Climbing Mount Sabinyo
Mount Sabinyo is an extinct volcano found within the Virunga ranges. Other mountains within the Virunga ranges include Mount Karisimbi, Muhabura, Bisoke, Mikeno, Nyiragongo, Gahinga and Nyamuragira. Mount Sabinyo is separated from its closest neighbor Muhabura by a crater lake which is 20 meters in Diameter. In the local language, Sabinyo means “Old man’s tooth”. This is because its jagged summit looks like worn out teeth when compared to more leveled summits of neighboring mountains.
Mount Sabyinyo is 12,037 feet high with a summit that acts as a boundary/border for three countries – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mountain slopes are home to the endangered mountain gorillas and Climbing Mount Sabyinyo other animals like elephants, buffaloes and various forest antelopes. Mount Sabinyo offers one of the most challenging hikes among the Virunga Ranges of mountains. It has rugged slopes and craters on the sides which have created many ridges.
Hiking mount Sabinyo can only be done from Uganda at the moment because a route has not been created among the sharp ridges in the Congo and Rwanda side. There are plans by the government of Rwanda to curve a way out through the craters and ridges so that tourists can start the adventure from Rwanda.
Hiking Mount Sabinyo from the Uganda side
In Uganda, Mount Sabinyo is located in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Climbing Mount Sabyinyo is one of the best mountain climbing experiences in Uganda. Despite the sharp ridges and crater lakes before the last peak, the Uganda Wildlife Authority managed to solve the problem by building handmade ladders.
Before the hike, one needs to register at the park office, sign the guest book and clear any payments. Hiking Mount Sabinyo begins with briefing. The Guide and Rangers will let you know what to expect, the history of the mountain and what to carry along. If you don’t make it to the summit by 3pm, you are advised to descend back because it would be too late to complete the activity on time. All hikers are given a walking stick – take it like gold. Porters are available for hire for those who have heavy equipment such as cameras. You will be escorted by at least three locals. Apart from the official Guide, an armed ranger is always part of the team to scare away large mammals like elephants that graze on the slopes of the mountain.
After completing the briefing, you will start by being passing through a flat area with several swamps. You then start ascend to an area with a thick vegetation zones for the first 2390 to 2800 meters. This area consists of mainly bamboo and is a favorite habitat of golden monkeys. Apart from the monkeys, you may encounter mountain gorillas, elephants and buffaloes around this area. After the first zone, you will encounter sub-alpine kind of vegetation with fewer trees but home to the rare Rwenzori Turaco. The Rwenzori Turaco is a beautiful bird and a favorite of birders. It is only found within the Albertine rift region. By the time you complete this zone, you can already see the summit ahead.
The beauty about climbing to the summit of Mount Sabinyo is that you get to be in three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Congo) at the same time while having some of the best views you will ever have – weather permitting. From the summit you can see the beautiful Lake Kivu in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can also see Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda, the Rwenzori ranges of mountains in Uganda, over six mountains of the Virunga region and countless other features. Patches of human settlements can also be seen amidst beautiful green plantations and forests. Congo looks relatively deserted while Rwanda is more densely populated. Descending is easier but also challenging. You have to deal with the ladders again and need to do it with care especially if the weather was bad.
Important Information about Climbing Mount Sabyinyo
Permits for climbing Mount Sabinyo cost $85 per person. This includes Guide/Ranger fees and park entrance. Permits can be got from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kisoro or through your tour operator. You can book the hike a day or two before but it is always better to book in advance. The Uganda Wildlife Authority usually assigns a guide a day before the hike and therefore showing up on the day of the hike without prior booking is not recommended.
To reach Mgahinga National Park from Kampala, one needs to prepare for an 8 hours journey to Kisoro town and they drive for another 14 km to the park offices. A public bus can be got from the main bus park in Kampala. From Kisoro town, one can get a boda boda (Motorcycle Taxi) for about 20,000 Uganda Shillings or pay $35 dollars to be picked up by a vehicle from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices. Mgahinga National Park can also be accessed from Kigali in Rwanda for a much shorter journey by road. Those who find the road journey too long can book a chattered flight from Entebbe Airport in Uganda or Kajjansi to Kinigi in Bwindi and then find their way by road to Mgahinga.
The best time to hike mount Sabinyo is during the dry season. The rainy season can turn the trail into a mud-filled and slippery mess. Visibility may also be affected and the ladders may become dangerous.
Hiking Mount Sabinyo involves visiting three peaks. It is at peak three that you stand in three countries at a go. In-between the beaks are extensive ladders which where improvised to allow hikers navigate through difficult areas of the mountain.
Climbing to the top takes four hours while descending down is also four hours. As you climb to the top of the mountain, there are great chances of spotting several birds including the rare Rwenzori turaco.
The summit is very cold and it is important to travel with a warm jacket. Altitude sickness is also very real possibility while climbing mount Sabyinyo.
To reach the summit of mount Sabinyo, you would need to pass through several wooden ladders that have been nailed into the rocks. Climbing the ladders in steep sections of the mountain can be scary for first time hikers with a fear of heights but you can as just well divert your mind from the height by focusing on the summit and avoiding looking down frequently.
It rains a lot during certain times of the year and you need to have protection for your electrical gadgets like phones.
Unfortunately, clear visibility at the summit of mount Sabinyo may not be possible during certain months or days of the year because of the clouds (mist).
Packing List for climbing Mount Sabyinyo
Clothing: For the best possible hiking experience, you need to be dressed right. Move with a light rain coat, warm stockings and hand gloves for the cold summit. Ensure that the shirt and trousers are Long-sleeved shirt to keep off crawling insects.
Hiking boots: These should be sturdy with above average traction and grip.
Carry packed lunch or snack: This is important because the hike takes an entire day. You will get very hungry while hiking the mountain. You should also carry at least 2 liters of drinking water to contain the thirst.
A camera and binoculars: A good camera is important for taking great photos of the mountain and your time at the summit. A binocular is good for spotting the distant volcanoes and beautiful views. Porters are available for hire to carry any heavy equipment
First Aid Kit and Toiletries: If possible, carry a portable first aid kit in case of miner scratches or pains in the knee joints. Try to visit the toilet before embarking on the hike. Move with toilet paper in case of any emergencies.
Activities after Mount Sabinyo hike;
From the Uganda side, Mount Sabinyo is located in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This is the smallest national park in Uganda but that offers amazing activities to tourists. After climbing the mountain and getting enough rest, one can also choose to go for:
Hiking Mount Sabinyo Golden monkey trekking:
Just like the mountain itself, Golden monkeys are only found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These cute monkeys are endangered and a favorite of tourists and primate lovers. They are extremely playful with the African eagle and humans their only threat.
This is arguably the most popular activity in Mgahinga National Park. There is only one habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga, but one of the most interesting. The group has arguably more silverbacks than any in Uganda and beyond. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is also interesting because it offers more piracy considering that it is not as crowded with tourists as Bwindi Impenetrable forest.
Hiking Mount Sabinyo in Uganda Wildlife viewing:
As you climb up the mountain, you can be lucky enough to spot some of Africa’s famous mammals like buffaloes, elephants and antelopes. A more complete wildlife encounter can be arranged after the hike at the national park where you can also spot leopards, forest hogs, and smaller primates like baboons, Vervet and Colobus monkeys.
Mgahinga National Park iS home to over 300 species of birds. The most sought out species are the Ruwenzori Turaco, grey crowned cranes, Ruwenzori double collared sun bird and double toothed barbet.
Accommodation in Mgahinga National Park is easy to find. One can also stay in the Bwindi are and drive to the park early and in time for the briefing. Within Mgahinga National Park, budget travelers can choose to stay in the community owned campsite close to the park gate. Camping costs about $6 although dorms can be got at a reasonable price too. Food is prepared by staff at the camp at a good rate. You can also ask them to prepare for you packed lunch for about $3. For those who want more comfort, check out these more luxurious accommodation facilities.