Hiking Mount Gahinga
Hiking Mount Gahinga- Mountain Gahinga is part of the 8 Virunga volcanoes shared between two countries Uganda and Rwanda. The mountain is 3,474m and is shared by two national parks Mgahinga of Uganda and volcanoes of Rwanda. Mountain Gahinga is one of the easily hiked mountains in Virunga but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to come fit.
Hiking Mount Gahinga takes a total of 6 hours and this depends on the speed of hikers. Hiking also needs one to have a hiking permit which they can buy from the park headquarters even on the final day of hiking. Just like any other mountain, hiking Mountain Gahinga begins with a briefing at the park headquarters from the wardens
The briefing teaches the hikers the rules and regulations of the hiking activity as well as what to expect. After the briefing activity, the drivers do transfer the hikers to the starting point and they meet ranger guides who lead them through the hiking trails. In case of heavy luggage, someone can hire a porter at a fee to help you carry your items.
While hiking the mountain, the hikers do get opportunities to spot different park animals like buffaloes, elephants, duikers, giant forest hogs, monkeys, and different bird species. You will have stopovers at different points to rest, have some food, and take some photos. Reaching the summit takes you through different vegetation covers and these include montane forest, bamboo, and much more.
At the summit, you will have a stunning view of the large shallow carter swamp, distant views of the volcanoes (Muhabura and Sabyinyo), Rwenzori mountains, and the surrounding areas. You can take as many photos as you want and then start on your journey back to the starting point.
Other activities you can do after or before Mount Gahinga hike
Mountain gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking is an activity that hikers can engage while on a hiking safari on Mountain Gahinga. Mountain Gahinga is located on the borders of Uganda and Rwanda and is part of 2 national parks which are Mgahinga national park and volcanoes national park. Mgahinga national park has 1 mountain gorilla family while volcanoes national park has over 10 fully habituated families
If you want to hike Mountain Gahinga and trek mountain gorillas in any of the national park around it, you need to inform your local tour operator and they book for you a gorilla trekking permit. For Mgahinga national park the permits are $700 at Uganda Wildlife Authority and $1500 Rwanda Development Board.
On the day of gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park or volcanoes national park, you will start with a briefing at the park headquarters and later your driver-guide will transfer you to the starting points where you will meet the ranger guides to lead you into the jungle. As you are searching for mountain gorillas you will see most of the park’s wildlife and upon locating the apes you will be given 1 hour to be around them, watch them do daily activities, and take photos.
Golden monkey trekking
Golden monkey trekking can be done a day before or after hiking Mountain Gahinga and this can be done in Mgahinga national park in the southwestern part of Uganda or volcanoes national park in the northwestern part of Rwanda. To trek the endangered golden monkeys which happened to be in these two national parks only in the whole of East Africa you need to pay $60 for Mgahinga national park and $100 for volcanoes national park.
Just like mountain gorillas trekking, golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga or volcanoes national parks starts with trekkers waking up early in the morning and gathering at the park headquarters where the wardens do take them through the briefing. Later the trekkers are transferred to the starting points and it’s where they meet the ranger guides that do lead them through different hiking trails searching for these endangered apes.
As they search, they do encounter different park animals such as hyenas, gorillas, duikers, elephants, buffaloes, several monkey species, and different bird species. Once you meet the golden monkeys, you will be given 1 hour to be around them, watch them do daily activities, learn about their habits and take photos.
Hikers can be part of birding activities in Mgahinga national park or volcanoes national park before or after hiking Mountain Gahinga. There are several bird species that can be spotted in the thick vegetation in these two national parks. To have the best of birding, you will need to come along with a birding book and a pair of binoculars.
Mgahinga national park is a home to about 180 bird species Rwenzori turaco, Collared Apalis, Kivu ground thrush, red-faced woodland warbler, Stripe-breasted Tit, blue-headed coucal, pin-tailed whydah, archer’s robin-chat, Rwenzori nightjar, Red-throated Alethe, olive pigeon, yellow-crested Helmet Shrike, olive woodpecker, fire finch stonechat, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, grey capped warbler, Rwenzori batis, and black kite among others.
Volcanoes national park on the other hand is home to over 200 bird species of which 16 are endemic to the area so birding after or mountain Gahinga hiking would be the best way to encounter most of these. The birds include African goshawk, Ruwenzori batis, bronzy sunbird, African long-eared owl, grey-backed fiscal, lagden’s bush-shrike, Ruwenzori turaco, brown woodland warbler, Ruwenzori double-collared sunbird, archer’s robin-chat, dusky turtle dove, crested barbet, African green broadbill, palm nut vulture, strange weaver, and red chested sunbird to mention but a few.
Hikers coming to Mountain Gahinga can decide to be part of cultural visits around the park. For Mgahinga national park, the cultural visit takes you to Batwa pygmies who were the initial dwellers in this park and for volcanoes national park it’s the Ibyi’iwacu cultural village that you visit. Taking a cultural tour to any of these places gives you an opportunity to know about local people of which some are former poachers i.e., how the Batwa used to survive in the jungle, how they live their day to day life and get entertained through dance and drama to mention but a few.
What to pack for mount Gahinga hiking?
Some of the things you can pack for Mountain Gahinga hiking include a backpack, waterproof hiking shoes, a pair of gaiters, a camera and extra batteries, a pair of binoculars, long-sleeved clothes, a rain jacket, a hat, sunscreen, gardening gloves, insect repellents, drinking water bottle, energy-giving snacks, first aid kit, face mask, and sanitizer.
Where to stay on a hiking safari for Mount Gahinga
There are so many lodges in volcanoes national park and Mgahinga national park ranging from budget to mid-range to luxury options where tourists can have a comfortable stay while on a safari to hiking Mountain Gahinga.
For volcanoes national park they do include Bisate Lodge, One $ Only Gorilla’s Nest Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, and Amakoro Songa Lodge among others.
For Mgahinga national park they include Chameleon Hill Lodge, Mountain Gahinga Rest Camp, Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge, Amajambere I’wacu Camp, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Nkuringo Safari Lodge, Lake Chahafi Resort, Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Ikoro Hotel, and Mountain Gahinga Lodge to mention but a few.
What is the best time for hiking Mount Gahinga?
Tourists can hike mountain Gahinga at any time of the year but there are months that are better than the rest and these are the dry months. Uganda and Rwanda have the same climatic zone and the dry season does happen in June to September and December to February characterized by little rainfall or no rainfall which leaves the trekking trails less muddy and dry, the vegetation shirt for clear views of animals and the roads leading to the park impassable.
Hikers can still climb Mountain Gahinga in the rainy season of March to May and October to November but during these months, there is plenty of rainfall, the trekking trails are muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall and the roads leading to the park are impassable.