Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is another gorilla destination in Uganda after Bwindi impenetrable national park that is located in southwestern region in Kisoro district bordering Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. The national park was gazetted in 1991 mainly to protect and conserve the endangered mountain gorillas. Mgahinga gorilla national park stands between an altitude of 2,227m and 4,127m above the sea level and covers an area of 33.7 square kilometers which makes it the smallest national park in Uganda.
Attractions in Mgahinga gorilla national park
wild animals, Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of about 39 mammal species including the bush pigs, porcupines, buffaloes, bushbucks, forest elephants, golden cats among others.
Mountain gorillas, the park is a home of the endangered mountain gorillas which makes it one of the most visited destinations in Uganda. Mgahinga gorilla national park harbors 2 habituated gorilla families which are available for trekking daily.
Golden monkeys, Mgahinga gorilla national park is the only destination in Uganda harboring the endangered golden monkeys which live in the forest together with the mountain gorillas therefore visitors who want to view the golden monkeys will participate in golden monkey trekking.
Birds, Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of over 115 bird species with some endemic to the Albertine rift and others only found in the park. Bird species in Mgahinga gorilla national park include white naped raven, Rwenzori batis, blue headed coucal, grey capped warbler, speckled mouse bird, Rwenzori nightjar among others.
Virunga volcanoes, Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home of three Virunga volcanoes which include Mount Muhabura which is 4,127m above the sea level, Mount Gahnga which is 3,473m above the sea level and Mount Sabinyo.
Caves, Mgahinga gorilla national park has numerous caves on some of the steep mountain slopes for example the Garama cave which acted as a sacred place for the Batwa when they used to live in the forest.
Things to do in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Gorilla trekking is a thrilling and most done activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park where visitors move into the tropical rainforest in search of the habituated 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 namely Nyakagezi and Hirwa family which are available for trekking daily.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park starts early with a briefing at Ntebeko Park headquarters where after you will be grouped into 8 people to trek each habituated gorilla family. Grouping of individuals in the park is done according to physical fitness, age, personal preferences among others therefore visitors who are not physically fit should communicate to their guide so that they are allocated a gorilla family that is near to trek.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park starts at around 8:00am and takes about 30 minutes to 6 hours depending on the location of the mountain gorillas because they like to move from one place to another in search of food. Once the mountain gorillas are found, you will be able to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their habits, behaviors, taking photos and recording the videos.
Visitors interested in gorilla trekking in Mghainga gorilla national park will have to first acquire a gorilla trekking permit which costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for East African citizens. Uganda increased the gorilla trekking permit by $100 effective 1st July 2020 therefore foreign non-residents will be paying $700 and $600 for foreign residents.
Golden monkey trekking
This is another incredible activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park where you will move into the forest in search of the golden monkey families in their natural habitat. Golden monkey trekking starts in the morning with a briefing about the rules, regulations and expectations. After the briefing you will be grouped into 6 people to trek each habituated family. You will then start trekking in the jungle with a park guide who will be sharing information about the golden monkeys. Trekking of the golden monkeys takes about 2 to 4 hours depending on their location and once found, you will spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their habits, behaviors, lifestyle, taking photos and recording the moments.
Mgahinga gorilla national park also offers golden monkey habituation experience a process where the golden monkeys are trained to get used to human presence. During golden monkey habituation experience only four visitors are allowed to participate in the experience and they spend four hours with the golden monkeys under habituation compared to the one hour given during golden monkey trekking.
Visitors interested in golden monkey trekking should first acquire a golden monkey trekking permit which costs $50 for both foreign non-residents and foreign residents, UGX 20,000 for east African citizens or golden monkey habituation permit which costs $100 for both foreign non-residents and foreign residents and UGX 100,000 for East African citizens.
This is an adventurous activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park where you will hike three of the eight Virunga volcanoes. the national park harbors three volcanoes namely Mount Gahinga which is 3,474m above the sea level and on top you will find a crater filled with swamp and giant lobelia, Mount Muhavura which is 4127m above the sea level and also the highest peak in the park, on top of Mt Muhavura you will have great views of lake Edward, Rwenzori peaks, Bwindi impenetrable national park among others. The third volcano mountain is Mount Sabinyo which is 3,669m above the sea level and on top of the mountain you will be standing in three countries that is Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the best birding destinations in Uganda in that it harbors about 115 bird species including 24 species endemic to the Albertine rift. bird watching in the park is done along the Rugezi swamp, bamboo forest in Mount Sabinyo and during bird watching you will be able to view bird species such as the bronze sunbird, olive thrush, Rwenzori batis, red faced woodland warbler, black headed waxbill, Kivu ground thrush, brown crowned Tchagra, blue headed sunbird, streaky seedeater, banded prinia, olive pigeon, cape robin, handsome francolin, striped breasted tit, western green tinker bird among others.
Batwa trail experience
This is an incredible experience that takes you through the transition or history of the Batwa/pygmies who used to live in the forest many years ago before it was gazetted into a national park in 1991. During the Batwa trail experience you will get an opportunity to learn about their hunting and gathering skills, different plants which were used as medicine, how they used to fetch water using bamboo tubes, build huts, make fire with dry sticks rubbing them against each other and also visit Garama cave which is a 200 meters long cave and used to be a kings residence, training area, hiding place from the bantu people and also a granary to keep their food staff. You will also participate in traditional dances of the Batwa after the Batwa trail experience.
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 this period there is less rainfall in the forest therefore the gorilla trekking and hiking trails in the forest will be dry and passable, there will be short grass/ bushes which allows you to clearly view the mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and other animals in the park and access roads to Mgahinga gorilla national park will be passable.
Where to stay on your safari in Mgahinga gorilla national park
There are a number of luxury, midrange and budget accommodation facilities where you can stay on your safari in Mgahing Gorilla National Park including Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Mutanda Island Lodge, Mgahinga Safari Lodge, Kisoro Travelers Rest Camp, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Mucha Hotel among others
How to get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The national park is located in southwestern part of Uganda and can be accessed by road and air transport means
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 to Mgahinga gorilla national park though not recommended. Therefore when using public means of transport you will board a bus from Kampala to Kisoro and then hire a private taxi to Ntebeko park headquarters.
Air transport, this is the best option for visitors who don’t like travelling long distances. There are domestic companies in Uganda such as Aerolink which operate scheduled and chartered flights daily from Entebbe airport or Kajansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip and then connect to the 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 the park headquarters via Cyanika border and the journey takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive.