Mt. Sabinyo is the oldest volcano of all Virunga massifs and its peaks can tell the time of erosion weathered its peaks resembling an old man’s teeth. It’s known for its triple experience of standing in all three countries from one point where borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo meet. However, its challenging climbs involve steep ladders at the end of the 14 km trail taking about 8 hours of round trip. To get on its top at 3,669 meters hikers need gloves to protect their hands as you maneuver over ragged ravines and deep gorges create beautiful scenery.
Climbing Mount Sabinyo
This dormant mountain is one of the volcanoes that form part of the Virunga massif that is comprised of 8 volcanoes and is homed in Mgahinga national park (South-western Uganda). Mount Sabinyo stands at 1,111 feet/3,645 meters and is lies within three National Parks that is Mgahinga National Park of Uganda, Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This volcano derived its name from its appearance- the three peaks of the mountain look like gapped teeth, hence was named “Sabinyo” to mean “old man’s teeth”. There is nothing awesome than knowing that you are standing in three countries at the same time, you can refer to it as a 360 degree experience. This is the feeling you get when you climb Mount Sabinyo up to the third peak. This is unlikely of the other Volcanoes in the Virunga Massif which share border with only two countries. When you visit Mgahinga, Volcanoes or Virunga National parks, do not miss this unforgettable experience. This fascinating volcano is difficult to climb from the Rwanda and DRC side, which explains the reason to why hiking is conducted from the Ugandan side from Mgahinga National Parl.
Hiking Mount sabinyo
The cost of hiking Mount Sabinyo is just $80 per person (includes the cost of the activity and guide fee but excludes the cost of hiring a porter). Much as the activity can be conducted anytime of the year, it is advisable and more interesting to do it in the dry season when the hiking condition are favorable (trails are not muddy and slippery).
Due to the rough nature of the landscape along the Sabinyo slopes, which is comprised of numerous craters with razor-edged ridges, this Volcano is impossible to be hiked from the other two countries (Rwanda and DRC) but is only conducted from Ugandan side where a safe trail through this difficult mountain was worked upon. This includes cobbling together handmade ladders to help hikers at very sharp/steep sections of the mountain. Unlike climbing mount Karisimbi that takes at least two days, Mount Sabinyo is like the other Volcanoes that only one day with the entire round trek taking 8 hours if all conditions remain constant (4 hours ascending and another 4 hours descending). This time however is not guaranteed because it depends on the weather, pace of hiking/climbing and the physical fitness of the hikers. If you haven’t reached the first peak by 1pm, it is advisable to descend because if tourists proceed, they are likely to reach the base at night which is not safe and against the park rules.
Just like most tourist activities, this activity starts by reporting to Ntebeko Visitor Center for briefing by 7am. Tourists are briefed about the formation of the mountain and the hiking guidelines. Tourists are accompanied by a tour guide and an armed ranger (to protect tourists from stray wild animals like buffaloes and elephants not because there is insecurity in the Park).
The hike involves traversing through different altitude with different vegetation zones that include 2400-2800 meters comprised of the Bamboo zone where the Golden monkeys are found and other wildlife like Mountain gorillas, elephants and buffaloes are rare or not found here. You will encounter the ravishing forest patch of Hagenia Hypericum within 2800 and 3200 meters, you will reach the Sub-alpine Zone with fewer trees when you reach areas over 3200 meters. The interesting feature you are likely to encounter in this zone is the incredible Rwenzori Turaco (bird specie endemic to the Albertine Rift) and when you reach the summit, you will be able to reach the visit all the three summits but the most interesting experience is going to the one (third summit) with the meeting point for all the three countries. The first summit ushers you to the Uganda-Rwanda border. It takes at least 30 minutes to hike from the second to the third summit. While on the summits, you will be able to enjoy the breathtaking views of the surrounding areas.
Before participating in this hike, there are hiking gears that you have to carry and there is a specific way to dress. This involves; Wearing long sleeved shirt and long trouser, wear hiking boots, carry a walking stick and is provided before you start the hike, carry a poncho because the possibility of it raining or not cannot be predicted but it is important to go prepared, wear garden gloves and carry a backpack for your packed lunch and drinking water. It is also important to hire a porter.
In conclusion, besides gorilla trekking that Mgahinga National Park is known for, tourists can also hike the mount Sabinyo. There is nothing mind-boggling as the feeling of standing within three countries at the same time. This is the feeling you get when you climb Mount Sabinyo up to its third summit.