Mgahinga Gorilla National Park encompasses of tropical rainforests, Volcano peaks, bamboo forests, and others that make trips to south-western Uganda complete and if you ever desired to trek mountain gorillas in a secluded safari destination, then this is the best place to be.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the south-westernmost and smallest National Park of Uganda. This stunning Park sits high in the clouds of Virunga Mountains ranging from 7306 to 13540 feet. This small but phenomenal set of Volcanoes are part of the vast Virunga Conservation Area shared by Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was founded in 1991, having existed for 61 years as a Game Sanctuary and covers approximately 8401 acres. This makes it the tinniest and less visited Park in Uganda. The Park’s name was derived from one of the Volcanoes-Gahinga, literally translated as “pile of small volcanic stones” that were cleared from cultivated farmlands at the base of the Virunga Mountains.
The stunning landscape of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is dominated by the Virunga Volcanoes rising 7306 to 13540 feet above sea level. The Garama cave, small valleys, montane-woodland, montane forest and Rivers also make up this beautiful Park’s landscape.
Notwithstanding its small size, Mgahinga National Park shelters about 76 mammal species, much as the mountain gorillas are the main attraction. Travellers should however expect to see forest buffaloes, golden monkeys, duikers, giant forest hogs, African golden cats, bushbucks, Defassa waterbucks, leopards, tree hyraxes, bush pigs, duikers and many others.
During your visit to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, just fall in love with its plethora of bird species, totaling to 180 bird species that encompass 14 Albertine Rift endemics as well as 39 Afro-tropical highland endemics.
Must see birds are Grey-capped warblers, strange weavers, Black-headed waxbill, handsome spurfowl, streaky seed-eater, Scarlet-tufted malachite sunbirds, blue-headed sunbirds, Yellow-billed Kites, Rwenzori batis, Archer’s ground robin, Montane nightjar, pin-tailed whydah, Double-collared sunbirds, yellow-vented Firefinch, grey-capped warbler, Paradise flycatcher, Pin-tailed whydah, mountain masked apalis, Grauer’s swamp warblers, Rwenzori batis, Paradise flycatcher, Kivu Ground Thrush, to mention but a few.
The guided gorilla treks within Mgahinga National Park are done in the same way as the ones in Bwindi, although there is only one habituated gorilla group named Nyakagezi. This family is visited by 8 visitors per day and treks start by 8:00am after briefing.
Trekking normally lasts 1-4 hours but contact (observation and photography) lasts only one hour while maintaining a distance of 7 meters. A total of 8 permits are issued every day at $700 for the foreign non-residents, $600 for the foreign residents and Shs. 250,000 for the East African residents.
The endangered Golden monkeys are Old World Monkeys that occupy the Bamboo forests of Virunga Mountains and are known for their sparkling golden-orange fur on their bodies, tails and cheeks as well as black tail-ends, limbs and crowns. Because they occupy lower areas of the Virunga Volcanoes, trekking them is less strenuous and takes less time compared to gorilla treks.
These monkeys can be trekked from Ntebeko Visitor Center and permits cost about $90 per person for the foreign non-resident and foreign resident visitors as well as Shs. 60,000 for the East African visitors. Like gorilla treks, the search for these primates begins at 8:00am after briefing.
The three Virunga Volcanoes (Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura) all sit at the edge of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and can be explored during a one day climb that last 7-10 hours for round trips. While climbing these mountains, visitors will encounter different bird species, animals and plant species not found in other places.
The best way to learn about the culture, traditions and lifestyle of Batwa people is undertaking village/community walks to be introduced to their ancient ways when the forest was still their home. Take part in the traditional preparation of local dishes, making of bamboo cups, making of art and crafts and visiting the traditional medicine man, climaxed by visit to Garama Cave for a traditional performances.
Travellers interested in seeing Albertine Rift endemics and numerous Afro-montane highland endemics can book for birding tours in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park where the likes of Grey-capped warblers, strange weavers, Black-headed waxbill, Dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori Turacos, blue-headed sunbirds, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Archer’s ground robin, Grauer’s swamp warblers, Rwenzori batis, to mention but a few.
There are a number of well-maintained walking trails through the beautiful landscape of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park that introduce visitors to the birds, animals, Valleys, wetlands and tree species. Try out the guided walk to the Congo border, the Golden monkey track as well as the hike through Sabyinyo gorge to experience the true beauty of Uganda’s smallest National Park.
The luxurious Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge is the main accommodation option for visitors to Uganda’s smallest National Park. However, travellers can also stay at Travelers Rest hotel, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Lake Mulehe safari lodge, Lake Chahafi resort Lake Mutanda Resort or Mucha Hotel.
Given the location of Uganda, travellers should expect a significantly varying climate all year round and because of this, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be explored all year round but the wet months - March to May as well as October to November comes with heavy downpours thus expect to be soaked any time of the day in addition to hiking trails being muddy and slippery. This is the reason why the dry season-June to September and December to February is preferred for most Mgahinga activities.
Situated in the south-west of Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is about 8.6 miles on a Murram road from Kisoro Town and can be reached easily by:
There are scheduled and chartered flights from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip take about one and a half hours to get to Kisoro Airstrip and from here travellers proceed to different places by road.
This stunningly small national park is over is 335 miles and 8-10 hours’ drive from the capital (Kampala) with the most popular route being Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kabale-Kisoro highway on tarmac followed by 14 kilometers of Murram road from Kisoro town to Ntebeko Visitor Center.