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Rwenzori Mountains: 13 Things About “Mountains of the Moon”

Rwenzori Mountains are home to two of the highest peaks in Africa. In this post, you’ll learn about these famous mountains in DRC and Uganda. There are national parks, endangered animals, and five vegetation zones. Learn why they are known as the Mountains of the Moon.

rwenzori mountains

Rwenzori Mountains: A Quick Overview

  • Also Known As: Ruwenzori, Rwenjura, Mountains of the Moon
  • Continent: Central Africa
  • Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda
  • Highest Peak: Mount Stanley, 16,762 ft (5,109 m)
  • Range Length: around 75 to 80 miles (120 to 130 km)
  • Range Breadth: around 30 to 40 miles (50 to 65 km)
  • Climate: Wet atmosphere; lush vegetaion at lower parts, snow and ice at higher parts
  • Key Features: Glaciers, waterfalls, lakes; one source of the Nile

1. Where can you find the Rwenzori Mountains?

The Rwenzori Mountains are located just north of the Equator.

And can be found between the countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (in the northeast) and Uganda (in the southwest), in the central part of Africa.

2. What are the Rwenzori Mountains also known as?

The Rwenzori Mountains, or Ruwenzori, are also called Rwenjura.

Another name for them is the Mountains of the Moon.

3. Why are the Rwenzori Mountains sometimes called Mountains of the Moon?

The “Mountains of the Moon” is an ancient term used to describe the mountain range from which the Nile river comes (this term was described by the Greek scholar Ptolemy of the 2nd Century C.E.).

Since it is believed that the streams from the Rwenzori Mountains actually make up one of the sources of the Nile, it is generally accepted that the Rwenzori are the Mountains of the Moon of ancient times.

Here are the 12 Major Rivers of Africa.

4. Who named the Rwenzori Mountains?

The Rwenzori Mountains were named by Welsh-American explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley.

The term is generally accepted to mean “Lord of the Clouds” or “Rainmaker”.

5. What is the highest peak of the Rwenzori Mountains?

The highest peak of the Rwenzori Mountains is Margherita Peak, on Mount Stanley. It stands at 16,762 feet (5,109 meters).

The mountain is named after Sir Stanley (see above), while the peak itself was named after Queen Margherita of Italy.

Another name for Mount Stanley is Mount Ngaliema, which is what it’s called in Congolese.

Mount Stanley does have several other peaks, most notably Alexandra (16,703 feet or 5,091 meters) and Albert (16,690 feet or 5,087 meters).

Mount Stanley is also the third-highest mountain in Africa, behind Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

mount stanley rwenzori mountains
Mount Stanley, Rwenzori Mountains

6. Who was the first to climb the highest peak of the Rwenzori Mountains?

The first recorded climbing of this peak was in 1906, by Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi. He was accompanied by his climbing party: J. Brocherel, C. Ollier, and J. Petigax.

7. What are the mountains in the Rwenzori?

There are six major mountains that make up the Rwenzori range.

Here they are listed with their respective highest points:

  • Mount Stanley or Ngaliema: 16,762 ft (5,109 m)
  • Mount Speke: 16,040 ft (4,890 m)
  • Mount Baker: 15,889 ft (4,843 m)
  • Mount Emin: 15,741 ft (4,798 m)
  • Mount Gessi: 15,469 ft (4,715 m)
  • Mount Luigi di Savoia: 15,180 ft (4,627 m)

Mount Stanley and Mount Speke are the 3rd and 4th highest peaks in Africa.

8. How big is the mountain range of the Rwenzori?

The Rwenzori Mountains run north to south for about 75 to 80 miles (120 to 130 km) in between two lakes, Lake Albert and Lake Edward. and have a breadth of around 30 to 40 miles (50 to 65 km).

By comparison, the Alps are around 10 times longer at 750 miles (1,200 km) and nearly 3 or 4 times as wide, with its widest point over 125 miles (200 km) wide.

So definitely not the biggest mountain range, but the Rwenzori Mountains are definitely still majestic.

9. What’s the climate like in the Rwenzori Mountains?

The Rwenzori mountains have varied climate conditions. At lower elevations, there is a more tropical climate, with cloud forests.

At higher elevations, it becomes much colder, with snow and ice.

10. What type of vegetation can you find in the Rwenzori Mountains?

There are five different vegetation zones in the Rwenzori Mountains.

These zones are stratified, which means can be found in distinct layers depending on high up you go. They do overlap each other at times.

The zones are described as the following, along with elevations:

  • Grassland: 3,281 ft to 6,562 ft (1,000 m to 2,000 m)
  • Montane Forest: 6,562 ft to 9,843 ft (2,000 m to 3,000 m)
  • Bamboo Zone: 8,202 ft to 9,843 ft (2,500 m to 3,000 m)
  • Heather Zone: 9,843 ft to 13,123 ft (3,000 m to 4,000 m)
  • Afro-Alpine Zone: 13,123 ft to peaks (4,000 m to peaks)
rwenzori mountains national park
Lake Bujuku in the Rwenzori Mountains

11. What animals can you find in the Rwenzori Mountains?

The Rwenzori Mountains are home to many interesting animals, including some rare and endangered species.

Some animals you can find in the mountains are:

  • Chimpanzee
  • Forest elephant
  • Hyrax
  • Montane squirrel
  • Leopard
  • L’Hoest monkey
  • Rwenzori duiker (a small antelope)
  • Rwenzori otter
  • Rwenzori range frog

12. What are some things you can do in the Rwenzori Mountains?

There are two national parks within the Rwenzori Mountains: Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda.

Note, this park was sometimes called Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is another National Park close by.

There are hiking, nature walks, and climbing tours that you can check out, with multi-day options available. There are also cultural encounters and bird watching opportunities that you can enjoy.

Rwenzori Mountains National Parks are a top birding site in Uganda.

To any ski enthusiasts out there, some bad news. Despite being snow-capped permanently, there is no organized skiing at the Rwenzori Mountains.

Learn more about Uganda’s 10 National Parks.

13. What else are the Rwenzori Mountains known for?

Besides its natural beauty and some adventure opportunities, the Rwenzori Mountains are also important for copper and cobalt mining, which takes place at Kilembe, Uganda.

hiking rwenzori mountains uganda
Hiking Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda

Before writing this article, I didn’t know anything about the Rwenzori Mountains. Having done just a little bit of research, I have to say this area seems like a really cool place to visit.

In this article, I shared some interesting facts, history, and things to do at the Rwenzori Mountains. I hope you find it as intriguing as doing the research was for me.

Your Turn!

As you can see, the Rwenzori Mountains have an interesting history, unique flora and fauna, and fascinating climate. If you’re interested in adventure, this looks like a place to go!

What do you think about the Rwenzori Mountains? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!


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Joseph Wejuli

Sunday 17th of October 2021

Thank you Joshua for this wonderful article on the Rwenzori ranges. To complete the name Ruwenzori also means the Cloud King due to a heavy cloud cover above the range most of the time On the peaks, you also missed out on the Portal Peaks at 4,391m.