Mgahinga gorilla national park is the smallest national park in Uganda found in the south western part of Uganda in Kisoro district which was created in 1991 covering an area of 33.7square kilometers and lies between altitudes 2227 meters and 4127 meters. Mgahinga national park is one of the national parks in the Virunga Conservation Area with other two national parks being Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and the Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo covering three of the Virunga volcanoes which are Mountain Muhavura (4127meters above the sea level, Mount Gahinga (3474 meters above the sea level and mount Sabinyo 3645 meters above the sea level.
Mgahinga gorilla national park was gazeted to protect the endangered mountain gorillas and conserve nature therefore the park is governed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Mgahinga national park got its name from the Kinyarwanda word Gahinga which means pile of volcanic lava stone heaps where cultivation.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home to the endangered mountain gorillas therefore gorilla trekking is the major activity carried out in the park. Mgahinga national park harbors over 100 mountain gorillas with two habituated gorilla families, habits 76 mammals inclusive of the mountain gorillas, giant forest hog, buffaloes, golden monkeys, bushbucks, leopards, spotted hyenas, black fronted duikers among others, over 115 bird species.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is the smallest national park and among the three national parks in the Virunga massif is the smallest located in the south western part of Uganda in Kisoro district bordering with the volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park.
Mgahinga national park is a home to 76 mammals species like the forest elephants, buffaloes, bushbucks, golden cats among others.
Mgahinga national park is also a home of three Virunga volcanoes that is the Muhavura which rises at elevation of 4127m above the sea level, Mount Gahinga which is 3474meters above sea level and mount Sabinyo which is 3645meters above the sea level.
Gorilla trekking: This is the main activity that is carried out in the Mgahinga national park the mountain gorillas being the star attraction of the park. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga starts very early in the morning with the briefing about the rules and regulations at the park headquarters and then tracking begins and tracking the gorillas starts at Ntebeko trekkers are accompanied by the guides and park ranger. Trekking in Mgahinga national park requires one to be physically fit and okay since its quite challenging when you have to move deep in the forests, valleys and the steep slopes, length or time spent tracking could take 30mins and more hours o even take a full day since the mountain gorillas keep moving from one place to another in search for the food. Once a particular gorilla family is tracked then a period of one hour is allowed for the tourists to spend with the gorillas and this will help them to learn about their habits, behaviors and lifestyle, taking photos and recording moments.
One should note that before embarking on the gorilla trekking should get a gorilla trekking permit from the UWA offices or through the travel operators like Journeys Uganda. The trekking permit costs around 600dollars for the foreign residents, 700dollars for the foreign non residents and 250000shs for the East African citizens.
Golden monkeys trekking: This is the second after gorilla trekking in the Mgahinga national park. Golden monkeys trekking takes place in the Mgahinga national park only in Uganda. Golden monkey trekking just like gorilla trekking starts very early in the morning at Ntebeko after briefing you will embark on the journey of tracking the golden monkeys depending on where they were last seen. Golden monkey trekking lasts about 30mins to 3hours once they are tracked a period of one hour is allowed to spend with the golden monkeys.
Mountain climbing: Since Mgahinga national park has three mountains where mountain climbing experiences can be enjoyed from and these are mount Gahinga which is the smallest amongst the three and hiking this mountain takes about 6 hours and hiking is done in the bamboo forest as you reach at the top you will find a crater lake filled with swamp and giant lobelia and the distance covered is about 8 kilometers.
Mountain Sabinyo: Sabinyo word mean Old man’s teeth. Mount Sabinyo is 3669 meters and hiking this Mount takes about 8hours while you hike mount Sabinyo you will find and pass through the steep ridges, dense forest with Afromontane vegetation giving you opportunities to observe the scenic views of primates like golden monkeys, animals like duikers, forest elephants and different bird species like Ruwenzori batis, Brown crowned Tchagra among others.
Mount Muhavura: The word Muhavura means guide. This is the highest mountain amongst the three found in Mgahinga national park with an altitude of 4127 meters above the sea level and hiking this mountain takes about 10hours covering 12 kilometers. Hiking mount Muhavura you will pass through different vegetation zone and the beautiful scenic views of the Virunga volcanoes, Queen Elizabeth national park, lake Edward, mountain Rwenzori ranges, Bwindi impenetrable national park.
Bird watching: Since Mgahinga national park has over 115 bird species with in the park this makes it a good birders spot and birding can be carried out around areas of the montane forests, bamboo zones, the gorge trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo. Birds like Ruwenzori batis, Brown crowned Tchagra, Regal sunbird, blue headed sunbird, Steamy seed eater, Bronze sunbird, dusky turtle dove, Cape Robin chat, Olive thrush, Red faced woodland, Alpine chat, Scarlet tufted malachite, handsome Francolin, Crowned hornbill, black kite, blue headed coucal, yellow vented bulbul, Rwenzori turaco, Olive pigeon, white necked raven, Pin tailed Whydah, Speckled mouse bird, Paradise flycatcher, Kivu ground thrush, Archers Robin chat can be spotted among others.
Nature walks and hiking: This is done around the edges of the mountain and it is an interesting activity which involves hiking around the wild vegetation, bamboo forests, Rugezi swamps which rewards with the chance of seeing the beautiful scenic views of the lakes like lake Mutanda one of the attractions found in the Mgahinga National park, mountains like Muhavura mountain, Sabinyo and Mgahinga mountains plus the views of mountain Rwenzori, agricultural areas, birds with the park, animal, primates and the Batwa people.
Cultural tours: The Batwa cultural experience trail is such an interesting activity in Mgahinga which involves learning and exploring about the culture of Batwa people. Before the park was gazzeted the reserve used to be a home for the Batwa people so this trail experience gives you chance to discover, know and learn about the culture, tradition, lifestyles of the Batwa people. How they used to live in the forests, gather and harvest food, ancient ways of hunting, making of hand crafts like the cups made out of the bamboo, visiting the Garamba cave. Visitors will also be entertained by the locals with the tradition and cultural dances and songs, stories and legends will be told therefore at the end of the day tourists will be having insights of the Batwa culture.
Mgahinga national park does t have limits of when tourists should visit therefore one can visit any time all year throughout. But its irs always good to visit when its most favorable with good conditions and this happens in the dry season which is seen as a the peak seasin in the park. During thi time the park flocks with many of the tourists and this is seen in the dry days where the park doesn’t receive rainfall or receives less rainfall which is in between the December to February and June to September. Since there is not much rainfall that is if it rains the park pathways are always easy to accessed because they are dry, the vegetation in the park isnt over grown which enables tourists to clearly see the attractions and get clear photography and very easy to hike through the forests.
One can also visit the park during the wet season though should note that this comes with son challenges registered like the impassable roads and trails due to the heavy and constant rains which make them wet, muddy, slippery and slick which causes difficult in hiking through the park and passing through the roads since there are some rough ones. Over grown and dense vegetation which end up obstructing the attractions and also making hiking difficult. So for easy, fun and unforgettable experience its always best to visit the park when the season is dry.
There is a wide range of the accommodation facilities catering for all classes of tourists from budget, midrange and luxury. All of these offer good services to the clients and they are in forms of hotels, campsites, Bandas, cottages and offer services like gardens which give views of the Mountains, the park and some attractions. It is always good to choose a place of stay that is close to the park headquarters since gorilla trekking starts very early in the morning so as not to miss out on the briefing. Accommodation includes Mgahinga community camp, Muhabura motel, Mount Gahinga lodge, Mount Gahinga rest camp, Mucha hotel, Kisoro tourist hotel, Kisoro travellers inn, Amajambere Iwacu community camp, Bwindi jungle lodge, Lake Mutanda campsite, Travelers nest hotel Kisoro, Virunga hotel, Mutanda lake resort, Clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Nkuringo safari lodge. There are many places to state in while in Mgahinga for more information and bookings contact us @infojourneysuganda.com.
Mgahinga national park is endowed with many attractions and the star attraction being the mountain gorillas which are over 100 in this area, the second attraction is the golden monkeys which are harbored in the park. In addition Mgahinga has other primates that you will be coming across of when you visit and these are the white and black colobus monkeys, L’Hoests monkeys, Red tailed monkeys among others
Mgahinga national park has the three volcanoes where those interested in mountain climbing can go and these are Mount Muhavura being the highest with an elevation of 4127 meter above the sea level, mount Sabinyo being the second with the elevation of 3645 meters above the sea level and mount Mgahinga being the third with the elevation of 3474 meters above the sea level. There is also presence of water bodies like lake Mutanda.
The park shelters over 115bird species in the habitants therefore this attracts birders to come an visit and here are some of the birds that you will observe in Mgahinga National park Kivu ground thrush, black kite, blue headed coucal, Olive pigeon, Rwenzori turaco, handsome francolin, Rwenzori nightjar, mountain masked Apalis, Dwarf honeyguide, Pin tailed Whydah among others.
Other attractions in the park are the Batwa people, Vegetation in Mgahinga, and the animals found in Mgahinga which include the forest elephant, black fronted duikers, bush bucks, buffaloes, golden cats among others.
The park is 510km away from Kampala the capital city of Uganda and can be accessed to by both road and Air transport.
It is approximately 9 to 10hours drive from Kampala to the park which is around 8 hours drive to Kabale town covering 434 kilometers and there are more 76 kilometers to Kisoro town. This route is tarmacked and abet mountainous and steep.
Alternatively you can use the route from Kabale town passing near lake Bunyonyi joining the Kabale Kisoro tarmac road from Kisoro head to the park which is around 14 kilometers to Ntebeko the park main entrance. Its advisable to use 4×4 vehicle.
Those coming from Kigali will go to book a flight and depart from the Kigali international airport and go through the border of Cyanika then connect to Mgahinga national park by road and this will take about 3 to 4 hours drive.
This involves booking with the domestic airlines either from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi domestic airfield. Here you can either book a chartered flight or scheduled flight and you will land in Kisoro airstrip after there you will connect to the park headquarters by road.