Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda. It is the smallest national park in Uganda covering 33.7 square kilometers. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is part of the Virunga conservation area and is shared by Congo’s Virunga national park and Rwanda’s Volcano national park. The national park lies at an altitude between 2220m-4127m above sea level. On your visit to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, you will observe the different vegetation that make up the park. These are; montane forest, bamboo forests, afromontane and former farm land.
The Virunga ranges boast a total of 8 volcanoes, 3 of which are found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Mount Muhabura is the highest and stands at 4,127m above sea level. This mountain range has a crater lake at the summit with clear waters. At the summit, you will enjoy panoramic views of Uganda and Rwanda on your Uganda hiking and mountaineering safari. Mount Gahinga is the second tallest range and stands at 3,474m above sea level. The summit is a swamp filled crater 180m wide and offers amazing views on your hiking safari. Mount Sabyinyo stands at 3,669 meters above sea level is the shortest of the 3 mountain ranges. The summit is shared by Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. A hike to any of these ranges offers rewarding hiking safari experience with amazing views.
Wildlife in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
Despite being the smallest national park in Uganda, the national park is home to 76 mammal species. Because of the thick vegetation, it is hard to see many of the mammal species. Be on the lookout for; forest buffaloes, bushbucks, forest elephants, golden cats, South African porcupines and many more. However, the major attractions in the park is the endangered mountain gorillas and the golden monkeys.
Gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
Gorillas are the major attraction in Mgahinga Gorilla national park. The park has 1 habituated gorilla family, the Nyakagyezi gorilla family. The gorilla family has over 9 gorilla members; 4 silverbacks, 2 adult females, 2 infants and a juvenile. The most remarkable thing about this gorilla troop is that the dominant silverback Bugingo who is believed to be more than 54 years old. Other gorilla families in Mgahinga Gorilla national park have not habituated yet.
Birds of Mgahinga Gorilla national park
The national park is home to over 180 bird species. With the various vegetation habitat, the birds have made this park their home. Some of the bird species in Mgahinga Gorilla national park are endemic to the Albertine rift. Some of the birds of Mgahinga Gorilla national park include; Cinnamon Bracken warbler, olive pigeon, Rwenzori Turaco, Kivu Ground thrush, white starred robin, archer’s robin chat, black headed waxbill, western green tinker bird, malachite, greater double collard sun birds and many more.
Safari activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla trekking is the major safari activity done in Mgahinga Gorilla national park. After being briefed about the rules and regulations of gorilla trekking, you will head into the forest in search of the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla national park is done on foot like in any other gorilla parks. The Ntebeko gate is the starting point for gorilla trekking. With guides and rangers in tow, you will trek through the lush green vegetation. Stories and tales of the mountains, gorillas and the history of the park will be provided as you trek through the forest.
This makes the whole gorilla trekking experience more surreal. The rangers will provide you information about the gorilla family and its members. On making contact with the gorillas, you will spend an hour with them, taking pictures and videos. Remember the guidelines given before the trek. Keep a 7 meter gap, don’t keep prolonged eye contact with the gorillas and don’t use flash photography. Please note that if you have any communicable diseases like cough and flu, you will not be allowed to go gorilla trekking. These disease can easily be transmitted to the gorillas. Wear the right clothes; hiking boots, long sleeved shirt and trousers, hat, sun screen and insect repellent.
Golden Monkey trekking
Golden monkey trekking is another major safari activity in Mgahinga national park. The golden monkeys are endemic to the Albertine rift valley and are only tracked in Mgahinga national park. Unlike gorilla trekking, golden monkeys move a lot and are fast. You will need a steady hand to get good photos of these primates. They are endangered with an estimated 3000-4000 of these primates in the Virunga region. The troop of about 40-6- golden monkeys are habituated. A certain level of fitness will be required on your golden monkey trekking safari.
On your Uganda gorilla safari, you can choose to embark on nature walks after the gorilla trekking. These nature walks and hikes will take you to the Gisozi hills where you will have great views of Kisoro town and Lake Mutanda. On this hill, you will have great views of the calderas
Mountaineering and hiking safaris
Mountain climbing and hiking is another great activity to do in Mgahinga national park. With 3 volcanoes, you will be able to pick what suits you.
Mount Muhavura is the tallest volcano and stands at 4,127 meters above sea level. The hike up the volcano is 12km hike and reveals amazing views of Virunga volcanoes, Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mount Rwenzori. The crystal clear lake at the summit is a sight to behold. At 3,669, Mt Sabinyo is the second tallest of the volcanoes in Mgahinga Gorilla national park. The hiking safari takes up to 8 hours for the 14km trail. The summit is shared by Rwanda. Congo and Uganda. Mt Gahinga is the smallest and rises up to 3,474 meters above sea level. The summit is shared by Uganda and Rwanda and is a crater swamp 180 meters wide.
Cave exploration is one of the other activities that are done in Mgahinga national park. On your Uganda gorilla and hiking safari, you can explore the famous Garama cave. These caves are found near the park headquarter and were used by the indigenous people (The Batwa) as fortresses against attacking enemies.
The Batwa were the indigenous people that lived in the Virunga Mountains. As national parks were set up, they were relocated to specific areas. On your cultural tour, you will follow the Batwa trail into the forest to their dwelling places. You will get to experience their lifestyle; hunting, gathering food, medicines and their use of Bamboo. Get a glimpse of their lives as it was lived on this cultural safari.
How to get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The park can be accessed by road and air. By road, you will drive through Mbarara, Kabale and then Kisoro. From Rwanda, you can cross at the Katuna border, drive through Kabale then to Kisoro. By air, scheduled flights to Kisoro town depart from Entebbe. Charter a flight from Kajjansi airstrip to Kisoro town.
Lodges in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
The park has a variety of safari accommodation. They range from Budget, mid-range to Luxury. These include
- Byiza lodge
- Virunga lodge
- Governor’s camp sabyinyo silverback
- Singita Kwitonda lodge
- Mountain Gorilla Safari Hotel
- Countryside Guesthouse Kisoro
- Kisoro Travelers’ Rest Hotel
- Kisoro Tourist Hotel