Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

ABOUT MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was established in 1991 to help protect the endangered mountain gorillas. At just 33.7km2, it is Uganda’s smallest national park located in the southwestern corner of the country. The Park is about 10 km south of Kisoro with Volcanoes National Park to the south of Rwanda and to the west by the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The scenery in and around the park is indeed stunning with three extinct volcanoes; Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m), Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m) and Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m) all having their slopes in the park. The montane-woodland, montane-forest and large swathe of bamboo forests of this park supports a large population of golden monkeys. They are also home to the Nyakagazi family of mountain gorillas, the only habituated group outside of Bwindi. The forest was also home to the Batwa pygmies.

 

CLIMATE IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

The climate in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is mild to cold and wet. The high altitude (2,227m to 4,127m) makes it one of the coldest destinations in the country. The heaviest rainfall normally occurs from mid- March to the end of May and again at the end of September through to November. While the rains in March to May are often short, those in September to November are more often with hours of soft drizzle. 

 

VEGETATION

The national park encompasses bamboo forest, Albertine Rift montane forests, Ruwenzori-Virunga montane moorlands with tree heath, and also an alpine zone at higher altitudes.

 

WILDLIFE AND BIRDS OF MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

The park is home to a number of flora and fauna, but the most unique and sought after are the endangered mountain gorillas and the golden monkeys. Others include Bushbucks, Buffaloes, Golden cat, side-striped jackal, giant forest hog, Bushpig and Elephants. The birdlife in Mgahinga is also worth a birder’s notice with a number of the Albertine endemics such as the handsome spurfowl, dusky crimson-wig, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori turaco, collared apalis, Archer’s ground robin among so many others.

 

ATTRACTIONS IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

There are lots of things to see in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. From the endangered mountain gorillas to golden monkeys, three of the Virunga Volcanoes and unique flora and fauna. Below are the attractions you should not miss.

  • Golden Monkey – The park protects both mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. The golden monkeys are an ancient group of monkeys that are only found in the Virunga.
  • Mountain Gorillas – Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to more than half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorilla. Fortunately for the gorillas are the main reason as to why the park came to be.
  • Virunga Volcanoes – Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to three of the eight conical Virunga Volcanoes; Muhabura, Mgahinga and Sabyinyo. These three volcanoes create an unforgettable regional backdrop.
  • Birds – More than 180 bird species call this park home and several are localized forest birds 12 of which are considered endemic to the Albertine Rift (birds restricted to this area).
  • Wildlife – Other than mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, there are other more secretive resident mammals including golden cat, side-striped jackal, giant forest hog, bushpig and elephant.

 

ACTIVITIES

There are lots of things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. From gorilla trekking to Volcano Hiking, Mgahinga is such a place where you can engage in several adventure activities. 

  • Gorilla Tracking – Mgahinga Gorilla Park is one of the only four place in the world where gorilla trekking takes place. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has a total population of 80 mountain gorillas, but only one gorilla group is habituated and open to tourists. Having one habituated gorilla group means only 8 gorilla permits can be sold in a day. Visitors are advised to book their permits weeks in advance.
  • Volcano Hiking – Mgahinga merits a visit simply to appreciate the scenery. A choice of hikes allows for all abilities, ranging from the 8 hour return trip to the summit of Mt. Muhavura, to gentle strolls across the lower slopes beneath the magnificent three peak backdrop.
  • Golden Monkey Tracking – Golden monkey tracking, just like gorilla tracking starts early in the morning. Travelers spend only one hour with the monkeys. A golden monkey tracking permit is
    required for one to take part in this activity. Challenge yourself an engage in this life changing activity and achieve an excitement of a lifetime.
  • Bird Watching – The park has about 180 bird species that roam around with a number of the Albertine Rift endemics. There are a number of birding trails that visitors follow while bird watching.
  • Mountain Climbing – With three inactive volcanoes that have elevations worth climbing, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is indeed a place to be. Mountain climbing takes place in any of the three volcanoes of
    Sabinyo, Gahinga, and Muhabura.
  • Batwa cultural experience – The Experience takes place outside of the park in an old-growth forest on land that is next to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Park. 

 

ACCOMMODATION IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

You can find several hotels, lodges and campgrounds around Kisoro and Lake Mutanda area offering budget, midrange and luxury options. There are no developed lodging facilities inside the park. There are also various lodging options near the Ntebeko’s entrances. Depending on the season, you will need to reserve hotels and campgrounds well in advance.