Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest national park in Uganda situated in Southwestern part of Uganda in Kisoro district, the park covers an area of 33.7 square kilometers dominated by 6 vegetation types that are Afro-montane, tree heathers, montane forest, bamboo, montane woodland, and former farmland.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park is part of the Virunga Conservation Area adjoining with Volcanoes national park of Rwanda and Virunga national park of Democratic Republic of Congo. Out of 8 Virunga volcanoes, the park is dominated by 3 Virunga volcanoes dotted along the border of Uganda, the volcanoes include
- Mount Muhabura (4,127m) – the highest volcano whose name is loosely translated as the guide in the Kinyarwanda language, the volcano was used as a reference to give direction due to being towered above every volcano.
- Mount Gahinga (3,474m) – is the smallest of the Virunga volcanoes whose name is derived from the piles of rocks which were cleared from farmlands. On top of the summit there is a swamp filled crater of about 180 meters wide.
- Mount Sabyinyo (3,669m) – this volcano is named Sabinyo due its deep gorges and ravines dissecting it, the name is translated as the old man’s teeth.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park gets its name Mount Gahinga.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park is the second home to the endangered mountain gorillas which are the major tourist attraction of the park, the park hosts about 80 mountain gorillas with only one habituated gorilla family called Nyakagyezi gorilla family which is trekked. This gorilla family is under the leadership of a dominant silverback Bugingo who is about 50 years old.
The park is also habitat the olive baboons and other 76 mammal species including bush pigs, South African porcupines, forest buffaloes, bushbucks, forest Elephants, golden cats among others. These animals are hard to spot due to the thick vegetation cover.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park is a great bird habitat with over 180 bird species including some of the Albertine Rift Endemics, these birds live in the montane habitats and they include Kivu Ground Thrush, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, White Starred Robin, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Archer’s Robin Chat, Olive Pigeon, and Black headed waxbill, Western Green Tinker bird, Cape Robin. More species include; White-starred Robin, Brown Woodland Warbler, Striped breasted Tit, Malachite, Scarlet-tufted, Greater Double collard Sunbirds among others.
Safari activities to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mountain gorilla trekking is highlight safari activity offered in Mgahinga gorilla national park, the park is the second mountain gorilla destination in Uganda and among the only 4 mountain gorilla parks in the world. Mgahinga gorilla national park hosts about 80 mountain gorilla individuals with only 1 habituated group in the names of Nyakagyezi open for mountain gorilla trekking experience, this group is very mobile with the tendencies of crossing to Uganda and Rwanda but in the recent years it has settled in Uganda.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park starts with briefing at the park’s headquarters, in the briefing the rules and regulation to follow are read to you by the ranger guide, hire a porter if you need and trek into the jungle of the park looking for the gorillas. The gorillas keep of shifting and to find them depends on where they spent the last night and the ranger known better where to find them , the tracking lasts for about 3-5 hours and while in the forest you will encounter birds and other primates. When you locate the gorillas you are given a period of 1 hours of enjoying the behavior of the gorillas and take pictures. After the activity you are rewarded with a mountain gorilla trekking certificate at the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices.
Golden Monkey tracking
Golden monkey tracking is another thrilling experience and one of the main activities offered in Mgahinga gorilla national park, golden monkeys are endemic primate species to the Albertine Rift and the Virunga ranges in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The golden monkeys are playful primates and in the forests of Mgahinga there are a total, they are noticed to spend of their time on top of the trees feeding on bamboo shoot and insects.
Golden monkey tracking with a short session of briefing and then hike into the forests looking for the golden monkeys which are found in the bamboo vegetation, while in their presence of 1 hour you will enjoy watching them play on tree tops, pick fruits and take amazing pictures of them.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the best Uganda birding spots with over 110 bird species, the park has different trails used during birding watching experience and these include the gorge trail lieing between Gahinga and Sabinyo taking 3 hours and bamboo trail.
Bird watching in Mgahinga gorilla national park offers an opportunity to spot bird such as yellow-Vented Bulbul, yellow-throated long claw, White-starred Robin, White-necked raven, White-naped Raven, White-naped Raven, White Starred Robin, Western Green Tinker bird, Wax Bills, Thrush and Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Striped breasted Tit, Streaky Seedeater, Stray seedeater, Stone Chat, Speckled Mousebird, Southern Red Bishop, Shelly’s Dusky Crimsonwing, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Rufous chested swallow, Regal Sunbird, red-throated alethe, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Red necked spur fowl, Pin-tailed whydah, Paradise Fly-catcher, Olive woodpecker, Olive Thrush, Olive Pigeon, Mountain masked apalis, Montane nightjar, Malachite Sunbird, Scarlet-tufted Sunbirds, Kivu-ground Thrush, Ibis, Handsome Francolin, Grey Capped Warbler, Greater Double collard Sunbird, Grauer’s swamp warbler, Fly eagle, Firefinch, Fire Finch Stonechat, Dusky Turtle Dove, Dusky crimson wing, Double-collared sunbird, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Crowned Hornbill, Crowned Crane, Collared apalis, Chubb’s Cisticola, Cape Robin-chat, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Brown Woodland Warbler, Bronze Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird among others.
The best time for bird watching in Mgahinga gorilla national park is during the months between April – May and October – November, in November – April most of the birds are nesting and migratory bird species arrive from Europe and northern region of Africa.
Nature and Hiking walks
Nature and hiking walks are exhilarating safari activities offered in Mgahinga gorilla national park, this experience offered great views of the park and an opportunity to get close to nature. Hiking is done on a trail leading up Gisozi hills offering spectacular views of Kisoro and Bunagana town and Lake Mutanda. Nature walks are done along the Congo border transcending through various vegetation zones dominating the park.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is situated in the Virunga conservation area dominated by a chain of 8 volcanoes, in the park that is Uganda’s side there are a total of 3 volcanoes that are Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhabura and Mgahinga situated along the border of Uganda.
Climbing mount Muhabura
Mount Muhabura stands at the elevation of 4127 meters, climbing this volcano is a 12 kilometers round trip taking about 8 hours to hike, hiking this volcano offers stunning views of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward, Bwindi impenetrable forests, peaks on Mount Rwenzori and the small crystal lake on top of the summit.
Climbing Mount Sabyinyo
Mount Sabyinyo stands at an elevation of 3669 meters, climbing this volcano is a 14 kilometers round trip taking about 8 hours to hike. The climb takes you through a steep ridge to the peak.
Climbing Mount Gahinga
Mount Gahinga stands at a elevation of 3474 meters, this volcanoes offers the easiest climb taking about 6 hours leading you to the swamp-filled crater of about 180 meters of width.
Cave tours in Mgahinga national park is one of the thrilling hiking adventurous leading to the famous Garama Cave situated near the park’s headquarters, this cave was used as a home to the Batwa and acted as a fortress during war times protecting them and their loot from their enemies.
Batwa trail Cultural experiences
Batwa trail cultural experience offers a visit to the Batwa people who once lived in the forests of Mgahinga for centuries until there eviction in 1991, these people are hunter-gatherers depending on forest for food, medicine and shelter. While in the batwa community you will get a rich culture experience while walking through the forest, witnessing the demonstration of hunting skills, harvesting of honey, picking of medicinal plants and making of fire locally. You will also be entertained by cultural dances and songs.
HOW TO GET TO MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga gorilla national park is situated in the south western region of Uganda in Kisoro district close to Bwindi Impenetrable national park, from Kampala the park is accessed by road and air means of transport. By road, the park is accessed on a drive of about 9-10 hours using Kampala – Kisoro via Masaka, Mbarara, and Kabale.
By road means of transport, domestic chartered flights are offered Kajjansi airstrip and Entebbe international airport to Kisoro airstrip, these flights are offered by various domestic flight companies such as Aero Link, fly Uganda among others.
ACCOMMODATION IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
In Mgahinga gorilla national park there are several hotels, camps and safari lodges offering a place to stay for tourists on a Uganda safari in the park, these accommodations are situated near the park, in Kisoro and Kabale town. Accommodation in Mgahinga gorilla national park range from budget, midrange and luxury and they include Chameleon Hill Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Virunga Hotel, Lake Mutanda Campsite, Mutanda Lake Resort, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp among others.
Mgahinga Gorilla Lodges and Camps
Mt Gahinga Lodge