At 33.9 square kilometers, Mgahinga gorilla national park is Uganda’s smallest national park. It is located in south western Uganda, in Kisoro district within the stretch of the Virunga mountain range. Infact, three of the Virunga extinct volcanoes; Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo can be found within the park’s boundaries.
Owing to its unique location, this park enjoys a rich blend of natural diversity within its ecosystem; entailing organisms from the Virunga Mountain stretch, the Albertine rift and organic life within the rough hilly disposition of south western Uganda. You will find a mixture of bamboo, Albertine rift montane, Rwenzori – Virunga montane moorland, tree heath and Alpine zone forests here.
Mgahinga gorilla national park receives on average annual rainfalls ranging from 10mm in July to 250 mm in October thus supporting numerous animal and plant life. In addition, you will realize that the mountain gorillas that are highly sought after in Bwindi Impenetrable national park and all over the world also occur here.
How to get there:
Mgahinga gorilla national park is situated in Kisoro district about 510 kilometers from Kampala district. It can be accessed by road direct from Kampala to Kabaale town. From there you can drive straight to Kisoro town then transfer to the park. The whole journey takes about 10 hours. By air, charter a domestic flight from Entebbe to Kisoro airstrip.
Attractions and activities
Mugahinga gorilla national park covers the northern slopes of the Virunga mountain range; carrying with it three of eight Virunga volcanoes; Mt Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt Gahinga (3,474 m) and Mt Sabinyo (3,645 m). Each of the volcanoes presents a unique adventure involving primate sightings, mountain vegetation and a personalized hiking difficulty.
Volcano hiking or mountain climbing starts at the visitor’s centre and carrying on through local farmland and a blend of vegetation zones that keep changing as you climb to the top. Hiking Mt Gahinga takes about 6 hours while Mt Sabyinyo and Muhavura require 8 hours to reach the top and back down again. Always ensure that you are in great health before embarking on a volcano climb.
Golden monkey tracking:
Golden monkeys are a treasure in Uganda and the world at large; this is simply because you will not just find them anywhere. They occur in Mgahinga in Uganda and a smaller population can be found in Gishwati forest in Rwanda. Populations of the monkeys in the park are estimated to be around 3,000 – 4,000 individuals.
Tracking golden monkeys can be an elusive experience with a short briefing kicking off at 7.30 to heading out into the woods to spend an hour with them. Be sure to observe all the set rules and regulations governing Mgahinga gorilla national park golden monkey tracking for the best experience ever.
Mgahinga gorilla national park might have a smaller bird count than other parks; 115, but it sure displays several Albertine rift endemic species and abit of the Congo biome birds. Specials in the park include; Rwenzori Turaco, Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori Batis, Montane nightjar, Rwenzori double collared sunbird and Mountain masked Apalis among other birds.
Mountain gorilla trekking:
On the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes, between 8,000 and 13,000ft, a population of mountain gorillas often makes its appearance. Mgahinga gorilla national park has one habituated mountain gorilla family that is often mobile between Uganda and Congo; the Nyakagezi gorilla group. Gorilla trekking starts in the morning at 7.30am and once you have found the gorillas, spend about 1-2 hours observing them.
In the presence of gorillas, you will be expected to come within atleast 8 – 10 meters so as not to spook the giants. Other regulations you will be briefed about include; turning your camera flash off when taking pictures, refraining from sudden movements, showing a clean bill of health and presenting evidence that your child is 15 years or age or above.
Hiking and nature walks:
Hiking trails kick off from the visitor’s center through dull bamboo shoots intertwined with thorn bushes and acacia reeds. These nature walks give you an up-close of the dewy vegetation and trees like giant lobelia and heath. The crater trail circles around a swamp lined with many birds, mammals and living organisms.
A cultural encounter at Mgahinga gorilla national park is all about meeting the Batwa community. The Batwa trail is born at the base of Mt. Muhavura cave through local farmland to the real community where the ancient Batwa carry out day to day activities. On your agenda; tick off each activity as you proceed such as; meeting the traditional healer, tasting local food and enjoying some local entertainment among others.
Accommodations and where to sleep:
When on safari in Mgahinga gorilla national park, accommodations are abundant with facilities ranging from luxury lodges to budget camps basing on what you prefer. Your options include; Mt Mgahinga rest camp, Traveler’s nest hotel, Nkuringo safari lodge, Clouds mountain gorilla lodge and Mt Mgahinga lodge among others.