Fairend Safaris

Mount Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Where Gold meets Silver

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern part of Uganda in Kisoro district in Virunga ranges. It is the smallest National park of the 3 national parks in the Virunga conservation area.  The other two parks are Virunga National Park in DRC and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and all form 434-sq.km of this conservation area. The park covers 3 of the Virunga volcanoes which are Mt. Muhavura, Mt. Gahinga, and Mt. Sabinyo.

Mgahinga National Park was established mainly to protect the mountain gorillas and also the endangered Golden monkeys. The park is home to mammals including Mountain gorillas, buffaloes, and elephants, also endangered golden monkeys. Others include; giant forest hogs, bushbucks, leopards, spotted hyenas, and black-fronted duikers among others.  The entire Virunga conservation area has over 250 bird species. Mgahinga on its own has a record of 115 bird species which makes it a great destination for bird watching.

How to get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The park is 510km away from Kampala and it can be accessed by either road or air means. On the road, it is approximately a 9-10hours drive from Kampala to Mgahinga. Part of this route is tarmacked and a bit mountainous and steep. A 4WD vehicle is recommended for this road at all times and is essential in rainy seasons.

There is as well an alternative of using a route from Kabale town passing near the beautiful lake Bunyonyi and joining again Kabale-Kisoro tarmac. From Kisoro to the park it’s around 14km to Ntebeko the park’s main entrance. The park can also be accessed by road from Queen Elizabeth National Park taking about a 6-hour drive

Travelers can also use air means whereby they can make earlier bookings on flights that move from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro Airfield. Using flights saves more time and is less tiresome.

Activities to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking is the major activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and involves moving into the tropical rainforest in search of gorillas. The habituated gorilla family once found travelers spend one hour in their presence. The park is home to one habituated gorilla family Nyakagezi which consists of 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 2 infants. This group is mobile and sometimes crosses into Rwanda and DRC.

Nyakagezi is trekked every day and trekking starts with a briefing about the rules and regulations at the park headquarters. Trekking lasts about 30 minutes to 8 hours depending on where the gorillas are located. Once gorillas are found, tourist can learn about their behaviors, watch them feed, breastfeed, take photos, and record videos. During the trek other wildlife species including primates like chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, and L’hoest monkeys can be seen.

Golden Monkey trekking

Golden monkey trekking is an active and the second best-done activity in Mgahinga gorilla national park. Trekking starts with a briefing at the park headquarters where travelers are rules and guidelines to follow. The activity is done under guidance of a well-experienced park guide who is well-conversant with different trails to follow.

During trekking, tourists follow trails of leftover bamboo leaves, shoots, and fruits among others. Once the golden monkeys are found, tourists are allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. These monkeys can then be watched as they jump up in tree branches, play, feed, and associate with one another. Travelers are allowed to take photos and record the beautiful moments to show people back home after the safari.

Batwa Cultural encounter

Batwa cultural experience in Mgahinga gorilla national park enables tourists get an opportunity to interact with the Batwa (Pygmies). These people used to live in the forest before it was gazetted as a national park.  This activity commences from the base of Muhavura Cave and is conducted and led by the Batwa guides.

During the cultural experience, travelers are able to learn how the Batwa used to live in the forest. They demonstrate their hunting and gathering skills, how to make bamboo cups and fire by friction using sticks. They point out medicinal plants that were used to cure different diseases. Visit the sacred Garama cave which was once home to the Batwa king, a hiding place during battles, and a food store. Listen to the sorrowful cultural songs and dances of Batwa women among others.

Bird watching

Mgahinga gorilla national park is home to over 115 bird species but the entire Virunga conservation area has over 250 bird species. These include Albertine rift endemics, and migratory birds among others making it one of the best birding destinations in Uganda. Birding is done in the gorge between Mount Gahinga and Sabinyo, through the bamboo forest, and in the montane forest.

 During birdind travelers are accompanied by an experienced park guide who helps in identifying and spotting different bird species. Birds such as the Rwenzori turaco, regal sunbird, dusky turtle dove, cape robin chat, and Rwenzori batis can be seen. Others are streaky seedeater, blue-headed sunbird, brown crowned Tchagra and red-faced woodland warbler and many more.

Hiking / Volcano climbing

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has three Virunga volcanoes namely Mount Muhavura, mount Sabinyo, and Mount Gahinga. Mount Sabinyo has an altitude of 3,669 meters above sea level and it takes an 8-hour hike to get to the top. When hikers get to the top they begin to enjoy the scenic views of Lake Kivu, Rwenzori rangers, and many others. At the top of Sabinyo, a tourist will be standing in Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC at the same period.

Mount Muhavura rises at an altitude of 4,127 meters above sea level and this makes it the highest volcano in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.  Hiking this volcano requires only tourists who are fit and in good health. It takes about 10 hours to reach the top of the volcano where travelers capture amazing views of  Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Rwenzori Mountains. While hiking, tourists get to pass through different zones as they enjoy sightseeing wildlife animals.

Mount Gahinga is marked as the smallest Volcano standing at an elevation of 3,474 meters above sea level. It takes tourists only 6 hours to hike to the top of this mountain depending on each individual’s level of fitness. When tourists reach the top they enjoy the stunning views of a crater-filled swamp with sub-alpine plants and lobelia.

WHEN TO VISIT mGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is famous for gorilla trekking and is open throughout the year but the best time is during drier seasons that start from June to August and December to January. During these drier seasons, the trails tend to be easier to navigate and it is fulfilling to spend one hour with the great mountain gorillas when it’s not raining. 

High season runs from June to September however gorilla trekking permits are very hard to be purchased since there is a big number of trekkers visiting the country for this specific activity. During low season, they run through March, April, May, October, and November.

Where to stay

There are several lodging facilities ranging from luxury to budget facilities. It all depends on your budget, there is only one luxury lodging facility which is Mount Gahinga Lodge. Midrange accommodation facilities include; Traveller’s Rest Hotel, lake Chahafi Resort, Mutanda Lake Resort, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, Birds Nest, and Mucha Hotel Kisoro.

Budget accommodation facilities include; Amajambere Iwacu Community camp, Mutanda Eco-community centre, and Ntebeko River camp.