Rwenzori Mountains: Mountains of the Moon

Ruwenzori Mountains Virunga National Park Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The mountains are said to have been formed three million years ago. The range is about 120 kilometres long and 60 kilometres wide. The Rwenzori is composed of a group of mountains referred to as massifs. The massifs are separated by deep gorges. They are Mount Stanley (5,109 metres), Mount Speke (4,890 metres), Mount Baker (4,843 metres), Mount Emin (4,798 metres), Mount Gessi (4,715 metres) and Mount Luigi di Savoia (4,627 metres).

Vegetation in Rwenzori Mountains. Photo: Jorn Eriksson/Flickr

The peak of the mountains is the Marhgherita Peak which is on Mount Stanley. It is the third highest peak in Africa. The name Ruwenzori was changed to Rwenzori around 1980. This was in order to keep more closely with the local name Rwenjura.

Read: WATCH: Snows Of The Nile short documentary

The mountains are one of the sources of the river Nile. Although glaciers are disappearing from the mountains due to global warming, the Rwenzori peaks are permanently snow-capped.

Ornithologist James P. Chapin displays Flag #4 on expedition in the Ruwenzori Mountains, 1925
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The mountains are a host to two national parks, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Virunga National Park. The mountains also boast of lush vegetation which ranges from tropical rainforest through alpine meadows to snow.

The reference to Mount Rwenzori as Mountains of the Moon came from Greek explorers trying to locate the source of the Nile. A merchant called Diogenes reported that the source of the Nile came from a group of mountains which the indigenes of the land called Mountains of the  Moon because of their snow-capped whiteness. Unfortunately this snow-capped whiteness has been reducing and is likely to stop existing.

Snow Capped Rwenzori Mountains
Photo: Jorn Eriksson/ Flickr

The glacial recession on the Rwenzori Mountains has been a cause for worry. It is one of the evidence of global warming. In 1906, the Rwenzori had 43 glaciers across six mountains. Almost 100 years later, in 2005, less than half of those glaciers were present on three mountains.

Read: Sossusvlei, one of Africa’s most spectacular landmarks

The Rwenzori Mountains experience high and regular rainfall throughout the year making it have one of the most diverse vegetation. The Rwenzori has five vegetation zones which changes as one goes higher. The grassland which is found at 1000 to 2000 metres, montane forest (2000 to 3000m), bamboo/mimulopsis zone (2500 to 3,500m), heather/Rapanea zone (3000 to 4000m) and finally the afro-alpine moorland zone (4000 to 4,500m).

Uganda has three UNESCO Heritage Sites and Rwenzori Mountains National Park is one of them.

Once called the Ruwenzori Ranges, and now called the Rwenzori Mountains, the Mountains of the Moon are located between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Stretching to heights of about 5, 109 metres the Rwenzori Mountains are one of the highest mountains in Africa.
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When Ishasha lions take on the trees

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Located about 450 kilometres south west of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, in the Western Rift Valley, the Ishasha sector of the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s sole habitat of climbing lions.

While the rest of the game park is predominantly savannah grassland, Ishasha has the vegetation pattern of a tropical rainforest. This is most probably why the climbing lions make their home here.

Because of the peculiarity of these wild cats, the National Geographic Traveler magazine gave Queen Elizabeth National Park the nod as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. The park certainly is one of the continent’s lesser-known gems.

As Uganda’s most visited national park, Queen Elizabeth as a whole is a “wonder” but it is the spectacle of the Ishasha climbing lions that earned the park its rightful place as one of Africa’s destination greats.

Read: Hungry lions in Serengeti gnaw at tourist truck’s tyres

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Joseph Byamukama, CEO of Adventure Kama Safaris, a travel and tour company in East Africa, told TIA that he was compelled to add the Ishasha sector to his itinerary because his clients were most interested in seeing the “king of the jungle” casually resting on a tree branch rather than lazing around on the ground as usual.

“This park has hundreds of lions, but most of them don’t climb,” he said. “There is something about the Ishasha lions that makes them special and ‘superior’. Only a few places in the world can boast of this lion species.”

Byamukama is referring not only to the lions’ unusual behaviour but also to their physical characteristics, which differ somewhat from other prides across the continent. The male climbing lions have black manes – locks unlike those of their counterparts.

According to the park’s website, the lions mostly ascend the trees in the afternoon, especially on extremely sunny days, probably to escape the vigorous sting of the tropical tsetse fly.

Read: Kenya: Six lions escape from nat park, wildlife services intensify search

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In Africa, there are only two known climbing-lion habitats: Ishasha in Uganda and Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. However, reports indicate that sightings of climbing lions in a few other national parks are on the increase.

The climbing lions of Ishasha live alongside other wildlife that add to travellers’ delight: elephant, buffalo, various antelope species, and warthog. This is indeed a destination that earns its place on every discerning traveller’s bucket list.

Written by Alex Taremwa

Uganda – the global birding destination

Uganda is the home of more than 50 per cent of all birds in Africa. Also, more than 10 per cent of the world’s birds reside in Uganda. Arguably, Sir Winston Churchill was right to refer to Uganda as “The Pearl of Africa” in his 1908 book titled My African Journey.  Uganda’s biodiversity partly explains Churchill’s observation.

A Total of 768 bird species were recorded from 28 national parks and non-protected areas across the country. In 2013, the African Bird Club voted Uganda as the destination for bird watching; and in 2012, the country was labelled the best destination on the Lonely Planet Website.

Uganda cumulatively has registered 1067 bird species, which is 50 per cent of African bird species and 10 per cent of global bird species.

Red-throated Bee-eater Murchison Falls National Park Uganda Photo by Brian Zwiebel

 

African Openbill Photo by Arthur Matsiko

 

Gull-billedtern Photo by Arthur Matsiko

 

African Paradise Flycatcher Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Uganda Photo by Brian Zwiebel

 

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Woolly-necked Stork Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda Photo by Brian Zwiebel

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