© Marianne Boye

Virunga Volcano Trek

7 Day Uganda Tour - Virunga Volcano Hiking Package

Hike hills and paddle in dugout canoes to experience the forest valleys, terraced hillsides and sparkling waters of the stunning Lake Bunyonyi. Then trek to what feels like ‘the top of the world’ and summit one of Uganda’s three extinct volcanoes either Mt. Muhavura, Mt. Gahinga or Mt. Sabyinyo to take on one of Uganda’s toughest physical challenges which yields spectacular rewards. This is how you discover the true nature, people and beauty of the southwestern highlands of Uganda!

From $1,000 PP

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- Summit one of Uganda's three Virunga Volcanoes.
- Track golden monkey troops.
- Paddle dugout canoes on Lake Bunyonyi.
- Trek through beautiful terraced hillsides.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 - Drive to Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda's southwestern highlands.
Day 2 - Paddle canoes to visit the islands of Lake Bunyonyi.
Day 3 - Trek through the ancient Echuya Forest.
Day 4 - Hike to the base of the Virunga Volcanoes.
Day 5 - Track golden monkeys on the slopes of a volcano.
Day 6 - Summit either Mt. Sabyinyo, Mt. Muhavura or Mt. Gahinga.
Day 7 - Make the return journey back to Kampala.
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Day 1 - The 'place of many little birds'

Depart early from Kampala (or Entebbe) to make the seven-hours drive to Lake Bunyonyi. It’s a long drive but you’ll be stopping off along the way at some great spots, so have your cameras ready. You’ll cross over the equator into the southern hemisphere before passing the edge of Lake Mburo NP. At around midday you’ll reach the Igongo Cultural Centre where you can have lunch in their gardens. After lunch you’ll continue south and start driving into the highlands of southwest Uganda to reach Lake Bunyonyi or “place of many little birds” by late afternoon. Your accommodation is on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi where you’ll have a couple of hours to relax, swim, hire canoes to paddle around the lake (*for an additional cost). Before dusk head up the hillside to enjoy a drink and dinner overlooking the many inlets, terraced hillsides and islands dotted around the lake and watch the sunset.

Some of Lake Bunyonyi's many islands. Image © Marcus Westberg, Gorilla Highlands
Canoeing on Lake Bunyonyi. Image © Georg Schaumberger, Gorilla Highlands

Day 2 - Island hopping

You’ll be met by your guides for your walking and canoeing tour at your camp and depart at 10am so you have plenty of time for a lazy breakfast with views across the lake. Accompanied by your guide, you will leave your camp and head down to the Kyabahinga Peninsula where you will meet a traditional healer who will share his secrets of tropical highland flora found around the lake and forests. Next visit the African Explorer Cultural Village to learn about the history and beliefs of the Bakiga people who live around the area of Lake Bunyonyi. You’ll then stop of for a postcard view of Lake Bunyonyi with almost all of its 29 islands before a tasty local lunch (beans, sweet and Irish potatoes, ground nuts and dodo - local spinach) courtesy of Mrs. Anna, a craft maker who will also show you the tricks of her trade. In the mid afternoon you’ll descend to the lakeshore and grab some paddles to take a dugout canoe ride to Habukomi Island (about 1 hours paddle) where you’ll be staying for the night at Tom’s Homestay and camping at the family compound on this remote island. You’ll have the remaining daylight hours to explore the island and be introduced to so traditional Enanga music before a local dinner enriched by crayfish freshly caught from the lake.

Day 3 - Echuya forest

Your breakfast will be served at Tom’s Homestay before you depart by dugout canoes to western shores of Lake Bunyonyi. It’s then a hike to the hilltop overlooking the Echuya Forest Reserve, arriving by midday. You’ll then be entering the forest with your guide, the Batwa leader Kanusu. It will take two hours to complete the Echuya nature trail including crossing the swamp (gum boots provided so don’t forget your socks!). Your guide will be able to identify the local flora, fauna and teach you about the local history and cultural of the area. Upon completing the nature walk you’ll be rewarded with specular views of the Virunga Volcanoes. After lunch you’ll be hiking downhill to reach the lake shore of Lake Kayumbu, arriving by 3pm. On your arrival at Lake Kayumbu you’ll be setting up camp on the lake shore in a church compound, with time to relax, explore and swim before the lay leaders family serves you a local dinner of beans, cabbage, matooke, dodo, sweet and Irish potatoes, and ground nut sauce.

Echuya Forest. Image © Marcus Westberg, Gorilla Highlands
Hiking through the hills to Kisoro town. Image © Georg Schaumberger, Gorilla Highlands

Day 4 - Lake Kayumbu

You’ll be having breakfast at Lake Kayumbu before you paddle across the lake to finish your final leg of the hike to the base of the Virunga Volcano range. Once you reach the other side of the lakes shore, you’ll continue on to reach Cyanika, the border crossing into Rwanda. The trek then continues on the Uganda side of the border following a trail along the edge of Mgahinga NP, passing through the shadow of all three of Uganda’s Virunga volcanoes. You’ll arrive at your camp by early afternoon with time to relax and enjoy views.

Day 5 - Golden monkey troops

Meet your Uganda Wildlife Authority guide for a briefing on the golden monkey tracking. An estimated 3000-4000 individuals live in the Virunga region of which between forty to sixty of them are habituated in Mgahinga Gorilla NP. You will hike through bamboo forest on the extinct volcano’s slopes to seek out these primates. Once you’ve found the monkeys, spend an hour watching these unique primates play, feed and swing from the trees before returning to your camp for lunch. Spend the afternoon relaxing at your camp and preparing for your hike up one of the three Virunga Volcanoes which you will start early tomorrow morning.

Golden monkey in Mgahinga National Park. Image © Rachel Landman
Mount Gahinga, one of the Virunga Volcanoes. Image © Marta Barbarini

Day 6 - Volcano Hiking: Mount Gahinga option

You’ll rise early for todays hike up Mt. Gahinga, which will typically take 6 hours depending on the fitness of the group and the time spent at the lush green summit. You’ll spend the first part of the hike in the bamboo zone before you start a steeper climb on the slopes of the volcano. You should reach the summit, with the clouds sweeping around you in time for a well-deserved picnic lunch. You’ll rest beside the luminous lush green swamps and moors where plants such as alchemillia, senecio and lobelia thrive. Amongst the many lava tubes you’ll find on Mt. Gahinga is the Garama Cave which your guides can take you to and explain the cultural significance amongst the Batwa people. If you wish to learn more about the Batwa, you can opt for an additional activity of meeting them (for an additional cost*) in the afternoon. The Batwa, hunter-gatherers formerly depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine and can demonstrate their hunting techniques, traditional dance and drums.

Day 6 - Volcano Hiking: Mount Sabyinyo option

You’ll rise early for todays hike up Mt. Sabyinyo, which will typically take 8 hours. Mt. Sabyinyo is a mountain gorilla habitat so your guides will keep their eyes peeled for them along the way. The chances of seeing them are low but anything is possible! Once you have trekked through the grasslands and bamboo zone, you will enter primary rainforest and the climb will become steeper as you reach the cloudy forests where you will take your first peek at the summit opening up ahead of you. Climbing the ladders will become worthwhile when you see the stark change in vegetation as you hike over moss, under old man’s beard and beside giant lobelia before reaching the summit. The summit of Mt. Sabyinyo marks the intersection of the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda so get your camera’s ready for that shot of yourself straddling three countries, on the top of an extinct volcano. It’s more than worth the effort!

Mount Sabyinyo Virunga Volcano range, Uganda. Image © Marianne Boye
Mount Muhavura in the Virunga Mountains. Image © Georg Schaumberger, Gorilla Highlands

Day 6 - Volcano Hiking: Mount Muhavura Option

You’ll rise early for todays hike up Mt. Muhavura, which will typically take 9 hours to complete. You’ll need to be quite fit to reach your destination! If you don’t reach the summit by 2pm then you’ll be required to turn around and start the descent to facilitate your return before dusk. Mt. Muhavura is likely the toughest climb but, weather permitting, it will reward you with panoramic vistas of the Uganda’s Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (think ‘Gorillas in the Mist’) and the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains when you reach the summit! Along the way you’ll find a sharp distinction in three types of vegetation: first you’ll meet cultivated forest, second into wild moss-covered trees, and finally a variety of old world low shrub that can only be created by black the volcanic rock. On reaching the summit you’ll enjoy a very well deserved picnic lunch beside a small yet beautifully preserved black and glassy crater-lake, 39m in diameter. Get your cameras poised for that gap in the clouds! You’ll descend slowly and carefully and reach the base of the volcano at around dusk.

Day 7 - Heading home

Today you’ll be making the long drive back to Kampala (or Entebbe) from Uganda’s southwestern highlands. You’ll be passing through Echuya Forest and driving north to Mbarara town for lunch en route before you then continue past Lake Mburo NP. Here there’s a good chance of spotting zebras by the roadside as we pass, between Mbarara and Masaka so keep your eyes open! It’s then north back over the equator and on to Kampala (or Entebbe) where you’ll be arriving by dusk.

Zebras at Lake Mburo National Park. Image by William Boase
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4×4 Supercustom

This tour is based on using a Supercustom. On safari in Uganda, you need vehicles that you can rely on, vehicles with as much comfort as we can provide to make your journey a happy one! The 4x4 Toyota Supercustom is a practical option for group safaris as they offer space, comfort and are reliable vehicles. Each vehicle can comfortably seat eight clients as well as a driver and an extra seat for when we hire additional guides and rangers. They perform well off-road and have pop-top roofs for that intimate experience with nature in the parks. As a conscientious business, we chose this vehicle, as it is kind to the environment; running on diesel with low consumption. This is therefore our standard touring vehicle.

Please note this tour is based on your being collected and dropped off in either Kampala or Entebbe. For other locations please contact us for a quote.

Upgrade Option – Landcruiser with pop top

Some clients simply prefer a Landcruiser on their safari! They are after all the conventional way to travel on safari. Like the Super Custom, they offer comfort and reliability. They offer more intimacy for small groups of two to four clients and are optimal for single travellers. With their pop-up roof hatches, they give you up-close and personal interactions with nature.

For price quote please see "Prices Tab". Please note prices are based per car hired and on pick up and drop in Kampala or Entebbe. For other locations please contact us.

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Foreign Uganda Residents Discount: -$20 Per Person

East African Citizens Discount: -$180 Per Person

Super Custom: Included

VW Kombi: +$230 Per Group

Land Cruiser Pop Top: +$420 Per Group

This Tour Includes

We use the following abbreviations our ‘Includes & Excludes’ section.
NP – National Park
NSC – Non Self Contained (communal toilets and showers)
SC – Self Contained (private toilet and shower)
UWA – Uganda Wildlife Authority

Full time use of a private vehicle (as per your itinerary)
A Full-Time Private Driver/Guide
Fuel for your entire journey (with an allowance for any necessary detours)
Accommodation (please view TripAdvisor links in itinerary for impartial ratings)
- 1 night at Bunyonyi Overland Resort (single or double / twin safari tent, NSC)
- 1 night at Camping on Habukomi Island (tent, NSC)
- 1 night at Camping on the shores of Lake Kayumbu (tent, NSC)
- 3 nights at Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp (Banda, NSC)
All Meals (as specified in the ‘Meal Plan’ above)
Bottled Drinking Water (1.5 liters per person, per day in your vehicle)
All Activities
- Canoe Hiking package (South Western Highlands)
- Golden monkey tracking (Mgahinga Gorilla NP)
- Virunga Volcano Hike (Mgahinga Gorilla NP)
Wildlife & Tracking Permits
- Golden monkey tracking (UWA)
Park & Vehicle Fees
- Mgahinga Gorilla NP x 2 days (Park Entry, Driver Entry, Vehicle Entry)
Specialist Guides and Rangers
- Traditional Healer (Gorilla Highlands)
- Canoe guides (Gorilla Highlands)
- Hiking guides (Gorilla Highlands)
- Craft maker (Mrs. Anna)
- Echuya Forest Reserve guide (Batwa Leader, Kanusu)
- Museum Guide (Gorilla Highlands, Gakondo)
- Golden monkey tracking guide (UWA)
- Volcano hike guide and ranger (UWA)
A $10 per person donation to the Uganda Conversation Foundation (see CSR Program)
Collection from and drop-off at your desired location (in Kampala or Entebbe)
Lodging & food for your guide/driver (same lodge premises as you, where possible)
A dedicated Tours Manager based in Kampala in daily contact with your Driver/Guide and on call, 24/7 in case of an emergency.

This Tour Excludes

Items marked ‘(*for an additional cost)’
Alcohol (unless provided as complimentary by the accommodation)
Laundry (unless provided as complimentary by the accommodation)
Souvenirs & items of a personal nature
Personal Insurance
International or Domestic Flights
Visas (refer to your embassy)
Gratuities/Tips Enquire about this Tour

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