Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the most scenic park located in the south western most corner of Uganda. It is lies along the three countries’ boundary; Uganda Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Mgahinga gorilla national park is situated within the Virunga Mountains (Virunga Conservation Area) and it encompasses three inactive volcanoes; Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhabura and Mount Gahinga.
Mgahinga national park was declared as a game sanctuary by the British administration in the year 1930, and in 1991 it was upgraded as a national park. The name Gahinga means piles of volcanic stones from a farmland found at the foot of the volcanoes as described locally. The park is 33.7km in size making it the smallest national park in Uganda.
This park’s most striking features are the mountain gorillas, the three conical extinct volcanoes, which form a picturesque back drop, not forgetting the golden monkeys. These features have attracted travelers across the world due to their uniqueness in beauty. Mgahinga national park is gifted with Nyakagezi gorilla group, the only habituated family in the park.
Nyakagezi family is headed by a silverback named mark, who took leadership from his father Bugingo, the oldest Silverback who is believed to be more than 54 years old. Interestingly Bugingo still lives in the Nyakagezi family yet he was overthrown by his son. This is far from usual as in other families, the over thrown leader is banished from the family and it resolves to isolation or seeks refugee from other gorilla families.
Nyakagezi family has 2 female adults (Nshuti and Nyiramwiza), 2 juveniles (Nkanda and Furaha), Mafia and Mathew (silverbacks) and infants (Rukondo and (Mutagamba), this brings total number of group members to 10.
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What to do in Mgahinga
Gorilla trekking is one of the tedious but fun activity while at the park. As you trek through the beautiful bamboo trees, be expectant to see the Nyakagezi family as they feed on the tree branches and fruits, as well as seeing Furaha and Nkanda as they play. For your whole experience with the Nyakagezi family will be filled with fun and excitement. It is truly a lively and friendly family to visit. Trekking begins at 8:00am from the entrance gate of Ntebeko and goes on for up to 8 hours with a trained guide. A group of eight members are allowed to trek the family per day.
With three inactive volcanoes in the fringes of Mgahinga national park, Volcano trekking is another activity to engage in while at the park. Mount Muhavura (Muhabura) the tallest, is purely magnificent as its climb leads to the view of the Rwenzori mountains. Mount Gahinga climb leads to the afro-alpine moorland and giant groundsel, lobelias the home of bizarre plants.
Mount Sabyinyo on the other hand is the most hiked volcano as it involves rigorous ladders ascending, breathtaking hikes along the gorgeous slopes of the mountain. And all this effort finally rewards you with an unforgettable experience of standing at a point which forms a tri-border of three East African countries – Rwanda, Uganda and D.R. Congo.
Golden Monkey Trekking
Found only in Mgahinga national park, golden monkeys belong to the old world monkey species that can be trekked in the park. Tracking these magnificent primates starts as early as 8:30am and head out into the forest to spend one hour with the playful and entertaining golden monkeys. Golden monkeys live in large troops of up to 100 members. They’re generally shy and laid back primates but watching them as they feed and cling on bamboo trees is magical.
Batwa Cultural Experiences
It’s amazing that for generations, Mgahinga forest has preserved an indigenous Batwa people who are so entertaining and still protect a rich history. These used to depend on the forest for shelter, medicine and food, as these pygmies are fierce warriors and hunter gatherers. While in Mgahinga the guide will lead you to the Batwa trail where you will discover the cultural heritage of these ancient people. They will show case their history through folk songs, hunting techniques and also you will have a chance to visit the sacred Garama cave that was once a place of refuge to the Batwa people.
Birding in Mgahinga National Park
For bird lovers, Mgahinga national park has the best spots for beautiful bird viewing. The gorge trail between mount Sabyinyo and Gahinga provides a sighting of the streaky seedeater, blue headed sunbird, Rwenzori batis and olive Thrush among others. And at the bamboo belt, the Rwenzori Turaco, Chubbs Cisticola bird species among others are sighted. Besides birds, the park harbors some isolated populations of mammals, including forest buffaloes, forest hogs, elephants and bushbucks among others.
Where to stay in Mgahinga
The park offers a variety of accommodation facilities, ranging from Budget campsites to upmarket lodges; Luxurious lodges include Mount Gahinga Lodge located near Ntebeko gate. Midrange lodges include the Kisoro town based Travelers Rest Hotel and Mucha hotel where as budget lodges include Golden monkey guest house, Lake Chahafi Resort and more.
You can easily get to Mgahinga national park by road, using the Masaka – Kabale – Kisoro route which is approximately 510km from Kampala and an 8 hour drive. From Kigali city, it takes only 4 hours to reach the park via Cyanika boarder. The park can also be reached from Bwindi impenetrable forest via the southern tracking trails at Rushaga and Nkuringo sector. Mgahinga is a four hour drive from the Buhoma – Nkuringo trail.
You can also get to Mgahinga national park by air using a charter flight from Entebbe international airport to Kisoro (Nyakabande) airstrip and then connect to the park using a vehicle, driving for about 30 minutes. Lately, Mgahinga Gorilla national park has emerged to be among the best destinations to visit in Uganda because of its unique beauty, particularly for gorilla and Golden monkey trekking. Therefore as you plan your safari in Uganda, include Mgahinga national park at the top of your bucket list.