With the Gorilla tracking adventure at the forefront of any safari to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park; there is something for you – the intrepid traveler who wants to try out something new and out of the ordinary. The good news is you can hike to Uganda’s most hard-to-reach mountain peaks.
A hike to top of Mountain Sabyinyo is an adventure of its own. Sabyinyo is one of the original eight Virunga volcanoes and particularly one of the three mountains that inhabit the Mgahinga region in Uganda. Visit this region and experience the scenic beauty from the elevations in Mgahinga National park. This hike brings you to a point where the three countries meet at an elevation of 3669m above sea level. Hiking to Mount sabyinyo is “cool” and better to start early morning. It is not relatively an easy climb but not too hard though; suitable for almost every physically fit person including the children.
3 Days Sabyinyo Hiking Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Transfer to Mount Sabyinyo in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Leave Kigali in reasonable time, and head to the very South Western tip of Uganda, about 4 – 4.5 hours’ drive from Rwanda’s capital – Kigali. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is not only famous for its huge black apes: it also offers outstanding extinct volcanoes. Situated at the very North of the Virunga massif, the Park hosts three towering volcanoes which can be climbed: the highest Mt. Muhabura (4,127 m), Mt. Sabyinyo (3,669 m) and Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m).
Mount Sabyinyo, loosely translated as “the old man’s teeth” in Kinyarwanda / Kifumbira, derives the name from its distinctive, multi-peaked outline. Pass through Rwanda’s northern region and enter Uganda through Cyanika / Kisoro border. Check in at your lodge for relaxation, supper and slumber awaiting the next day’s adventure.
Day 2: Hike to top of Mount Sabyinyo
Wake up as early as 7:00am, take breakfast and head to the starting point for pre-hike briefing. The guide will give you some important information about the hike, what to expect and general preparations for this day long adventure. Mount Sabyinyo’s hike passes through 3 of the volcano’s 5 peaks, the last one culminating at 3669 meters above sea level. Rain can be expected at any time, so the path becomes muddy and at some points slippery. Take a bamboo/walking stick with you to provide extra support (soon to become your best pal, especially when it rains) and the trek leaves at around 8.00 am.
The slope up is first very gentle, almost flat, but very muddy– proper hiking boots (or even gumboots, for rent at the base camp) are highly recommended. Bushy areas succeed to grassy patches, the air is fresh and full of flowery scents. Soon, you will make a first stop and contemplate today’s menu. In the distance, the old man is smiling at you, his teeth bare: signaling that the adventure has just commenced.
Continue climbing, and after about one hour, you penetrate into a primary forest, and the trail leads you through bamboos. As you reach the mountain base, after about 2 hours or more of trekking, bamboos are replaced by sinuous, high, ghostly trees. Pale green lichen covers the branches. It is at this point that a Rwenzori Turaco, endemic to the region can be sighted. Spot it as it flies away, portraying its magnificent rainbow wings.
The ascent soon becomes somewhat strenuous, but the effort is rewarded by the stunning view between the trees: strings of fog run along the bright green, steep volcano flanks, and soon you reach Sabyinyo’s first peak at 3423 m. peculiar, giant phallic plants (lobelia) are dominant at this altitude. When the weather is clear, you can be able to see Congolese towns ahead, and to the left, houses, trees, farms and fields sketch lines and squares; typical of Rwanda’s settlement patterns. On the right, you see Uganda, green and wild as far as the eye can see. The ascent continues, until you reach the next peak at 3537 m after 45 minutes.
The hike remains steep nonetheless, rugged and vertiginous, broken up by muddy trails and branch ladders. The altitude intensifies the effort. Finally, you realize that you’ve make it to the top. Enjoy your packed lunch and some sun rays at 3668m. It is hard to fully realize that you are in three East African countries at the same time. Admire the beauty of tiny tidy fields and farms in Rwanda and the local towns of D. R. Congo in a distance. Embark on a descent downhill and at around 7.30 pm you are back at the lodge, proud and weary. This unforgiving though rewarding hike will stay in your memories forever.
Day 3: Transfer back to Kigali
Have a morning breakfast at leisure, after which you depart the home Mgahinga national park for Kigali through the scenic return journey via Kisoro and Musanze districts in Uganda and Rwanda respectively. While on your return journey, do not miss a stop-over at various plantations and vantage points to capture a picture or two. Arrive in Kampala is in the early hours of evening, and the tour ends with a drop off at your preferred hotel or at Kigali Airport.
End of tour.