MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is found in Kisoro district, Southwestern Uganda and it is a popular park for mountain gorilla trekking. This park lies in the extreme side of Uganda and bordered by Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has existed since 1991 when it was founded and the primary reason for its establishment was to offer refuge to mountain gorillas which only live in 4 places worldwide.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a magical protected area with an area coverage of only 33.7sq.kms making it the smallest of the 10 Uganda safari parks and also among the Virunga Conservation Area’s protected areas. However, what distinguishes it from other gorilla safari destinations is that it is one park which lets trekkers to enjoy trekking mountain gorillas without crowds. This is because it accommodates up to only 8 visitors who trek its only one habituated gorilla family.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park takes its name from one of the Virunga volcanoes; Mt. Gahinga (3474m). This is one of the 3 Virunga volcanoes that are found within Mgahinga National Park and others include Mt. Sabyinyo (3645m), Muhabura volcanoes (4127m). It is also an exceptional hiking safari destination besides offering unforgettable gorilla trekking experiences.
Mgahinga protects the world’s rarest attractions; mountain gorillas and golden monkeys which share the same habitat. These are among the 76 mammal species this park is popular for. Other species to expect to come across on Uganda safari in Mgahinga include baboons, golden cats, bush bucks, forest elephants, buffaloes, spotted hyenas, black and white colobus monkeys.
Mgahinga has a unique vegetation consisting of 6 zones; the montane woodland, tree heathers, bamboo, montane forest, afro montane and former farmland. These offer refuge to diverse wildlife which thrive in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Over 180 bird species are confined in different habitats in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They include a large portion of Albertine rift endemic species which makes Mgahinga one of the Important Bird Areas. On birding safari, expect to sight varied species of birds including the Kivu ground thrush, western green tinker bird, cinnamon bracken warblers, Rwenzori turacos, red necked spur fowl, Rwenzori batis, fire finch stonechat, white starred robin.
Other interesting birds include malachites, black headed waxbill, greater double collared sunbirds, alpine chat, paradise flycatcher, pin tailed whydah, red throated alethe. There are also several of brown woodland warblers, archer’s robin chat, striped breasted tit, Doherty’s bush shrike, scarlet tufted sunbirds and others.
Activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP)
What attracts most tourists to Mgahinga is mainly gorilla trekking. The protects a section of 1063 mountain gorillas which only live in Uganda, Rwanda and D.R.C. A trek to see these massive creatures in their natural habitat takes 2-6 hours and during 1 hour of face-to-face encounter, it is remarkably a mesmerizing experience. Tourists need US Dollars 700 to book for a gorilla permit for foreign non-residents, US Dollars 600 foreign residents and shs. 250,000 East Africa citizens. These can be booked via a ground tour operator/Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Golden monkey tracking
Mgahinga is well-known as a place where gold meets silver. It is the only place in Uganda where mountain gorillas share the same habitat with golden monkeys. The golden monkeys come with strikingly beautiful color and about 40-65 of them have been habituated for tourism purposes.
When it comes to birding in Uganda, Mgahinga isn’t left out. This is an amazing birding destination with variety of interesting bird species. Birders enjoy incredible sight of bird species such as cinnamon bracken warblers, Rwenzori batis black headed waxbill, paradise flycatcher, alpine chat, archer’s robin chat, western green tinker bird, Rwenzori turaco, olive pigeon, white starred robin, brown woodland warblers to mention but a few.
Three of the 8 Virunga volcanoes are found in Mgahinga and volcano climbing is a must-do for enthusiastic climbers on Uganda safari. They include Gahinga with 6 hours round trip, Sabyinyo 8 hours and Muhabura volcano 8 hours.
The Batwa trail offers the best of cultural experience in the Batwa community. On the Batwa trail, you will interact with Batwa pygmies the renowned hunters and gatherers as well as forest dwellers. They lived 500,000 years in the forest hunting and gathering fruits and while on Batwa trail, you will explore those ancient techniques they used. Your Batwa trail experience also includes exploring the distinct traditions, lifestyles and enjoy thrilling dances, music performances or share amazing stories told by elders.
Mgahinga has plenty of activities to engage and cave exploration in the Garama caves is one of a kind. This ushers you into a 200m long cave which once served as a sacred place for the Batwa. These caves are 4kms away from Ntebeko gate.
Nature walks give exposure to tourists especially on a number of wildlife, vegetation, birds in various habitats. You also enjoy amazing view of Lake Mutanda, Rugezi swamp and farmland.
When to travel to Mgahinga
The best time to visit Mgahinga may differ depending on the activity you plan to participate in. For gorilla trekking/golden monkey tracking/volcano climbing, the dry season is the best and it begins from June to September and December to February. To enjoy bird watching, Mgahinga is best to visit during the wet/rainy season which begins from March till May and October to November.
Places to stay
On Uganda safari to Mgahinga, tourists can choose from budget, mid-range to luxury lodging options. They top lodges in and around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include Mount Gahinga Lodge, Traveler’s Rest Hotel, Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp, Kisoro Tourist Hotel and Mucha Hotel.
Access to Mgahinga National Park
By road; Mgahinga is reachable from Entebbe/Kampala through Masaka-Mbarara city to Kisoro, approximately 8 to 9 hours’ drive. From Rwanda, drive through Katuna or Chanika border for about 3-4 hours to Mgahinga. By air, fly up to the 2 airstrips which serve Mgahinga & Bwindi National Park; Kisoro/Kihihi airstrips starting from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield.
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