Ruboni & Rwenzoris

I have been volunteering for 4 months at Ruboni community Camp mentioned in the ‘Where to Stay’ section of Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Chapter 9.

I have been involved with community-based organizations in Ethiopia and Uganda for some years and found your guidebooks to both countries invaluable, highly informative and above all, realistic and accurate! I’d therefore like to contribute some up to date information on the above location. I believe this community-based camp-site deserves patronage as much as the infamous RMS deserves boycotting!!

The Ruboni Conservation and Community Development Project (RCCDP) run a tourist camp 3km beyond the village of Nyakalingijo, almost at the Park gate. The site is green, cool, and peaceful overlooking the steep cultivated valley slopes and up to the magnificent mountain peaks.

There are 2 self-contained bandas (each sleeps 4), 2 furnished tents on their own hillside terrace and camping space. The whole site enjoys wonderful views including the restaurant terrace which serves tasty local and ‘mazungu’ food. Luggage can be stored whilst trekking. Hot running showers on request. Prices: Bandas – 25,000/;pppn, Tents – 15,000/:pppn, Camping – 3000/:pppn.

The income from the campsite really is used not only to pay local staff but also to fund various community projects; a tree nursery raising indigenous seedlings to plant back into the community owned forest which adjoins the National Park; sponsoring children from particularly poor families; training local guides to take visitors on a number of local walks (nature walk, village walk, hill walk, homestead experience) and training local craftswomen to produce craftwork which is sold in their own craft shop. There is a also a cultural group which will give dance and drumming performances on request. Walks and performances cost 15-20,000/:

On the topic of RMS, I can only endorse the generally critical comments you have clearly received from other travellers regarding the management, standards and value of services they provide. I have received repeated stories from ex-clients in my time at Ruboni concerning poorly trained and equipped guides and porters (often in extreme conditions) who are also inadequately fed and paid by these exploitative employers. The standard of facilities at the huts for both clients and staff remains woefully inadequate whilst process extracted from the unsuspecting, climb as high as the Rwenzoris – often vary widely, vary from client to client wildly but are always exorbitant!

In my time there, I found absolutely NO evidence of the claimed ‘20%’ of income being used to support community projects – in fact the reverse, there have been several instances of them exploiting community resources (land, water, labour), being intimidating and predatory in their business practices and generally being antagonistic to RCCDP community development aims. Since opening their new and expensive lodge at the Park gate (opposite the Community Camp) they have done their best to hi-jack camp clients, supply misinformation, pay off drivers to take clients to their own lodge etc.

I would encourage readers to boycott this organisation and thus join the growing pressure to have their monopolistic concession withdrawn by UWA. For this to happen however, requires the exposure of the true situation including the ‘pay-offs’ to encourage UWA t turn a blind eye to underhand practices.

It is vital that readers know that RMS actually have NO jurisdiction over entry into the Park or use of the trails – only use of their own huts. Therefore there is nothing to stop people hiring their won guides and porters, paying the Park entry fees direct to UWA and taking their own tents although RMS will do everything to try to keep this information from release. However, careful attention need to be paid to safety aspects of climbing the Rwenzoris ‘independently’.

The Ruboni Community Camp is affiliated to UCOTA (Ugandan Community Tourism Association).

Contacts: http://www.ugandatrip.org/ruboni
ucota@africaonline.co.ug

Telephone: Ucota – +256 414 501 866
Felex Kemara +256 752 503 445

Email address: rubonicamp@hotmail.com

Joanna Buffey

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3 thoughts on “Ruboni & Rwenzoris

  1. Deirdre says:

    I would just like to add that we stayed at the Ruboni Community Camp in April and it was one of the highlights of our visit to Uganda. We stayed in the campsite on the small private terrace cut out of the hilside with a breathtaking views of the Rwenzori montains. There are two tents with a private outdoor shower, toilet and bench and table. We relaxed and watched the sun go down over the mountains which was spectacular. The only comment I would make is that we made the assmption that as we had booked the terrace and it is a the end of a flight of steps cut out of the hillside it would be private but we were suprised to be ‘visited’ by a couple who had come up for the view and totally ignored us, which was quite difficult as it is a small area! During peak times it would be advisable to book ahead.

  2. Peter Cooke says:

    I climbed Mt. Margherita in September 2008 with RMS. I have the following comments to make in repsonse to the person who made the post on April 30 2009.
    The huts on the route have been rennovated, and whilst they are already tatty they are, given the wet and boggy nature of the mountains a lot better than camping (for all but the most hardy). It was a huge, and very expensive logistical effort to porter in the materials for the huts, some of them being 4/5 days round-trip from the park entry. Therfore, this must be reflected in the cost of RMS trips.
    The guides (2) for our team of 3 were very experienced, having climbed for many years in the area. They had been trained, most recently in 2006 during the centenary celebrations. They had a wealth of information to offer – albeit on prompting – about the area, and most notably the changes to the glacier over the last couple of decades.
    The equipment they had was old, but adequate, most of it having been left behind by previous climbers (i challenge anybody to find decent outdoor gear in East Africa, let alone Uganda).
    If you get there and have to hire gear (plastic boots etc) do not expect the most modern stuff. It is acceptable however.
    I question the ability of climbers passing through with limited time to hire porters, cooks and quides (most of whom will have been at some point trained through RMS) of a good enough standard and for significantly less money. It is possible, but will involve a lot of stress, negotiations and time. There will be i’m sure, many local people who will offer their services but who do not have the adequate clothing or experience. An unorganised system like this presents major safety issues to climbers.
    I agree that RMS’s new facility will take trade away from Ruboni community. However, Ruboni does not generally attract climbers due to poor external marketing. Most Ruboni tourists are either independant travellers passing through or people interested in community tourism. As such it could be argued that each org. caters to a different market.
    I thus would not urge anyone to ‘boycott’ RMS, as they themselves employ local people and services. But rather work with them to advise how they can improve their service and cooperate with Ruboni to maximise the profit from the limited numbers of tourists who visit this remote location.

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