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The Rwenzori Mountain (Mountains of the Moon) is not only a home to Uganda’s highest peak “Margherita” but also protects luxuriant vegetation. The 120kms block mountain range consists of 6 peaks/mountains; Mount Speke (4890m), Mount Baker (4843m), Mount Gessi (4715m), Mount Luigi di Savoia (4627m), Mount Emin (4798m) & Mount Stanley (5109m). As you trek to any of these mountain peaks, you are likely to encounter unique vegetation zones at every altitudinal range you get to.

This mountain range is made up of five varying vegetation types/zones depending on the altitude. Notably this mountain range was named after Henry Morton Stanley, a European explorer to mean the rain maker because this mountain is said to make rain. It is therefore not a surprise that for the 365 days in a year, it rains almost every day on the snow-capped mountains as well as the thick lush vegetation.

At the base of the Mountain between 914 and 1676 meters above sea level is the lowland montane forest and African savannah grasslands where you will find a number of animals such as the African elephants and Zebras

After that is the tropical rainforest from 1676 and 2286 meters above sea level, and is where you will find the giant ferns, lianas and wild banana plants.

This is followed by the Bamboo forest from 2286 to 2895 meters above sea level. Tress in this zone can grow up to 3 feet within a day and over 100 feet in just 2 months. The zone is therefore one of the most exceptional places to walk through easily.

After the Bamboo zone is the Heath zone from 2895 meters to 3657 meters above sea level and is covered by lichens and heather tress as well as mosses and liverwort that cover the ground. Trees here also grow up to 40 feet tall or even more.

As you proceed higher, you will find the Alpine Zone from 3657 to 4419 meters above sea level with mostly Giant lobelia and groundsel. The upper slopes of this vegetation zone had a rocky terrain and is dominated by brown mosses and black lichens.

The Upper zone approaching the Margherita Peak at 5109 meters above sea level is snow-capped and has storm-swept glaciers. Climbing to this point is one of the most challenging yet unforgettable achievements for any climber on Uganda safaris.

The Afro-Montane rain-forest

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is without doubt one of the best places in Uganda, East Africa that provides tourists a distinct experience of an Afro-Montane rain-forest. The Afro-Montane rain forest at the Rwenzori Mountains ranges between elevation of about 1800 to 2500m.

At altitude of 1800m, the important tree species to expect to come across include the read stink wood, yellow wood tree, symphonia globulifera, podocarpus milanjianus, vernonia adolfi-friderici. This area also features different plant species including begonia mayari-johannis, begonia, many balasms etc.

Bamboo zone

The Bamboo Zone ranges at elevation of 2500 to 3000m just along the gentle slopes featuring good soil. This area has thick litter of bamboo leaves. Along the steep & rocky slopes, the bamboo is replaced by tangled undergrowth comprising of an Acanthus-type shrub, luxuriant forms of lobelia, mimulopsis ellioti. These thrive along wet and swampy areas. The giant heathers, Erica kingaensis and philippia johnstonii thrives along the narrow ridges.

Heather Zone

The Heather Zone is at elevation range of 3000 to 4000m. This thrives only in areas with poor soil like on ridge tops, rocky & moderately boggy areas. The thick Sphagnum moss covers the tussocks and you can see fine lobelia. The other important plants to find on heather zone include Disa stairsii, coral pink ground orchid, pink flowers.

The drained slopes/zones, the heather zone has mixed woodland mainly dominated by Rapanea rhododendroides-a small shrubby tree with the rhododendron like leaves. As you hike along the valley bottoms of the Rwenzori Mountains at heather zone, this area is filled with most of the huge bogs.

Alpine zone

The Alpine Zone is at altitudinal range of 4000 to 4500m, an area largely dominated by swampy vegetation which includes the giant groundsel. There are also many lobelia, thick tangled growth of helichrysum stuhlumani, bog,  short grass, moss. As you ascend above 4300m, you only moss, blackish lichens and a few small plants. At 4500-5000m, only bare rock and glacier can be found here and this is at Mt. Stanley where Margherita peak is found.

Faunal species of Rwenzori Mountains

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park’s distinct vegetation shelter a range of distinct faunal species. They include endemic, endangered, unique and threatened species and a range of bird species. The popular wildlife species of the Rwenzori Mountains NP include chimpanzees, forest elephants, L’Hoest monkeys, leopard and over 217 bird species.

The unique birds that make this park an Important Birding Area include barred long tailed cuckoos, handsome francolins, Rwenzori batis, lagden’s bush shrike, blue headed sunbird, white starred robin, cinnamon chested bee-eater, long eared owl, Rwenzori turaco, montane sooty boubou, flycatchers to mention but a few.