Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is the smallest park covering 33.7km2 of land amongst all the National Parks in Uganda but quiet adventurous due to the existence of endangered mountain gorillas and the Golden Monkeys. The nature of the park lying on the slopes of Mount Gahinga in Uganda, mount Muhavura bordering Rwanda with Uganda and mount Sabyinyo bordering Democratic Republic of Congo with Uganda all in the Virunga conservation area. The park is located in Kisoro district in Uganda. The entire park is covered by both forests and the volcanic mountains which all favor the existence of Mountain gorillas and golden monkeys plus other several mammals and birds.
Activities of Mgahinga
Mountain Gorilla trekking: Mgahinga Gorillas National Park is home to only one habituated Mountain Gorilla Family available for trekking on a daily basis. The family is called Nyakagezi. Trekking the Nyakagezi Gorilla family is very interesting as visitors meet the 5 silverbacks and 2 blackbacks just in one family that is always rare with other Gorilla families. Trekking Nyakagezi Gorilla family is done at a cost of $600 per person and the permits can be obtained directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority or through a tour company that is well registered under the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) like “Achieve Global Company” that will organize your entire trip and make your safari a memorable one.
Note: Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga national park is very interesting as the gorillas roam on an open area where they are easily seen and taking clear photographs as compared to trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park due to the thick blush trails that trekkers have to pass through in order to trek these primates
However, in October 2019, Uganda received another gorilla group from the “Hirwa gorilla family” from Rwanda that crossed the borders into the Mgahinga National park and is available for trekking at a cheaper cost of $600 compared to $1500 in Rwanda making it 2 habituated families in Mgahinga national park. Mountain gorilla trekking starts early in the morning with the possibility of finding these primates just waking up from their nests and it takes two hours to a full day depending on the Visitors ability to trek and once the gorilla family is found, only one hour is always given to the trekkers in presence of gorillas asking all the possible questions that are answered by the experienced tour guides and taking as many photographs as you can. For visitors who need more time in the presence of gorillas need to visit Bwindi Impenetrable national park for a gorilla habituation experience that costs $1500 per permit.
Golden monkey tracking: Most people term this park as a place where silver meets gold and all visitors on a gorilla safari in Mgahinga National park are on a sure deal of watching several golden monkeys as they swing in the bamboo forest and munch the bamboo shoots. These beautiful monkey species are only found in parks that are under the Virunga Conservation Area. Golden monkey trekking is always done in the morning hours and takes between 2-4 hours to reach a certain habituated troop depending on the location and the trekking speed. Golden monkey tracking permit costs $50 per person.
Hiking/ climbing volcanoes: Climbing three peaks of volcanoes in Virunga conservation area which include Mount Gahinga, Mount Sabyinyo, and mount Muhavura as explained below;
Hiking Mount Gahinga: Mount Gahinga which is at an elevation of 3,474m above the sea level. Climbing to the summit of mount Gahinga starts from Ntebeko and takes 6 hours trail through the bamboo trees to summit the top and return to the base. Reaching the top of the mount Gahinga rewards visitors with the best view of the park from the top, viewing several monkeys along the way since the park is the home to these beautiful creatures.
Hiking Mount Sabyinyo: Mount Sabyinyo is elevated at 3,669m above the sea level and is located in Virunga Conservation Area bordering Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mountain obtained its name from a Rwandese word, Irinyo which means a tooth and most people love to call it the Old man’s tooth due to its physical structure. Hiking mount Sabyinyo is best done by visitors on a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda especially in Mgahinga national park due to easy accessibility gives a clear view of all the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo just from the top since it borders with all the three countries. Interested in this Hike? Then book your 3 days mount Sabyinyo hike and mountain gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park.
Hiking Mount Muhavura: Well, Mount Muhavura is the tallest amongst the three peaks of Mgahinga, Sabyinyo and Muhavura all in the Virunga ranges elevated at 4,127m above the sea level. Hiking to the top of mount Muhabura is the best feeling ever giving an opportunity to view the peaks of mount Sabyinyo and mount Mgahinga. Hiking mount Muhavura takes around 8 hours to make a round trip normally taken as a full day hiking activity with possibilities of sighting several mammals, primates, neighboring countries, and many more.
The Batwa Trails: This yet another activity that shouldn’t be missed out during by any visitor on a gorilla safari in Mgahinga National Park. Visitors take the Batwa trail which begins from the base of mount Muhavura and takes you deep into the forest to the places where the Batwa lived. The Batwa guides will be demonstrating to the visitors about their ancient lives in the forest including the means of obtaining food which was through hunting and gathering. The trail will take you to the Ngarama caves which were anciently known as the office or council chamber.
How best can I reach Mgahinga Gorillas National Park?
Mgahinga gorilla national park is situated far in south western Uganda in Kisoro district which is reached by either road or air
- By road: Takes between 9-11 hours’ drive by road from Kampala via Masaka- Mbarara-Kabale –Kisoro road to Ntebeko gate with stopovers along the way (540km). However, the park can also be reached from Kigali in 2-3 hours’ drive (79.2km)
- By Air: A flight from Entebbe international airport to Kisoro Airstrip takes around 1 hour. This requires an early booking using any tour operator in Uganda or by direct contact with Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Where to stay during the safari to Mgahinga Gorillas National park
There are several accommodations available for visitors to chill during their safari in Mgahinga gorilla National park ranging from budget, midrange and luxury according to the visitors, interest which include River Mucha Hotel, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu Camp, Mount Gahinga safari lodge and many more
In conclusion, a safari to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for the Gorilla trekking , Golden monkey tracking, hiking the volcanoes, visiting the Batwa trails will sure be the best and the life time experience as the gorillas in Mgahinga are easily trekked and easy to capture clear photographs of these endangered primates.