Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park: Mgahinga gorilla national park is the smallest national park in Uganda located in southwestern region in Kisoro district bordering Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The national park was gazetted in 1991 and covers a total area of 33.7 square kilometers which is comprised of different vegetation types like Montane forest, montane woodland, bamboo, afro-montane, animals like forest elephants, buffaloes, duikers, bushbucks, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, primates like mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and different bird species among others.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Gorilla trekking is the major activity in the national park where visitors get an opportunity to move on foot in search of the habituated gorilla families and once found spend one hour with the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of one habituated gorilla family and gorilla trekking starts early in the morning with a briefing about the rules, regulations and expectations at the park headquarters. After the briefing you will be allocated a park guide who is knowledgeable about the mountain gorillas and then start trekking in the jungle which takes about 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on where the gorillas are located.
During trekking you will be able to view other primates like golden monkeys, mammals like giant forest hogs, forest elephants, bush pigs, buffaloes, different bird species, plant and tree species among others. 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, watch them carry out their daily activities like feeding, breastfeeding, playing, grooming young ones, take photos and record the incredible moments. After the gorilla trekking experience you will be awarded a certificate which shows that you participated in gorilla trekking adventure.
Cost of gorilla trekking permits in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Gorilla trekking permits are legal documents that are issued to any visitor above the age of 15 years by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) allowing him or her to visit the habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga gorilla national park. A single gorilla trekking permit in Mgahinga gorilla national park costs USD 700 for foreign non residents, USD 600 for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for East African citizens.
How to book a gorilla trekking permit in Mgahinga gorilla national park
A gorilla trekking permit in Mgahinga gorilla national park can be booked directly through Uganda Wildlife Authority by contacting the head offices in Kampala via telephone calls or email. You can also book a gorilla trekking permit through a trusted tour operator like Achieve Global Safaris. When booking with a tour operator you will contact us with your names, date, month and year when you want to visit the gorillas. After contacting us we will check for permit availability and if the permits are available you will be asked to make a deposit for the permit. Once we receive the payments we will purchase the permit and send you a scanned copy as confirmation.
Gorilla trekking permits in Mgahinga gorilla national park should however be booked 3 to 6 months in advance before the trekking date because they are competitive and usually get sold out quickly especially during the peak season in the months of June to September and December to February.
Best time to go for gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park can be done anytime throughout the year though the best period is during the dry/peak season in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February. During the dry season there is little rainfall in the park therefore access roads and gorilla trekking trails will be passable compared to the wet season when the trekking trails are muddy and slippery.
Gorilla trekking guidelines
A number of guidelines should be followed in order to carry out a successful gorilla trekking trips while in Uganda in Mgahinga gorilla National park to avoid accidents during the activity.
- Tourists should maintain a distance of 7 metres while in contact with the gorillas in order to avoid contracting diseases to the gorillas.
- Gorilla trekking in both national parks is prohibited to Children under the age of 18 years
- Tourists with health issues and diseases should avoid taking part in the activity in fact they should not participate in the activity in order to avoid contracting diseases to the gorillas since they are really fragile creatures.
- A maximum of eight people visit a given gorilla family which is one of the reasons why people should book their permits in advance in order to avoid missing out on the activity.
- Littering in the parks should be avoided because animals can be in danger with the litter.
- After locating and seeing the mountain gorillas, a maximum of one hour is given to tourists to spend with the gorillas and
- Tourists should avoid unnecessary movements and noise to while in the presence of the primates.
- Eye contact with the gorillas should be avoided, and in case where the tourist locks eyes with the gorillas, they should lower their head down.
- Tourists should also avoid thumping their chest while in the presence of the gorillas because it can lead to the break out of a fight once seen by the primates.
Safety of gorilla trekking in Uganda
Tourists carrying out gorilla trekking in Uganda are guaranteed to have the best time of their life without any hindrances and any security threats reason being Uganda is a peaceful country without any political instabilities making it ideal for tours in the country. For tourists carrying out gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park a guide will first brief them at the park headquarters about the do’s and don’ts/ guidelines that are to be followed while carrying out the activity in order to avoid accidents.
During gorilla trekking the tourists are accompanied by a ranger to avoid any animal attacks in the process the ranger is usually armed with a fir arm in order to scare off the animals he doesn’t shoot the animals. And also a guide carries a first aid box with him in case of any accident; they can take care of the tourist before they seek medical attention from the hospital.
NB: Tourists should also put in mind that gorilla trekking in Uganda can be carried out by tourists that land Kigali can carry out gorilla hence Uganda gorilla trekking from Kigali.
With the necessary equipment, knowing the guidelines to follow while carrying out gorilla trekking activity, tourists will have an adventure in the different parks because of the ease and thrill involved in the activity.
Gorilla Trekking vs Gorilla Habituation
Gorilla Trekking vs Gorilla Habituation: The different between gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation will be in terms of aspects like price, experience, length or time visited and many other things.
Gorilla trekking it involves in a group of 8 people accompanied with the park ranger who leads you through forest trails in search for the already Habituated Gorilla Families in their jungle to spend one hour with them.
Gorilla habituation involves in training gorillas for under 1 to 2 years’ process so as to make them interact with people for long hours. Both gorilla trekking and habituation offers a remarkable experience.
Below are some of the different between gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation that would prove out a little more about each of the activities and choices you may opt for if you don’t want to do both;
Both activities have different prices tourists who wish to engage in gorilla trekking must be having a gorilla permit sold at USD700 for foreign nonresidents ,USD600 for foreign residents and UGX250,000 for East African Citizens while permits for gorilla habituation costs USD1,500 for foreign non-residents ,USD 1000 for foreign residents and UGX 750,000 for East African citizens. These permits can be booked or purchased at the ‘’UWA’’ Uganda Wildlife Authority offices or through a trusted tour operator with registered company. So we advise you to always book your preferred gorilla permit in advance before 6 months of your arrival in Uganda
Number of people for each activity;
Uganda gorilla trekking is done in Bwindi Impenetrable national park that allows only 8 people to trek a single gorilla family per day whereas gorilla habituation allows 4 individuals per gorilla family. This is to minimize spread of infections and stressing out of the gorillas
Length of the activities;
Gorilla trekking experience is unpredictable can take between 2 to 8 hours while trekking depending on their movements and after locating them visitors are given one hour to spend with them in the presence of the habituated family while gorilla habituation allows tourists to spend four full hours in the presence of these creatures undergoing the habituation process.
Gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation both requires an escort. A gorilla trekking activity need only a trained guide and ranger who accompanies them in the forest in search for this gentle giants while gorilla habituation experience requires to move with researchers, rangers, habituation experts and doctors. This is because the gorillas undergoing the habituation process are still wild and undertaking a series of learning procedures so visitors need these experts that are more knowledgeable enough to this creature to be with them during the gorilla habituation experience.
Number of gorilla families available;
There so far 21 fully habituated gorilla families in the four sectors of Uganda Bwindi Impenetrable national park and one gorilla family in Mgahinga Gorilla national park that tourist can be selective for trek on their trip to Uganda primate’s safari. Currently 2 gorilla families have been put aside for gorilla habituation experience found in the southern sector of the park.
The age limit is recommended for both activities only 15 years old and above are allowed to engage in gorilla trekking or gorilla habituation and this is because of the reaction they can scream or be frightened and end up failing to make through the trek. The childhood diseases like flu, malaria, diarrhea that they carry which can threat to the gorillas as the gorillas can easily be infected with them.
Rules and regulations for gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation
Both rules and regulations for gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation are the same and tourists are advised to follow them at all times for their own safety and conservation of the great mountain gorillas. As listed below;
Travelers should not be sick or have any infection
Keep 7 meters’ distance away from mountain gorillas
Do not look straight in the eyes of gorillas
Minimum age for both activities is 15 years
Keep low voices while in the forest trekking
Do not litter rubbish in the park
Flash disc cameras are not allowed
Do not eat, drink or smoke close to gorillas
Stay in tight groups
For a gainful gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experience, travelers are advised to carry the recommended essential items such as long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, hand gloves prevents you from touching sharp tree branches and muddy, rain jackets, energy giving snacks, rubber hiking boots among others.
Both gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation are quite amazing activities as you get close to your cousins said to be 98% DNA that lives in Bwindi Impenetrable national park renowned for hosting the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world. The different between gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation should help you on what to do, if not both of them and whatever choice you want, have a trustworthy tour operator for help.
Where to stay during your gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga gorilla national park
There are a number of accommodations in Mgahinga gorilla national park where visitors can stay during the gorilla trekking safari. The accommodations range from luxury, midrange, budget Accommodations which include the following;
Mount Gahinga Lodge
This safari lodge was operated by the Volcanoes safari, offering the most luxurious accommodation to travelers with good quality amenities. It has attracted many who come here to explore the park who leave with comfortable stay experience.
Mount Gahinga Rest Camp
The Rest Camp is best for the camping tourists; you can do it yourself camping. Besides that, there’s also perfect traditional Bandas managed by the local community. Mount Gahinga Rest camp is safely protected and the place is clean for your comfortable stay.
Bwindi Jungle Lodge
Bwindi Jungle lodge sits near Lake Mulehe and offers nice stay to visitors who comes to explore the Mgahinga National park and southern Bwindi.
Mount Gahinga Lodge
This safari lodge sits at Ntebeko providing upmarket safari lodge and at the same time you do camping in volcanoes camp during your nice stay in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
This is a budget accommodation found in Mgahinga, with an option for camping and basic cottages that are provided in the community camp group.
Other accommodations to stay on visit to Mgahinga
For more offer of choices on lodging are available in Kisoro. Kisoro town is 14 kilometers way to the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park gate. Kisoro is a busy working town that boasts with wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from the basic Camp site to the Luxurious full board hotels, has follows;
Mucha Hotel, Muhabura Motel , Montana Guest House , Landmark Guest House , Kisoro Tourist Hotel , Kisoro Travelers Lodge , Mount Gahinga Rest Camp , 3 Way Gorilla Resort , Rugigana campsite , Virunga Hotel , Sky Blue
How to get to Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is located in southwestern part of Uganda and can be reached by both road and air transport means. When using road transport you will drive from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro and then to the park headquarters which takes about 9 to 10 hours drive.
When using air transport means you will book scheduled or charter flights from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airfield and then connect to the park headquarters.
Mgahinga gorilla national park can also be accessed from Kigali Rwanda where by travelers will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect to Mgahinga gorilla national park via Cyanika border which takes about 3 to 4 hours drive.
For more information about gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park or safari bookings do not hesitate to contact Achieve Global Safaris or visit our website.
Other activities to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park During Gorilla Trekking Tours and Safaris
Golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Golden monkey trekking is an active and the second best done activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park after gorilla trekking and it also starts with a briefing at Ntebeko park headquarters. After the briefing you will start trekking in the forest with a park guide following trails of leftover bamboo leaves, shoots and fruits. During golden monkey trekking which takes about 30 minutes to 4 hours, you will be able to view different wildlife species and once the golden monkeys are located you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their habitat which gives you a chance to learn about their lifestyle, behaviors, watch them play, feed, jump up in trees among others.
Batwa trail experience in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Batwa trail experience is an exciting activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park where tourists get an opportunity to interact with the Batwa people who used to live in Mgahinga gorilla national park before it was gazette into a national park. Batwa trail experience in Mgahinga gorilla national park starts with a prayer from twa guides praying to the Batwa god of the forest Biheeko who they believed offered protection to the people especially before going for hunting trips. During the Batwa trail you will pass through the forest where the Batwa used to stay, learn about different medicinal plants and their importance, demonstrate their hunting and gathering skills, demonstrate how they made fire by rubbing two dry sticks against each other, how they made bamboo cups among others. The Batwa trails will also take you to Garamba cave which is located beneath Mount Gahinga where they Batwa king used to live and also acted as a food store and hiding place from their enemies. During the Batwa tail experience you will listen to their ancient stories, cultural songs from Batwa women, their lifestyle among others.
Bird watching in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of over 250 recorded bird species including forest birds, Albertine endemic bird species and migratory birds which makes it one of the best birding destinations in Uganda. During bird watching in Mgahinga gorilla national park you will be accompanied by an experienced park guide who will help you to spot different bird species such as black kite, double collared sunbird, white necked raven, speckled mouse bird, paradise flycatcher, pin tailed whydah, Kivu ground thrush, olive woodpecker, Ruwenzori batis, blue headed coucal, archers robin chat, yellow vented bulbul, Ruwenzori turaco, olive pigeon, Ruwenzori nightjar among others.
Explore the Garama Caves
The Garama cave is one of the key attractions that should not be missed while visiting Mgahinga National park. These caves used to be a home for the Batwa who had lived there for many years until they were recently resettled. The 342m long Garama Cave lies beneath a plateau northern edge of the park, 3km from Ntebeko. It is set in the former farmland zone but in earlier times, the cave lied in the forest when it was occupied periodically by Batwa who used it as a council chamber and a retreat after raiding their neighbors.
Key Facts About Garama Caves
- Garama Cave 14m deep and about 340m long
- Garama Cave was initially inhabited by the Batwa people (pygmy Batwa People)
- Garama Cave is just 3km from Mgahinga national park headquarters.
Mountain climbing in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mountain climbing is an adventurous activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park where tourists get a chance to hike the three Virunga volcanic mountains which include,
Mount Muhabura which is 4,127 meters above the sea level and hiking Mount Muhabura takes about 8 hours round trip passing through rocky grounds, shrubs, grasses and once you reach on top you will enjoy great views of mount Rwenzori, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, lake Edward, Virunga volcanoes among others.
Mount Gahinga which is 3,474 meters above the sea level and hiking takes about 6 hours round trip passing through farmlands, thick bamboo forest and when you reach on top you will be able to see a crater filled swamp and giant lobelia.
Mount Sabinyo which is 3,669 meters above the sea level and takes about 8 hours to reach at the summit. During mount Sabinyo hike you will pass through dense forest covered by African montane vegetation, Rugezi swamp and when you reach on top you will be standing in three countries that is Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.