MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK OVERVIEW
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park / Mount Gahinga lies is located in the far south western part of Uganda, the park is part of the Virunga conservation area which is one of the areas in the world where tourists can trek the endangered mountain gorillas the other being Bwindi Forest. Mountain Gahinga is Uganda’s smallest national park covering an area of 33.7 SqKm.
The Mountain was named Gahinga from a local word Gahinga to mean “pile of stones” because of the piles of stones gathered by the locals to clear their farmland. The park was at first gazetted as a game sanctuary in 1930 but was later in 1991 established as a national park. Mgahinga has 3 exciting features like the extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda.
WHY VISIT MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK?
The main reasons for the opening of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was to protect two rare species of primates which are critically endangered, that is the mountain gorillas and the rare golden monkeys. Mgahinga is a former kingdom of the indigenous Batwa pygmies who stayed in the forest for a very long time and co-existed with the wild animals. It has a great cultural importance attached to the ancient heritage of forest warriors, the Garama caves is an evidence to prove the lifestyles of Batwa people in ancient times.
The park is a home to over 76 mammals, 350 species of birds including the Albertine rift endemics as well as various plants of medicinal importance this can be well explained by the Batwa. The park offers a wide range of tourist activities such as gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, bird watching, mountain climbing, cultural trails and ancient Garama cave exploration as well as country boundary nature walks.
Things to do and See in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The most rated captivating adventure in Mgahinga Park
Mgahinga National Park is a home to the Nyakagezi Gorilla family group, the only habituated gorilla group found in this park and this is undeniably why tourists visit this National park. Harboring upto 80 mountain gorillas in the one gorilla family, 8 gorilla trekking permits for 8 persons are sold per day for this Gorilla group. Gorilla trekking within this Park starts with pre-tracking briefing at 7:00am from Ntebeko Visitor Center and only one hour is permitted for tourists to spend with these remarkable creatures.
In Mugahinga gorilla National Park, the treekking is more enjoyable during the dry season from June to October and December to February because hiking trails are less muddy and slippery, but the activity can also be conducted in the wet season which is also the low season where gorilla permits are discounted and very cheap.
Track the Endangered Golden Monkeys
Another enchanting trekking activity in Mgahinga
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to at least a troop of 40 – 60 golden monkeys that are habituated and visitors hike to higher altitudes in the bamboo zones where they stay most of the times. The golden monkeys are usually excited by the cameras so much and with their golden and silvered black fur, you can have the excellent exposure as you travel back. Though they move swiftly from one bamboo tree to another you just have to be good at taking pictures.
Golden Monkey Tracking in Mgahinga requires golden monkey permits which cost USD 100 inclusive of park entry fees and the activity usually lasts for four hours depending on the average fitness of visitors and capacity to move. Please note that unlike gorilla trekking, visitors are not required to book for golden monkey tracking in advance. Get to the park Uganda wildlife visitor center and pay for the permits.
Bird Watching in Mgahinga
Sights and sounds of the whisky birds in Mgahinga
Mgahinga Gorilla National park is also home to several bird species that are usually watched at the Buffalo cave, forests and wetlands. Some of the bird species to encounter in Mgahinga are; speckled mouse,fire finch, Kivu ground thrush among the 100 species found in the park. Tourists in mount Mgahinga can sleep in Mount Mgahinga lodge, Kisoro tourists hostel, Amajambere Iwachu camp and golden monkey guest house among the rest. Mgahinga gorilla national park can be reached within 9-10 hours drive from Kampala and 6 hours drive from Kigali Rwanda.
Birding in Mgahinga can be conducted all year round, but the perfect time is the Wet season from Early March to Mid May and September to November because it is the breeding season for the birds and you will be rewarded with the view of numerous bird species. The best months for watching the migratory bird species is from November to April.
Mgahinga Volcano Climbing
Climb the Gahinga mountains, Sabyinyo, Muhabura and adventure the volcanoes
Trekkers to Mgahinga gorilla national park can go for volcano climbing activities on Sabyinyo, . Mt. Sabinyo is sometimes referred to as an old man’s teeth by the locals bacause of its toothed summit . Visitors hike past several deep gorges and ravines before reaching a great location where the three countries Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo borders meet and have a beautiful scenery of all the three. This is why hiking mount Sabyinyo requires physical fitness and experienced mountain climbers.However, you can also choose to go for less hours hiking at the slope or 8 hour round trip. The views are very spectacular where by you can see Rwanda and Cong at the same time.
Batwa Trail Experience in Mgahinga
A Cultural experience to discover the Batwa people
The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park allows you to experience the interactive ways of the ancient Batwa People who once lived in these forests. These where hunters, gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine. When the national park was established in 1991. The Batwa were evicted from the forest and abandoned their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. The only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guide on the Batwa Trail, on which visitors will discover the magic of the Batwa’s ancient home and forest life while enjoying nature walks and learning about the cultural heritage. The Trail” is part of a project to restore dignity and hope by keeping the Batwa Culture and Traditions alive to the Batwa People, give employment to those who are in involved in the day-to-day project of the “Batwa Trail” from the dancers to the guides, pay for school fees for their children, books and beyond that buy land for the community.
Where to Stay on a Trip to Mt Mgahinga National Park?
Accommodation is one of the key areas of a safari When you are considering to taking a gorilla safari to Mgahinga national park as your next destination to track the Nyakagezi gorilla family, you would also be interested in knowing the accommodation options that you can choose from. They include the following;
- Nkuringo safari lodge
- Traveler’s Rest Hotel
- Mt. Mgahinga Rest Camp
- Mount Mgahinga lodge
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla lodge
- Mondi Camp