Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is situated southwestern Uganda and remarkably one of the 3 destinations where gold meets silver. It spans up to about 34 square kilometers making Uganda’s smallest national park. 3 of the Virunga Mountain ranges are found in Mgahinga National Park and incredibly, it makes up part of the vast Virunga Conservation Area (VCA). The VCA is composed of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mgahinga National Park is set between altitude 2227 and 4127 meters, featuring the stunning Gahinga Volcano (3474 meters), Muhabura (4127 meters) and Mount Sabyinyo (3645 meters). In 1991, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park up graded its status as a national park and its creation was mainly to protect its unique tourist attractions.
What to see in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
About 76 distinct mammal species are confined within the lush rainforest of Mgahinga National Park and they include the rare mountain gorillas, elephants, black fronted duikers, giant fronted hogs, buffaloes, golden monkeys, spotted hyenas, bushbuck and others. There are also about 115 bird species for you to spot out in this national park and not to forget the unique flora as well as scenic volcanoes.
Activities to do in Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only second gorilla destination after Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park where you can view mountain gorillas in the wild while in Uganda. Visitors at Mgahinga National Park normally start their adventure at Ntebeko with morning briefing on the set gorilla trekking rules and regulations.
Nyakagezi is the only habituated gorilla family available for visitors to track in Mgahinga and only 8 visitors are accepted to trek it and this represents 8 gorilla permits each costing $600 per person. The length of gorilla trek is hard to ascertain but can last you about 2-6 hours depending on your hiking speed, nature of habitat and location of these exceptional creatures. The 6 hours also cover the 1 hour of magical encounter with the great apes, photography and learning about their unique behaviors, body gestures among others.
Golden monkey tracking
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only place in Uganda where gold meets silver. It is a home to striking golden monkeys making it one of the best destinations for golden monkey tracking. Besides, you can also embark on golden monkey habituation experience a unique experience that is offered in only Mgahinga National Park.
Mgahinga National Park features among a few important birding sites in Uganda. The birds to identify in this park include black kit, whydah, Ruwenzori nightjar, Ruwenzori turaco, white necked raven, paradise flycatcher, double collared sunbird, ibis, dusky crimson wing, Kivu ground thrush, yellow vented bulbul, waxbills a mention but a few.
A guided nature walk in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is remarkably the best way for you to get close to nature. Visitors on nature walk in Mgahinga have opportunity to enjoy the lush vegetation, bamboo forest, Rugezi swamp and outstanding views of the farmlands, Lake Mutanda and others.
3 majestic Virunga Mountain ranges are found within Mgahinga National Park making it a hiker’s paradise. They include Mount Muhabura (4127 meters) that is best known as a guide and a hike to the summit of this remarkable Virunga volcano can last you about 8 hours depending on the physical fitness level of visitors.
The hike through this volcano takes you across small shrubs, grasses and rock ground while enjoying the dramatic peak views of magical Rwenzori Mountain ranges, other Virunga Mountains, the lush Bwindi Impenetrable Forest a mention but a few.
Mount Gahinga is incredibly where Mgahinga National Park derived its name and means a pile of lava stones heaps. Hike through Gahinga Volcano can take you nearly 6 hours via bamboo forest and comes with astonishing views. Mount Sabyinyo denotes old man’s teeth and you need 8 hours to hike through this magical volcano.
Cultural encounters in Mgahinga National Park take you to the Batwa pygmy community for you to get the best of African cultural experience. You get opportunity to not only interact with the Batwa but also enjoy unique cultural dances, music performance while exploring about their ancient hunting and gathering techniques.
Garama Cave exploration
The Garama Cave stretch up to 342 meters and straddle beneath a plateau on the northern side of Mgahinga National Park about 3 kilometers away from Ntebeko. It is from this cave that Batwa used for their safety at the time.
Where to stay in Mgahinga National Park
There are many lodging options in and around Mgahinga National Park and for visitor stay, the key ones include the Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge that is set on the Nteko ridge; Nkuringo safari lodge on the lush shores of Lake Mutanda ; Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Mount Mgahinga Rest Camp, Mount Mgahinga Lodge a mention but a few.
Best time to visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is open for visitor exploration throughout the year. But it is best to visit during the dry months of the year that is June, July, August, September and December, January, February. These months are ideal for visitors on gorilla tour, hiking and other safari activities as the ground remains relatively drier making it easier for one to hike through the steep slopes and dense vegetation.
The wet/rainy months are also good for you to visit Mgahinga National Park but the challenge is that they are characterized by heavy rainfall and habitat becomes slippery, muddy thus making it a bit challenging for you to hike through the steep slopes and dense rainforest. The wet months start in March, April, May and October, November.
Getting to Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is accessible either by road or by air. Depending on the route, a journey to Mgahinga National Park covers 8-10 hours starting from Kampala or Entebbe. You can drive through Masaka-Mbarara to Kabale or Kisoro to Ntebeko park gate. Or take a flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield and land into Kisoro airstrip where you can easily drive to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.