Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the few national parks in the world where you can do gorilla tracking. The park hosts one large Gorilla family which is fully habituated and used by the tourist. The park got its name from local Kinyarwanda word “Gahinga” which means “piles of volcanic lava stone heaps where cultivation is carried out” The park is among the smallest national parks in Uganda covering 33.7 square kilometers. With the inhabitants of the park being gorillas, Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the leading tourism destinations in Uganda. The park is also unique in that it homes more primate species especially the Golden monkey which can only be seen in Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda.
The park was gazetted in 1991 to protect and conserve the primate species that were found in the area. The park is located in the Virunga Mountains that encompasses the other three mountains those are: Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura and Mount Sabyinyo. The park lies on the altitude of 2227 meters to 4127 meters above sea level. The park hosts over 39 mammal species that cover Golden Monkey, Mountain Gorillas, Buffaloes, Forest Elephants, Duiker and many others. Not forgetting the bird species which are over 79 species found at the park. The park is dominated by a mixture of thick vegetation and baboo which provides enough food for the gorillas. This comfortability created by nature to gorillas makes it easy to track gorillas in Mgahinga gorilla national park than any other park. The gorillas are ever near since the food is in plenty with limited or no competition since only one gorilla family is found at the park.
Location of Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is located in the South Western part of Uganda in Kisoro district. Its the smallest national park in Virunga Conservation Area. The park can be easily accessed by road from Kampala via Kabale to Kisoro. The scenic drive takes around 8 to 9 hours along the villages of great beauty of the Western and South Western Uganda. You can also access the park shortly from Rwanda kigali taking only 4 hours drive. To cut the time one can use the flight which are available from Entebbe international airport or Kajjasi airstrip to Kisoro airstrip. The flight takes only 1 hour to reach. The flights are scheduled flights but operate daily and one must book it in advance to get its availability.
Activities done in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mountain Gorilla tracking
Warm welcoming atmosphere is surrounding Mgahinga Gorilla national park with natural beauty. The calls from the primates and birds make you feel the freshness of nature. Gorilla tracking starts with a briefing at the park headquarters by the game ranger. Guests will be cleared and grouped in Eight people. It’s unfortunate that Mgahinga Gorilla national park has only one big gorilla family. A day’s trek through the Mgahinga forests with a well trained guide who demonstrates the actions of the gorillas along the way is an experience of a lifetime.
Gorilla trekking Safari normally begins at about 8:00am in the morning and takes 2-4 hours daily from Ntebeko Entrance Gate t. Since the maximum time allowed to spend with them is one hour, a visitor is required to budget well for his/her time while with a gorilla family.
Golden Monkey tracking
Mgahinga Gorilla National park is the only park in Uganda where Golden Monkeys are found. The golden monkeys live in bamboo forested areas that are found along the Virunga Conservation Area. Golden Monkey trekking like Mountain gorilla tracking involves hiking in the forest. The search is not much tiresome as Mountain Gorilla tracking since the golden monkeys stay in lower altitudes. The Golden Monkey tracking starts from 8am with orientation and briefing by the park ranger. You will be given enough information on your expectation during the tracking. There are different trails of Mountain gorillas and golden monkey hence there are no chances of seeing Gorillas during golden monkey trekking. One has to book the golden permit from the park headquarters.
Hiking in Mgahinga is great lifetime experience that doesn’t need any hiking experience but only a certain level of fitness. Mgahinga Gorilla national park is surrounded by the three volcanoes that can be submitted. The summit gives the guests a clear view of the three virunga conservation countries those are Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.
It is possible to climb all three volcanoes in this park. At 3,669m, Mt. Sabinyo takes approximately eight hours to cover the 14km round trip, following a steep ridge up to the top.
Mt. Gahinga (3,474m) takes about six hours to climb and descend, topped by a swamp-filled crater and giant lobelia. On their way through the bamboo forest, fortunate climbers may spot golden monkeys.
At 4,127m, Mt. Muhavura is the highest mountain, and it takes about eight hours for this 12km round trip. While at the summit, with views of the Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Edward, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the peaks of the Rwenzoris, hikers are rewarded on a clear day.
In the gorge between Mts Gahinga and Sabinyo, through the bamboo trees, and in the montane forest, where the magnificent Rwenzori Turaco can be observed, the best birding in Mgahinga also takes place in some of its most beautiful scenery.
MGNPA3-aSpectacular sightings of the Dusky Turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Kivu-ground Thrush, Olive Thrush, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill, Streaky Seedeater, Cisticola by Chubb, Red-faced Forest Warbler, Bush by Banded Prinia and Doherty-shrike can be provided by the three to four hour Gorge Trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo.
The thick forests of Mgahinga have been home to the indigenous Batwa for centuries – hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who relied on the forest for shelter, food and medicine. They guide tourists through the woods now and take them to their old home – and the methods they used to live in it.
The cultural tours are always done in the evening time after Gorilla tracking or Golden monkey tracking. You will enjoy good time with the local batwa who will be showing their hunting techniques, collect honey, point out medicinal plants, and show how to make cups of bamboo. Guests are welcomed to the sacred Garama Cave, once a sanctuary for the Batwa, where a sorrowful song is performed by the women of the group that echoes eerily across the depths of the dark cave, leaving guests with a moving sense of the riches of this vanishing civilization.