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The 3 volcanoes (Gahinga, Sabinyo and Muhabura) in Mgahinga Gorillas Park can be hiked in a day though lying at varying altitudes. Gahinga is the smallest of the three lying in between at an elevation of 3474m above sea level with Muhabura and Sabinyo at 4127m and 3645m, respectively. They are all dormant and are part of the Virunga chain of mountains spanning from Congo via Uganda up to Rwanda. Mount Gahinga is shared with Rwanda and Uganda and can be hiked from both countries. In Uganda, it is situated in Mount Mgahinga Gorillas Park and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The dominant tribes around Mgahinga Park are Banyarwanda and Bafumbira with great similarities in their local dialect. To them, Gahinga is ‘a pile of stones’. You will see many of these stone piles in the farm lands as you approach the park or even as you walk to the trek starting point. The mountain and the park were named after these stone piles in the area – Gahinga Volcano, Mgahinga Gorillas National Park. The trek to its summit is quite easy and takes about 6 hours, round trip. It is not as long and steep as Sabinyo or Muhavura. Minimal elevation is realised during the hike and so highly recommended to those with great fear for heights. Great scenery, different vegetation types, volcanic caves and other wildlife in the park; buffaloes, elephants, Chameleons, birds and a lot more are encountered during the Gahinga hike. Incredible views from the summit await an enthusiast hiker. You will have a closer view of Muhavura and Sabinyo and distant views of the other Virunga ranges plus Rwenzori Mountains. A shallow crater lake fit to be called a swamp with plants like Alchemillia, Lobelia and Senecio dominate the Gahinga Volcano Summit. Gahinga summit is not as cold as Muhabura and Sabinyo.
Climbing Mount Gahinga Volcano – Hiking Gahinga Volcano
Report early morning at Mgahinga Park offices at Ntebko to register for the hike. There is a general briefing at 7.am that is to prepare and mentally tune you up for hiking. A walking stick is another great companion in any hiking adventure and one will be provided (free) to you. However, it will be up to you to hire o porter or not though you are highly encouraged to go with one. In the company of armed park ranger guides, you will get moving with an ambition of conquering the Gahinga summit. At the base of the mountain, your start is on a generally flat land. Steepness of the hike sets in after the bamboo forest, one of the different vegetation types you will encounter as you ascend to the summit.
The beauty of taking up any hiking tour in Mgahinga Gorillas National Park is the prospect of tracking down different animals with in the park. You are in a jungle that Chameleons, buffaloes, duikers, Golden monkeys, birds, Mountain Gorillas, giant earth worms and a lot more, call home. It is not a surprise to come across any of those during the hike, especially in the first part of the ascent. If you don’t come face to face with any as you ascend or descend the volcano, the littered dung in the track you are trailing is another proof of their presence in the park. With the armed park staff, you are safe incase of an encounter with the aggressive buffaloes. Volcanic caves full of bats should be added on the list of the many features you are to encounter along the way.
Handmade ladders at some points will ease your ascent and descent from the summit. On a clear day, the astonishing views of the Muhabura and Sabinyo Volcanoes give an excellent optical therapy to the hikers. They appear so beautiful and tempting to the hikers. They actually spark the hiking excitement with in you – you just feel you should go for them after the Gahinga hike! On the other hand, they give morale and a great motivation to the hiker to reach Gahinga summit by all means insight of what awaits atop this volcano. At the summit, Muhavura and Sabinyo are now viewed at a very close range while the rest of the volcanoes in the Virunga Chain are at a distance. Another outstanding and unique feature at the top of Mount Gahinga is the large shallow crater swamp. It is alleged that this used to be a Crater Lake way back. It supports beautiful vegetation such as the lobelia, senecio and other plant species.
Mount Gahinga summit is not as cold as Muhabura. After some great time at the Gahinga summit, descend to the base.