Facts about Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Facts about Mgahinga Gorilla National Park : Mgahinga gorilla national park is the smallest national park located in southwestern part of Uganda in Kisoro district bordering with Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo. The national park covers a total area of 33.7 square kilometers and was established in 1991 mainly to protect and conserve the endangered mountain gorillas.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of 76 mammal species including forest elephants, buffaloes, bushbucks, black fronted duikers, giant forest hogs, golden cats, primate species like the endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and over 184 bird species.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is also a home of three Virunga volcanoes namely mount Muhavura which rises at an elevation of 4,127 meters above the sea level, mount Gahinga which is 3,474 meters above the sea level and mount Sabinyo which is 3,645 meters above the sea level. Mgahinga national park derives its name from Gahinga a local word that means piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmlands at the foot of volcanoes.
Top things to see and do in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Gorilla trekking is an adventurous and the most famous activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park. Trekking of mountain gorillas involves moving in dense forests in search of the mountain gorillas and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of one habituated gorilla family Nyakagezi and trekking starts early in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters where after you will start trekking in the jungle with an experienced park guide who is well conversant with trekking trails. Chimpanzee trekking takes about 30 minutes to 6 hours depending on where the gorillas are located because they like to move from one place to another in search of food.
During trekking you will be able to view other primate species, animals, 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 environment which gives you an opportunity to observe their behaviors, habits, take photos, watch the gorillas feed, breastfeed, groom young ones, rest, record the breathtaking moments about others.
Golden monkey trekking
Golden monkey trekking is an active activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park that starts with a briefing at the park headquarters about the rules and regulations to follow during trekking. After the briefing you will be allocated a well trained park guide and start trekking in the forest which takes about 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on where the golden monkeys are located because they are active primates which like to move from one place to another in search of food.
During trekking you will follow leftovers of bamboo leaves as they don’t leave behind any markings like the gorillas and once the golden monkeys are found you will e allowed to spend one hour with them in their habitat which gives you a chance to watch them jump up in tree branches, watch them feed, play, take photos and record the incredible moments.
Mgahinga gorilla national park has three dormant Virunga volcanoes and hiking to any of the peaks is an interesting and adventurous experience. The Virunga volcanoes include mount Muhavura which is the highest volcano that rises at an altitude of 4,127 meters above the seas level and hiking to the summit takes about 8 to 10 hours. Once you reach the summit you will enjoy great views of Lake Edward, Rwenzori peaks, Bwindi impenetrable national park and other Virunga volcanoes. mount Gahinga is the smallest Virunga volcano in Mgahinga gorilla national park that is 3,474 meters above the sea level and hiking to the summit takes about 6 to 8 hours round trip and once you reach on top you will enjoy views of a crater filled swamp.
Mount Sabinyo is the third Virunga volcano in Mgahinga gorilla national park that is 3,669 meters above the sea level and hiking to the summit takes about 8 hours. Once you reach on top you will be standing in three countries at the same time that is Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Climbing any of the volcanic mountains requires you to be physically fit and during hiking you will enjoy stunning views of the beautiful scenery, animals, view mountain gorillas if you are lucky, variety of bird species, different plant and tree species among others.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of more than 184 recorded bird species including Albertine endemic birds, forest birds and migratory birds which makes it one of the ideal birding destinations in Uganda. There are best bird watching trails to follow during your birding safari such as the gorge trail between mount Sabinyo and mount Gahinga, the bamboo trails which takes you through the montane forest among others.
During bird watching you will be accompanied by an experienced bird guide who will help you to spot different bird species including Rwenzori turaco, bronze sunbird, blue headed sunbird, cape robin chat, dusky turtle dove, Rwenzori batis, western green tinker bird, olive woodpecker, kivu ground thrush, yellow billed kite, handsome francolin, paradise flycatcher, crowned hornbill, yellow vented bulbul, archers robin chat, red faced woodland warbler among others.
Batwa trail experience
Batwa trail experience is an interesting activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park which gives you an opportunity to interact with the Batwa/ pygmies who used to live in Mgahinga forest before it was gazetted into a national park. During the Batwa trail experience you will be lead by Batwa guides who will be sharing information about their culture, traditional forest life, way of living, visit their homesteads, demonstrate their hunting and gathering skills, learn about medicinal plants that were used to cure different ailments, demonstrate how to make cups from bamboo, visit the sacred Ngarama cave which was once the home of the Batwa King, enjoy their cultural songs, dance
Where to stay during your safari in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park has a number of accommodation facilities ranging from budget, midrange, luxury where you can stay during your safari including Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Mutanda Island Lodge, Kisoro Travelers Lodge, Mucha Hotel, Muhabura Motel, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Mgahinga Community Camp, Mgahinga Gorilla Lodge and many others.
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 in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February. During the dry season there is little or less rainfall in the park therefore access roads, hiking trails and gorilla trekking trails will be passable compared to the wet season when the hiking and gorilla trekking trails are muddy and slippery which makes trekking difficult.
Mgahinga gorilla national park can also be visited in the wet season during the months of March, April, May and November because 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 transport means where you will drive from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro and then to the park headquarters which takes about 9 to 10 hours drive in a 4 WD safari vehicle.
Mgahinga gorilla national park can also be accessed by air transport means whereby you will book charter or scheduled flights from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip and then connect to the park headquarters.