Regardless of its small size of 33.7 sq. km, Mgahinga national park is one of its kindhiding some of the most interesting attractions on earth, mountain gorillas and golden monkyes. This is the smallest park in Uganda but comes among the top adventurous destinations in the country with the beautiful tropical forestharboring the gentle giant gorillas that can be seen all year round. If you are looking for a place for an exciting hiking safarion a somewhat rough terrain through a tropical forest, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the perfect place to visit. It is located on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes which also offer lovely views of the canopy and the Kigezi area. With a professional guide, a guided safari enables tourists to learn more about the different towns and anything of interest encountered during the 10-11 hours trip from Kampala to Mgahinga national park in the southwestern corner of Uganda. Many tourists also enjoy self drive safaris as they meander through the rolling hills of Kabale and Kisoro to the park.As you plan for an exploration of Mgahinga, book for a safari van orland cruiser to transfer you and your travel partners comfortably at an affordable rate. Since the roadconnecting from the airport and the capital to the park is well paved, saloon cars are as well effective for road trip.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park together with Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in the DRC make up the Virunga conservation area whose effort in mountain gorilla conservation in the area is greatly yielding. There are about 500 mountain gorillas in this conservation area and this and Bwindi impenetrable forest national park are the only places in the world that host the endangered mountain gorillas.
Historical background of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The park got its name “Mgahinga” from a Kinyarwanda word “Gahinga” which means “pile of volcanic stones”. Gahinga isa heapof volcanic stoneswith flourishing farmlandson the slopes of one side. Other volcanic mountainsthere are Sabinyo which means “the old man’s teeth” and the Muhavura meaning “the guide”. The area wasdeclared a game sanctuaryin 1930 by the British administration and in 1991,it was gazetted as a national park which came with eviction of the Batwa pygmies who had lived in the forest for over a thousand years. This was done toprotect the endangered mountain gorillas that lived in the forest and they are today the prime attraction there.
For quite a long time, there was only one habituatedgorilla family available for tourismyet not reliable due to its trans-boundary nature of movement. Good news fell into the ears of Ugandans and people planning to travel to Uganda when they heard that another gorilla family had crossed and settled in Mgahinga from Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. There are now two habituated groups meaning that Uganda Wildlife Authority issues 16 gorilla permits daily to trek for the giants here.
Location of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Its location in the clouds at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m above the seal level is one of the most amazing things about this park. Travelers can access the park by heading southwestwards to Kisorowhich is situated about 519 kilometers from Kampala. Mgahinga national park sits at the border of Uganda, near Rwanda and the DRC borders. You can rent a car with a driver to this destination with stopovers at some of the exciting areas which the safari guide is well phased with.
Climate of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga climate is mild to cold and wet. Because it is situated on higher altitude of the Virunga volcanoes, average temperatures are normally200 C/680F during the day and 90C/480 F in the evening. Mgahinga is one of the coldest safari destinations in Uganda.
Mgahinga has no serious dry season but December-January and June-July are considered dry because rainfall isless. There are twoseasons; from February-May and September to November when rainfall amounts are higher. Travelers to this pack are advised to carry strong hiking shoes, long trousers and waterproof jackets or clothes.
Tourist activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Are you searching for a place to see giant gorillasin their natural habitat? Book for a gorilla permit at in Uganda and have life-time memories as you hike through the dense forest trekking for the primates. Early in the morning, trackers meet the guide and armed ranger at Ntebekoto start the trek. Navigate through the trails to the spot where the guide expects the gorillas to be roaming, an incredible moment of comingface to face with these giants awaits. Gorillas are the mainattraction of Mgahinga national park and main aim of this activity.There are two habituated gorilla families in Mgahinga and 8 permits are issued daily to trek for each family. A gorilla permit costs USD 700 for foreign non-residents, USD 600 for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for East African citizens.
Trekking for gorilla in Mgahinga requires some bit of fitnessbecause the terrain is hilly. There is no specific duration for the activitydue to uncertainty of the location of the gorillas, so the trek could last for 2 hours, 3 or go up to evening. Once they are spotted, have fun with these lovely primates for a maximum of an hour and return to the starting point. Carry enough water and packed food for lunchwhen leaving the lodge.
Golden monkey tracking
Here is another great adventure to enjoy in Mgahinga national park. Golden monkeys are among the most beautiful primates that exist. They are playful and amusing to watch and this thrilling experience can be included on your Uganda safari. Mgahinga national park has a number of habituated golden monkeys and can be trackedany time of the year.
The experience is not as exhausting as gorilla trekking because the monkeys do not shift from their nests everyday like gorillas. It can therefore be easier and quicker to find them. The main attraction for this activity are golden monkeys but hikers may come across gorillas and other wildlife in the forest like bush pigs, elephants or forest buffaloes among others.
To have a clearer insight of research, conservation and protection of golden monkeys, join researchers for Golden Monkey Experientialtourism and spend some good time watching what it takes to habituate these beautiful primates.
Golden monkey tracking permit costs USD 60 for a foreignnonresident and foreign resident and UGX 40,000 for East African citizens.
Mountain climbing/ volcano hiking
The three Virunga volcanoes are among the top hiking destinations in Uganda.Climbing to the conical summits of each of them is alwaysa wonderful adventure for hiking enthusiasts. Mountain climbers sometimes spot forest animals as they start the trip. The volcanoesinclude;
Mount Gahinga: This Mountain stands at 3,474m and it takes about 6 hours to get to its peak. Follow the trail through the bamboo forest, a swamp and other lushes to the peak where the charming views of the farmlands at the bottom and other landscapes capture the eyes.
Mount Muhavura: This is the highest peak of the three volcanoes standing at 4,127m. The trail to the summit is about 12 km and can be climbed in 8 hours. The ranger guide takes hikers through a trail passing between small shrubs, bushes and the rocky grounds to the top where you enjoy views of the Virunga volcanoes, Mt. Ruwenzori, Bwindi forest and LakeEdward. There is also a crater lake on top of the volcano.
Mount Sabinyo: Standing at 3,669m above the sea level, Mt. Sabinyois quite challenging to hike. The 14km trail takes hikers through gorges to the steep slope and the final destination is point where you stand in three countries (Uganda. Rwanda and the DRC) at ago.The hike takes about 8 hours and is really exciting getting over the rugged mountain.
Cultural encounters/ Batwa trail
Let the Batwa lead you through the dense forest of Mgahinga to learn about how these pygmies lived in there before they were evicted between 1930’s and 1990’s when the area was being gazette for protection. The Batwa lived in Mgahingaforest as gatherers and hunters in harmony with the mountain gorillas. Therefore, while experiencing their trails, tourists have an opportunity to see how they used to carry out their activities includinghunting techniques, gathering honey, harvesting medicine and a visist to the sacred Garama cave which was a refuge for the Batwa. There are a lot of interesting stories to hear about the life and culture of the pygmies.
Bird lovers can add a birding tour to their gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga to explore the avian life in the forest. Bird watching is enjoyable around the place and common bird species seen includewhite-necked raven, paradise flycatcher, yellow vented bulbul, pin-tailed whydah, Rwenzori turaco and many more.
Lodging /accommodations in Mgahinga
Lodging facilities at Mgahinga national park are superb and do the best for visitors to have the best moments of their safari. Whether you want to stay in luxury, midrange or budget lodge, there is a range to choose from that suits ones budget. They include; Mount Gahinga luxury lodge, Travelers’ Rest Hotel,Kisoro Tourist hotel,Clouds Mountain Gorilla lodge, AmajambereIwacu Community Camp and MuchaHotel. Some of the facilities offered by these accommodations are restaurant and bar, fire places, WiFi, gift shops andlaundry services among others.
Mgahinga national park can be reached by road or air transport.
From Kampala or the airport, drive via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro road. The most commonly used route passes through Kabale and Kisoro and an alternatively istaking the route along the shoreline of Lake Bunyonyi from Kabale to enjoy the scenic views of the lake before joining the Kabale-Kisoromainroad. The main entrance to the park-Ntebeko is located about 14km. The journey takes 9-10 hours. We have a fleet of saloon cars and safari vehiclesto best recommended for this long but entertaining journey. Break the trip with stop overs at the equator, Igongo culturalcentreand other interesting places.
From the southern areas of Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park, Mgahinga is situated about 14km far away.
Mgahinga national park can also be accessed fromRwandaby flying in through Kigali international airport and connect to the park by road. This journey takes about 6 hours.
By air, Aerolinkorganizes chartered and scheduled flights form Entebbe international airport of Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip daily. Connecting flights are also operated to transfer tourists from one destination to another. Therefore, travelers that have limited time to spend on the road or do not want to sit for long hours of transfers can opt for air transport. You can transfer by air from Queen Elizabeth national park, Murchison falls national park, Kidepo Valley national park and Semuliki national park.
When to visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Several times people have debated about the best time to visit Mgahinga national park for gorilla trekking. It is good to know that gorillas in Mgahinga can be trekked any time of the year with great satisfaction for all trekkers. Sincere this place doesn’t have a real dry season, rainfall is expected any time though from June to August and December to Januaryare the drier months. During these drier months, hiking during the search for gorillas is quite easier than on rainy days and wet season.
Some people prefer to travel during the wet season which is also the low season for tourism. It is experienced from March to May and October to November and best for travelers who wish to travel on cheaper budgetsto stay at the lodges at discounted prices.
For the best tour packages to Mgahinga national park to do any of the above activities, contact us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +256-700315510 and get the perfect itinerary.