Track Mountain Gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. An hour spent with a Mountain Gorilla family is a very tranquil & relaxing form of therapy, allowing you to realize how simple life really can be, and just how complicated humans have made their own lives.
This park makes up the Ugandan part of the Virunga Conservation Area which spans three countries — Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Each of these countries has established National Parks in the area to protect the tropical rainforest watersheds and wildlife of the Virunga region.
Located in the far south western corner of Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest park in Uganda with an area of only 34 sq km.
Virunga is a Kinyarwanda word which means ‘boiling pots’ and references the mountains’ volcanic origins. At least one volcano in the range is active and erupted last in 2001, which contributes to the unique nature of the mountain range.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Volcanoes
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park boasts three extinct volcanoes: Mount Muhavura (4,127 meters), Mount Gahinga (3,475 meters) and Mount Sabyinyo (3,645 meters). Gahinga, “old man’s teeth”, is the lowest of these mountains and has given the park its name. There are 7 volcanic mountains in the area, one of which erupted in 1996.
The vegetation of Mgahinga is typically afro-montane, with a forest belt, a bamboo zone, and a belt leading up to an alpine zone. Many local herbs grow in the park, including a giant tree-sized relative of the herb St. John’s Wort.
What to see & do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The Park supports 39 recorded mammal species; although it is believed there may be 50 more species unrecorded. Mgahinga boasts large mammals like the mountain gorilla, buffalo and forest elephant. The endangered golden monkey, a subspecies of the blue monkey, can only be found in this region and several other small felines can also be found here.
294 bird species have been recorded in Virunga region, among which are the handsome Francolin, the Rwenzori Turaco and the Side-breasted Tit. Twenty of these species are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley.
The rugged mountainous terrain makes gorilla trekking strenuous work and visitors should be prepared for up to 8 hours of hiking. Good physical condition is a must. Bwindi can be rather cold especially in the mornings and evenings, and it is advisable to bring along a light jacket or poncho. No one with signs of communicable diseases like the flu or cough will be allowed to trek.
The habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is called the Nyakagezi group and consists of approximately 15 members. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is not as reliable due to the fact that gorilla families migrate across the borders of Rwanda and DRC. The gorillas may be resident in Uganda during the months of April, May, June, October, November and December.
The unique golden monkey track is a gentle steep but an interesting two-hour trek through former farmland to the bamboo forest. On a clear day, you may view the Virunga Volcano range and also a unique swamp walk are all interesting activities for those who have extra time to spend in the area.
It is also possible to enjoy one day’s hike to the summit of Mount Muhavura, in the local language ‘The Guide’, the highest point in the park. Magnificent views of the other Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the Rwenzori Mountain peaks can be seen from its summit. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip and covers 12 km.
Mgahinga Batwa excursion
The dense forests were home to the indigenous Batwa – hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine. Now they lead visitors through the forests and introduce them to their old home – and the techniques they used to survive in it. A visit to a historic Batwa (pygmy) cave, through the Batwa community is a an incredible experience
Where to stay in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
You can choose from a variety of accommodations made available for you ranging from high end facilities, these offer first class premium serves to guest especially those that wish to spend a luxurious lifestyle while on holiday. The mid range facilities are as well available, these offer moderate service to their guest and they are very affordable. For visitors that wish to spend less on accommodation, staying at budget facilities is very ideal, these offer are very safe, clean and with good food
- Chameleon hill Lodge –up market facility
- Kisoro Tourist Hotel –mid facility
- Kisoro travelers rest hotel- budget facility
- Golden Monkey Guest house – budget facility
- Mount Gahinga Lodge up market facility
- Countryside Guesthouse Kisoro
- Mountain Gorilla Safari Hotel