Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits on the extreme Southwestern Uganda, Kisoro district. It is the smallest of the Uganda safari parks and also of the 3 Virunga Conservation Areas (VCA). Mgahinga was founded in 1991 and like other national parks or protected areas in Uganda, it is managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). This park covers only 33.7sq.km of land, lying at an elevation of 2227-4127m. It shelters 3 of the 8 Virunga Massifs; Mt Sabyinyo (3645m), Mount Gahinga (3474m), and Mount Muhabura (4127m).
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park takes its name from the Kinyarwanda word ‘Gahinga’ which denotes ‘pile of volcanic lava stone heaps. Its establishment in 1991 was purposely to inhabit the mountain gorillas plus other diverse wildlife. It is generally a magical destination best known as a place where gold meets silver-being a home to strikingly beautiful golden monkeys.
Species of wildlife in Mgahinga
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park accounts for about 39 species of mammals. These include a section of mountain gorillas, forest elephants, golden monkeys, buffaloes, leopards, black-fronted duikers, bushbucks, giant forest hogs, spotted hyenas.
Species of birds within Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Over 180 bird species are protected in various habitats in Mgahinga, one of the amazing birding tour destinations in Uganda. They include Malachites, greater double collared sunbirds, brown woodland warblers, cape robin, Kivu ground thrush, cinnamon bracken warblers, white starred robin, Rwenzori turacos, Archer’s robin chat, black-headed waxbill, Rwenzori Batis.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park is an incredible activity best carried out on foot thus making it one of the most thrilling adventures of a lifetime. All gorilla treks by tourists on Uganda safari in Mgahinga begin with briefing early morning at Ntebeko gate. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park currently has one gorilla family for tourists to trek and that is Nyakagezi.
The park guide escorts tourists on their search for mountain gorillas, lasting for 2-6 hours and one hour is spent with these apes. But carry along with gardening gloves, hiking boots-waterproof, valid gorilla permit (costing $700 per person), a camera without a flashlight, rain-jacket, insect repellent, long-sleeved shirts, trousers.
With over 3000 to 4000 golden monkeys still existing within Virunga Region, a large number of them have been habituated for tourists to trek in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This makes it the only destination in Uganda where golden monkeys are trekked. Like mountain gorilla adventure, golden monkey tracking also begins with a briefing at Ntebeko gate.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park boasts of its diverse birding trails and over 180 bird species making it one of the best bird-watching areas in Uganda. The trails include Gorge trail, bamboo trail, and the interesting birds to identify on birding tour include black-headed waxbill, bronze, regal headed sunbirds, blue-headed sunbirds, cape robin chat, Rwenzori batis, brown crowned tchagara, Chubb’s cisticola, red-faced woodland, Doherty’s bush shrike, banded Prinia, Rwenzori Turacos.
A nature walk features among Mgahinga’s top safari activities tourists on Uganda safari can enjoy. It is a remarkable on-foot walk experience offering a close interaction with nature. Hikes can also be done through Gisozi hill offering exceptional views of Kisoro and Bunagana Town, Lake Mutanda plus calderas.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has 3 of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes and it is one most sought-after mountaineering destinations in East Africa. The highest of these 3 volcanoes is Mt Muhabura Volcano rising up-to 4127m. It takes hikers 8 hours to complete a 12kms round trip on this volcano. Mount Sabyinyo 3669m, 14kms hike but offers hikers amazing views of surrounding areas. Gahinga Volcano 3474m is another interesting volcano worth exploring on a hiking tour in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park isn’t only visited for gorilla treks or golden monkey encounters but also for tourists to explore the Garama Caves. These caves exist just adjacent to the park head offices and they give insight into the Batwa history.
The Batwa trail is worth hitting on cultural tours in Mgahinga. It ushers you into Batwa’s unique history and lifestyle. The Batwa spent 500000 years in the forest as hunters and gatherers.
The best time to visit Mgahinga is during the warm/driest months of the year that is from June-September and December-February. They are the most preferred months to track mountain gorillas considering the fact that low rainfall is experienced making it easier to navigate through the steep slopes.
But mountain gorillas move to look for what to feed unlike the wet months when there is plenty of forage. The wet or rainy months; March to May and October to November are ideal to trek mountain gorillas or golden monkeys but there is plenty of rainfall which makes the habitat slippery and muddy.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park consists of budget, mid-range, and luxury accommodation. They include Mt Mgahinga Rest Camp, Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Mount Mgahinga Lodge, Clouds Mount Gorilla Lodge, Nkuringo Safari Lodge.
By road: Mgahinga is 510kms from Kampala and this translates to about 9 to 10 hours’ drive. From Rwanda: It is easier to connect to Mgahinga via Katuna or Chanika border, 3-4 hours’ drive.
By air: tourists can access Mgahinga by taking a flight from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi to Kisoro Airfield or Kihihi then drive to the park.
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