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).
Telephone: Ucota – +256 414 501 866
Felex Kemara +256 752 503 445
Email address: email@example.com