Mount Gahinga is popular for its easiest volcano hiking adventures. This stunning volcano is part of the Virunga mountain ranges and straddles along Uganda border with Rwanda. It is a dormant volcano lying between Muhabura and Sabinyo volcanoes and features as the smallest of the 3 Virunga volcanoes.
The name Gahinga is derived from Kinyarwanda dialect meaning ‘a small pile of stones’ and this magnificent volcano features a swampy caldera on its peak. Its caldera has a width of approximately 180m. Mt. Gahinga is 3474m tall and comprises of a beautiful afro-montane forest, bamboo that shelter mountain gorillas. But there are other numerous wildlife species and birds that make up the Mt. Gahinga eco-system including golden monkeys. Interestingly, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda’s smallest park derives its name from the scenic Mt. Gahinga.
Climbing Mount Gahinga
Mount Gahinga provides amazingly easier volcano hikes unlike Mount Muhabura or Mt. Sabinyo or Karisimbi volcano in Volcanoes National Park. But all in all, you should be physically well to make a complete 6 hours’ trek to the summits of Mt. Gahinga in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Permits for Gahinga volcano climbing are available at US Dollars 75 and no need for prior booking. Note; Gahinga volcano can be explored either in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda.
Treks to the top of Mt. Gahinga begin at 7:00am after briefing from the park official at Mgahinga park offices. After briefing, you will get a hiking stick and in case you need services of porters, they are also available for hire at affordable price. Your first stage of trekking to Mt. Gahinga takes you via a dense bamboo forest just at its base. This is the easiest stage and interestingly, there is opportunity to sight wildlife species such as buffaloes, primates.
As you continue ascending, you will get to many volcanic caves and other volcanic features occupied by bats. Gahinga volcano generally has a unique summit from that of Muhavura and Sabyinyo volcanoes. Once you arrive at the top, you will find an extensive shallow crater swamp with rare sub-alpine plants including lobelia, Alchemilla and senecio.
Accessing Mount Gahinga
Mount Gahinga is about 8-10 hours’ drive from Kampala capital city. It is found within Mgahinga, Southwestern Uganda and from Kigali, it is reachable via Katuna/Chanika border about 3-5 hours’ drive. Or you can take a flight starting from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airstrip Kampala up-to Kisoro/Kihihi airstrip. From Kigali, you can reach Volcanoes National Park within 2-3 hours’ drive.
Other things to do on Gahinga volcano climbing tour
Mountain gorilla trekking; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only park with one habituated gorilla family. Gorilla trekking remains the major wildlife experience tourists engage in while on Uganda safari in this protected area. Gorilla permits for Mgahinga are available at US Dollars 700 per person or go gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda at US Dollars 1500.
Golden monkey tracking; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is an exceptional park with both mountain gorillas and golden monkeys all sharing the same habitat. It is a beautiful park worth visiting for golden monkey tracking. An estimated population of 3500 golden monkeys all thrive within Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and permits are issued at US Dollars 100.
Birding; this is one of the safari highlights among tourists visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. It exposes enthusiastic birders to the park’s diverse bird species including regal sunbirds, speckled mouse birds, white necked raven, olive thrush, dusky turtle dove, Rwenzori batis and many others.
Cultural tour; a visit to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park isn’t complete without interacting with the Batwa pygmies. The Batwa are amazing people to interact with, sharing stories with and exploring more about their cultures, traditions among others.
The Batwa pygmies had over 500,000 years of their time in the forest-spent it as hunters and gatherers. The Batwa cultural experience should be a must-do while on safari in Mgahinga.