Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda Gorilla Safari
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda Gorilla trekking safari destination is the smallest park in Uganda covering an area of 33.7km2. It is situated in the Southwestern part of Uganda in Kisoro district. The park adjoins Rwanda’s volcano and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga national parks and is part of the Virunga conservation area.
The park derives its name from the word “Gahinga” – the local word for piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmlands. It covers an altitude between 2227m – 4127m above sea level. While in the Mgahinga gorilla park, you will adventure the six vegetation types, Afromontane, tree heathers, montane forest, bamboo, montane woodland, and former farmland.
The Virunga ranges found in Virunga massif have eight volcanoes of which three of these conical peaks are in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla national park. Muhavura being the highest peak at 4,127m – the name is translated ‘guide’ in the local language, they used it as a reference to give direction because it towered above everything else.
It has panoramic views of Uganda and Rwanda with a clear lake at its summit 36m wide. Mountain Gahinga at 3,474m is the smallest among the Virunga volcanoes; its name was derived from the ‘piles of rock’ that are cleared from farmlands.
Mount Mgahinga has a swamp-filled crater at the top that measures to about 180m wide. Finally, Mountain Sabyinyo at 3,669m translated as the ‘old man’s teeth’ because of the deep gorges and ravines that dissect it.
When you climb to the highest peak of mountain Sabyinyo you will find the intersection between Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. You can take a hike to all these peaks in one day; you will be rewarded with magnificent views and great photographic moments.
Gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla Park
The main safari attraction in the park is Mountain gorilla trekking just like its name suggests. The only habituated gorilla group is the Nyakagezi gorilla group which is fairly nomadic moving to Rwanda and Congo sometimes. Silverback Bugingo is about 50 years old and leads the group.
Wildlife found in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
- Animals found in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
Mgahinga Gorilla national park Uganda is home to over 76 mammal species but many of them are somehow difficult to sight in the wild because of the thick vegetation. Look out for bush pigs, South African porcupines, forest buffaloes, bushbucks, forest Elephants golden cats and. The main attractions are the critically endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys.
- Birds found in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to over 180 bird species with some of the spectacular Albertine rift endemics. it has varied montane habitats, which provide an excellent home for the different bird species.
Bird species found in Mgahinga gorilla national park include Kivu Ground Thrush, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, White Starred Robin, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Olive Pigeon, and Black-headed waxbill, Western Green Tinkerbird, Cape Robin.
More species include; White-starred Robin, Brown Woodland Warbler, Striped breasted Tit, Malachite, Scarlet-tufted, Greater Double-collared Sunbirds
Safaris and Activities done in Mgahinga Gorilla Park
- Mountain Gorilla Tracking in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
Mountain Gorilla tracking like all other activities in Mgahinga gorilla national park is done on foot because the park is mainly mountainous. Early morning you will get to the starting point – Ntebeko gate at 8 am where you receive a briefing about the expectations while you are tracking gorillas in Uganda.
Your ranger/gorilla tour guide will lead you to the sharing stories of the gorilla highlands in Uganda. You will learn about the different members of the Nyakagezi family and general gorilla behaviors. The ranger will be in touch with the earlier trackers who will share information on where the gorillas nested the previous night.
Once they are located – you have an opportunity to spend up to one hour in the presence of gorillas. Remember that should you have a communicable disease, you will not be allowed to track gorillas to avoid the likelihood of passing on the disease to the gorillas.
Carry long-sleeved shirts, trousers, garden gloves, sun hat, rain pocho, and insect repellant and sturdy boots.
- Golden Monkey tracking Mgahinga Gorilla national park
The other main activities done in Mgahinga gorilla national park include golden monkey trekking. In Uganda, Mgahinga gorilla park is the only place where you can track golden monkeys, which are also endangered and endemic to the Albertine rift valley. There is an estimate of 3000-4000 of Golden monkeys found in the Virunga area of which 40-65 are habituated in Mgahinga gorilla national park.
You will start your journey to track these beautiful primates with your ranger guide after a briefing. One needs to be fit and able to transverse the mountainous area because unlike gorillas which can in the same area for a while, golden monkeys tend to move a lot.
Mgahinga offers an excellent bird watching opportunity with different birding trails in the forest. The gorge trail lies between Mountain Gahinga and Mountain Sabinyo which takes about 3 hours for birders to adventure. Species to look out for while on this trail include Brown-crowned Tchagra, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill, Cape Robin-chat, and Bronze, Regal and Blue-headed Sunbirds.
You can, in addition, take on the bamboo trail, which starts from 2500m above sea level. Here you have increased chances of sighting the Rwenzori turaco, Banded Prinia, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Red-faced woodland warbler, and Chubb’s cisticola.
- Nature and Hiking walks
Hike up Gisozi hill and experience great views of Kisoro and Bunagana town as well as Lake Mutanda. You will also view the Calderas while atop this hill. Walk along the Congo border and transcend different vegetation zones
- Mountain and Volcano climbing
The Virunga volcanoes are a chain of eight volcanoes, which dot the borders of Uganda, DR Congo, and Rwanda. Three of the conical peaks are in Uganda’s Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Hikers will enjoy views of the Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Edward, Bwindi impenetrable forest, and peaks of Mt Rwenzori. There is also a crystal lake found on its summit
Mt Sabinyo is next at 3669 m; it is a 14km round trip and equally takes about 8 hours to hike. Hikers follow a steep ridge to the peak. The border of Uganda, Congo, and Rwanda meet on the summit of Mountain Sabinyo. Lastly is Mountain Gahinga at 3474m topped by a swamp-filled crater of about 180m wide and giant lobelia.
Caves are found on some of the steep slopes of the mountains, you are able to visit once on your hiking adventure. The most popular is Garama Cave, found near the park headquarters. It was a home to the Batwa and acted as a fortress in times of war protecting them and their loot from their enemies.
- Cultural experiences: Batwa trails
The Batwa lived in the forest for centuries. As hunter-gatherers, they depended on the forest for food, medicine, and shelter. The Batwa trail takes you back into the forest where you experience life as it was lived by the Batwa – they will guide you into the forest and demonstrate hunting skills, gather honey, pick medicinal plants and demonstrate how to use bamboo for various uses.
Access to Mgahinga Gorilla Park
You can reach the Mgahinga gorilla national park from Kampala city via Kabale town to Kisoro. You can also take scheduled or chartered flight from Entebbe to Kisoro.