Climbing Mount Gahinga Adventure Experience
Mount Gahinga is one of eight volcanoes found in the Virunga Mountains, spread over three countries – Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The extinct volcano is 3474 m high and is located on the border of Uganda and Rwanda. In Uganda, the mountain is located in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Kisoro District. Mount Gahinga is located between Mount Muhavura and Mount Sabinyo. It is the smallest of the three volcanoes found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The name “Gahinga” in the local language means a small pile of stones around the mountain.
There is a 180 m wide caldera on the mountain. The slope is dominated by bamboo and subalpine vegetation. Bamboo is food for mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, and other primates.
How Difficult is Hiking Mount Gahinga?
Mount Gahinga is an easy hike compared to climbing Sabinyo or Muhavura. However, you need to be physically fit and mentally prepared to complete the journey. Depending on the determination and physical fitness of the hiker, the activity takes 6 hours. A hiking permit from the park office is required to qualify for the hike. Permits are available for $75 per hike day. No need to book in advance.
When to Go for Mount Gahinga Hiking?
The Mount Gahinga walk starts at 7:00 am with a briefing by the Park Ranger at the park headquarters. Rangers share information about the mountain, including its history and location in Virunga. Hikers will be briefed on the nature of the hike and how best to prepare. There are stops at different places on the mountain where hikers can rest, eat, take pictures and enjoy the beautiful scenery. After the briefing, everyone gets free trekking poles and those who want to use the porter can rent them. The first part of the trek consists of a walk through the lush bamboo forest at the base of the mountain. This part is relatively easy because the land is flat.
This is also where you are most likely to see golden monkeys, gorillas, and other primates. Buffaloes roam the slopes and can be dangerous for hikers. This is one of the reasons why armed rangers are always assigned to accompany hikers. Outside the bamboo forest, the mountain gets steeper until it reaches the top. As you reach the summit, you pass several bat-filled volcanic caves and other volcanic features on the slopes.
Is Mount Gahinga Different From Mount Sabinyo?
Because of its unique peak, Mount Gahinga is very different from Sabinyo and Muhavura. At the top of the hill is a huge shallow crater swamp with unique subalpine plants such as senile, lobelia, and alchemy.
From the summit, there is a magnificent view of the Virunga Mountains and other distant volcanoes in the Rwenzori region. You can see Mahavura and Sabinyo very close which will make you want to peak in the coming days as well. Shoot as many shots as you can with your team and shoot scenes. Descending is much easier than climbing, but care must be taken, especially when descending stairs, to avoid slipping or falling. You may find our article on Mount Kilimanjaro interesting.
Information About Hiking in the Mount Gahinga
- The distance from Kampala to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is approximately 483 kilometers. It takes 8 to 10 hours by paved road to reach Kisoro town. An alternative, shorter route is to arrive from Kigali, Rwanda, and cross into Uganda. It takes 3 hours from Queen Elizabeth National Park and 6 hours from Lake Mburo. To avoid long journeys, some trekkers may choose to take a charter flight from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airport to Kisoro, where they will then hire a car to travel to the park. In preparation for the next day’s hike, you’ll want to secure an overnight stay.
- When you climb to the top, the mountain becomes very cold. Altitude sickness is indeed a possibility when hiking Mount Gahinga. Take the necessary medicines with you in case of illness.
- For the most memorable experience, the Mount Gahinga trek should be combined with a gorilla trek and a visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park for a more complete safari. Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the best game reserves in Africa. Lions, leopards, antelopes, warthogs, hyenas, elephants, buffaloes, hippos, and others live in the park. There is no better place to spot African birds than Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
What to Do After Climbing Mount Gahinga
The lush forests at the foot of Mount Gahinga and other nearby volcanoes are home to around 180 species of birds. Twelve of them are unique to the park. Birds can be seen in the bamboo forest and the gorge between Mount Sabinyo and Mount Gahinga. The best time for bird watching in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is from April to May or from October to November. Look forward to Alpine Chat, Black Kite, Blue-headed Plover, Bronze Sunbird, Double-necked Sunbird, Dusky Tortoiseshell, Olive Dove, Olive Thrush, Olive Woodpecker, Paradise Flycatcher, Plover, Emperor Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Speckled Catbird. wandering herbivores and white-throated ravens.
This is the main activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Mgahinga has only one regular population of gorillas, but it is arguably the largest group of silverbacks in Uganda. Other smaller primates such as colobus monkeys and monkeys can be spotted while tracking gorillas. The gorilla trekking in Mgahinga starts at 8:00 am with a briefing at the park office in Ntebeko. Only eight people can track a family of gorillas a day, and tourists only have an hour to observe them up close. The cost of a gorilla license in Uganda is $700.
Golden Monkey Trekking After Mount Gahinga Hiking
Golden monkeys are some of the cutest primates you will ever see. They are considered an endangered species and are only found in the Virunga area (Volcanoes, Mgahinga, and Virunga National Parks). Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has the largest number of golden monkeys with over 3,500. Golden monkey tracking is very popular in Mgahinga, but visitors may choose to use Golden to acclimate to the experience. This experience allows visitors to study primates for over an hour under the guidance of highly experienced trackers (and sometimes researchers). Compared to mountain gorillas, golden monkeys do not move much and tend to spend the night in the same area. A Golden monkey license costs $100 and is available for a limited time.
Visiting the Batwa is undoubtedly the most interesting cultural experience in Uganda. The Batwa lived as gatherers and hunters in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for over 450,000 years before the government forcibly relocated them to protect the gorillas and other wildlife in the forest. Batwa pygmies have never fully adapted to life outside the park forest. Along with them, you will learn about their current struggles and life outside the forest. The Batwa experience in Mgahinga is different from the experience in Bwindi because you are guided by the Batwa themselves.
By participating in the Batwa Trail, you can contribute to the well-being of one of Africa’s most interesting indigenous tribes. So, get ready to be entertained by traditional dances, stories, and plays.
Nature walks in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are designed to bring visitors closer to nature. The trek features bamboo forests, birds, swamps like Rugeza, surrounding villages, and lakes like Mutanda. During these treks, you can expect to see forest life, wild vegetation, and local communities living on the edges of the forest. The view from Mgahinga is breathtaking, especially after the main rain stopped for a few weeks.
Note: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is less visited than Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This leaves the park relatively untouched. Visitors can explore the park privately.
Accommodation While Climbing Mount Gahinga
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has several lodges where people can choose to spend the night before or after climbing. These hotels offer budget, mid-range, and luxury services. The choice depends entirely on everyone’s interests and budget. Accommodations include Mucha Hotel Kisoro, Mount Gahinga-lodge, Virunga Hotel, Travelers Rest Camp, Kisoro Tourists Hotel, and Amajambere Iwachu Community Camp. Today we focus on Gahinga Hill Lodge. Gahinga Hill Lodge
Mount Gahinga Lodge is owned by Volcanoes Safaris. The house is perfect for those who are interested in trekking with the gorillas climbing Garching Mountain. It is strategically located near the entrance to the park. Mount Gahinga Lodge has 8 standard gangs (papyrus roofs and stone walls). Each Banda is named after one of the eight Virunga volcanoes. Some of the Bandar rooms have double beds and two single beds. All rooms have private balconies, free Wi-Fi, ample lighting, flush toilets, hot showers, closets, desks, and fireplaces. The views around the hotel are breathtaking and residents can admire the scenery from the specially designed terrace. Other important services and facilities include a small gift shop selling local souvenirs, massage rooms, beautiful gardens, and a swimming pool.