Mount Sabyinyo is derived from the Kinyarwanda word “Iryinyo”, meaning “tooth”; it is an extinct volcano in eastern Africa in the Virunga Mountains. It is northeast of Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes, and west of Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda. The summit of the mountain, at 3,645 metres (11,959 ft), marks the intersection of the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. It also is within the adjoining national parks established by these countries: Virunga National Park in the DRC, the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
The slopes of Mt. Sabyinyo are a habitat for the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The mountain carries the local nickname “Old Man’s Teeth” because its serrated summit resembles worn teeth in a gum line (in contrast to the perfect conical summits of the adjacent mountains in this range).
Hike to Mount Sabyinyo
You shall always set out for the hike to Sabyinyo early in the morning. It is similar if you go to observe gorillas to the National Park. The driver will pick you up after the sixth in the morning in Kisoro (1 920 m asl) and will take you through agricultural landscape to the visitor centre Ntebeko (2 340 m asl). From here you can already see volcano Sabyinyo towering on the horizon.
Everything takes very long time (African style J) in the visitor centre – before they open, find a guide (compulsory is guide + security guard equipped with AK-47 (Kalashnikov) reportedly because of the wild animals), before you sign to the guestbook etc. So if you are just four, even so you will be accompanied by three-member escort.
The first part of the journey is probably the least entertaining – walk along the plain overgrown with shrubs and small trees, where villagers previously worked on the land before they were expelled after the establishment of the park. The local volcanic soil is fertile, so virtually everything except for the park is cultivated. You will then walk in bamboo forests before you come to lichen forest after two hours, which is already far more interesting.
During the ascent you will sometimes see two neighbouring volcanoes – Gahinga and the highest Muhabura through the “window” in the mountain lichen forest.
The ascent leads on steeper and muddier sections on wooden ladders of various sizes. To the right you will have more and more “parachute” view into the abyss of a former crater. The slopes of this ancient volcano are completely green, which looks quite picturesque.
The first proper outlook is from the top before it, where tourists end their trip to the mountain, if they have worse physical condition or bad luck for weather. From here you can already see the top itself and the most demanding part of the ascent in a steep slope leading on the wooden ladders most of the time. Here it is the perfect place to gather strength and admire the views.
From the top before Sabyinyo it is almost hourly ascent mainly on the ladders of varying quality. It is quite risky in bad weather.