The Rwenzori mountains national park is a protected area in Western Uganda covering an area of approximately 996 square kilometers (385 square miles) at a height of 1600 meters above sea level. The Rwenzori Mountains , also known as the Mountains of the Moon are located on the border between Western Uganda and the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and are home to Uganda’s highest point at 5,109m/16,762ft.
Mount Rwenzori has the 5th highest peak in Africa-Margherita Peak 5,109m/16,762ft on Mount Stanley that is named after the journalist and explorer, Sir Henry Morton Stanley.
Mount Rwenzori was formed by the tectonic activity of the East African Rift System. Over millions of years, the region’s geological processes, including uplift, folding, and glacial activity, have contributed to the rugged terrain, unique glaciers, and distinctive landscape of the Rwenzori Mountains
The mountain is famous for its unique glaciers, stunning landscapes, and the rich cultural and ecological history and wildlife surrounding them. These mountains are shrouded in myths and mysteries, many of which are rooted in the indigenous cultures of the region.
The Rwenzoris were named the Mountains of the Moon by the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150. Henry Morton Stanley, a British explorer placed the Rwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888 and labeled it Ruwenzori, a local name which he recorded as meaning Rain Maker or Cloud King since the ancient Greeks believed these mountains to be the source of the Nile River. The original name of the mountain was Rwenzururu but due since it gave hard times to foreigners to pronounce, Rwenzori has replaced the original name.
The Rwenzori mountain range is about 120km/75mlong and 65 km/40m wide. It consists of six massifs separated by deep gorges:
Mount Stanley has several subsidiary summits, with Margherita Peak 5,109m/16,762ft being the highest point. several lower peaks include:
The first crossing of the six massifs of the Ruwenzori was done in 1975, starting on 27 January and ending on 13 February. The traverse was done by Polish climbers Janusz Chalecki, Stanisław Cholewa and Leszek Czarnecki, with Mirosław Kuraś accompanying them on the last half of the traverse.
The Rwenzori Mountains have been open to numerous exploratory expeditions throughout history, including those led by Henry Morton Stanley, Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi, and the British explorer H.W. Tilman. These expeditions aimed to uncover the mysteries of the region, including its unique flora and fauna.
In 1906, the Duke of Abruzzi went on an expedition to the Ruwenzori, the account of which was later published by Filippo De Filippi. The expedition scaled the highest peaks of the range, several of which were named by the duke, while Mount Luigi di Savoia was named in his honour. Photographer Vittorio Sella, who had previously visited the mountains accompanied the Duke on his exploration. Sella’s photographic work is conserved at the Museo Nazionale della Montana in Turin and at the Istituto di Fotografia Alpina Vittorio Sella in Biella, both in Italy. Makerere University, Uganda also has an assortment of his images.
The Rwenzori Mountains have great cultural significance to the Bakonjo people, also known as Bakonzo, who live around the mountain, jealousy protecting it as their own property. The dark skinned, small and short people who are believed to have originated from Congo or from the mountain it self since time immemorial. Bakonjo are traditionally agriculturalists and animal husbanders growing yams, beans, sweet potatoes, peanuts,soy beans, potatoes, rice, wheat, cassava, coffee, bananas, and cotton, while keeping goats, sheep, and poultry. They practice traditional religions and Christianity. The language spoken by the Bakonjo is diversely called Rukonjo or Olukonjo.
The Bakonjo people also have their own myths and beliefs surrounding these mountains. They believe that the mountains are home to powerful spirits and gods Kalisa and Nyabarika. The former was portrayed as a monster with only one arm, one eye, one leg, one ear, half of a nose and only half of a body while the other half was like a mans’. The latter was the strongest and power over life and death to whom sacrifices were made.
Like many remote and mountainous regions, the Rwenzori Mountains have legends of hidden treasures, ranging from precious metals to ancient artifacts. These legends have inspired treasure hunters and adventurers over the years. The Rwenzori region is endowed with diversified riches in natural resources that is fertile volcanic soils, wildlife, rich forest cover and mineral deposits. The major range from copper and cobalt in Kasese, limestone in Kamwenge and Oil deposits in the Albertine region around Lake Albert.
The Rwenzori Mountains are home to a unique ecosystem, including endemic species of plants and animals. The mystery of how these species have evolved in such isolation has attracted the attention of scientists and conservationists, leading to efforts to protect the environment. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park holds the prestigious title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These mountains are also famous for their unique and diverse vegetation zones, which are closely linked to the altitude and the corresponding climate variations.
The mountain range in an equatorial region has glaciers, ice caps and permanent snow at its higher altitudes. This was only confirmed in modern days by British explorer Henry Morton Stanley in May 1888, when he surprisingly spotted the peaks as the cloud cover lifted. In 1876 he first glimpsed the range, then in 1888 he noticed what he first thought to be a cloud then later realized was the slopes of a mountain covered with snow.
The mountains’ melting glaciers are a source of River Nyamwamba that flows down to Lake George. The river supports farms, households but consequently bursts it banks and destroys farms, and several buildings. The locals believe that when the gods/spirits are angry, they release the calamitous water for them as a punishment. The heavy rains and changes in weather also contribute to the disastrous floods in the region.
The lakes on the mountain. Lakes on the mountain are known as cirques:. These are amphitheater-like hollows or bowl-shaped depressions carved into the mountainside by glacial erosion. They are found at higher elevations and are often filled with water, forming cirque lakes or tarns. In the Rwenzori Mountains, you can find several cirque lakes within these glacially sculpted features. Some of the notable cirque lakes in the Rwenzori Mountains include lake Kitandara, lake Bujuku near the Bujuku valley, lake Mahoma and Lake Irene. These waters due to extreme cold temperatures do not inhabit fish or other water animals.
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