Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is known as a place where Gold meets silver making it an icon of Uganda’s national parks. It is the smallest park among the ten national parks Uganda has and is located in the south-western part of Uganda mainly in the town of Kisoro district. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park welcomes visitors every year especially those who are interested in Gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, mountain hiking, bird watching among others. The park was gazzetted as a national park from a game reserve in 1991 mainly to safe guard and protect the Mountain Gorillas that were being killed by human livings.

mgahinga gorilla national park

 Mgahinga Gorilla National Park got its name from the Kinyarwanda phrase Gahinga which meant a small lava stone where cultivation is commonly done at the foot of the mountain. Though the park is small, it is being visited by a large number of tourists due to its natural beauty, it is surrounded by the woodlands, tropical forests, savannah grasslands, montane forests, bamboo forests, semi alpine vegetation mention but a few. The park is also part of the virunga conservation region which include the volcanoes national park in Rwanda and the Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The most prominent features in the park include the three inactive volcanoes which are the Mountain Muhabura, Mountain Sabyinyo where by sabyinyo meant the “old man’s teeth and mountain Gahinga.

Wildlife in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The park is well-known for mountain gorilla tracking but also it hosts other wildlife species like the endangered golden monkeys, spotted hyenas, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, patas monkeys, Mangabeys, buffaloes, bush babies, elephants, baboons, bushbucks, blue monkeys, forest hogs, golden cats, black and white colobus monkeys among others. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park also harbors the reptiles like the geckos, chameleons, snacks among the rest.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a home to over 250 bird species and some are endemic to the Albertine Rift Mountains. You can also watch migratory birds in this park. The birds in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include double-collared sunbird, Paradise flycatcher, Speckled mouse birds, black kite, pin tailed whydah, Ibis, fire finch stonechat, white-necked raven, alpine, blue-headed coucal, Dusky crimson wing, waxbills, kivu ground-thrush among the rest.

golden monkey in Mgahinga gorilla national park

Activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park 

Gorilla tracking

Gorilla trekking is the main activity done in Mgahinga and it is the main reason why the park is famous. It has over 80 mountain gorillas with more fuzzy coats than those in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The park has only one gorilla group open to tourism and that is the Nyakagyezi gorilla group. The group is among the habituated mountain gorilla groups in Uganda. It sometimes crosses to Rwanda and even Congo. The trekking starts at 8am with a briefing, then led by the park rangers to locate the group. During the gorilla tracking expect to spot the pristine forest, birds, primates plus other forest creatures. You can not tell the exact time for gorilla trekking since you have to move long distance looking for where they nested the previous day.

Golden monkey trekking

The park is a habitat to the most sought primates in Uganda and Africa at large by the tourists. The golden monkeys are more suspicious of the blue monkeys. The golden monkeys are suspicious interesting to watch while they are on the trees. Therefore you should not miss out this golden monkey tracking activity while on the safari to Mgahinga because they look cute and have interesting golden coats. The primates are very playful and active. They spend most of their time on tree tops feeding bamboo shoots on the slopes of the volcanoes.

Bird watching

Mgahinga is one of the best bird watching destinations in Uganda. The park is blessed with over 110 bird species which you can be viewed in the bamboo forest, caves, and mountains, caves, in gorge between Mts.Sabinyo and Gahinga and also in the montane forest where you can spot the Rwenzori Turaco with much ease. These are the birds you can sight at Mgahinga National park, the white-starred Robin, Rwenzori nightjar, olive woodpecker, kivu ground-thrush, olive pigeon, alpine, dusky crimson wing, archer’s robin-chat among others.

Mountain climbing

There is nothing fascinating and adventurous as climbing those three volcanic mountains. You can climb one by one on a separate day that is Mt. sabyinyo, Mt.Muhavura ND Mt. Gahinga. Hiking to the top of the mountains is quiet challenging but it is a rewarding one. Once you reach at the top of the mountain you feel the remarkable experience in that you feel you are in the 3 east African countries which are Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Hiking and Nature walks

Hiking experience is done at the edge of the mountains and it is a rewarding activity. You go hiking around the wild vegetation, caves, bamboo forest, the Rugezi swamp area where you get the opportunity to have the amazing scenic view of agricultural plantations, the surrounding lakes like Lake Mutanda plus sighting of the forest birds.

Cultural encounters

Over the years, the park has been a home to some group of people called the Batwa. They live, hunt, feed and practice all their activities in the park forests. Therefore you can visit the Batwa homesteads and encounter their ways of living for instance how they cook their local meals, eat, dress, dance among the rest.

Getting to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

It is 510 kilometers from Kampala to the park. You can get there by both means of transport that is by road or air transport. You can use a public or private means while on is approximately a 9 to 10 hours’ drive from Kampala to Mgahinga. Alternatively you can use Kabale route leading you to kisoro town or Kabale through the thrilling and adventurous lake Bunyonyi joining Kabale kisoro tarmac road then finally to Ntebeke the park main has to get a 4×4 safari vehicle to navigate through this stretch of road. By air you can book your flight in advance from either Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield to kisoro airfield. Flights save time and are less tiresome.

Accommodation in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has various accommodation facilities ranging from luxuries, budget, mid-range and campsite lodges. The lodges include the following;

Mountain Mgahinga lodge; it is found on the edge of the virunga volcanoes and it gives you a great spectacular view of the scenic environment.  Rooms have almost all the social amenities like the shower, flat TV screens among others. They serve all the delicious local cuisines at the lodge

Traveler’s nest lodge; it is located outside kisoro town. It is an old hotel and a quiet place giving you the spectacular view of the virunga volcanoes plus the fire place flexible rooms.

Clouds mountain gorilla lodge; the lodge is located in between Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park on the Nteko Ridge. It is a luxury hotel offering luxurious services to visitors. The lodge has approximately 8 cottages with a beautiful interior. You can carry out all the activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park while living in this lodge.

Mgahinga rest camp; this lodge is situated next to Mgahinga national park, it has 9 grass thatched Banda’s, 3 tents consisting of private facilities all facing lake Mutanda. They are unsuited with private balconies. Power here is generated from solar panels.

Best time to visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The perfect time to visit Mgahinga National Park is in the dry season in the months of June to August and December to January. The trails are easy to navigate and spend around one hour with the gorillas since the ground is dry.  Though the park is open throughout the year. Peak season starts from June to September therefore buying the gorilla trekking permits tends to be difficult since tourists fly in the country at a very high rate. Low season runs from March, April, may, October and in November.

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