Mount Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Size: 33.7km2, making it Uganda’s smallest National Park. The park takes its name from “Gahinga” – the local word for the piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes. The British administration declared the area a game sanctuary in 1930; it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991. Mgahinga has one habituated transboundary gorilla group. The Batwa were self-sufficient – and visitors can see how during a fascinating tour with a Batwa guide to learn the secrets of the forest. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivaled. Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo, and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery. Mgahinga boasts of over 76 mammals which include elephants, giant forest hog, bush pigs,bush back. Buffalos, leopards, A bird checklist of over 180 species including the 14 endemic Albertine rift notably the Kivu ground thrush and turaco.
Frequently Asked Questions
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National park
On top of the list is gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National park. Each day trekkers wake up for briefing at the ranger station at Ntebeko Visitor Center. Each person must have a booked gorilla trekking permit although permits for this park are issued according to the availability of mountain gorillas. The gorillas from the Nyakagezi gorilla family the only family open for tourism cross to Rwanda or D.R.Congo sometimes.
You must have a certificate confirming having been vaccinated against Covid -19 or have negative Corona Virus results taken at least 72 hours before your gorilla trek. Carry your trekking gears and in a small group, you head for the mighty jungle search.
Mgahinga trails have thicker vegetation close to the trails because it is less disturbed so carry gorilla trekking gears that will support you in this adventure. You can pack tracking boots that can withstand steep slopes, dirt-friendly long trousers and a shirt, a flash-less camera, a pair of binoculars and so much more.
Briefing at Mgahinga starts early morning about 0745 hours to 0830 hours and a ranger guide escorts you into the forest to begin gorilla trekking. Lookout for other primates too like blue monkeys, black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed monkeys, and many others.
Birding in Mgahinga National Park
Over 79 bird species have been recorded to nest in Mgahinga National park. it is one of the special Uganda Birding destinations giving you chance to spot a range of birds including rare Albertine endemics. Some birds you may spot include Kivu Ground Thrush, Malachite Sunbird, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Rwenzori Turaco, Montane Double-collared sunbird, and so many others.
Most of the avian attractions may be found on the excellent Gorge tail which loops halfway up mountain Sabyinyo. This tail traverses a variety of montane habitats.
Hiking The Mountains
Mgahinga National park is shielded by 3 distinctive volcanoes Mountain Muhavura, Mountain Sabyinyo, and Mountain Gahinga. Each of these mountains can be hiked within a day and no special hiking gear is required.
- Hiking mountain Sabyinyo
Ascending and descending mountain Sabyinyo may last about 8 hours walking a distance of about 14 km. You walk through a narrow ridge overlooking deep gorges, and go passed steep and muddy crumble to arrive at the top.
While at the top, you can see Uganda, Rwanda, and D.R.Congo from the same point.
- Hiking Mountain Muhavura
From the top, mountain Muhavura is capped by a crater lake. Ascending this mountain gives you incredible views of lash alpine vegetation and panoramas. Taking the Muhavura trail is the quickest and shortest ascending route with incredible dramatic plants and 5 other Virunga Volcanoes come into view too. This round trip lasts about 8 hours.
- Hiking Mountain Gahinga
Hiking Gahinga Mountains walks you through the bamboo forests towards lash vegetation growing from the crater. You get to experience a lovely view and lovely Virunga forest canopy. This hike lasts about 6 hours.
Golden Monkey And Primate Walk In Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is one of the hosts of Golden monkeys. These are some of the rarest species of monkeys. They are only living in the Virunga area only in the entire world. Their body structure is covered with golden brown hairs at the back and is larger than any other monkey specie.
The golden monkeys are fun to follow because of their humorous nature. They keep the forest busy all day long and although they have been habituated, nature always pops up. Expect to keep on your feet when following them because they are forest ninjas.
Each golden monkey’s permit cost $100 at Uganda Wildlife Authority but never enter the forest without a ranger guide even when trekking the golden monkeys.
More primates also live in the park-like black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys, L’Hoest’s and so many others.
Batwa Trail and Garama Cave Walk
Walking into the ancient life of the Batwa pygmies starts from the Muhavura base to Garama Cave. This walk is conducted by a Mutwa Guide with special knowledge of past forest behavior and culture.
The Garama cave which is about 342 meters long was the council chamber and evacuation point for the Batwa after raiding the Bafumbira farmlands. This cave lies beneath a plateau near the northern border of Mgahinga National Park
When at the cave the Batwa try to demonstrate how they carried out their passed life like hunting, medical care, cooking and so much more. A dance group may entertain you with plays, music, and drama emulating the past life and beliefs upon request.
From Kampala City, Mgahinga National park is about 540 km and by road, you take about 8 to 9 hours excluding stops. When you take a drive from Kabale, the winding road of about 80 km leads you to Ntebeko Visitor Center the headquarters of the park. This drive is about 2 hours on a bumpy road.
Kajjansi Air Strip / Entebbe Airport to Kisoro
Each day daily domestic flights depart Kajjansi Airstrip or Entebbe Airport for the Kisoro Airstrip. You need a transfer vehicle to take you to Mgahinga National Park.
Charter flights can be arranged upon request from either Kajjansi or Entebbe Airport.
Mgahinga National Park is open for tourist booking all year round since the Nyakagezi gorilla family has been staged in Uganda for the past years.
Trekking at Mgahinga National Park is more challenging because of the volcanic work and sometimes the gorillas feed from the slope where there is bamboo availability.
The severe rainy seasons push the gorillas to the slopes of the volcanic mountains making the search more challenging too.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National park takes from 2 hours to three-quarters of the day depending on the mobility of the gorillas. The gorillas at times search for new feeding grounds and other times fight with wild families which pushes them into hiding in case they lose.
This makes the time to locate the mountain gorillas so unpredictable. Each day a team of ranger guides follows the gorillas before tourists are allowed to start gorilla trekking. When they locate them, the group of tourists takes the route later that leads to where they were located.
The soils in Mgahinga National park are volcanic and softer. They tend to be soggy and muddy scramble so you need to wear trekking boots that will withstand this.
Rainproof gears since it rains any time without warning.
Water bottle to carry drinking water for rehydrating during the hike to locate the gorillas and birds.
A camera to reserve photos and memories of your Mgahinga forest experiences and wonderful views.
Energy snacks to re-energies during the trek and forest walks.
Some hard cash to change into local currency in case you wish to do any transaction.
Warm wear that is trousers and long sleeved shirt to cover up your body from forest stingers like biting nettles.
A waterproof light bag to carry your belongings with while in the jungle.
Masks to wear before gorilla trekking and change into when you locate the mountain gorillas.
A pair of binoculars to catch a clear picture of fur-ranging attractions like birds, mountain tops, monkeys, gorillas and so much more.
A cape or large brim hat to protect your hair from dripping water from leaves.
Insect repellant to smear your body with before heading for any forest activity.