Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered Golden Monkeys.As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivaled.
Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo, and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.
The park is home to one gorilla family called the Nyakagezi and it has 9 family members with striking 4 silverback gorillas.
This small national park protects the Ugandan portion of the Virungas, a chain of six extinct and three sporadically active volcanoes that follows the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mgahinga was proclaimed with the primary aim of providing sanctuary to the rare mountain gorillas, some 450 of which live in the Virungas, and gorilla trekking remains the most popular activity here, though it is dependent on the seasonal movements of the habituated groups.
Mgahinga supports a diverse forest and moorland fauna, notably the localized Golden monkey and at least 12 bird species endemic to the Albertine Rift, but also small populations of elephants, buffalo, leopard, and black-and-white colobus monkeys. The spectacular setting at the base of the volcanoes, the tallest of which reaches an elevation of 4,507m, is among the most stirring in East Africa.
Size of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is Uganda’s smallest national park covering an area of 34 square kilometers sitting right at the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the famous Virunga massif.
Location of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is located in extreme southwestern Uganda at the base of the volcanoes near Kisoro town which is the main tourist city for travelers heading into Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo
How to get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
A whole day of driving from Kampala to Kisoro is a magical experience you ought to enjoy. The scenic drive via Ankole tea plantations, cattle farms, local communities, and endless Kigezi hills is indeed magical. Both public and private transport services are available for you to choose from. Kigali Rwanda is the easiest way to travel to Mgahinga gorilla national park as you will enjoy a 5 hours scenic drive via Kigali connecting to Uganda via the Cyanika border in Kisoro district.
Book our scheduled gorilla flights from Entebbe to Kisoro airstrip saving you long hours of driving. Unlike the full day of driving from Kampala to Kisoro, the flight from Entebbe to Kisoro lasts for roughly an hour. After landing at Kisoro airfield, travelers are picked by traveler vehicles and driven to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The park is located a short distance from Kisoro town which makes it easy to connect. After trekking, travelers connect back to the airfield and fly back to Entebbe.
Things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Being small Mgahinga offers a wide range of activities that clients can enjoy while visiting the national park
Volcano Hiking or Mountain climbing
Volcanoes, a whole three volcanoes! They form part of the Virunga Ranges found in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Uganda. For each name given to these mountains is a literal translation: Sabinyo to mean Old man’s teeth, Gahinga to mean Pile of stones and Muhavura means a guide. Mount Muhavura is the highest of them all with the advantage of seeing the other Virunga Mountains from its peak. It can be seen from as far as Kisoro town and is justifiably called the guide gave how it leads one to the rest of the mountains in the ranges. Mount Sabinyo is a gateway to Rwanda and the DRC while in Uganda; at its peak, you are geographically standing in Rwanda, Uganda, and The DRC at the same time! The way to the summit of Sabinyo is filled with mushy vegetation whose uncomfortable impact can be reduced by dressing appropriately in waterproof hiking boots. Climbing up Mount Gahinga on the other hand requires a hike through a bamboo forest. All three of these mountains can be climbed in a day each up to their summits as long as you are in good physical shape.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to some of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas making gorilla trekking a must-do activity while at the park. The trek commences at about 8 am and lasts 2 to 4 hours, which duration is mostly dependent on the location of the gorillas or how far they moved in their search for food. There are a few guidelines to keep in mind before you go gorilla trekking which you will be acquainted with at the orientation but we picked a few to keep in mind before then. Gorillas can catch human diseases so if you have a cold or other infectious diseases, it is wise that you save the adventure for after your recovery. If you have to ease yourself while gorilla trekking, all waste must be buried 30cm deep. Flash photography should not be used and all trekkers should be at least 15 years of age. Only 8 people per trekking group are allowed. Depending on how far the gorillas moved, your reward for the trek may be a silverback out of the 5 in the one family of Gorillas found in the park. This ought to remind you that by trekking you have a chance to see the gorillas but it is not guaranteed that you will see them.
Golden Monkey Trekking
You can shoot two birds with one stone by using your gorilla trekking experience to simultaneously trek golden monkeys. These primates are small and fast which makes golden monkey trekking a rather active adventure. The activity takes about 4 hours per session during which you are allowed the opportunity to view, take photos of the primates before heading back to your lodge or camp. The habituated family of these monkeys is about 6 in number and they have due to the habituation process grew fond and less evasive of human presence in their sanctuary. The route you take to find the monkeys may be akin to that which they tread looking for young bamboo branches; a hike through the bamboo forest. Remember to carry your Camera to freeze your golden monkey adventure memories, binoculars for spontaneous birding, appropriate hiking gear like waterproof hiking boots, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and a rain poncho and you will be good to go.
Birding for Albertine Rift Endemics
The Dusky Turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Black-headed Waxbill, and Streaky Seedeater, Handsome Francolin, Kivu Ground Thrush, and Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, White Starred Robin, Greater Double collard Sunbird, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Shelly’s Dusky Crimson wing, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Olive Pigeon, and Black-headed waxbill, Western Green Tinkerbird, Malachite Sunbird, Cape Robin, White-starred Robin, Brown Woodland Warbler, Striped breasted Tit, Malachite and Scarlet-tufted Sunbirds, are some of the bird species found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which is said to have about 180 bird species. Birding in this park can be an all year round. You will enjoy a good list of the Albertine rift endemics in this area, especially on the gorge trail. Be ready to bird the whole day and therefore you should carry packed lunch.
Batwa Trail Experience
Before the area on which Mgahinga gorilla national park was set aside for the purpose of being a gorilla national park, the Batwa or African pygmies lived and thrived in these forests and mountains as hunter-gatherers. They were later displaced but some of them still live around the park to participate in the tourism industry as porters and guides. They are also entitled to a portion of the tourism proceeds and a tip for their guide services will be welcome. A Batwa trail experience is an activity that takes you through their history and transition over time. The Garama Cave, a very sacred piece of Batwa history is a good place to start. It is in this cave that they were able to hide from the Bantu invasion many years back. The ease with which they bustle through the forest and glide uphill is awe-striking and a reminder that east or west, home is best to the Batwa.
When to visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is open for gorilla trekking the whole year, but the best time is during the drier seasons from June to August and December to January. At this time the trails tend to be easier to navigate and spending a precious hour with the gorillas might be more pleasant when it isn’t raining
Where to stay in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park sits perfectly at the base of Mount Gahinga and there is only one option of luxury here which is MT Gahinga lodge which is just a few minutes from the starting point and Amajembere Iwacu small budge community camp can also be used but however, most clients would prefer staying at lake Mutanda and take the 1-hour drive to the park for activities or in Kisoro town.
THINGS TO DO
|Gorilla trekking experience|
|Golden monkey tracking|
|Batwa pygmy experience|
|Golden monkey experiential tourism|
How to get there
|How to get to Mgahinga gorilla national park|
|3 Days Mgahinga Gorilla trekking Experience|
|4 Fly-in Mgahinga gorilla safari|
|5 Days Mgahinga Gorilla and golden monkey safari|
WHEN TO GO
|Best time to visit Mgahinga gorilla national park|
WHERE TO STAY
|MT Gahinga Lodge|
|Lake chahaffi lodge|
|Travellers rest Kisoro|
|Lake Mulehe safari Lodge|