Mgahinga National Park

Mgahinga National Park /Mgahinga Gorilla National park- ”Where Silver Meets Gold”

Mgahinga National Park / Mgahinga gorilla National park is the smallest National Park in Uganda that covers 33.9km.sq and is located in the South western part of Uganda. The park was founded in 1991 and happened to be one of the few national parks in the world that habour Mountain Gorillas the rest being Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is also blessed with a unique type of primates known as the Golden Monkeys which can also be found in Volcanoes National Park. this makes golden monkeys in Uganda to only tracked from Mgahiga gorilla national park or Simply Mgahinga national park.

Mgahinga National Park is also blessed with unique features like Mount Sabinyo and Mount Muhavura which are situated in the Virunga Ranges which cut into Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. Tourist are usually thrilled when they go hiking on these Virunga mountains. Among the other attractions that a traveler can find in Mgahinga National Park / Mgahinga gorilla national park is Lake Mutanda and the Batwa People who give a great cultural experience when they visit the park. Safari to Mgahinga national park forms rather aunique experience for any traveler seeking for adventure as well as new experiences. Mgahinga’s vegetation entails some of the most unique plant  species on the planet  that can only be sighted there, hence placing Mgahinga gorilla national park among the places to must visit in pursuit of vegetation potentials.

Explore Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

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Explore the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga gorilla national park is the smallest national park in Uganda located in southwestern region in Kisoro district bordering with Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. The national park was gazette in 1991 mainly to protect the endangered mountain gorillas and it covers a total area of 33.7 square kilometers. Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of about 39 mammals including the mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, duikers, giant forest hogs, about 115 bird species and three Virunga volcanoes that is mount Muhavura which is 4127 meters above the sea level, mount Gahinga which is 3474 meters above the sea level and mount Sabinyo which is 3645meters above the sea level.

Top things to do in Mgahinga gorilla national park

Gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking is the major activity carried out in Mgahinga gorilla national park. Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the destinations in Africa that harbor the endangered mountain gorillas and other destinations include Bwindi impenetrable national park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Democratic republic of Congo. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park starts in the morning with a briefing about the rules and regulation at the park headquarters. After the briefing you will start trekking in the jungle with an experienced guide which takes about 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on where the mountain gorillas are located because they like to move from one place to another in search of food. During trekking you will be able to see other primate species, birds, different plant and tree species among others and once the gorillas are found you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat which gives you an opportunity to learn about their behaviors, habits, watch them feed, breastfeed, play, take photos and record the moments.

Golden monkey trekking

Mgahinga gorilla national park also offers golden monkey trekking which is an interesting and active activity that involves moving into the forest in search of the golden monkeys. Mgahinga gorilla national park is the only destination in Uganda that harbors the endangered golden monkeys and trekking starts in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters just like gorilla trekking. After the briefing you will start trekking in the forest in search of the golden monkeys which takes about 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on where the golden monkeys are located. Trekking of the golden monkeys in Mgahinga gorilla national park is not so strenuous like gorilla trekking because golden monkeys live in lower areas, during trekking you will look out for fresh leftovers of bamboo shoot because golden monkeys do not leave behind clear evidence of their previous day’s location. Once the golden monkeys are found you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their environment which gives you an opportunity to observe their behaviors, watch them jump from one tree to another, take photos with flash cameras, record the moments among others.

Mountain climbing

Mgahinga gorilla national park has 3 dormant volcanoes within its heart where visitors can do hiking adventures. They include Gahinga volcano which is 3474 meters above the sea level, Gahinga is the smallest of the 3 volcanoes in the park and hiking takes about 6 hours round trip depending on your hiking speed. When you reach on top of the summit you will find the Crater filled with swamp and giant lobelia.

mount Sabyinyo hikingMount Sabinyo which is 3669 meters above the sea level and hiking takes about 8 hours round trip. During the hike you will pass through steep ridges, dense forest with Afro-Montane vegetation where you will enjoy scenic views of primates like golden monkeys, duikers, forest elephants, different bird species among others. When you reach on top of the summit you will be standing in three countries that is Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.

Mount Muhavura which is the highest volcano of the three volcanic mountains in Mgahinga gorilla national park. Mount Muhavura stands at an altitude of 4127 meters above the sea level and hiking takes about 10 hours. During hiking you will pass through different vegetation zones and the summit offers spectacular views of other Virunga volcanoes, Queen Elizabeth national park, Lake Edward, Rwenzori mountain ranges, 

Bird watching 

bird watching in Mgahinga National parkMgahinga gorilla national park is a home of more than 115 recorded bird species which makes it one of the best birding destinations in Uganda. There are different birding destinations in Mgahinga national park such as Montane forest, bamboo belt, the gorge trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo among others. During bird watching bird lovers will be able to view different bird species including Rwenzori batis, brown crowned Tchagra, regal sunbird, blue headed sunbird, streaky seedeater, Rwenzori batis, bronze sunbird, dusky turtle dove, olive thrush, cape robin chat, red faced woodland, alpine chat, scarlet tufted malachite sunbird, Montane double collared sunbird, handsome francolin, crowned crane, black kite, crowned hornbill among others.

Batwa trail experience

batwa trail in Mgahinga National parkMgahinga gorilla national park was formally a home of the Batwa tribe or pygmies before it was gazetted into a national park. The Batwa trail experience begins with a prayer and gives you a chance to meet with the Batwa people, experience their ancient ways, explore their ancient cultures. During the Batwa trail experience the Twa guide will demonstrate their hunting, honey harvesting and gathering skills, show off how to make bamboo cups, fire by rubbing two dry sticks against each other, visit Garamba cave which acted as food storage and hiding place for the Batwa among others. The trail ends with storytelling and dance presentations by the Batwa women. 

Best time to visit Mgahinga gorilla national park

Mgahinga gorilla national park can be visited all year round though the best time is during the dry season also known as the peak season in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February. During the dry season there is less rainfall in the park therefore access roads, hiking and gorilla trekking trails will be passable compared to the wet season when the trails are muddy and slippery which make trekking difficult.

Mgahinga gorilla national park can also be visited in the wet season also known as the low season in the months of March to May and November. The wet season is characterized by heavy rainfalls but it also has some advantages like fewer crowds, lodges offer discounts and it’s the best time for bird watching where bird lovers will be able to view migratory bird species.

How to get to Mgahinga gorilla national park

Mgahinga gorilla national park is located in southwestern part of Uganda and can be accessed by road and air transport means

Road transport, when using road transport visitors will drive from Kampala or Entebbe via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro and then to the park headquarters which takes about 9 to 10 hours drive in a 4WD safari vehicle.

Mgahinga gorilla national park can also be accessed from Kigali Rwanda where by visitors will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect to Mgahinga gorilla national park by a safari vehicle through Cyanika border which takes about 3 to 4 hours drive.

Air transport, when using air transport means to Mgahinga gorilla national park you will book scheduled or charter flights with Aerolink Uganda to Kisoro airstrip and then connect to the park headquarters or lodge. Air transport is the best option for visitors who do not like travelling long distances and flight bookings can be made by your tour operator.

Virunga Mountains

mount VirungaMgahinga National Park has three of the series of the Volcanoes that form the Virunga Region. These great ranges offer great scenery and opportunities for hiking to travelers visiting the park. Whether you are a seasoned mountain climber or starter, a hike volcanoes is an experience that you will not forget.

The Virunga is characterized with different vegetation zones that correspond closely to the East African mountains – the afromontane forest below the 2,500m, typical bamboo in areas between 2,500 to 3500m and Afro-alpine moorland in areas above 3500m.

Mount Gahinga

Mt. Gahinga means “a pile of lava stones heaps around which cultivation is carried out”

Hiking this mountain takes around 6 hours, the hike is taken in the Bamboo forest as you reach the top, you will find a swamp, and the distance covered is about 8 km. As you will see the stone piles in some gardens since it’s from them that the name “Gahinga” was derived.

Mt. Muhavura (4127m) – ‘The Guide’

Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip covering 12km.You are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before the site has no facilities so you need a tent, water, food and sleeping gear.

Mt. Sabyinyo (366m) – ‘Old man’s teeth’

sayinyoLike an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to peak. If you are to continue, the climb to the peak 11 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda, a dual experience you will achieve here.
Finally, the hike up to the peak 111 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak111! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, what a triple experience this is!!! The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14km stretch.

Accommodation in Mgahinga National Park

Mgahinga gorilla national park offers exceptional accommodation to its clients. On your visit to the park you will discover the different properties within ranging from budget to upmarket ‘’Luxury’’ safari lodges. They deliver well- appointed guestrooms and suites for comfortable stay at reasonable rates.

Many of the hotels are located strategically so that visitors can use them as bases to do activities in both national parks. These lodges offer services that cater for budget, mid-range and luxury travelers. Thee lodges are built in form of basic campsites, bandas or standard cottages. Considering that some of the park activities like gorilla tracking starts very early in the morning, it is wise to book with a hotel that is not too far from park offices. Some of the hotels and lodges in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are:

chameleon hill lodge
chameleon hill lodge

Chameleon Hill Lodge: This luxury lodge is built overlooking the beautiful Lake Mutanda. The lodge has a beautiful compound with great views of the three volcanoes in the park. It is good lodge for those who have come for gorilla trekking, bird watching, golden monkey tracking, visiting the Batwa or canoeing on Lake Mutanda.

Travelers’ rest hotel –Kisoro : Travelers’ rest hotel is also a midrange accommodation facility and one of the oldest hotels in Uganda. It is positioned within Kisoro town just few kilometres away from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This hotel offers 11 rooms well-furnished ranging from single, double, twin, suite, triple among others. It has restaurant, laundry services, garden, internet and others.

Mount Gahinga Rest CampMount Gahinga Rest Camp: This lodge is built at the foot of the volcanoes with beautiful views of Lake Mutanda and the mountains in the park. There are nine grass thatched rooms (bandas) and three tents with private balconies. Besides the bandas, it is possible for visitors to pitch their own tents in designated places. Electricity is supplied using solar panels. The hotel arranges several activities including a visit to the Batwa people. The hotel is near a piece of land that demarcates the boundary between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.

Mount Gahinga lodge: This lodge is owned by Volcanoes Safaris. The lodge is located near the park gate and in an area with natural setting and views of the Virunga Mountains. The hotel offers self-contained luxury bandas with a fireplace to contain the cold environment brought about by the volcanoes. The rooms are either twin/double or single. Bothe international and local delicious food is served to clients in the morning, afternoon and at night.

Clouds Mountain Gorilla lodgeClouds Mountain Gorilla lodge: Clouds Mountain is a luxury lodge built in the town of Kisoro. The lodge has eight cottages made of stone and grass thatched. The lodge has both twin and single rooms that are beautifully set up with a fireplace.

Mucha Hotel Kisoro  : This is a mid-range lodging facility with comfortable amenities good for night overstay. It lies suitably along the banks of River Mucha and provides perfect breath-taking views of its surrounds and beautiful flora. Mucha Hotel is located about six kilometres off from Kisoro town and provides a gainful views of the Volcanoes as well as River Mucha. The hotel is composed of 10 en-suite bed rooms-single, double and twins.

It is also featured with stable restaurant with professional chefs, garden area with banana trees, lounge, bar, coffee and private vegetable plantation and others.

Traveler’s Nest Hotel: This is among the oldest hotels in Uganda. It is found outside Kisoro town with large spacious and comfortable rooms and a fireplace. The hotel is also built to offer spectacular views of the mountains in Mgahinga.

Virunga Hotel: This budget hotel is built behind the park office. The hotel rooms are self-contained with showers and generally clean interiors. There is also a bar, a restaurant and a large parking space.

lake mutanda resortLake Mutanda Campsite: This campsite is suitable for those who love nature and wish to experience the African wilderness in a true natural setting. With great views Lake Mutanda and volcanoes in the park, this campsite offers affordable accommodation in an amazing environment.

Mutanda Lake Resort: Mutanda Lake Resort (Formerly Nkuringo Safari Lodge) is also built on the shores of Lake Mutanda between Nkuringo and Kisoro. This location ensures that residents are treated to wonderful sightings of the volcanoes and the beautiful lake. This Resort is suitable for those who desire quality services but on a budget. Mutanda Lake Resort has tented self-contained rooms with 24/7 room and laundry services. The rooms are clean and spacious, each with a verandah. The Resort organizes birding trips by boat on Lake Mutanda, nature walks, visits to the gorilla highlands and Bwindi forest. Mutanda The resort is suitable for those who have come for gorilla trekking in either Mgahinga national park or Bwindi.

Community Campground : This is a budget accommodation found in Mgahinga, with an option for camping and basic cottages that are provided in the community camp group.

Bwindi Jungle Lodge: This lodge is built near Lake Mulehe. It is built strategically to offer accommodation facilities to visitors going to both Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park.

Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp: This budget facility is built next to the park gate and is run by the community around the camp. From the camp, residents get stunning views of the forests and the three volcanoes. The camp also has beautiful bandas and dormitories that are not too expensive. Residents in the dormitories share bathrooms but one can choose to stay in the self-contained rooms. Camping is allowed for those with their own equipment. The meals are mostly Ugandan dishes and are served at the communal area in the camp. A campfire is set late in the evening for guests with cultural performances from the Batwa. The thing about booking with this camp is that you indirectly contribute to the well-being of the community.