Hiking The Virunga Volcanoes in Uganda
There are three Virunga Volcano mountains in Uganda namely; Mount Sabinyo, Muhabura and Gahinga. They are all found in the Southwestern district of Kisoro near the borders of Uganda and Rwanda. All the three of the volcanoes are a day’s hike and there is no accommodation on the summit. Hiking the Virunga Volcanoes in Uganda requires tourists to pay for hiking, and then will set off in the morning with your ranger guides, packed lunch, drinking water and porters. These hikes are not overcrowded like in other parks or hikes.
Mount Sabinyo seats on the border of 3 countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is one of the numerous rolling volcanoes which make up the Virunga ranges and stands at 3645m. While standing on top of Mount Sabinyo you are actually in the 3 countries of Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda at the same time (This only happens here)with the best view of all the Virunga ranges.
“Sabinyo” is a local term which means “old man’s teeth” in reference to the Mt. Sabinyo’s distinct summit with peaks which look like an old man’s spaced teeth. The terrain on the slopes of Mount Sabinyo is extremely rugged with many sharp ridges and craters thus making its hike a strenuous one. The hike is done in 1 day and takes about 8 hours (4 hours to the summit and 4 hours back) or more depending on the fitness, speed of the clients and the weather conditions. The only trail that leads you to the top of Mount Sabinyo is found in Uganda where they have managed to improvise handmade ladders for climbers on the very steep sections. Hiking activity sets off from the park office after meeting with and briefing by the ranger guide. Walking sticks are provided for free meanwhile the porters are available for hire. You go through vegetation ranges from the bamboo zone between 2400 – 2800m, this is also habitat for the Golden Monkeys which you are chanced at seeing. Other big wildlife in the park includes Buffaloes, Elephants and Mountain Gorillas but are rarely seen on the trail. Between 2800 – 3200m is a beautiful forest patch of Hagenia Hypericum, over 3200 is that Sub-alpine zone that has fewer trees. This is also territory of the famous Rwenzori Turaco, a stunning bird which is also endemic to the Albertine rift region. At the summit you hike to each of the three summits and get the chance to be at the meeting point of all the countries, and enjoy the best views of all!
Mount Muhabura Hike
Mount Muhabura also known as Muhavura is located in southwestern Uganda, Kisoro district and marks the border between Uganda and Rwanda. At a height of 4,127, mount Muhabura is the 3rd tallest peak in the Virungas. When at its peak a tourist can have clear views of other five peaks of the Virungas, a view of different lakes like Edward, George, Burera, Kidaho, Lake Bunyonyi and the blue roof of Nyagahinga, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Rwenzori ranges on the side of Uganda and a view of the major peaks in the Virungas. Mt Muhabura is also the most easterly volcano in the Virunga ranges. There is a crater lake near the summit and the vegetation is usually drier than in other areas of the Volcanoes National Park, with giant heather thriving on the volcano’s slopes.
The name Muhavura means sentinel in Kinyarwanda (the local dialect) and its typically shaped silhouette can be seen from many parts of the country. Hiking Mt. Muhabura also takes a full day getting to the top and coming back and the tourist needs to be physically fit. The hike is physically demanding, the slopes are very steep, muddy and slippery, the high altitudes and mist make it more draining. The mountain is also surrounded by small crater lakes, thick equatorial rain forests and rain can fall at anytime of the day.
Hiking starts very early in the morning at the foothills through the various trails uphill with a lot of sights and sounds from nature’s unique wildlife species. It also takes about 8-9 hours. For greater tourist experiences, tourists are advised to hike this mountain during the months of December, January, May, June and September with minimal amounts of rainfall.
It’s located in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park located in southwestern Uganda near the border with Rwanda. Gahinga means a pile of stones and you will find many piles of stones in the gardens and farms below Mount Gahinga that the people clear from their fields and put into piles at the edge of their fields. It is the lowest among the virungas standing at about 3,474m/11,464ft above sea level. It has 3 dormant volcanoes which can all be climbed. Its slopes are covered with dense bamboo rain forests that are homes to one of Uganda’s mountain gorilla family the Nyakagezi. The jungles of Gahinga also have many primates especially monkeys, black fronted duikers, serval cats, bush bucks, chameleons and many Albertine bird species. The hike lasts for about 6 hours depending on the physical abilities of the hikers. The trails to the summit are narrow and muddy with very dense vegetation thus making it also a tough hike. Some trails go through small streams. It is the easiest to climb because of its long stretches of bamboo forest thus making it friendly to go through, with less ladders to climb and short as compared to Sabinyo and Muhabura. On top you will be welcomed by a marshy crater surrounded by beautiful plants like the giant lobelias and giant groundsel.
In addition to the 3 hikes clients can combine hiking the Virunga Volcanoes in Uganda with Gorilla tours in Mgahinga National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Rwanda. Alternatively clients can go for golden monkeys tracking, Birding and the Batwa heritage experience.
What to bring when hiking the Virunga Volcanoes in Uganda
Rain gear( like rain coat, water proof pants), hiking shoes, stocking hat for warmth, Garden gloves for cold weather at the top, Long-sleeved shirt and trouser to protect from itchy plants, Lunch, snacks and drinking water, sweaters etc. You can hire a porter at a reasonable price to help you carry your back pack, or to carry you when things get tough. Walking sticks are provided free of charge.