Overview – Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a great trek, an unreal adventure through the scenic park accompanied with sight to the endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. As the country’s smallest national park, its a secure habour to the Ugandan part of the Virunga massif its volcano slopes contain various ecosystems which are biologically diverse with their peaks providing a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.
As the name suggests, the area is habitat to the rare mountain gorilla, with one habituated family spending it’s time here-Nyakagezi group is led by Mark, a silver back and is assisted by Mafia, Ndungutse and Bugingo. This gorilla family used to occasionally cross the border until it settled in Uganda. You can also find golden monkeys here, blue monkeys, elephant, buffalo and numerous bird species.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a home to amzing volcanos which presents an opportunity for Volcano climbing with a unique thirst to reach the top.. Mount Gahinga has a beautiful swamp, Mount Muhavura has a crater lake and Mount Sabinyo gives the best and an amazing view experience of the at the summit where one sets foot in all the 3 gorilla countries; Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lying at an altitude of about 2.227m and 4.127m, south western Uganda, the park also features 3 of the eight Virunga Mountain ranges (Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura). These mighty Virunga volcanoes stretch up to the Virunga Volcano range of the East Central Africa, Albertine rift in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Uganda border.
Gorilla Trekking at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to one gorilla family that is habituated for tourism. The Nyakagezi group is at present comprised of three silver-backs, two adult females, two black backs and two infants. As part of the habituation programe, rangers spend time around the wild Mountain Gorilla families so they become acquainted to a human presence and scent.
As the rangers observe the group, they can identify the individuals and name them.
Wildlife of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to 76 mammal species, besides the endangered mountain gorillas and Golden monkeys including the bush pigs, South African porcupines,forest buffaloes, bush-bucks, forest Elephants, golden cats, giant forest hogs, leopards, black fronted duikers that may be hard to spot due to the dense vegetation in the park.
Gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The main attraction in the park is Gorilla Trekking with one habituated gorilla family-the Nyakagezi gorilla group which used to cross the borders into Rwanda and DR Congo making visiting it hard, but for the last few years it has permanently settled here.
Bird life of Mgahinga Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to about 180 bird species with some of the spectacular Albertine rift endemics. The park has varied montane habitats, which provide an excellent home for the different bird species including Kivu Ground Thrush, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, White Starred Robin, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Archer’s Robin Chat, Olive Pigeon, and Black headed waxbill, Western Green Tinkerbird, Cape Robin. More species include; White-starred Robin, Brown Woodland Warbler, Striped breasted Tit, Malachite, Scarlet-tufted, Greater Double collared Sunbirds
Vegetation in Mgahinga Park
Mgahinga National Park is popular for its thick vegetation, the area is one of the most rainfall catchment destinations in the country with several crater lakes on the mount Muhabura and swamp crater on the mount Gahinga summit as well as amazing swamps that lie within the 3 volcanoes. Some of the most outstanding features of Mgahinga national park include its three conical, extinct volcanoes which are part of the spectacular Virunga range that forms the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo including Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo with distinct and spectacular features that are a must see while on your safari.
Activities in Mgahinga Park
This park is one of the few destinations in the world where you can see the endangered mountain Gorillas, though the park is mostly known gorillas it has more to offer including:
In Uganda, Mgahinga National Park is the second gorilla destinations after Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park that you can pay a visit to track the gorillas and the interested visitors, you will track the Nyakagezi habituated gorilla group and your treks start from the Ntebeko entrance gate.
Golden Monkey Trekking
Golden Monkeys, are endemic to Mgahinga National Park and can often be found high up in the dense bamboo forests. There are estimated to be 3000-4000 individuals in the Virunga area, with 42-60 are habituated in Mgahinga.
Nature walks/ Hiking
Taking on a hike adventure at Mgahinga National Park gives you a chance to hike through the thick forest to the Sabyinyo gorge that also serves as the best site for birding safaris. The hikes allow you to walk and learn through the transcending vegetation zones along the Congo borders where you will glace several calderas.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the best hangouts for bird viewing and exceptional photoshoots the most popular birding area is mostly the gorge trail between the Sabyinyo and the Gahinga with amazing views of the Dusky turtle dove, cape robin chat, black headed waxbill, streaky seed-eater, blue headed sun bird, regal sun bird and others.
Mgahinga National Park is home to all the 3 mighty Virunga Mountains and volcano climbing features among the safari highlights in the park especially on the summit of mount Sabyinyo about 3669 for 8 hours is such a wonderful adventure with opportunities to view swamps full of craters and giant lobelia, clear scenic views of the lake Edward, Virunga volcanoes, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Rwenzori mountains.
If you choose a cultural community walk in the Batwa community adjacent to the park, the interaction and knowledge gathered from these pygmies shall leave you wanting more. There is Batwa trail, that takes you through cultural exploration with the former hunters- gatherers to explore more about their pre-civilization lifestyles.
While in Mgahinga National Park you can trek both gorillas and the golden monkeys therefore rewarding travelers with a multitude of natural wonders and wide range of attractions.
Several lodging options ranging from budget friendly to luxurious ones exist near the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offering accommodation ranging from camping to luxury accommodations including:
- Mount Gahinga Lodge
- Mutanda Lake Resort
- Virunga Hotel
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
- Traveller’s Rest
- Mt. Gahinga Rest Camp
When to visit the Park
The best time to visit the park is during the seasons of June- August and December – February when the trailing tracks are less muddy and passable.
Though the park can be visited at anytime of the year, but as a rainforest the park is always wet even more so during the rainy seasons of April – May and October – November.
How to get to There
Located in Kisoro District, the park is 510 km from Kampala lasting 8 hours on the good tarmac road. The park can be reached by both road and air with the main entrance to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is at Ntebeko 14 km from Kisoro.
- The journey from Kampala to Kabale covers 434 km for about 8 hours on a good tarmac road and another 76 km to Kisoro on a mountainous tarmac road.
- Tourists can also access the park from the Buhoma trail head in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in a four hours’ drive.
- Through Kigali, Rwanda cross to Mgahinga National Park through Cyanika border and this is less than 4 hr drive.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can also be reached by air from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro airfield in Nyakabande as they are scheduled flights to Kisoro on a daily.
A visit to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a must while on your visit to Uganda as it will quench your curiosity for mountain gorilla tracking, golden monkey trekking, mountain climbing and an unforgettable encounter with the Batwa trail.