Kabaffulo safaris

Mgahinga Gorilla National park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park lies on the Virunga Volcano slopes, home to both endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. It is a special Uganda safari destination to explore on a guided gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking safari tour. Mgahinga is set high in the clouds at an altitude of 2227 and 4127 meters.

Location, and size of Mgahinga Gorilla N/Park in Uganda
Mgahinga National Park safari park is found in Kisoro, Southwestern Uganda. This stunning park is lying within the Virunga Volcanoes, at Uganda’s border with Rwanda and the D.R. Congo. It was gazetted as a National Park in 1991 and the prime reason for its establishment was to shelter the now-endangered mountain gorillas.
Unlike other gorilla trekking parks in East Africa, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park covers a land area of only 33.7 sq.km. It derives its name from Gahinga Volcano, and the word Gahinga is translated as small lava stones common in garden at Gahinga Volcano foothills. Its size makes it Uganda’s smallest National Park.

Why visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda)

The main reason why most tourists travel to Mgahinga National Park is to track mountain gorillas, & golden monkeys. These two great apes dwell within the lush tropical rain forest of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Trekking gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park involves spending a long day searching for Nyakagezi gorilla family. This is the only habituated family of mountain gorillas and takes you about 2-6 hours or less then you return to your accommodation/park offices to meet the driver guide to transfer you to your next destination.
Wildlife/Animals to find in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
More than 39 mammal species live in Mgahinga National Park. These include side-striped jackals, golden cats, serval cats, patas monkeys, mangabeys, hyenas, golden mountain gorillas, baboons, bush babies, forest hogs, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys, geckos, buffaloes, porcupines, elephants, and others.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a special birding spot on its own way although it remains not fully explored. The park supports 180 bird species and most of them are endemic species to the Albertine rift. Mgahinga Gorilla NP bird species include scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird, black kite, African paradise flycatchers, cape robin-chat, Shelley’s dusky crimson wing, streaky seedeaters, White starred robin, white-napped raven, yellow-throated long claws, regal sunbird, Southern red bishop, cinnamon bracken warblers, red necked spur fowl, paradise flycatchers, mountain masked apalis, rufous chested swallow,
Others include blue-headed sunbird, Doherty’s bush shrike, fire finch, brown-crowned tchagra, Archer’s ground robin, Kivu ground-thrush, dusky turtle dove, grey-capped warblers, Alpine chat, banded prinia, and more.

Tourist Activities in & around Mgahinga Gorilla N. Park

Gorilla trekking
Other than Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga is another incredible place that is worth visiting for mountain gorilla trekking. Over 80 mountain gorillas live in this park and comprise of one habituated gorilla family. The Nyakagezi group is the fully habituated gorilla group family that is open for gorilla tourism in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Treks to interact with Nyakagezi group begin at Ntebeko at 8:00 am after a briefing from the Uganda Wildlife Authority official. Like Bwindi and other gorilla trekking parks, visitors on the gorilla tour in Mgahinga are accompanied by an experienced guide and the normal trek lasts for 2-6 hours inclusive of one hour for a magical encounter. A valid gorilla permit is required for all gorilla treks in Mgahinga and each permit is issued at USD700 per person. The permits can be booked by a reliable tour operator on the ground or directly with the reservation team from Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Golden monkey tracking
Golden monkeys are some of the numerous mammals and primates that Mgahinga Gorilla N/Park inhabits. A good number of these beautiful primates have been habituated and can be trekked starting from Ntebeko Area. Golden monkeys are endemic to the 3 Virunga Conservation Areas (Mgahinga Gorilla National Park-Uganda, Virunga National Park –D.R. Congo & Volcanoes National Park –Rwanda).

Mountain climbing/hiking
Mountain climbing is a remarkable adventure that Mgahinga is most popular for. The park has 3 of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes and all of them can be hiked from Mgahinga side. They include Gahinga (3474m), Sabyinyo 3669m and Muhabura 4127m. Hiking to the summits of these volcanoes reward hikers with breathtaking views of the surroundings and you have opportunity to capture the best pictures.

Mgahinga is compact but holds up to 180 bird species. The best time to travel for birding tours in the park is around April, May & October, November. Most migratory birds from Europe and other parts of the world often fly to nest from November to April. The common birds to identify on birding tour in Mgahinga include western green tinker bird, white-necked raven, yellow-vented bulbul, waxbills, streaky seedeater, white-starred robin, yellow-throated long claw, red-faced woodland warblers, paradise fly-catchers, stray seedeaters, olive woodpeckers, mountain masked Apalis, olive pigeon, Rwenzori batis, red throated alethe, red necked spur fowl, montane nightjars,
Fire finch stonechat, handsome francolins, Doherty’s bush shrikes, Chubb’s cisticolas, brown woodland warblers, greater double collared sunbird, scarlet tufted sunbird, archer’s robin chat, blue-headed sunbird, banded prinia, crowned crane, collared apalis, and others.

Nature walks
Nature walking in Mgahinga comes with plenty of opportunities to uncover its hidden treasures. You get a chance to immerse yourself in the jungles as you keep an eye on birds, primates and floral species. The key areas of interest for nature walking safaris in Mgahinga NP include the border trail along the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo. This is 5 hour’s hike leading you to Gisozi hill where you can be viewing the lush Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There is also the Sabyinyo gorge trail perfect for enthusiastic hikers in need of challenging hikes.

The Batwa trail & cultural encounter
The Batwa pygmies lived in Mgahinga NP forest and Bwindi for many years. They lived peacefully with gorillas and they were displaced when the park was officially gazetted. The Batwa trail (Mgahinga in Kisoro) offers an incredible interaction with the Batwa pygmies who lived in the forest as hunters and gatherers. They will also entertain you with cultural and musical performances –this is especially in the evening after gorilla trekking.

When to go for a tour in Mgahinga N/Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park experienced mild to cold/wet kind of climatic conditions. Its weather and climatic conditions are influenced by its altitudinal range 2227-4127m and temperatures can drop up to 9 degrees celsius at night. The dry season allows visitors to enjoy the best of gorilla trekking or golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga and this is from June to July and December to January.

Where to stay –accommodation facilities in Mgahinga
All accommodation options are available for guests to choose for their overnight stay while on Mgahinga Gorilla National Park safaris. These include budget, midrange and luxury options. The top lodges to book in/around Mgahinga include Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Virunga Hotel, Lake Mutanda Campsite, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu community camp and others.

How to reach Mgahinga by road & air in Uganda
By road transportation: Leave Kampala for Mgahinga through the Masaka-Mbarara-Kisoro route 9-10 hours’ drive using a 4×4 drive vehicle. Or depart Kigali for Mgahinga via Chanika border 4-5 hours’ drive through Kisoro and by air, you will need 2 hours to fly from Entebbe Airport to Kisoro airstrip.

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