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Whitewater rafting the Nile, Uganda

Rwenzori Central Circuit Hiking, Rafting & Kibale Chimps Safari - 13 Days

Overview
Itinerary
Accommodation
Rwenzori Trip Tips
Inclusions
Overview

Rwenzori Central Circuit Hiking, Rafting & Kibale Chimps Safari - 13 Days

A double adventure packed safari to the source of the Nile in Jinja for the magnificent whitewater rafting experience and attempting one of the world’s most daring climbs (the Rwenzoris).

  • Day 1: Kampala
  • Day 2: Whitewater Rafting in Jinja
  • Day 3: Transfer to Fort Portal - Kasese
  • Day 4: Nyakalengija (1,646 m) - Up to Nyabitaba Hut (2,652 m)
  • Day 5: Nyabitaba Hut (2,652 m) - John Matte Hut (3,414 m)
  • Day 6: John Matte Hut (3,414 m) - Bujuku Hut (3,962 m)
  • Day 7: Bujuku Hut 3,900 m - Elena Hut 4,541 m
  • Day 8: Elena Hut 4,541 m - Kitandara Hut - 4,023 m
  • Day 9: Kitandara Hut - Guy Yeoman Hut - 3,261 m
  • Day 10: Guy Yeoman Hut - Nyabitaba Hut
  • Day 11: Nyabitaba-Nyakalengija Base Camp
  • Day 12:  Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale National Park
  • Day 13: Drive from Kibale Forest to Entebbe

The White Nile

For thousands of years the source of the Nile remained a mystery and it wasn't until the late 1800s that the British explorer John Hanning Speke was credited with discovering the source of the mighty river at Lake Victoria. Much of Uganda still remains a mystery to the outside world and the Nile is one of the best kept secrets. As the river thunders downstream from the confines of Lake Victoria, each bend reveals a new vista. Giant fig trees sprout from rock islands, monitor lizards laze wearily on slabs of rock and fisherman paddle frantically between the rapids!

Early morning mist lifts across Lake Victoria to reveal wooden canoes breaking the glassy surface of this immense lake and forested islands provide a haven for flocks of white egret that swoop across this watery paradise. For as far as the eye can see, rolling green hills stretch to the horizon and the towering snow capped peaks of the Ruwenzori are shrouded in eternal cloud. Uganda is a land of high mountains, a vast inland sea and mighty rivers.

After a visit to the country Winston Churchill wrote "For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life - plant, bird, insect, reptile, beast - for vast scale ...." and the lakes, mountains, rivers forests and game parks are a testament to this.

Rwenzori Mountain Climbing (5,109m) - The Legendary Mountains of the Moon

For centuries these mystical mountains on the border between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo have been revered as the source of the Nile. The ancient philosopher Ptolemy referred to them as ‘the Mountains of the Moon’ in the 2nd century and they remain little explored despite being the highest mountain range in Africa. The lofty summits of the main mountains are often enveloped in cloud so that for months the permanent icefields of the highest peaks are hidden from view.  Over twenty peaks in the Rwenzoris exceed 4,500 m and as Africa’s highest mountain range, they mark the frontier between the high plains of East Africa and the dense forests to the west.

The central circuit begins from the Nyakalengija amidst the thick forests that are home to chimpanzees and forest elephant.  As we progress steadily upwards, heavy tropical forests give way to a wide variety of flora and fauna making the climb unique.  The luxuriant vegetation that thrives on this rain-soaked massif is nothing short of phenomenal and with each gain in altitude, this remarkable growth changes.  Each night we sleep in sturdy mountain huts and marvel at the incredible scenery and the stunning array of peaks that surround us.  We cook hearty meals and enjoy the company of those who have taken the challenge with us.

As part of the central circuit, our guided climbs give the chance to summit Margherita Peak (5,109 m) on Mt. Stanley which is the highest peak in the range. The final assault on the summit will require the use of ropes and crampons on the icefields but you do not need any previous experience.  While you have the opportunity, we invite you to join in what will be a very challenging but ultimately extremely rewarding climb.  Please take this opportunity to climb one of the world’s greatest mountain ranges – the Rwenzoris.

2006 was the centenary of the huge Abruzzi expedition which first climbed the major peaks of the range in 1906.  Prince Luigi di Savoia, better known as the Duke of Abruzzi led a huge expedition in the central peaks region which mapped the area, made the first ascents of the peaks and took some of the most famous photographs of the mountains.

Itinerary

Day 1: Kampala

You will be met at the airport by our safari guide who will transfer you to the hotel reserved for you in Kampala. Briefing about the safari will be done right before dinner at the hotel where you’ll spend the night.

Day 2: Whitewater Rafting in Jinja

You will have an early breakfast and travel to Jinja for the magnificent white water rafting adventure. You will be driving past acres of sugarcane and roadside stalls selling avocados, pawpaws, bananas and oranges.

The journey will take you through the tropical rain forest of Mabira, tea and sugarcane plantations plus several roadside markets.

After a couple of hours you'll cross the Owen Falls Dam which was built several km's down from Speke's source of the Nile. The Nile flows freely below the dam and makes quick time of the trip down the river to Bujagali Falls which is the first major rapid on the river and is where you will start your rafting action! The following morning, you'll raft from Bujagli to Bwekkwaso.

Each bend in the river brings yet another thunderous roar from the cascading falls ahead. This truly is whitewater rafting at its finest. We'll lunch on our beautiful mid-river island beneath the shade of the trees. The back to back drops of "Overtime" and "Retrospect" provide some of the most technical and sustained rafting to be found anywhere. We spend the night on another beautiful mid-river island. The campsite comes alive after dark to sound of african music and dancing. In the morning you'll raft down to Nabuganyi - the pools between the rapids are larger but don't be fooled - the crashing waves of "Mulalu" and "Potali" will take your breath away!

You will crown your adventure with a visit to the source of the Nile and return to Kampala for dinner and overnight at Forest Cottages.

Day 3: Transfer to Fort Portal - Kasese

You will be transferred to Kasese via Mubende and Fort Portal. This is a long trip to Western Uganda. A stop is also foreseen at Fort Portal for some shopping.

After some shopping we will drive another hour to reach the Kasese where you will stay at Equator Snow Lodge or  Rwenzori Base Camp -  Ibanda

Day 4: Nyakalengija (1,646 m) - Up to Nyabitaba Hut (2,652 m)

After breakfast you will have a short drive to offices of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (RMS) at Nyakalengija.

Time will be spend in the morning to rent equipment and be availed with guides and porters. Your hiking trip begins from the park headquarters at 1,646 m, walking past typical mud and wattle Bakonzo homes and gradually moving upward through elephant grass and garden plots. It takes approximately forty minutes to reach the park boundary.

The trail then follows the Mubuku River, crossing recent landslide areas (to be negotiated carefully), and involves climbing over rocks and bluff, before reaching the Mahoma River in 2 ½ hours.

After crossing the river there will be a steep climbing through open bracken fern slopes and Podorcarpus Forest up to Nyabitaba hut (2,652 m). The Nyabitaba hut is set on a ridge above the confluence of the Bujuku and Mubuku rivers with views over the Portal Peaks which rise above 4,627 m.

Total time for an average hiker from Nyakalengija to Nyabitaba is about 5-7 hours, and total elevation gained is 1,200 m.

Day 5: Nyabitaba Hut (2,652 m) - John Matte Hut (3,414 m)

From Nyabitaba Hut the trail leads west ward for half a kilometer then drops steeply to Kurt Shaffer Bridge, crossing below the confluence of Bujuku and the Mubuku rivers. By turning right to the bridge you begin to climb the central circuit anti-clockwise since the clockwise direction is much more difficult and adds considerable danger for you and your porters.

After crossing Kurt Shaffer Bridge the muddy, slippery trail climbs steadily up through bamboo forest. After one and a half hours you encounter an area of slippery boulder hopping which some hikers consider the most difficult and dangerous footing of the circuit.

After five hours of travel from Nyabitaba, you reach the hut at Nyamuleju and its accompanying rock shelter. Nyamuleju means "Place of beards" and refers to moss and lichen hanging from the trees. If you had a late start or know that there is a large group ahead of you at the next hut, you might consider spending the night here. On a rare clear day Mts. Stanley and Speke can be seen from top of the rock near the hut.

Nyamuleju also marks the start of the giant lobelia and groundsel zone, this remarkable vegetation type is found nowhere else in the world except high-altitude tropical African Mountains. The one-hour walk to John Matte hut (3,414 m) is through a challenging bog, full extra ordinary plants and the slow pace can be a delightful chance to examine and photograph this unique environment, typical time to reach John Matte from Nyabitaba is 7 hours.

Some hikers consider this to be the most tiring and longest day of the circuit, so an early start is important. The loss of altitude to Kurt Shafer Bridge means the total elevation to be gained on this day is about 915 m.

Day 6: John Matte Hut (3,414 m) - Bujuku Hut (3,962 m)

Leave John Matte Hut to cross the Bujuku River and enter the lower Bigo bog, where your first real experience of jumping from tussock to tussock on grassy bog begins. The trail is muddy and follows the left (southern) edge of lower Bigo bog until eventually it reaches the round metal “uniport”. A steep section past the hut leads to upper Bigo bog. In the last half of this bog, a boardwalk has been constructed. Though some may think it is an ugly intrusion, it makes walking easier and prevents the hikers from further damaging the bog. A beautiful narrow stream at the upper end of the bog makes good lunch break.

An hour and a half beyond the upper bog, and after climbing through drier ground and crises-crossing the river, you reach lake Bujuku. The southern end of the lake is in a majestic setting, with Mt. Baker to the south, Mt. Stanley to the west, and Mt. Speke to the north.

The trail route along the lake’s northeastern shore crosses the worst mud on the trip. Beyond the north end of the lake is a rock shelter called cooking pot and a short distance further is Bujuku hut (3,962 m), favorably located for parties climbing Mt. Speke (which requires technical skills and special equipment).

Time to reach Bujuku from John Matte is typically 5-6 hours, and the elevation gained is 560 m. But the long stretches of bog, and the mud along the lake make this another challenging day. The shaded  location and frequent mists can make Bujuku Hut quite cold.

If one moved around on a nature walk, the chances of seeing Red duikers are high and at night, calls of the rock hyraxes are common.

Day 7: Bujuku Hut (3,900 m) - Elena Hut (4,541 m)

From Bujuku Hut you climb through moss draped groundsel vegetation to Scott Elliot Pass, 4,372 m, between Mt. Baker and Stanley.

Here you divert to Elena Hut, 4,540 m. for spending the night before climbing Mt. Stanley.

Estimated hiking time: 4 hours

Day 8: Elena Hut (4,541 m) - Kitandara Hut (4,023 m)

Early morning traverse of the Elena Glacier to the Stanley Plateau where crampons may be required. Cross this in a north-west direction and follow the Margherita Glacier to the col and to the summit (3 hours).

Descend to Elena Hut and after you descend to Upper Kitandara lake and through thick mud to Lower Kitandara lake where is located Kitandara Hut, 4.023 m. Time to complete the hike about 3 hours more.  Enjoy the view of Mt. Luigi di Savoia.

Day 9: Kitandara Hut - Guy Yeoman Hut (3,261 m)

From Lake Kitandara you climb to Freshfield Pass, 4,282 m, a long flat of high alpine mossy glades, before descending the circuit among rocky and boggy areas. The panorama is dominated by the glaciers of Mounts Stanley and Baker and Mount of Savoy.

A muddy trail leads to Akendahi, Bujongolo and Kabamba rock shelters, where starts the Kabamba valley down to Guy Yeoman Hut, 3.261 m. This can take up to 6 hours. The hut is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of mountains, vegetations and rivers.

Day 10: Guy Yeoman Hut - Nyabitaba Hut

Drop very steeply alongside the Mubuku River, past Kichuchu, another rock shelter and join our original route near the confluence of the Bujuku River. (3 1/2 hours)

Day 11: Nyabitaba-Nyakalengija Base Camp

Descend steeply off the ridge and enter the warm rainforest.  Look for the tropical forest birds and monkeys. (2 hours)

After, your driver picks you for transfer to Kibale National Park.

Day 12:  Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale National Park

Follow guides on foot through the forest in search of the chimps.

Expect to see other primates, incredible species of bird and listen for the sounds of the chimpanzees.  When a group is found, we will spend about an hour with them.

Forest treks normally vary between 2 and 6 hours.

Day 13: Drive from Kibale Forest to Entebbe

Estimated time: 6 hours.

 

Accommodation

Along the central circuit there are a number of established huts.

Nyabitaba Hut (2,660 m)

Nyabitaba Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

Renovated in 2008, Nyabitaba Hut is the arriving point for the first day of trekking or for a short trip to the Rwenzori. It is located 10 km from Nyakalenjija and takes about 4/5 hours walk through montane forest and the Bakonjo villages.

It consists of a 2 room wooden building, with annexed pit latrine and tap water piped from the near Lake Mahoma, worthy a visit. The hut has a few beds and provides mattresses. The location is beautiful with the stunning views of the Portal Peaks in the north.

John Matte Hut (3,420 m)

John Matte Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

Named after the founding president of the Mountain Club of Uganda, John Matte, the hut is situated on a hillside on the banks of River Bujuku.

It consists of a 3 room wooden building. It is available a pit latrine. This is the reaching point of the second day of trekking along the central circuit, which is considered the most challenging part of the trekking.

Bujuku Hut (3,930 m)

Bujuku Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

Bujuku Hut was fully renovated in 2009 and the new wooden cottage is now standing next to the old tin building. The location is superb, as it is found where the routes proceed to the Congolese side of the park, to Mount Stanley (from the south) and to Mount Speke (from the north).

The name is after the Bujuku Lake, which is just near the hut. There are also eco-toilets available and spring water. From this location you have a spectacular view of the Mount Baker just in front of you, and the Stanley Plateau on the right. You plan from this hut your ascent to Mount Speke as well as to Mount Stanley.

Elena Hut (4,563 m)

Elena Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

This hut is the last point before climbing the Stanley plateau. It is located on a rocky area of Mount Stanley at an altitude of 4,563 m.

The hut is quite small and does not offer much comforts, considering the temperature and the location. It is used mainly as the staging post for ascending Mount Stanley. It overlooks directly Mount Baker and Mount Speke, though it is often submerged by the fog.

Kitandara Hut (3,979 m)

Kitandra Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

The hut is situated on the shores of the Lower Kitandara Hut, one of the most beautiful and romantic locations in the Rwenzori. It consists of a one room tin house.

From this point you have the best view of the Mount Luigi of Savoy. There is a pit latrine. This is the starting point for ascending Mount Baker and Mount Luigi of Savoy.

Guy Yeoman Hut (3,505 m)

Guy Yeoman Hut, Rwenzori, Uganda

The hut is situated along the Kabamba valley on the banks of the Mubuku river, surrounded by coniferous forests. The hut consists of a 2 room wooden hut with annex pit latrine. Near the hut there are the beautiful Kabamba waterfalls.

Kibale Forest Camp

Kibale Forest Camp, Uganda

Equator Snow Lodge

Equator Snow Lodge, Rwenzori, Uganda

Equator Snow Lodge is a most Welcoming up-market Mountain Lodge in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains of the Moon, a place that you will not soon forget, more than a lodge but an experience. The perfect place to spend a few days, even if you do not want to climb the Rwenzori Mountain.

Equator Snow Lodge is simply a experience of comfort in the Mountains of the Moon surrounded by the stunning views, the bubbling Mubuku River below you, the sounds of birds creating a symphony and harmony in the Mountains of the Moon Foothills.  There is nothing to compare to this perfect getaway lodge at the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

People who come here simply do not want to leave – after a long safari ride – there is nothing like the peace and serenity of Equator Snow Lodge and its cottages filled with genuine, natural comfort unlike any other lodge in Uganda.

Forest Cottages Kampala

Offering a restaurant, Forest Cottages is located in Kampala. Free WiFi access is available.

Each room here will provide you with a TV and satellite channels. Private bathroom also comes with a shower. You can enjoy garden view from the room.

At Forest Cottages you will find a 24-hour front desk, a garden and barbecue facilities. Other facilities offered at the property include meeting facilities, a shared lounge and luggage storage. The property offers free parking.

Rwenzori Trip Tips

The trekking of the Rwenzori Mountains is one of the most rewarding alpine experiences in the world, which requires good preparation and knowledge of what you should expect to find, as it is a unique trekking.

The Equipment

It is advisable to travel with your personal equipment for this trekking, which include the rucksack, trekking boots, sleeping bag and mat (though in the huts you will find mattresses).

The gumboots are particularly useful in the Rwenzori and they can be hired from the headquarters of the national park (it is advisable to book them in advance).

The Rwenzori can be very rainy; therefore it is crucial to carry the suitable clothes to protect you from the rain and from the water (waterproof trousers, poncho). For the ascent to the main peaks, it is recommended to have proper rigid crampons, rope and ice axe for the glaciers.

Preparing the Expedition

It is important to have the luggage well prepared which is to be carried during the trekking (you might decide to leave some items behind with us or at the hotel). As part of the service offered by the agent, some porters are included to carry luggage.

The regulations are that each trekker is entitled to have 25 kg including food, so that any extra kg will be considered extra luggage and should be paid for at an extra fee. Those who are climbing more than one peak and will spend extra days in the mountains are entitled to carry more luggage which is agreed upon.

We provide the food stuff and kitchen equipment during the trekking, based on standard guidelines, but in case there are some specific requirements, we will take them into consideration.

All the transportation from Entebbe Airport to Kampala and to the Rwenzori and back is based on private service of a 4×4 vehicle. It takes about seven/eight hours to reach the foothills of the Rwenzori along the Mubuku River at Ibanda.

Inclusions

Includes

  • Airport transfers
  • Transfer to Kasese
  • Hotel and lodge accommodation as per programme
  • The services of a driver-guide
  • All park and entry fees
  • Guiding, porters wages and food
  • Charcoal fee
  • The accommodation in basic mountain huts, heating fees, rescue fees, all meals whilst on the mountains
  • Whitewater rafting on the Nile
  • Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park
  • Park entrance fees, peak fees
  • Mountaineering guides, local guides and porters
  • The use of harnesses, ice axes, crampons and ropes

Excludes

  • Airline ticket
  • Beverages
  • Tips
  • Visas and personal expenses
  • Insurance

Book Confident

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