Mount Mgahinga (Uganda) also known as Mount Gahinga in Rwanda, is a small volcano that straddling along the borders of 2 East African countries, namely Uganda and Rwanda. Mount Gahinga is one of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga massif. The mountain derives its name from the local dialect “Gahinga” which loosely translates as a “small pile of stones “.
Mount Mgahinga sits between Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Muhabura and it’s the smallest of all. The mountain is elevated at 3,474 meters above the sea level with a swampy caldera at its summit. The caldera is 180 meters wide and believed to have been a lake before.
Bush bucks and black fronted duikers are often seen at the top of Mount Gahinga and occasionally move to the lower slopes. The main vegetation on the mountain is bamboo to Afro-montane forests providing refuge to the rare mountain gorillas and endangered golden monkeys. Mount Gahinga is approximately 100 years making it the second youngest volcano in the Virunga massif.
The neighboring Mgahinga national park was gazetted to offer protection to the endangered mountain gorillas as well as the elusive golden monkeys. As a result of this upgrade to a national park, the name Mgahinga gorilla national park was coined from the dominant volcano Gahinga, which formed much of the southern part of the park.
The park as well as the mountain offer some great scenery anyone would love to experience. The national park forms part of the bigger Virunga conservation area which happens to be shared by 3 countries – Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo.
Mount Gahinga is considerably easy to hike compared to other Virunga volcanoes. It is a dead volcano and has a crater on top. While on the hike you always have a chance to interact with wildlife such as golden monkeys, bush backs, baboons, and many more. As you hike through the slopes, you encounter caves formed by lava as it flowed very many years ago. Garama cave is the most famous one and is located near Ntebeko which happens to be the park headquarters.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking
On the base of Mount Gahinga is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which is home to some of the world’s rarest gorilla species. This makes gorilla trekking a must do while in this area.
Gorilla trekking in this park usually begins at around 8am and takes 2 to 8 hours. The duration is always dependent on the location of the gorillas and how far they roamed in their search for food and protection. Guidelines are always given prior to the trekking and it’s always good to follow them for a successful and memorable experience.
Golden Monkey Trekking
You could always shoot two birds with one stone by adding golden monkey trekking to your gorilla tracking experience in Mgahinga national park. The activity lasts about 4 hours during which you are given the opportunity to take photos of these rare primates and viewing them before heading back to your lodge. Don’t forget to carry a camera to take back your golden monkey experience memories.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is depicted to have around 180 bird species including Albertine rift endemics like Rwenzori Turaco, Black kite, Crowned Horn bill and the crowned crane. Birding around Mgahinga can be done all year round, but most recommended during the dry months of the year, that is June-October and December to February.
Batwa Trail Experience
Before Mgahinga gorilla national park was gazetted for the purpose of being a national park, the Batwa lived and thrived in the forests and mountains as hunters and fruit gatherers. After being displaced a few of them still live around the park and participate in tourism as local porters and guides.
A Batwa trail experience is one activity that takes you through the Batwa history and their transition over the years. A portion of the proceedings from park activities like gorilla trekking go back to this community and is used to improve their livelihoods and to provide basic services.
Although it’s one of the smallest and usually less opted for as a tourist destination, Mount Gahinga is one of the best places to go to especially for the adventurous and those looking for the less tourist congested sites. On your next adventure holiday try it out and you will never regret it.