VOLCANO CLIMBING IN MGAHINGA
Stretching in south-western Uganda, and bordering Rwanda as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is so far the country’s greatest and most popular Volcano climbing destination. The adventurous climbers in this Park are guaranteed of relishing limitless variety of challenges-from the 6-hour Mount Gahinga climb where a swamp as well as giant lobelia are spotted, the 14-kilometer long mount Sabyinyo climbing adventure with a chance of standing in three countries at the same time to climbing until the 4127-meter high peak of Muhabura Volcano. However, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is not just a Volcano climber’s playground but a fantastic ecosystem of Afro-montane, Bamboo forest, tree heathers, montane woodland and forests that protects a plethora of wildlife, birds and other creatures of great importance.
While travellers are drawn to the mountain gorillas, volcano climbing is equally rewarding because it also offers sights and sounds of other Park’s outstanding features. The Volcano climbing adventures begin from Ntebeko Visitor Center with meeting and briefing from experienced Uganda Wildlife Authority Ranger Guides. The three frequently-climbed Volcanoes are the 3474-meter high Mount Gahinga, the 3669-meter tall Mount Sabyinyo as well as the 4127-meter high Mount Muhabura, that are all part of the Virunga massif sprawling Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo with a total of 8 Volcanoes.
Mount Gahinga Climbing
In about 6 hours for a round trip, travellers can climb to the highest peaks (3474 meters above sea level) of Mount Gahinga to see the lobelia dominated and swamp-filled Crater. The beauty about climbing this spectacular Volcano is the greater chances of encountering golden monkeys along the way (especially within the dense bamboo forest).
The Mount Gahinga Trail begins from the recently recovered farmland and closes at the boundary of the virgin forest. However, expect a steep climb in some places, yet comfortable even in the wet months. Lookout for the beautiful sceneries as well as special features that include the giant bamboo trees scattered around the trail in addition to large elephant footprints that pass through the trail and sink deep in the loose soil and lots of birds species thus making it an ideal volcano climbing option for birders.
Mount Sabyinyo Climbing
Towering at 3669 meters above sea level, Sabyinyo is another Volcano worth climbing in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. It requires a total of 8 hours to reach its peak while the round trip extends for 14 kilometers long. The climbing adventure involves following the trail along the steep cliffs until reaching the peak.
The long hike involves crossing mountain streams that meander through the exact thick forest blanketed by mostly montane-type of vegetation until reaching the gorge and on a clear day, relish the views of Mount Sabyinyo’s rugged summits in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. Climbing mount Sabyinyo is relatively difficult but what makes it more rewarding is the fact that visitors get the chance to see small antelopes such as bushbucks and duikers, Golden monkeys and giant forest hogs in addition to Albertine Rift endemic birds like Rwenzori Turaco, Kivu ground thrush and grey-capped warblers among others around Rugezi swamp.
Climbing Mount Muhabura
Another Volcano that is unmissable in Uganda is Muhabura, standing at 4127 meters above sea level. It is undeniably the highest in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park but hiking it requires the same amount of time and energy applied to Mount Sabyinyo. Therefore, physical fitness is required for successful completion of this climbing adventure. On getting to the highest peak of this Volcano, visitors are treated to the jaw-dropping views of the neighboring Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Edward, the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and the verdant Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Volcano climbing fees for Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
For whatever volcano you choose to climb, the same amount will be charged and this guarantees entry as well as the actual adventure. Permits can be acquired on the actual climbing day or in advance, costing only $80 per person for the foreign non-resident visitors, $70 per person for the foreign resident visitors and about Shs. 50,000 per person for the East African community residents.
When to go for Volcano climbing in Mgahinga
The Virunga Volcanoes in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be climbed all year round but the dry season in December through early March and June through September is believed to be perfect for achieving maximum experiences. During these months, the skies are clearer thus offering phenomenal views in addition to the sunshine offering less strenuous climbing conditions. Nonetheless, weather is likely to change abruptly, regardless of time of year.
Most Volcano climbers avoid the wet season-late March through May and October through early December because the heavy downpours make climbing trails muddy and slippery, thus more challenging and dangerous.
Volcano climbing packing list
Comfortable hiking boots/shoes, waterproof climbing backpack, re-usable water bottle, rain jacket, warm and comfortable long hiking pants, cotton socks, long-sleeved shirts, safari hat, warm sweater, flashlight, camera, Altitude medication, pair of binoculars, gardening gloves, toiletries and first aid kit are essential for achieving a successful Volcano climbing safari in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Getting to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for Volcano climbing
There are presently two main options to get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The easiest option is flying from Entebbe International Airport/or Kajjansi Airstrip into Kisoro Airstrip and then drive an hour to this wonderful Volcano climbing destination.
Road is the cheaper option but visitors have to travel 300 miles in 8-9 hours between Kampala and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.