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The Rwenzoris, or the Mountains of the Moon, so named by the Hellenic astronomer Ptolemy, have a legendary beauty. They were explored and mapped out by Henry Morton Stanley, Emin Pasha and Prince Luigi Amedeo di Savoia.
At the centre of the range are six peaks capped with ice and snow and three glaciers. The mountains - about 120 km long - were forced up during the creation of the Great Rift Valley. The highest peak of Mount Stanley is Margherita, which rises to 5,109m, the third highest in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
The heavy rain makes the mountain flora luxuriant, growing to absurd proportions, with giant lobelia and groundsel shooting up to 10 metres. The wild flowers and birds are enchanting.
A hike through the lower reaches of the central Rwenzori needs about six days; ascent of the peaks is a technical climb and takes a further two days and requires climbers to be physically fit and equipped with ropes, crampons and appropriate mountaineering equipment. The best time to climb the mountain is from June through to August and from December to February. Climbing is organised by Rwenzori Mountaineering Services.
Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.
Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.