MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga gorilla national park is second home for mountain gorillas in Uganda located in the South Western part of Uganda in Kisoro district , the park is the smallest national park in Uganda and one of the 3 national park forming the Great Virunga Conservation Area. The other two national parks are volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mgahinga gorilla national park covers an area of 33.7 square kilometers lieing between the altitudes 2,227m and 4,127m and covering 3 Virunga volcanoes that are Mt. Muhavura (4,127), Mt. Gahinga (3,474), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645), the park was established in 1991 and is governed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Mgahinga gorilla national park’s name “Mgahinga” was derived from a Kinyarwanda word “Gahinga” meaning “pile of volcano lave stone heaps found in the cultivated areas of the volcano”. The other two volcanoes found in the park also get their names from local slugs
- Mount Sabyinyo means “the old man’s teeth”
- Mount Muhavura means “the Guide”
Mgahinga gorilla national park is famously known for being a home to critically endangered mountain gorillas which are the reason to why it was established, the park is also a home to the endangered golden monkeys, about 39 mammals and over 79 bird species. Mammals inhabiting in Mgahinga gorilla national park include giant forest hogs, bushbucks, leopards, spotted hyenas, black fronted duikers among others. Birds found in the park include African olive pigeon, Alpine swift, Archer’s robin-chat, Blue-headed coucal, Dusky crimsonwing, Kivu ground thrush, Moorland chat, Olive woodpecker, Ruwenzori batis, Ruwenzori nightjar and Ruwenzori turaco among others.
Mgahinga gorilla national park hosts over 80 mountain gorillas with only one habituated mountain gorilla group that is the Nyakagezi gorilla group which is open for mountain gorilla trekking. Nyakagezi gorilla group comprises of 9 members with 4 silverbacks, 2 infants, 2 adult females and 1 juvenile.
UGANDA SAFARI ACTIVITIES TO DO IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mountain gorilla Tracking
Mountain gorilla trekking is the trade mark activity done in Mgahinga gorilla national park, this breathtaking activity is done in the Nyakagezi gorilla group which is the only habituated gorilla family in the park. Mountain gorilla trekking starts early in the morning with a briefing session at Ntebeko where you are briefed about the rules and regulations to follow, the briefing is carried out by park rangers and guides and you are to hire a porter to assist you during the Gorilla trekking.
From Ntebeko, you hike through the forests of Mgahinga looking for mountain gorillas, the tracking takes about 2 to 4 hours depending on where the gorillas spent their night and most cases they move in search for food.This activity is physically challenging as you move in the forests, valleys and steep slopes of the park.
The climax of this activity is encountering the mountain gorillas, you will be mind blown by the huge size of these gentle giants and their fur covered bodies. You are to spend one hour in the presence of the gorillas, observe their behavior which is similar to humans and take amazing pictures.
Mountain gorilla trekking doesn’t only offer an encounter with the giant mountain gorillas but also other forest creatures such as birds, monkeys and various tree species.
Mgahinga gorilla national park lies in the Virunga mountain chain and comprises of 3 volcanoes that are Mount Muhabura, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga. Climbing these volcanoes to their summit is a thrilling and adventurous activity you can do during your Uganda safari to Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Climbing Mount Muhavura “The Guide”
Mount Muhavura loosely translated as the guide stands at the altitude of 4,127 meters high, climbing this volcano is a route of 12 kilometers taking 8 hours of the whole round journey. The climbing journey takes you through the small shrubs, grasses and the rock ground and while on top of the volcano you get best views of the Virunga volcanoes, Mount Rwenzori, Lake Edward, Bwindi Forest and the neighboring surrounding.
Climbing Mount Gahinga
Mount Gahinga standing at the altitude of 3,474 meters of the Virunga volcanoes and one of the 3 found in Mgahinga gorilla national park, name means “Gahinga” means a pile of lava stone of stone heaps which were found during cultivation around the volcano. Climbing mount Gahinga is a hike of about 8 kilometers taking approximately 6 hours, the hike takes you through the bamboo forest to reach the top.
Climbing Mount Sabyinyo “Old man’s teeth”
Mount Sabyinyo volcano stands at the altitude of 3,669 meters high, the name of this volcano is loosely translated as “Old man’s teeth”. Climbing this volcano is quiet challenging taking approximately 8 hours for the whole journey, hiking on this volcano takes you through gorges and ravines thus offering an adventurous adventure. While at the top of the volcano you get a remarkable experience of standing in three countries that is Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo from one point.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a birder’s paradise, the park is a home different bird species recorded to be around 79 species inhabiting in the bamboo forests, montane forests and gorges between Mount Sabyinyo and Gahinga.
Birding in Mgahinga gorilla national park is a thrilling Uganda safari experience and some of the birds you will enjoy spotting include African olive pigeon, Alpine swift, Archer’s robin-chat, Blue-headed coucal, Dusky crimsonwing, Kivu ground thrush, Moorland chat, Olive woodpecker, Ruwenzori batis, Ruwenzori nightjar and Ruwenzori turaco among others
Hiking and Nature Walks
Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the naturally gifted with a unique ecosystem, the park consists of 3 volcanoes dominated by bamboo forests, Rugezi swamp among others which are best explored on hiking and nature walks experience.
This activity is conducted around the edges of the volcanoes giving tourists an opportunity to have beautiful scenic views of farm lands, surrounding lakes such as Lake Mutanda and encounter various forest birds.
Golden Monkey Tracking
Golden monkey tracking is another amazing primate safari activity offered in Mgahinga gorilla national park, this activity offers an encounter with the endangered golden monkeys inhabiting in the bamboo zone of the park. Golden monkey tracking starts early in the morning with briefing then hike into the forests looking for the golden monkeys, you will find these playful creatures in the bamboos and you enjoy watching them play on tree branches. You are to spend one hour in the presence of the golden monkeys while watching them play on tree branches and take amazing pictures.
Cultural encounters in Mgahinga gorilla national park are done in the batwa community, the batwa are pygmy people who formerly lived in the forests of Mgahinga and depended on the forest through hunting and picking leaves and fruits. Visiting the Batwa pygmy people in their homesteads will give an insight on how they live their live, how they dress, visit the local herbalist, demonstration of hunting skills and be entertained by local dances and drama.
HOW TO GET TO MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
The park is situated in the South Western region of Uganda and from capital of Uganda Kampala, it is about 510 kilometers, to get to the park you can use either Road or Air.
By road, it is approximately 9-10 hours drive from Kampala to Mgahinga, to Kabale Town it is a drive of 8 hours covering 434 kilometers and 76 kilometers to Kisoro Town. This route is tarmacked and a bit mountainous and steep.
Alternatively you can use a route from Kabale town passing through near the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi and joins Kabale –Kisoro tarmac again, from Kisoro it is about 14 kilometers to Ntebeko the main entrance of the park.
By air, domestic chartered flights are available from Entebbe International airport or Kajjansi airstrip to Kisoro airfield.
WHERE TO STAY IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
There are various accommodation facilities in Mgahinga gorilla national park offering accommodation to tourists visiting the park on a Uganda safari, the accommodations are categorized as budget, midrange and luxury. Accommodations in Mgahinga gorilla national park include
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
- Nkuringo Safari Lodge
- Traveler’s Nest Hotel
- Mgahinga Rest Camp
- Mount Mgahinga Lodge among others