MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga National Park is one of Uganda’s gorilla safari destinations, located in the southwestern corner of Uganda. The Park covers the northern slopes of the 3 northernmost Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The Park is located approximately 10 km south of Kisoro town in south western Uganda and is bordered to the south by Rwanda and to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virunga chain of mountains. Mgahinga National Park was gazetted to protect one of the groups of the world’s last remaining population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey. Nyakagezi gorilla group is the most popular but not stable as it some times crosses the boundary to Rwanda.
When you reach the park, you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate. Mgahinga Park has great biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, mountains such as these provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals.
Additionally, the park also contain a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled. To fully explore the batwa people, you should go for what we call the Batwa Trail! Here you spend the whole day with the batwa people, associate with them, learn about their history, cultures and ways of life among others.
Gorilla Tracking in Mgahinga
Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga National Park starts at 8am daily and last between two and 6 hours depending otheir movement in their natural environment. The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and behavior along the way.
Birding in Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is blessed with a unique bird fauna; 79 bird species have thus far been recorded within the park, including several species endemic to the East Congo Montane region. For the Virunga Conservation Area as a whole, over 295 species in the Virungas are endemic to the Albertine Rift Afromontane region representing 59% of the total of known endemic species.
The 3 volcanoes in this park can be summited. Mt. Sabinyo, at 3,669m, takes about eight hours to cover the 14km round trip, following a steep ridge up to the peak. It takes you six hours to ascend and descend Mt. Gahinga , topped by a swamp-filled crater and giant lobelia. Lucky climbers may spot golden monkeys on their way through the bamboo fores. Mt. Muhavura is the highest peak and this 12km round trip takes around eight hours. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded on a clear day with views of the Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Edward, DR Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the peaks of the Rwenzoris. For great hikers, you can book a 4 days tour package combining mountain gorilla trekking and mountain hiking to any of the peaks above.
Hiking and Nature Walks in Mgahinga National Park in Uganda
A hike through the forest to the deep Sabinyo Gorge – a massive gash in the flank of Mount Sabinyo – provides good birding opportunities and the chance to find the Rwenzori Turaco. This walk takes four hours, and passes through the Rugezi Swamp which is fantastic for bird watchers.
There is another walk to the Congo border transcends different vegetation zones. Hikers can sight the calderas on top of the Gisozi hill, look out for Kisoro and Bunagana towns and be captivated by Lake Mutanda.
The golden monkey tracking is a gentle steep but an interesting 120 minutes trek through former farmland to the bamboo forest. On a clear day, you may view the Virunga Volcano range and come across buffalo and duiker.
Accommodation In Mgahinga National Park
Many accommodation options available around Mgahinga National Park and Kisoro town and these include Gahinga Safari lodge, Kisoro tourist hotel, Travellers Rest hotel and many more.
Access to Mgahinga National Park
The park can be accessed from Kampala and this takes about 8 to 10 hours drive. From Kigali Rwanda, it is just 4-5hours drive, from Volcanoes National park in Rwanda, it is less than 2 hours drive, from southern Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, it is juts 1 hour drive. This means you can combine a gorilla tracking in Rwanda and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park.