MOUNT SABYINYO EAST AFRICA
Mount Sabyinyo is an extinct volcano in the democratic republic of Congo in Eastern Africa in the Virunga mountains and is situated within three countries in the Virunga ranges that’s Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Mount Sabyinyo is derived from a Kinyarwanda word “Iryinyo”, meaning tooth.
Mount Sabyinyo is the oldest volcano of the ranges of Virunga mountains, It is north east of lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes and west of Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda. The summit of the mountain at 3,669 meters(12,037 ft), marks the intersection of the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. It is also within the adjoining national parks established by these countries, Virunga National Park in DRC, the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
The mountain slopes are home to the endangered mountain gorillas and other animals like elephants, buffaloes and various forest antelopes. The mountain offers one of the most challenging hikes among the Virunga ranges of the mountains, it has rugged slopes and craters on the sides which have created many ridges.
Hiking Mount Sabyinyo from uganda side
Hiking mount Sabyinyo can only be done from Uganda because the route has not been found in Rwanda and Congo 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.
In Uganda mount Sabyinyo 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 a handmade ladders.
Before the hike, one needs to register at the park office, sign the guest book and clear any payments. Hiking mount Sabyinyo begins with briefing. The guides with rangers will let you know what to expect, the history of the mountain and what to carry along the way. If you dnt 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 .
Hikers are given a walking stick -talk it like Gold. Porters are available for hire for those who have heavy equipment such as binoculars, cameras and more. You will be escorted by at least three locals. Apart from official guides, 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 passing through a flat area with several swamps. You then start ascending to an area with a thick vegetation zones for the first 2390 to 2800 meters. This area mainly consists of bamboo and is favorite habitat of golden monkeys. Apart form 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 in 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 Sabyinyo is that you get to be in three countries(Uganda, Rwanda and DRC) 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 DRC, 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 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.
Packing List For Climbing Mount Sabyinyo
Hiking Boots: These should be sturdy with above average traction and grip.
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 longing sleeved shirt to trousers are long sleeved to keep off crawling insects.
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.
First Aid Kit and Toiletries: If possible, carry a portable First Aid Kit incase of any scratches or pains in the knee joints. Try to visit the toilet before embarking on the hike and move with a toilet paper incase of emergencies.
Carry packed lunch and snacks: 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.
Activities After Mount Sabyinyo Hike
From Uganda side, Mount Sabyinyo 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 o go for;
Golden Monkey trekking: Golden monkeys are only found in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. These cute monkeys are endangered and favorite of tourists and primate lovers. They are extremely playful with the African eagle and humans their only threat.
Gorilla trekking: This is arguably 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 is also interesting in Mgahinga because it offers more piracy considering that it is not as crowded with tourists as Bwindi Impenetrable forest.
Wildlife viewing: as you climb up the mountain you can be lucky enough to spot some of Africa’s famous mammals like elephants, buffaloes, 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, smaller primates like baboons, vervet and colobus moneys.
Birdwatching: Mgahinga national park is home to over 300 bird species. The most sighted bird is the Rwenzori Turaco, grey crowned cranes, Rwenzori double collared sun bird and double toothed barbet.
Important Information About Climbing Mount Sabyinyo
Permits for climbing mount Sabyinyo costs $85 per person. this includes Guide/Ranger fee and park entrance. Permits can be got from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kisoro or through your tour operator. You can book a hike a day or two days 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 need to prepare for 8 hours journey to Kisoro town and then 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(motorcycles) for about 20,000 Ugandan shillings or pay $35 to be picked up by a vehicle from the Ugandan 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 Sabyinyo is during the dry seasons. The rainy seasons can turn the trail into a mud-filled and slippery mess. Visibility may also be affected and ladders may become dangerous.
Hiking mount Sabyinyo involves visiting three peaks. It is at peak three that you stand in three countries at a go. In between the breaks are extensive ladders which where improvised to allow hikers navigate through difficult areas of the mountain.
Climbing at 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 warm jacket. Altitude sickness is also very real possibility while climbing mount Sabyinyo.
To reach the summit of mount Sabyinyo, 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 minds from the heights 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 of your gadgets like phones and cameras.
Unfortunately, clear visibility t the summit of mount Sabyinyo may not be possible during certain months or days of the year because of the clouds(mist)