Mgahinga gorilla national park
About Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is the smallest protected areas located in southwestern 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 which is comprised of afro montane, Montane forest, bamboo, Montane woodlands and lies at an altitude of 2227metres to 4127 meters above the sea level. Mgahinga gorilla park was gazetted in 1991 mainly to protect the endangered mountain gorillas which are the most visited attractions in Uganda.
Mgahinga gorilla park is a home of about 76 mammals including the bush pigs, forest buffaloes, black fronted duikers, giant forest hogs, elephants, bushbucks, golden cats, side striped jackals, porcupines, primate like the endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, bird species like the yellow vented bulbul, fire finch, Rwenzori batis, double collared sunbird, blue headed coucal, black kite, speckled mousebird among others. Mgahinga gorilla national park also harbors three out of the eight volcanic mountains and they include mount Muhavura which is 4127metres, mount Gahinga which is 3474metres and mount Sabyinyo which is 3669metres above the sea level.
Activities in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Gorilla trekking is the major activity carried out in the park and it involves visitors moving to the dense tropical rainforests in search of the habituated gorilla families and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of two habituated gorilla families namely Nyakagezi gorilla family which was the first gorilla family to be habituated in Mgahinga forest and Hirwa gorilla family which migrated from Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.
Trekking of the mountain gorillas in the park starts in the morning with a briefing at Ntebeko park headquarters. The briefing is done by the park guide who will be informing you about the rules, regulations and expectations during trekking. After the briefing you will be grouped into 8 people and allocated a gorilla group to trek. Grouping of individuals is however done according to age, personal preferences and physical fitness therefore visitors who are not physically fit are advised to communicate to the guides so that they are allocated a gorilla family that is easy to trek.
Gorilla trekking therefore starts at around 8:00am with a park guide who is well conversant with the mountain gorillas and trails in the park. During trekking you might be lucky and spot some animals like the bush pigs, buffaloes, elephants among others. trekking of the gorillas in Mgahinga gorilla national park takes about 30 minutes to 6 hours and when the gorillas have been found, you will be able to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their lifestyle, habits, behaviors, taking photos and recording the moments.
Visitors who want to participate in the incredible gorilla trekking activity are required to have a valid gorilla trekking permit which costs $600 per person for foreign non-residents, $500 per person for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 per person for East African citizens. Uganda however increased the price of a gorilla trekking permit by $100 therefore effective 1st July 2020 a gorilla trekking permit will cost $ 700 for foreign non-residents and $600 for foreign residents.
Golden monkey trekking
Mgahinga gorilla national park is the only destination in Uganda that harbors the golden monkeys which makes it unique from other destinations. golden monkey trekking is the second best done activity in the park and it starts with a briefing at the park headquarters where after you will be grouped into 6 people to trek each habituated golden monkey family. Trekking of the golden monkeys needs visitors to be physically fit in that you will be trekking in steep slopes and takes about 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on the location of the monkeys because they like to move from one are to another in search of food. Once the golden monkeys have been found you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural environment as you watch them playing around in the trees, feeding on stems, buds, learn about their behaviors, take photos and record videos.
Mgahinga gorilla national park harbors three of the eight Virunga volcanoes which include
Mount Muhavura, the word Muhavura means guide and the volcanic mountain stands at an elevation of 4127 meters above the sea level. hiking mount Muhavura takes around 8 hours round trip covering about 12km and during hiking you will pass through small shrubs, grasses and also able to view some bird and animal species. When you reach the summit of the mountain you will have great views of the Rwenzori mountain peaks, Virunga volcanoes, Bwindi forest, Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth national park among others.
Mount Gahinga, the Volcanic Mountain stands at an elevation of 3474metres above the sea level and the word Gahinga means a pile of stones in the garden fields. Hiking mount Gahinga takes about 6 hours round trip and on top of the mountain you will have a spectacular view of the Crater Lake.
Mount Sabyinyo, the word Sabyinyo means old man’s teeth and this volcanic mountain stands at an elevation of 3669metres above the sea level. During hiking you will follow a steep ridge to the summit where you will be standing in three countries that is Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
This is a thrilling activity where you get an opportunity to explore the park on food as you experience the quiet environment, breath fresh air, listen to sounds of birds, view beautiful scenery, landscape, vegetation types, plant species, primates, animals among others. There are various nature walk trail in the part which start from Ntebeko park headquarters such as the Sabyinyo gorge trail, the Rugezi swamp trail, Garama cave trail which is 4km from Ntebeko and leads you to Garama cave which acted as a hiding place for the Batwa and a council chamber. Nature walks take about 2 to 3 hours and offers you with breathtaking lifetime experiences.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of over 180 bird species including forest birds, migratory birds and about 12 species endemic to the Albertine rift. Birding in the park is done during the nature walk where you follow various trails and during birding you should look out for bird species like Kivu ground thrush, blue headed coucal, African olive pigeon, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori turaco, olive woodpecker, double collared sunbird, speckled mouse bird, black kite, gray capped warbler, dusky crimson wing, Rwenzori nightjar among others.
Where to stay on your safari in Mgahinga gorilla national park
There are various accommodations in Mgahinga gorilla national park where you can stay during your safari and they range from luxury, midrange and budget. Lodges in the park include Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mucha Lodge, Lake Chahafi Resort, Travellers Rest Hotel, Musanze Caves Hotel, Muhabura Motel, Mgahinga Rest Camp, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Community Camp, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Heritage Guest House, Nkuringo Safari Lodge among others.
When to visit Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park can be visited anytime throughout the year though the best time is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. During the dry season there is less rainfall in the park therefore access roads, gorilla trekking and nature walk trails will be passable compared to the rainy season when the trails are muddy and slippery. However visitors who want to visit during the dry season are advised to book a gorilla trekking permit 3 to 6 months in advance because the permits are competitive and get sold out quickly.
How to get to Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park can be accessed by both road and air transport means.
When using road transport you will drive from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro and then to Ntebeko park headquarters which takes about 9 to 10 hours’ drive. Though it’s a long journey to the park its filled with great views on the way such as the equator, landscapes, Kigezi hills, terraces, farmlands, local people, homesteads among others.
Mgahinga gorilla national park can also be accessed by public means of transport where you will board a bus from Kampala to Kisoro and then hire a private taxi to the park headquarters. Public means of transport is however not recommended because it’s tiresome and visitors can be overcharged by bus conductors.
Mgahinga gorilla national park can be accessed by air transport means where you will book a flight with a domestic airline company like AEROLINK from Entebbe international airport or Kajansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip. The flight takes about one hour and 15 minutes and on arrival you will connect to the park headquarters by road.
You can also use the Kigali route to access Mgahinga gorilla national park. This is shortest route to the park where visitors will fly to Kigali international airport in Rwanda and then connect by road to Mgahinga gorilla national park via Cyanika border in Kisoro. The journey from Kigali to Mgahinga gorilla national park takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive and it’s filled with great views of the rolling hills in Rwanda, local people, homesteads, scenery among others.