Are you an adventurous tourist willing to go off-the-beaten track to hike some of Uganda’s mountains? You might have hiked other mountains across the World but if you haven’t tried the ones in Uganda, then you haven’t lived. With the many mountains and Volcanoes, Uganda offers outstanding and unforgettable mountaineering experience.
Many tourists know Uganda for only gorilla trekking game drives and chimpanzee tracking and relate mountaineering to other places such as Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa but the activity can also be enjoyed in Uganda where mountains such as Elgon, the Rwenzori Mountains, Sipi and the Virunga Volcanoes can be explored during a safari. Some of the mountains are easier to hike while others are challenging, requiring some level of fitness.
The Rwenzori Mountains
Christened the Mountains of the Moon, the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains are the highest in Uganda and third highest in the whole World (standing at 5109 meters above sea level. Lying on the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo border, the Mountains are specifically found in Kasese district and hiking to the summit is a long and physically demanding hike lasting at least 8 days to each the highest peak-Margherita that stands at an altitude of 5109 meters above sea level. The snow-capped peaks of this Mountain always melt into several rivers such as Mubuku and Nyamwamba that flow to the lowland areas. The trails require varying level of physical fitness but the central circuit is the longest lasting at least 8 days, the Mahoma loop lasts 3 days while the shortest and easiest being Kilembe trail lasting only one day to complete.
The Sipi Falls
Comprising of three breathtaking waterfalls, the Sipi Falls are found at the foothills of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, specifically in Kapchorwa district bordering Uganda and Kenya, and due to their beautiful scenery, they are worth hiking during a safari in Uganda. These waterfalls originate from the peak of Mount Elgon. These waterfalls fall for about 85 meters over the cliff before proceeding with its course over small rocks to from rapids while the second one is formed after the first waterfalls plunges for only 65 meters over a steep cliff forming a natural shower which is however not as magnificent as the first one. Tourists hike to the top of the falls and enjoy the phenomenal views of the surrounding villages as well as wildlife species within the Mount Elgon National Park.
Mount Elgon is one of the best hiking spots not only in eastern Uganda but the entire country. Nestled on the Uganda-Kenya border, it offers one of the World-Class hiking experiences to its highest Peak (at 4321 meters above sea level), which is also the 4th highest in East Africa and 8th highest peak in the African continent. This Mountain used to have one of the highest peaks in Africa but due to erosion, it was reduced to the present Wagagai peak (the highest) with the World’s largest Caldera extending for 50 by 80 kilometers. Hiking to the peaks of this Mountain rewards tourists with the views of waterfalls, plunge pools as well as wildlife species including forest elephants and buffaloes among others.
The Virunga Mountains
Three of the eight Virunga Volcanoes have their borders in south-western Uganda within Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. These Volcanoes include Muhabura, which is the highest of the three standing at an elevation of 4127 meters above sea level and lasts about 5 hours to get the peak. Its Peak features a Crater Lake enclosed by a swamp but also rewards tourists with the breathtaking views of the other Volcanoes especially Bisoke and Karisimbi.
Sabinyo lies within three countries-Uganda. Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo but it is always hiked from the Uganda side due to the rugged terrains on the sides of the other two countries. Translated as old man’s teeth, the peaks of this mountain are spaced like an old man’s teeth and are mainly characterized by an alpine forest which is a haven to the endangered golden monkeys.
Mount Gahinga is the smallest of the three Volcanoes standing at 3474 meters (11,464 feet) above sea level and is characterized by a swampy caldera of 180 meters wide at its summit. Three things stand out about climbing this mountain and they include the magnificent swamp you will see at the top, the afro-montane with Bamboo vegetation which offer shelter to the endangered golden monkeys and is easier to hike (lasting 6-8 hours) and of moderate difficulty.
If you are planning to climb any of the mentioned mountains, you are required to carry strong hiking boots, long trousers, long sleeved shirts, enough drinking water, a backpack, snacks or packed lunch, a hat, gardening gloves, rain jacket, a sweater, walking stick, sleeping bags (when hiking Rwenzori Mountains) and sunglasses among others.
Therefore, on top of the wildlife species that Uganda is known for, it’s also a wonderful mountaineering destination with Mount Elgon, Rwenzori Mountains, Sipi Falls and the Virunga Volcanoes offering unforgettable hiking experiences.