Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest national park in Uganda standing at an elevation of 2227m to 4127m above the sea level with 33.7km2 of land situated in the south western Uganda in Kisoro district with in virunga massif where it borders with Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Congo both known for harboring the endangered mountain gorillas and the volcanoes. Mgahinga gorilla national park is famously known as the home to one habituated Nyakagezi gorilla family that is trekked all year round. In 1930, Mgahinga national park was recognized as a sanctuary until 1991 when it was officially gazette as a national park to preserve the endangered mountain gorillas that will at a point of extinction in the wild and up to now, the park is under the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The park harbors 3 volcanoes out of the 8 volcanoes with in Virunga massif and these include Mt. Mgahinga at 3474m, Mt. Sabinyo at 3669m and Mt. Muhabura at 4127m. The park also harbors caves and different species of wildlife.
Wildlife in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
Gorillas: Mgahinga gorilla national park thrills with over 80 gorillas but only one gorilla family with 10 members is habituated and used to humans while the rest still roam the forest. The 10 habituated gorillas in Mgahinga fall under Nyakagezi gorilla family which is the only available and habituated gorilla family in the Ugandan side with in Virunga conservation area which is shared between Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. The ten members of the Nyakagezi gorilla family include; Bugingo who is now the grandfather of the family, Mark the ruling silverback assisted by his brother Mafia. The other two silver backs include Rukundo and Ndugutse while Nshuti and Nyiramwiza are the only adult females and 3 juveniles making up 10 members in the Nyakagezi gorilla family.
Golden monkeys: The park is also a home to the most beautiful primates found within the bamboo forest of the park. There are two habituated troops of golden monkeys available for trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Birds: Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home to over 200 species birds making it one of the best destination for birders and some of the bird seen include; Ibis, white necked raven, waxbills, Speckled mouth bird, Ruwenzori turaco, dusky crimsons wing, grey capped warbler, Fire finch, fly catchers among others.
Mammals: Mgahinga national park has over 76 mammals with in its forested vegetation cover mainly spotted during gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking, hiking, birding and during the batwa trail. Some of the mammals in Mgahinga gorilla national park include; Elephants, forest hogs, buffaloes, jackals, cats, pigs and many more.
Top 5 Tourist activities in Mgahinga
- Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park: This is the most famous activity done by several tourists. The park welcomes 8 trekkers per day to engage in trekking the Nyakagezi gorilla family which is the one and only habituated gorilla family in the entire park. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national parks lasts between 2-8 days or a full day and it offers just one hour for tourists to take the photographs and interact with gorillas in their natural habitats in the wilderness of Mgahinga.
- Golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park: Apart from trekking gorillas, Mgahinga national park is yet the only park in Uganda where golden monkey trekking is carried out and it takes about 2-5 hours of searching for golden monkeys however, like gorilla trekking, Golden monkey trekking also allows only one of close view between tourists and the golden monkeys.
- Birding in Mgahinga gorilla national park: The park is one of the best birding destination in Uganda and the most seen birds with in the bamboo forest, near the ridges, and at the base of the mountains. The best months for birding is during the month of April to May and October to November when there birds are breeding and the forest has plenty of food that attract migratory birds.
- Volcano hiking in Mgahinga national park: There 3 mountains that can be hiked with Mgahinga national park to view different attractions along the way such as wildlife, swamps, crater lakes among others and these include Mt. Muhavura that takes 7-8 hours to make around trip to and from the summit offering a clear view of other volcanoes with in Virunga massif. There is also Mt. Gahinga that takes about 6 hours to make a round trip via bamboo forest. Hikers are in position to encounter with some primate species such as Golden monkeys and gorillas but in most cases these primates are dangerous since they have not been habituated. And finally, Mt Sabinyo whose hike to make around trip takes about 8 hours via the ridge.
- Batwa trail in Mgahinga gorilla national park: The batwa of Mgahinga national park takes tourists on a walk with in the forest while explain different things they used to do in the forest before they were evacuated. The batwa are known to the shortest clan of people who were forest dwellers with in Mgahinga where they stayed alongside gorillas and used to survive through hunting animals and gathering fruits and honey. A batwa trail there takes on a walking safari through different trails in the forest leading to different attractions including caves. Apart from the batwa trail, there are other various walking trails in the park leading to different destinations that last between few minutes to many hours.
Mgahinga can be accessed either by air or by road from different places.
- By road: A road drive from Kampala the capital city of Uganda takes about 10-11 hours via Kampala- Mbarara road to Kabale and finally to the park in Kisoro district. While from Buhoma sector of Bwindi impenetrable national park, it takes about 4 hour’s road drive to get to Mgahinga and finally about 4 hours from Kigali Rwanda.
- By air: Tourists can take a flight from Entebbe international airport or Kajansi air field to Kisoro air field and then take a road drive to the Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Where to stay in Mgahinga /Accommodations
Some of the accommodations in Mgahinga include; Mountain Gorilla lodge, Kisoro tourist hotel, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu Camp, Kisoro travelers rest camp, Mount Muhabura Climbers next, Virunga hotel and campsite, Amahoro guest house, mount Gahinga rest camp, virunga hotel, sky blue hotel, landmark guest house, mutanda island lodge, Bwindi jungle lodge, 3-way gorilla resort, Muhabura motel and many more. Some of these accommodations are situated inside the park while others are situated in Kisoro and other neighboring areas.