KAMPALA - The USAID-funded STAR program, short for Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift, has handed over their arguably last project component to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), when the new Rwenzori Mountains National Park visitor center was formally launched earlier today.
Built adjoining to the latest lodge addition to the Ugandan safari circuit, Equator Snows by GeoLodges Africa – which also owns and operates the Nile Safari Lodge, the Jacana Safari Lodge, and the award-winning RainForest Lodge in Mabira Forest – the new visitor center will offer comprehensive information to visitors to the park, as well as facilities like a small restaurant, briefing rooms where the guides can meet hikers and pass on important information, and a small shop offering local crafts in support of nearby communities.
The Mountains of the Moon, as the range along the common border between Uganda and the Congo DR is known, have for long attracted the attention of the global mountaineering community, and a new trail network baptized as the Mahoma Trail, also prepared by the USAID STAR project in conjunction with the US Forest Service, will go a long way to opening up the park to hikers, not just climbers, in an effort to increase overall visitor numbers.
The new 28-kilometer long trail offer hikes between 1 and 3 days and has opened new territory for visitors on the lower slopes of the mountain range, previously not accessible but for the most hardened hikers. The new loop reaches Lake Mahoma where it joins the existing “Central Circuit” from where hikers can return to the visitor center.
Established in 1991 as a protected area, the Rwenzori Mountain National Park was recognized by UNESCO in 1994 as a World Heritage Site and in 2008 given Ramsar site status, affording it additional resources and attention.