Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park: Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the destinations in Uganda harboring the endangered mountain gorillas. The national park is located in Kisoro district south western region bordering Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. The park covers a total area of 33.7 square kilometers and harbors about 39 mammal species including the mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, elephants, bush pigs, buffaloes, side striped jackal, giant forest hogs, leopards which are rarely seen, harbors over 79 bird species and the three Virunga volcanoes namely Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura and Mount Sabinyo. Mgahinga gorilla national park was gazette in 1991 mainly to protect and conserve the endangered mountain gorillas.
Gorilla trekking is an interesting activity where visitors move into the dense tropical rainforests 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 2 habituated gorilla families which are available for trekking on a daily basis and they include Nyakagezi and Hirwa family. Hirwa gorilla family was one of the gorilla groups in Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and it migrated to Mgahinga gorilla national park in October 2020.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park starts early in the morning with a briefing at Ntebeko Park headquarters about the expectations, rules and regulations of gorilla trekking. After the briefing you will be grouped into 8 people and allocated a gorilla group to trek. Each gorilla group is visited by a maximum of 8 individuals per day and grouping of the individuals is done according to physical fitness, age, personal preferences among others.
Trekking of the mountain gorillas in the park starts at around 8:00am with a park guide and takes about 2 to 6 hours depending on the location of the gorillas because they like to move from one place to another in search of food. When the gorillas are found, you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat and during this time you will have an opportunity of learning more about their lifestyle, habits, behaviors, take photos and also record the moments.
After spending one hour in the presence of the gorillas, you will trek back to the park headquarters where you will be given a certificate to show that you participated in gorilla trekking.
Gorilla trekking permit
Visitors who want to participate in gorilla trekking activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park will have to first acquire a gorilla trekking permit which is a document or card that is issued to any visitor above the age of fifteen years allowing him or her to visit one of the habituated gorilla families in Mgahinga gorilla national park.
A gorilla trekking permit in Mgahinga gorilla national park costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for east African citizens. However Uganda increased the price of a gorilla trekking permit by $100 therefore effective 1st July 2020 foreign non-residents will pay $700 and $600 for foreign residents.
Booking a gorilla trekking permit in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Booking a gorilla trekking permit is as easy as ABC as long as you follow the right procedures which include booking directly through Uganda Wildlife Authority by contacting the head offices in Kampala via email or telephone calls. There is also another option of booking through a tour operator like Achieve Global Safaris. This is the best option to use in that it saves you all the hustle, you will contact us with the date, month and year when you want to trek the mountain gorillas. We will check for permit availability and if there are some permits available you will be asked to make a deposit for the permit. When the deposit has been made you will be asked to send a scanned copy of your passport details which will be used to register for the permit. We will then acquire the permit for you and send a scanned copy of the receipt as confirmation.
When to book a gorilla trekking permit
A gorilla trekking permit in Mgahinga gorilla should be booked 3 to 6 months in advance before the trekking date because the permits are limited and competitive especially during the peak season in the months of June to September and December to February therefore in order to avoid last minute disappointments you are advised to book in advance.
Where to stay in Mgahinga gorilla
There are luxury, mid-range and budget accommodation facilities in Mgahinga gorilla national park where you can stay during your gorilla trekking safari including Amajambere Iwacu Camp, Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Kisoro Travelers Rest Hotel, Country Guesthouse Kisoro, Mountain Gorilla Safari Hotel, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Community Campground among others.
What to pack for gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga gorilla national park experiences the dry season in the months of June to September, December to February when there is less rainfall though rain can be expected anytime and the rainy season in the months of March to May, October to November when there is heavy rainfall. Due to weather changes you are advised to carry different equipment’s such as
- Long sleeved shirt and trousers to keep you warm especially in the morning,
- Hiking shoes to keep your feet dry,
- Rain jacket or poncho to protect you from the rain,
- Insect repellent to protect you from biting insects
- Camera to capture the moments and take plenty of photos during the one hour with the gorillas
- Pair of binoculars which will be used to view far wildlife species like the birds since Mgahinga is one of the birding destinations in Uganda
- Energy snacks such as bottled water and packed lunch
- Backpack to carry all your gorilla trekking essentials such as camera, permit, energy snacks among others.
When to go for gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park can be done 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 forest therefore access roads to the park will be passable and the gorilla trekking trails in the jungle will be dry and passable compared to the rainy season when the park receives heavy rainfall which makes the gorilla trekking trails muddy and slippery hence making gorilla trekking difficult.
How to get to Mgahinga gorilla national park
The national park is located in southwestern Uganda in Kisoro district and can be accessed by both road and air transport means.
Air transport, there are domestic companies in Uganda such as Aerolink which operate scheduled and chartered flights daily from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip and then connect to Ntebeko park headquarters by road.
Mgahinga gorilla national park can also be accessed from Kigali Rwanda where you will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect to Ntebeko park headquarters by road via Cyanika border which takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive.
Road transport, 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.
You can also use public means of transport though not recommended by boarding a bus from Kampala bus station to Kisoro town and then hire a private taxi to the park headquarters.
Visitors who don’t like crowds during gorilla trekking can book for a gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga gorilla national park because it harbors only 2 habituated gorilla families.