Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of Uganda’s 10 national parks that travelers from far and wide come to visit. The park is a little gem of its own that seats on a 33.9 square kilometers of space in the southwestern part of Uganda in the district of Kisoro, making it the smallest national park in Uganda. Gazetted as a national park in 1991, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park makes part of the great Virunga massifs and encompasses three of the Virunga inactive volcanoes, say Mount Sabinyo, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Muhabura. The Virunga Massif or sometimes referred to as the Virunga Conservation Area spreads across three countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda in the three parks of Virunga National park in Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Uganda’s very own-Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The national park is made up of bamboo forest, the Albertine Rift montane forests, Rwenzori-Virunga montane moorlands with tree heath and an alpine zone in the higher altitudes.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has an altitude range of 2,227 to 4,127 meters above sea level and experiences two wet seasons in a year. The first wet season is from February to May, and the second from September to December. Whereas the country has a distinctive wet and dry season, it is quite hard to fathom that Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which is a tropical rainforest, could have a dry season worth noting. The rains fall at any time, say it can shine bright in the morning and then rain in the afternoon, even during the “dry season” in which travelers are most encouraged to visit the park. Generally, though, Uganda has the wet season which runs in the months of March, April, May October, and November, and the dry season that runs from June-September and December- February.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park inhabits some of the rare species of wildlife, say the endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys that many tourists flock the park year after year to take a look at them. The park has a wide variety of birdlife, many of them being endemics of the Albertine Rift say the Kivu ground thrush, the red-throated alethe, the Rwenzori batis, the Archer’s ground robin, strange weaver, among so many others that a birder cannot get enough of. The three volcanoes of Sabinyo with an elevation of 3645m, Gahinga at 3474m, and Muhabura at an elevation of 4127m above sea level are a great sight right from afar as you drive to the park for they beckon you, and when you do hike them, you are rewarded with great and amazing views.
There are not so many tourists visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park as compared to its neighbor Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and yet they share a number of attractions. This has the park being less congested thus making it a great place for those persons who would use a little peace and quiet. It also gives one a great chance to explore the hidden gem undisturbed and to the fullest.
Top 6 activities to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the four national parks in the world from where one can do gorilla trekking from. When gorilla tracking in Uganda is spoken of, Mgahinga is most often thought of much later as most travelers are more interested and yearn to visit the Bwindi which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, however, is very much rewarding if not the very best for gorilla trekking. The park inhabits about 80 mountain individuals and has one fully habituated Nyakagezi gorilla family that travelers can visit on a gorilla tracking safari. The park also has the Hirwa family that recently migrated from Rwanda that travelers can also track in Uganda for the time it’ll stay.
To be able to do gorilla tracking in Mgahinga, travelers need to book in advance gorilla permits at a cost of $700 from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices or through a reputable tour operator.
Golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Golden monkeys are an endangered species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the most amazing and fascinating activities that a traveler can take part in while in the park. One requires a permit to visit the golden monkeys and a single entry permit costs $60 only. Travelers get to encounter these little golden creatures in their habitat as they feed, play and go about their normal life. Be sure to get excited when you meet them for they are cheerful and active creatures worth a visit.
Hiking any of the three inactive volcanoes of Mgahinga National Park is an adventurous activity that will surely reward you with some of the most amazing views you will ever see. Hiking the Sabinyo, in particular, gives travelers a chance to be in three different countries at the same time. The trails are well developed and one can choose from a number of hiking options that they can manage as time varies for each. Hikes that last about three hours or so can be perfect for travelers who have less time to spare and not so fit to hike to the summits. Volcano hikes that take 6 hours or more are all available to choose from, get in touch with us to help you plan your visit and hike.
The Batwa Cultural trail
The Batwa cultural trail has visitors meeting the ancient forest dwellers who were not so long ago evicted from their known home. They will share of how they lived their life back then, say showing you how they collected wild honey, hunted, cooked their local food, made fire from a stick among so many others. the trail usually ends with a musical and dance session sang by the Batwa in which the travelers can take part in.
Mgahinga is a great place to see a number of birds most of which are Albertine Rift endemics. Birds like fire finch, speckled mouse, montane nightjar, regal sunbird among so many can are all sighted in the park. A true birder can see even more than 100 birds a day in this bird haven. Having a bird guide with you will increase your chances of spotting more birds as they will lead you through the right trails. Do not forget to carry your binoculars.
Garama cave exploration
The Garama cave is a 342m long and 14m deep cave that lies beneath a plateau in the northern part of the park. The cave-in ancient times was used as the council chamber of the Batwa people. They held meetings from there and was a hiding place for them when attacked. A visit could be worth it.
The park is an 8-10 hours’ drive from Kampala or Entebbe, covering a distance of 540km. Though long, the views along the way are eye-opening to Uganda’s countryside life and a number of stops can be made for exploring worth-it places and taking pictures. Charter flights are available for booking for they fly from Entebbe or Kajansi to Kisoro from where you get transported by road on a 30 minutes or so drive. Alternatively, travelers can fly direct into Kigali Rwanda and be transported for about 5 hours to Mgahinga through the Cyanika or Katuna border.
Comfortable lodgings with great customer service are available. They range in budget with the luxury, midrange and basic options all available. Some accommodation facilities are shared by both Bwindi and Mgahinga. Booking in advance is recommended, more so if planning to visit during the peak season.
Take time to visit this small national park in Uganda. You will surely enjoy the tranquility and the many activities that you can do in the park. Get in touch with a trusted tour operator and have yourself a great time when you do get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.