steep green hillsides at the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains. The local people have also faced challenge of lack of electricity and running water for a long period of time.
At Mihunga village, tourists enjoy the amazing lively cultural dances accompanied by drumming together with the melody of the cultural songs .There are also cultural activities like craft making and demonstration by a traditional healer whose herbal medicine is believed to cure many diseases. Taking visitors to tour these cultural activities in Mihunga village is handled by Mihunga’s community tourism group and there is as well a trip to the village school.
Tourists can also have nature walks as they as they are guided by tour guides,through the surrounding forests and by any chance they can be able to catch site of the brightly colored turacos in the forest canopy. They can also look out at the black and white colobus monkeys as well as some bird species such as the bee-eaters,and sunbirds.
BULEMBA-IHANDIRO CULTURAL TRAIL
It takes over six to seven hours to reach the Bakonzo tribe, therefore tourists follow the path through the holy valley and other sites that are of great importance to the Bakonzo culture, and along the route, you shall witness various cultural activities carried out in this area such as demonstration of fire making skills and basket weaving. Furthermore as you are being guided by a community guide, you shall be introduced to the local blacksmith who will bring out and explain the importance of the traditional Bakonzo stool. You shall also meet the traditional healer who will explain his cultural powers ,known as “muhima”
Amazingly, as you continue to follow the path, you shall come across the crystal clear waters of Kamusonge River which are believed to be sweet and quick to quench the thirst, and before continuing with the final hour long walk, to the museum that was thatched in the traditional Konzo style, you shall have a break in a hut to enjoy the shelter from the equatorial sun and enjoy the amazing view of the Rwenzori mountains. The museum houses the historical and cultural items that are of great significance to the local people of the Rwenzoris, the equipments that were used during the Rwenzururu struggle and their traditional dresses.