Mgahinga Gorilla national park is Uganda’s Gorilla safaris destination and smallest park (33.7km²) covering the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga volcanoes. It’s a home of mountain gorillas and other wildlife like the golden monkey, buffalo, leopard among others.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park is formed by the slopes of Gahinga the smallest of the Virunga, Muhavura and Sabinyo volcanic mountains. These mountains where named by the local people (Bafumbira) in a local language where Gahinga means ‘small pile of stones’ piled by local farmers when clearing their farmland. The Muhuvura means ‘the guide’ since it’s an important landmark and Sabinyo means ‘old man’s teeth’ since its rough.
HOW TO ACCESS MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 524km from Kampala and its either accessed by road or air transport.
By road, Mgahinga Gorilla national park can be reached from kampala via the Mbarara and Kabale highways to Kisoro. The 80km road between Kabale and Kisoro is a zigzagging drive through mountainous terrain with steep slopes. From Kisoro to Ntebeko the park headquarters, a rough rocky 14km road is used to get you there.
By air, Mgahinga Gorilla national park is close to Kisoro Airfield and can be reached from central using aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield.
The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in southwestern Uganda, due to the climatic changes, these mountains provide habitant to 76 mammal species, plants and over 100 bird species. It inhabits mountain gorillas and other large mammals though rare like the buffalo, elephant, giant forest hog among others are encountered in the dense forest. The bamboo zone in Mgahinga is a home to another endangered primate, the golden monkey.
This place is cool with the temperature around 15 degrees Celsius during day. It lowers to 10 degrees Celsius at night. There are two dry seasons from December to February and from May to August. The wet seasons from March to April and from September to November. The rains are always heavy and the park is often covered in fog.
ACTIVITIES TO DO ON MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Gorilla trekking is the main tourism activity done. It’s done along the forests across the slopes of the Virungas. Gorilla tracking starts in the morning at the Ntebeko Visitor Centre and typically lasts 3-5 hours. The trekking is done in groups led by a guide who explains aspects of their behavior and ecology
To protect the gorillas and Visitors, it’s advisable to book in advance so as to make proper preparations. Rules and guidelines must be adhered to avoid any inconveniences that might ruin the visitor’s experience.
GOLDEN MONKEY TRACKING
Mgahinga gorilla national park volcanoes are also habitants to the golden monkey especially the bamboo area on the slopes of Gahinga. This can be done in a group which can be tracked with experienced forest guides throughout the day.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers the opportunity to explorer the wild on foot, the visitors Centre at Ntebeko is the start point for the natural walks. A path along the drystone Buffalo Wall provides good birding and views of the park’s dramatic volcanic backdrop. During the walking various species of mammals, butterflies, plants mostly trees and birds are quietly and closely observed.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is embraced with over 100 bird species to bird watchers, they include the Albertine Rift endemics and other forest birds. Birds are rare in this park though there are various birding spots that are beautiful like the Sabinyo Gorge habitat for the striking Rwenzori Turaco, the Gahinga and the path at Ntebeko. Its suitable when done in the morning.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is made up of three Virunga volcanoes best for hikking, Mountain Muhavura (4,127m) with the highest peak seen allover Kisoro. The climb to the top passes through a rocky steep surface covered by bamboo forest and shrubs. At the top, a clear astonishing view of the crater lake, Virunga volcanoes, Rwenzori peaks, Lake Edward and Bwindi Impenetrable forest give you an unforgettable experience.
The rough crown of Mountain Sabinyo (3,669m) has several peaks to climb. The slopes are steep and hiking up the mountain it takes approximately 8 to 9 hours’ round trip to cover the 14km stretch. Several ladders are used at some particular part to climb up the mountain, this is more fun and gets the most exciting self out of you. At the top, you are already in three countries of East Africa at the same time that is Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, how amazing!
Mountain Gahinga (3,474m) the smallest of the Virunga volcanoes, it’s easier to trek than Sabinyo and Muhavura. The trek round is through bamboo-covered slopes which harbor birds, elephants, buffalos among others , it has swampy craters on the top.
THE BATWA CULTURE TRAIL in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Its dense forests were a home to the Batwa also known as pygimies, who depended on the forest for food, medicine and shelter. The culture trail with in the hilly forested areas portrays out lifestyle of the Batwa by unveiling their hidden historical secrets and unique cultural background. The trail is led by experienced Batwa guides who introduce and demonstrate their tradition to the visitors, like how they used to live and survive in the thick forests, their way of life, the Ngarama cave and the cultural performance of music and dance by the Batwa women at the end of the trail. The Batwa trail can be done at any time during the day.
ACCOMMODATION IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
There are accommodation facilities located within the park at Ntebeko, Mountain Gahinga and traditional bandas managed by the local community. Good accommodation facilities can also be found in Kisoro town and Lake Mutanda. They range from budget facilities to midrange facilities up to the most luxury facilities.