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Guide to Hiking Mount Sabyinyo – Prices, Permits, and Planning

Mount Sabyinyo, also known as Sabino, straddles the border of Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda.

The word Sabyinyo is derived from a local word meaning “Iryinyo,” which means “tooth,” as the summit of this mountain resembles worn-out teeth in a gum line.

Mount Sabyinyo boasts panoramic views of three countries at its summit.

However, the mountain can only be climbed from the Ugandan side at Mgahinga National Park, as the Rwandan and Congolese sides are very steep with sharp ridges.

See out Mount Sabyinyo hiking tours here.

Mount Sabyinyo stands at an elevation of 3,645 meters above sea level.

It requires tourists to be in good shape and physically fit to conquer.

The mountain is characterized by Hagenia Hypericum forest, lobelia bush, alpine meadows, and bamboo forests.

Other Virunga Mountains include Mount Bisoke, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, Mount Nyiragongo, Mount Mikeno and Mount Nyamuragira.

Mount Sabyinyo
The Mount Sabyinyo Volcano

History of Sabyinyo Mountain

Mgahinga National Park was established in 1991 to protect the endangered mountain gorillas.

Mount Sabyinyo is the oldest of all the Virunga massif volcanoes, dating from the early part of the Pleistocene Epoch, which began about 2,600,000 million years ago and lasted until 11,700 years ago.

Climbing Sabyinyo Mountain

Mount Sabyinyo can be climbed within one day, with 4 hours of hiking to the summit and 4 hours descending.

The time can also depend on the speed and fitness of a group.

Mount Sabyinyo can be accessed by road from Kampala within a 9-hour drive.

The shortest way is to fly into Rwanda and then travel by car to Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.

Tourists will also be required to carry heavy clothing, raincoats, socks, garden gloves, insect repellents, and sunscreens, among other things.

Mount Sabyinyo has got three peaks, and hiking starts after a briefing from Mgahinga National Park office.

Porters are also available and can be hired at $15-$25 dollars per person to help tourists carry their luggage.

The best time for hiking Mount Sabyinyo is in the dry season of December to February and June to September.

Though the mountain can be climbed during the rainy season, the rocks are slippery and muddy, and the weather is not favorable.

The cost of hiking Mount Sabyinyo is $85 per person, and this includes the ranger guide fee, excluding the fee paid to porters.

Entry fee

Mgahinga National Park doesn’t ask for an entry fee to hike Mount Sabyinyo and other related activities.

Tourists entering the park to hike Mount Sabyinyo pay $85 for foreign non-residents and foreign residents, while East African citizens pay 50,000 Ugandan shillings.

The entry fee is inclusive of the hiking permit.

For those interested in gorilla trekking at Mgahinga National Park, they are charged $700 per person per trekking for mountain gorillas and $100 per person for golden monkey trekking for foreign non-residents, while Ugandans and East African citizens pay 250,000 shillings for gorilla trekking and only 40,000 shillings for golden monkey trekking.

Hiking permit fees

Mount Sabyinyo

A permit for hiking Mount Sabyinyo costs $85 for foreign non-residents per person per hike, and East African citizens pay 50,000 Ugandan shillings per person.

The price for the hiking permit includes the park entry fee and ranger guide fee.

Permits can be obtained from the Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kisoro or Kampala, or you can use a trusted tour operator to help ease the whole process.

You can book your permit one or two days before the hike or even much earlier.

Hiking Mount Sabyinyo takes about 8 hours round trip, with 4 hours to the summit and 4 hours descending; therefore, it can be hiked in the same day.

Mount Sabyinyo can only be climbed from the Ugandan side of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park due to its rugged terrain with many craters with sharp ridges on the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ugandan side.

The climb on the Ugandan side is not so smooth, but man-made ladders have been provided to help the trekkers.

The climb starts with a briefing from the park headquarters very early in the morning.

You can get a walking stick and hire a porter at the headquarters at an affordable price.

As the hike starts, you go through bamboo zone vegetation from 2400-2800 meters, which is the habitat for the unique golden monkeys.

Hagenia herpericum vegetation starts from 2800 to over 3200 meters, which is the sub-alpine zone with few trees.

The top of Mount Sabyinyo is the meeting point of three countries: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.

The stunning views at the top are worth the climb.

Tourists planning to hike Mount Sabyinyo must come along with waterproof hiking boots, garden gloves, binoculars, insect repellent, a walking stick, packed lunch, plenty of drinking water, snacks, warm long-sleeved clothes, raincoats, and so much more.

Other Activities to do around Sabyinyo Mountain

Discounted Gorilla Permits in Rwanda

Golden Monkey Trekking

When hiking Mount Sabyinyo, tourists can also encounter golden monkey trekking.

The cost of trekking golden monkeys is $50 per person, and the number of people trekking is not limited like gorilla trekking.

Golden monkey habituation costs only $100 per person. Tracking these unique creatures can take only 3 hours, and the activity starts at the park’s headquarters at 7:30 am.

The estimated number of golden monkeys is said to be around 3000-4000 in Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.

Mountain Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla trekking is one of the most famous tourist activities in Africa.

This can only be done in Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks in Uganda, Virunga National Park in Congo, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

After or before hiking Mount Sabyinyo, tourists can trek the only habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park known as Nyakagezi gorilla family, which consists of 9 members: 4 silverbacks, 2 adults, 2 infants, and 1 juvenile.

Though the family is always on the move, rangers go ahead to find their exact location before tourists can trek.

Tourists are given one hour to observe mountain gorillas after finding them.

Bird Watching

Mgahinga National Park is home to over 115 species of birds. These can be spotted while hiking to the top of Mount Sabyinyo.

Some of the common birds to be seen are Whydah, speckled mousebirds, grey capped warbler, firefinch stonechat, Kivu ground thrush, olive pigeon, white naked raven, Ruwenzori Turaco, Ruwenzori nightjar, black kite, double collared sunbird, paradise flycatcher, blue-headed coucal, and Archers robin chat, to mention a few.

Visit Garama Caves

The enchanting Garama caves are found just 3 kilometers from Ntebeko, 340 meters along the plateau in the northern part of the park.

The cave used to be a sacred place of the Batwa people who used it as a council chamber.

Batwa Trail

The Batwa people, also known as the people of the forest, are an ancient people believed to have lived in these rain-forests for over 500,000 years.

They inhabited the forests of Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks before they were gazetted as national parks.

They depended on the forests for food, shelter, and medicine.

They have a lot of ancient stories about the forest as well as a very unique culture.

The walk through the trail is guided by a Batwa man and also includes a prayer being made before the journey starts.

Mount Sabyinyo Location

Mount Sabyinyo Location

Mount Sabyinyo is located in East Africa near the Albertine Rift in the Virunga Mountains, northeast of Lake Kivu, shared by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and west of Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda.

Unlike other Virunga volcanoes shared by two countries or found in one country, Mount Sabyinyo is shared by all three countries.

Therefore, in Uganda, it’s located in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, in Rwanda, it’s located in Volcanoes National Park, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s in Virunga National Park.

Mount Sabyinyo can be reached from Kampala within an 8-9 hour drive to Kisoro, then drive for 14 kilometers to the park.

There are also standard chartered flights from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip.

Best time to visit Sabyinyo Mountain

Uganda is a tropical country; therefore, the country experiences two rainy seasons and two dry seasons in a year.

Although Mount Sabyinyo can be visited all year round, the best time to visit is during the two dry seasons from June to August and December to February.

During this time, the trails are not slippery and muddy, and you can expect very beautiful views because the sky is clear.

Accommodation – Where to stay

Travellers Rest Hotel Kisoro - A Historical Haven in Uganda's Wilderness
Travellers Rest Hotel Kisoro – A Historical Haven in Uganda’s Wilderness

There is no accommodation at Mount Sabyinyo, but you can find a number of accommodation options at Mgahinga National Park or Kisoro town.

You can sleep in one of these hotels the day before or the day after trekking, and these include Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mucha Hotel, Travelers Rest Hotel, Amajambere Iwachu Community Camp, Kisoro Tourists Hotel, Mgahinga Rest Camp, Mutanda Lake Resort, and many others.

Mount Sabyinyo Climbing Video

Video Credit: Jonathan Benaiah

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