MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

 

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda) travel guide: Mgahinga NP lies within the extensive Virunga Conservation Region. The other 2 protected areas lying within this region include Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (Congo).

The geographical location of this park

Mgahinga N/Park is situated in Kisoro District, Southwestern Uganda. Its boundaries stretch covering 33.7 sq.km and it is a Uganda National Park, founded in 1991. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed, home to diverse attractions.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park derives its name from Kinyarwanda word –Gahinga meaning the small lava stones in the gardens along the Gahinga Volcano slopes. The park features distinct vegetation types including bogs, patches of savannas, tropical forest, woodland, semi-alpine and bamboo forest.

Within Mgahinga, three of the eight Virunga Volcanoes make it a destination with breathtaking landscapes. The volcanoes in Mgahinga: Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. Mgahinga N/Park is set at high elevation range of 2000 to 4000 meters, featuring Crater Lakes, Swamps and Rivers.

Top tourist Attractions

Wildlife species

Wildlife/animal species in Mgahinga include 76 mammal species, 115 bird species and many reptile species. The park’s wildlife/faunal species include golden monkeys, mountain gorillas, vervet monkeys, buffaloes, bush babies, red-tailed monkeys, spotted hyenas, golden cats, bushbucks, black-fronted duikers, giant forest hogs, elephants, olive baboons, and reptile species like snakes, geckos, chameleons and others.

Bird species

More than 115 species of birds thrive within Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and these include forest, Albertine rift species and resident birds. The bird-list in this park includes the paradise flycatchers, Kivu ground thrush, Double-collared sunbird, Rwenzori nightjars, black kite, Rwenzori turacos, white napped raven, speckled mouse bird, stone chat, pin-tailed whydahs, blue-headed council, fire-finch, yellow-vented bulbul, Blue-headed coucal, Grey-capped warblers, ibis, and more.

The Virunga Volcanoes

Mgahinga is set within the Virunga Region, and its strategic location makes it home to 3 stunning volcanoes. The Virunga Volcanoes (Chain Mountains) in Mgahinga NP include Muhabura (4127m), Sabyinyo Volcano (3669m) and Mt. Gahinga (3474m).

Amazing safaris & Activities to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Gorilla trekking

Mgahinga National Park is amazingly an excellent destination that is worth visiting for gorilla trekking, especially if you are interested in treks with fewer crowds. The treks in Mgahinga allow you get up close with Nyakagezi mountain gorilla group, the only family that has been habituated and opened for trekking. Like Bwindi gorilla tours, visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park also requires a valid gorilla permit and each is issued at USD 700 per person.

Golden monkey tracking

Golden monkey trekking is all about visiting golden monkeys in the wild. This primate adventure starts from Ntebeko taking you about 2 to 4 hours which includes an hour of a close encounter with golden monkeys and photography. The golden monkeys reside within the Virunga Region where Mgahinga NP lies together with Volcanoes N/Park in Rwanda and Congo’s Virunga National Park.

Birding

Bird watching tours in Mgahinga N. Park come with incredible bird sightings of Albertine rift endemic species and forest birds. This park is blessed with over 115 bird species and its birds can be spotted in April, May or October, November. Migratory species of birds are available around November and April. The birds to search for on a visit in Mgahinga NP include the white-starred robins, yellow-vented bulbul, streaky seed-eaters, white-napped raven, Southern red-bishop, regal sunbird, speckled mouse birds, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, stray seed-eater, western green tinker bird, waxbills, striped breasted tit, paradise flycatchers, red necked spur fowl, mountain masked apalis, pin-tailed whydah, olive thrush,

Kivu ground thrush, brown-crowned tchagra, dusky turtle dove, banded prinia, Archer’s ground robin, yellow-throated long claws, olive pigeon, montane nightjars, fire finch stone chat, cape robin chat, fly eagle, Chubb’s cisticolas, and more.

Mountain hiking/climbing

What makes Mgahinga a distinct destination is the fact it offers not only mountain gorilla adventures, but also memorable hiking/volcano climbing experiences. The park has three volcanoes, all of them are open for hiking and they include Muhabura, Sabyinyo and Gahinga Volcanoes. The summits of these Virunga Volcanoes feature scenic Craters, alpine vegetation and you can in position to clearly view dense Bwindi Forest.

Nature walks

Mgahinga offers more than exciting volcano hikes. Nature walks are a must-do and offer nature lovers a remarkable opportunity to immerse themselves into the park’s lush forests, swamps, Lakes and rivers. There are walking trails leading to these spots and you will be viewing some faunal and floral species. The important trails to explore include the border trail along Mount Sabyinyo slopes. The Sabyinyo gorge walk which lasts for 5 hours and offers strenuous hikes but it is so rewarding with incredible bird sightings.

Batwa trail

The Batwa trail/cultural tour provides visitors another chance to explore and experience about some of Uganda’s unique cultures and traditions. The Batwa cultural trail takes through the Batwa daily lifestyles, norms, traditions, cultural dances and music performance, etc. The Batwa stayed in the forest as hunters and gathers till 1991 when Mgahinga was officially gazetted as a National Park.

Best time to go for a safari in this park

Mgahinga NP safaris and tours can be conducted at any time of the year although the most favorite time is during the dry months: June, July, August, to September and December, January to February. The wet or rainy months can also be used for touring Mgahinga that is from March, April, May and October to November although these are characterized by heavy rains.

Where to stay/Mgahinga NP accommodation

The various lodges in and around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park comprise of budget, midrange and luxury options. They include Lake Mutanda Campsite, Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Virunga Hotel, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp and Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge.

Getting to the park for a trip holiday

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda) is accessible by road and air. Road transportation: you drive from Kampala to Kisoro via Masaka-Mbarara, about 8-10 hours’ drive. Or 4-5 hours’ drive when you leave Kigali, cross to Kisoro via Chanika border and all road travels are best done using a 4×4 safari vehicles. By air, we can arrange flights –scheduled/chartered flights taking off from Entebbe airport/Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip.