Besides the beauty of the lush green forest jungles and scenery, reptile enthusiasts have found a treasure in the Rwenzori Mountains. This is after realizing that these mountains are home to some of the most unique chameleon species.
The local culture
Interestingly, the local culture of the Bakonzo people is interwoven with the chameleon. This qualifies the Rwenzori Mountains as a special habitat for these gentle reptiles. Traditionally, if a Mukonzo woman kills a chameleon, it is believed that she will have complications giving birth leading to stillbirth. The same will happen to his wife if he is a man. It has to be disclosed during the challenging birth process. Then the child is called chameleon “Kanyalhungu” in the local language. For this reason, chameleons are treated as a no-touch animal. Majority of the local people, especially women are not even willing to touch these reptiles.
The guides will tell you more interesting stories about the chameleons and how they relate to the local people of Rwenzori. You will get chances to watch them over time to monitor the way they feed or move. This gives the opportunity to monitor their changing the colors to adapt to their environment. It is such a memorable moment when you get a reality of being in nature with these elusive creatures.
Spending a night at Ruboni community camp, all guests have a chance to go looking for chameleons during the local walks in the community. The community has created a 100-acre forest reserve in the border of Rwenzori mountains national park and this is a chameleon paradise. The skilled local guides have talented eyes that seem to be linked to chameleons. During the walk, the guide will point out to the various types of chameleons on the side bushes, flowering plants or high trees. They know the best weather and time to look for chameleons.
The village and forest walks
The community forest walks are better in the mornings and evenings. Each walk takes between 3-4 hours on a return trip. This makes it possible for the guests to branch off for a day walk to look for chameleons in these forests neighboring Rwenzori Mountains National Park, during a longer trip. On a lucky day, you can see up to seven types of chameleons on one journey. The Rwenzori alone is home to about seven species of chameleons. Some of these chameleons are endemics, meaning they can only be found in these mountains. The seven species include;
- Johnston’s three-horned chameleon,
- Strange horned chameleon,
- boulenger’s pygmy chameleon.
- Carpenter’s chameleon,
- Elliot’s Groove-throated Chameleon,
- Tolley’s forest Chameleon
- Montane side-striped chameleon and
Besides chameleons, the community forest is home to birds, butterflies, other reptiles such as snakes and lizards. On a lucky day, you may find when some primates including chimps that may have crossed from the national park to this community forest. Besides wildlife, the vines, tall trees, thick green jungles and waterfalls in the forest are a good blend with the melody from the forest birds and insects. Visiting here is such an opportunity. You may choose to sit in the middle of the jungle to meditate in the heart of nature.
Longer treks into Rwenzori
Visitors also find a visit to the Rwenzori Mountains, especially at Ruboni community camp, a memorable experience. The community has full arrangements to show them around this snowcapped mountain. Besides the natural heritage, this mountain has several international recognitions that are worth exploring. It is a world heritage site, a Ramsar site as well as the highest mountain range in Africa. It holds the third highest peak at 5019m after Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, respectively. Though this mountain is the third-highest, its level of challenge ranges to be the highest on the African continent. This makes Rwenzori a must go for every trekker who dreams of Africa.
On the same journey of looking for chameleons, those interested will have an opportunity to participate in the multiday (2-8 days) treks to the high peaks. The three days two nights Mahoma trail loop is the most popular as it requires no special equipment or climbing experience. Mahoma trail is a wilderness camping loop that takes guests by the shores of Lake Mahoma, to take one of the best moments scaling the lower mountains, south of the central circuit trail. The highest point of Mahoma trail is 3515m on the ridge between the first and second camps. Trekking distances between the camps on Mahoma trail over the three days of trekking are;
- From the gate to the first camp at called Omukakiza – 7.2 km
- First camp to the second camp on lake Mahoma – 6.6km
- Lake Mahoma to the park gate – 9.2km
The people and community activities
For those who don’t want to enter the park, the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains offer one of the best relaxing moments. You will enjoy the mountain scenery, the welcoming people, and exotic culture encounters. Sitting on the balcony of your accommodation, you will not regret the decision to break here for some time, during your safari in western Uganda. Many guests here like to grab to read their best book as they sip a cup of locally grown coffee while relaxing from the day’s excursions. For those who like to meet the people, you will find the Rwenzori’s to be one of your highlights. You will meet people and participate in their local way of life. The key stopovers include; coffee tours, homestays, visiting the schools, traditional dances, storytellers, the blacksmith, and traditional healers.
If you want to organize your trip to the Rwenzori mountains. Whether climbing the high peaks or visiting the community to look for chameleons, rainforest community tours can help you to arrange your trip. You can contact us now for preliminary plan and opportunities.