Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga National Park lies in the extreme southwestern Uganda about 14 kilometers off Kisoro district in Bufumbira County and approximately 540 kilometers off Kampala. This protected area is bordered in the south by the Rwanda and in the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It covers an area of 34 square kilometers making it the smallest conservation area in Uganda.
This conservation area was founded in 1991 and offers refuge to 3 (three) of the Virunga Mountains that include Mount Gahinga that stands at 3474 meters, Sabinyo which stretches to 3645 meters and Mount Muhavura at 4127 meters. Mgahinga derived its name from the Kinyarwanda word-Gahinga denoting to pile of volcanic lava stone heaps where cultivation is conducted. Sabyinyo denotes the old man’s teeth and Muhavura denotes guide. The park is exceptionally the excellent spot for primate and hiking adventures in Uganda.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was founded mainly to offer refuge to the critically endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife species including the unique golden monkeys. Mgahinga National Park features 39 species of mammals which include the rare mountain gorillas, elephants, buffaloes and golden monkeys as well as the giant forest hogs, leopards, bush bucks, black fronted duikers, spotted hyenas and many more.
The park features over 79 species of birds. The park has 2 (two) rainy seasons which start from February to May and about 250mm of rainfall is experienced around October and minimum amount of 10mmm in July. It experiences cool climatic conditions given the afro montane vegetation that thrives within the park and plenty of distinct vegetation like the bamboo which is mainly depended on by the rare mountain gorillas. The lobelia, hagenia species and others that equally make this park the most stunning safari destination of its own.
How to get to Mgahinga National Park?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is accessible both by road and air.
- By road
The park is 7-9 hours’ drive off Kampala and it is best accessible using a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Road transportation comes with its unique attractions for visitors to catch a glimpse at while on their way to the park and the most sought after area is the Ishasha sector-Queen Elizabeth National Park for the rare tree climbing lions and other wildlife species at the park or make a stopover at the Equator for photographs.
Some tourists access Mgahinga National Park from Kigali Rwanda through Cyanika boarder. It is less-than 4 hours drive from Kigali International Airport / Kigali city to Mgahinga National Park in south western Uganda. Ever since Rwanda doubled the price of gorilla permits to US$1500, Mgahinga National park is receiving huge numbers of tourists because its very accessible and permits are cheaper at US$600 each.
- By air
There are scheduled flights from Entebbe International Airport and Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip and then you connect to the park by car. Aerolink Uganda offers daily scheduled flights from Entebbe to Kisoro Airstrip.
Tourism activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
- Mountain gorilla trekking
Mgahinga National Park features as one of the 4 most popular destinations for mountain gorilla safaris in Africa! For visitors on Uganda holiday, Nyakagezi family is the only habituated group for visitors to track each day and only eight permits are always available for trekkers on gorilla safari to Mgahinga National Park. It features mainly two silverbacks, three adult females, 2 infants and juveniles.
- Bird watching
About 79 distinct species of birds thrive within Mgahinga Gorilla National Park including the endemic species to the east Congo montane area. The notable bird species for one to spot out in this protected area include stonechat, grey capped warbler, ibis, whydah, waxbills, speckled mouse bird, yellow vented bulbul, fire finch and many more.
- Golden monkey tracking
Mgahinga National Park features among the very few sites where gold meets silver. The park offers refuge to the stunning golden monkeys which can be spotted as they play on trees. To capture their pictures, you have to be sharp as these unique primates jump from tree to tree at higher speed.
- Cave exploration
Garama cave features as the prime spot for cave exploration in Mgahinga National Park. The cave covers a length of 342 meters and a depth of 14 meters. Garama caves are known to have been inhabited by the Batwa pygmies and to day, the caves are largely occupied by bats. Garama caves are three kilometers long and take visitors approximately four hours’ walk.
- Border trail
You can also take a walk to the border between Uganda and DRC. The hike lasts for 10 kilometers and you will first take a walk to Sabyinyo and then hike to it and then descend down slope to Congo border. On the trail, you will have the breathtaking views of Mount Sabinyo’s gorge and its peaks.
- Volcano climbing
Besides primate adventures, Mgahinga National Park also offers the breathtaking hiking adventures at Mount Sabyinyo which stands at altitude 3645 meters above sea level. This mountain features three most challenging peaks for you to hike through. One takes hikers to the ridge on the eastern part to the first peak. The hike takes visitors to ridge between Uganda and Rwanda. The other volcanoes for you to hike through include Mount Gahinga and Mount Muhavura.
- Nature walks/hiking
If you are interested in exploring more about the park’s attractions at a close range, then nature walks are the best for you. Hiking in this protected area is conducted in the mountain edges and it is such amazing experience that hikers shouldn’t miss out while on safari to Mgahinga National Park. It takes visitors through the park’s wild vegetation, the Rugezi swamp and bamboo forests that come with stunning views of Lake Mutanda and farmlands.
- Cultural experiences
Mgahinga National Park is surrounded by the Batwa pygmies who lived around the area while hunting and gathering as well as conducted several activities within the forest. You will pay a visit to Batwa homesteads to explore more on their lifestyles and traditional practices.
Accommodation in Mgahinga National Park
For visitor stay in this park, the prominent accommodation facilities for you range from budget, midrange, campsites, hotels to luxury and they include the Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Mount Mgahinga Rest Camp, Virunga Hotel, Rugigana Campsite, Traveler’s Rest Hotel, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Nkuringo Safari Lodge, Mount Mgahinga Lodge and others.
From the discussion above, Mgahinga National Park is undeniably one of the most sought after safari destinations by most travelers on gorilla safari in Uganda. For visitors who are interested in primate adventures this is one of the perfect spots that you have to consider while on Uganda safari.