The Rwenzori Mountains: Snow in the Tropics

The Rwenzori Mountains of Western Uganda could be one of the world’s wonders. Located in the south – western region of Uganda, the Rwenzori Mountains are among the mythical destinations that have been looked for by explorers in the medieval times.

The Rwenzoris stand as the third highest mountains in Africa. They are located along the Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo borders. The Margherita Peak which towers to 5106m above sea level are only surpassed by peaks of Tanzania Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

The mountain ranges have been occasionally referred to as the legendary “Mountains of the moon”. Claudius Ptolemy, one of the Greek Empire geographers wrote about the Rwenzori Mountains in 150AD.  Based on the rumors he collected mostly from Arab traders, he named the Rwenzoris the “Mountains of the Moon’ and he considered them to be the Source of the Nile, Africa’s longest river.

Later, modern explorers also searched for these mythical mountains and during the late nineteenth century, quests to see these mountains increased. Among the modern explorers, Sir Samuel Baker referred to them as the Blue Mountains during his African expedition of 1864.

The Rwenzori Mountains were also mentioned in the writings of Burton and Speke who also made expeditions into Africa to find the Source of the Nile River.

Another explorer Henry Morton Stanley was among the first Europeans to visit the ranges during his expedition into Africa between 1875 to 1888. Stanley referred to them as the “Ruwenzori” the official name to these names till today.

The mountains were later popularized by the Duke of Abruzzi who scaled its highest peaks during his African journey in 1906. Today the Rwenzori is one of the premier destinations for mountain trekking in Africa.

There are notable hikes offered by various tour operators in Uganda. For those looking to Rwenzori Expeditions, most hikes start from the Ugandan side and few tour operators offer hikes from the Congo side.

The Rwenzoris were also featured in the popular movie “Mountains of the Moon” that was released in1990. The movie features Patrick Bergin and Iain Glen starring as the British explorers Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke.

Besides these memorable and strong reflections on the gorgeous mountains of the moon, there is an ongoing rumor of the reducing glaciers on the top of the Rwenzoris. Here is what you need to know about the reducing glacier reports:

Reports of Reducing Glaciers on the Rwenzori Mountains


The Rwenzori Mountains are among the glaciated mountains on the African continent. There has been some reduction on the snow that is partly attributed to global warming which is caused by different factors like deforestation, human settlements and others.

Satellite surveillance and mapping has started to provide detailed records, part of the progressive disappearance of the equatorial icecaps. This same phenomenon has been reported in both Mount Kilimanjaro of Tanzania and Mount Kenya of Kenya. The shrinking glaciers have caused worries by climate researchers, conservationists and economists as reported by the BCC in 2016.

The disappearing glaciers have been attributed to the fallout for the local ecosystems and the subsequent economic fallout, when runoff water quantities from the mountains begin to dwindle, will be having a major impact on millions of people living around these mountains.

Scientists estimate that the glaciers will be gone by 2050 and CNN reports that from a recent expedition to the Rwenzoris it has been established that the glaciers that have for centuries captured imaginations will soon be history.

Conservation of the Rwenzori Mountains


To protect the pride of the mountains, Uganda has protected its side as through Rwenzori Mountains National Park, a protected area that is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Majority of the mountain ranges lie within the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The park is protected as a UNESCO world heritage site and several agencies are working towards protecting the ecosystem of the area.

On the Congolese side, the Rwenzori Mountains have been incorporated into the Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park.

On a positive note, WWF recruited over 400 farmers along the buffer stretch of Rwenzori mountains national park (the park which protects the snowcapped mountains) to plant various tree species in 2020.

The move that was recruited saw about 192,000 indigenous trees species like Mahogany, Prunus Africana, and Terminalia along the stretch of the park and the 400 farmers also planted 255,530 pine trees and 127,765 of Eucalyptus species.

The same farmers who were chose for the activity had earlier signed the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) forms which confirmed that they had agreed to be part of the conservation and also allowed the organization to plant trees on their pieces of lands.

With fund support from Hempel Foundation of Denmark, WWF is implementing and promoting multimillion projects named ‘’Sustainable future for Uganda’s unique world heritage’’.

The project’s main aim was to ensure reforestation of the degraded lands around the zones of Rwenzori mountains national park and it operated in districts where the mystical mountain crosses like Kasese, Kabarole, Bunyangabu, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo.

Though the rumors of the dwindling glaciers are still many. A number of efforts are being undertaken to ensure that the biodiversity of the Rwenzoris is preserved.

In an attempt to create more awareness about this special UNESCO heritage site, an annual Rwenzori mountains is organized to create awareness about the Rwenzori as well as contribute to conservation efforts around the Rwenzori Mountains.