Mount Mufumbira Ranges
Have you ever visited Muhabura ranges in South Western Uganda? Do you know of any tourist attractions in this area? On this page, we will show you all you must know about mount Mufumbira ranges in Southwestern Uganda.
Mufumbira Ranges stand tall and dominate the horizon like islands in the cloud-shrouded sky. Everywhere you turn; your eyes cannot resist but look at them.
Formed as a result of volcanic activity, the mountains are a major attraction in the Kisoro District and a great influence on the way of life of the local people.
For the first-time traveler, however, the chilly breeze from these mountains is enough to confine you to your bed for days on end, and yet the locals go about their daily chores unbothered, as long as it does not rain.
According to the natives, these peaks are three of the six that make up the Virunga ranges which mark the southern limit of the Albertine rift valley, divided between Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo.
The Virunga ranges are home to more than half of the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas. It is 6:00 pm; I am seated on the porch of Golden Monkey Guesthouse, my home for the few days I will be in Kisoro. Sheeba Hanyurwa, the proprietor of the guesthouse, is giving me a crash course on how to survive in this cold part of the country.
Muhavura in Kifumbira, the local dialect, means guide. It is believed that if you are lost and happen to see Muhavura, it will help you get your bearings hence guiding you to your destination. On the other hand, Gahinga means a heap of stones. Locals say a superior being put the stones in one place to create land for the people to farm and Sabinyo, shaped like a molar tooth, is named after an old man’s tooth.
A story goes that a man who fled from his people with only one tooth left in his mouth took refuge on one of the hills. One day, lightning struck and he fell losing his only molar.
The molar is said to have created a dent on the hill, hence the name Sabinyo, owing to its shape. Sabinyo offers a breathtaking view of Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo. Standing on top of it, As Hanyurwa continued to tell me about the spectacular place, I started longing for extra clothing just to keep warm.
From my seat, I could see clouds moving as the skies darkened; mist descending, birds flying and hills adjacent to mountains with terraces that can be compared to a neatly patched quilt. The fusion of the terrain and the surrounding beauty captivated me.
Down one of the roads, I was privileged to see women with babies strapped on their backs, balancing baskets on their heads, while men transporting foodstuffs on the bicycles cycled home.
Following closely behind them were children returning home from school. Kisoro has two seasons — wet and dry.
July to September is considered the peak of the dry season and the rest of the year is wet. The weather favors the growing of Irish potatoes and beans. “Every three months, locals harvest Irish potatoes and sort them according to size. The small potatoes are kept as seeds for the next planting season, while the big ones find their way to the markets.
During the Irish potato harvesting season, some shops close, while others are turned into stores for Irish potatoes,” Hanyurwa says. A sack of Irish potatoes now costs sh80,000 in Kisoro, up from sh20,000 less than a year ago. This Irish potato region in southwestern Uganda is approximately 540km from Kampala city and about 80km from Kabale town. It was carved out of Rwanda in 1910 by the colonialists.
According to the Uganda Districts Information Handbook, 2022, Kisoro used to be part of the Kigezi District. In 1980, when South Kigezi was renamed Kabale District, Kisoro became a sub-district and also doubled as Bufumbira County. Covering 662 square kilometers, the mountainous sub-district has a population of over 386,681 people.
Although agriculture is carried out on a small scale due to limited land and the hilly terrain, the district ranks among the top food baskets in Uganda. Farmers sell some of their produce to middlemen who in turn sell them to consumers in urban areas.
The district is also famous as a tourist destination. It’s a treasured item, the park, is 14km from Kisoro town. You need a Four-Wheel-Drive to conquer the hilly terrain that takes you to the park. Along the way, you get to see farmers tending their terraced gardens, the numerous hills habituated by families in either tin roofs or grass-thatched houses, and children running up and down the rugged terrain.
But as you draw closer to the park, you soon forget about the bad road as the refreshing cool breeze from the evergreen forest blows in your direction as though to welcome you. The sound of River Ntebeko as it flows can best be described as hypnotizing. Philip Sebagenzi, the manager of Amajembere Iwacu Community camp, says Ntebeko originates from Mount Mgahinga. From its source, it flows 50km downhill and spreads into small channels that supply the community with water.
If you visit the park intending to stay for just a day, then think again. Though gorilla trekking is the park’s most popular activity, a day’s visit is not enough for one to enjoy all the allures of the park. However, like trekking, they come at a fee. From forest walks that can last eight hours, if you went up Mt. Muhavura and back, to enjoying the view on community walks and reading about the way of life of gorillas, the 12 hours in a day are certainly not enough.
By interacting with community guides, you will learn how to differentiate one gorilla from the other. “Through the palm, nose, and fingerprints, one can identify a gorilla. And it is by looking at them that they give them names like Mark, Beijing, and Nshuti,” he says.
The Guide adds that when a silverback (adult male gorilla) thumps its chest, the sound can be heard 500m away. This is one of the ways it demonstrates its strength. Kisoro has two market days that feed its population with items ranging from fresh food to clothing. On Monday or Thursday, residents will be seen flocking to the designated market area.
Some traders get to these markets aboard Fuso trucks, dangerously packed like merchandise. As these trucks navigate the hilly terrain, outsiders can only at best hold their breath, because the whole experience is scary.
The main market, which is now located in the town, used to be situated in the Uganda-DR Congo. However, it was relocated owing to the tense political situation in the 1990s which culminated in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the subsequent unrest in DR Congo, which led to the overthrow of the Mobutu Sese Seko regime. Nevertheless, the market still attracts traders from Rwanda and DR Congo.