Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of Uganda’s most remarkable and diverse wildlife sanctuaries. Located in the southwestern corner of the country, the park covers the northern slopes of three extinct volcanoes: Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabyinyo. These are part of the Virunga Mountains, a chain of volcanoes that stretches across Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including the endangered mountain gorillas, the rare golden monkeys, and over 180 bird species. The park also boasts of incredible landscapes, ranging from bamboo forests and montane moorlands to alpine zones and crater lakes. The park offers stunning views of the surrounding volcanoes and the plains below.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is not only a natural wonder, but also a cultural treasure. The park is inhabited by the Batwa people, an indigenous group of hunter-gatherers who have lived in harmony with the forest for centuries. The park offers visitors a chance to learn about their rich history and traditions through guided walks and cultural performances.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves nature, wildlife, and culture. Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or education, you will find something to suit your taste in this park.
Wildlife in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to some of the most iconic and rare wildlife species in Africa. The park is best known for its population of mountain gorillas, which are critically endangered and only found in a few places in the world. The park has one habituated gorilla family that can be visited by tourists on a guided trek. The family consists of about 10 individuals, including a dominant silverback, females, juveniles, and infants. The gorillas are gentle giants that live in social groups and feed mainly on plants. They can be observed in their natural habitat as they go about their daily activities.
Another unique primate that can be found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the golden monkey. This is a subspecies of the blue monkey that has a distinctive golden-orange fur and a long tail. The golden monkey is endemic to the Albertine Rift region and has a restricted range. The park has two habituated groups of golden monkeys that can be tracked by tourists. The monkeys are very active and playful and can be seen jumping from tree to tree in search of fruits and insects.
Besides primates, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park also hosts a variety of other wildlife species, such as elephants, buffaloes, leopards, giant forest hogs, bushpigs, bushbucks, black-fronted duikers, and rodents. The park also has a rich birdlife, with over 180 species recorded. Some of the notable birds include the handsome spurfowl, the dusky crimson-wing, the Rwenzori turaco, the Rwenzori batis, the regal sunbird, the strange weaver, and the Grauer’s swamp warbler.
Things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a range of activities for visitors to enjoy and explore its natural and cultural attractions. Some of the things to do in the park are:
This is the main attraction of the park and involves hiking through the forest to find and observe the habituated gorilla family. The trek can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours depending on the location of the gorillas. Only 8 visitors are allowed per day and each visit lasts for one hour. Gorilla trekking requires a permit that costs $700 per person and can be booked in advance through Uganda Wildlife Authority or a tour operator.
Golden monkey tracking
This is another exciting activity that allows visitors to see the rare and beautiful golden monkeys in their natural habitat. The tracking can take up to 4 hours depending on the movement of the monkeys. Only 12 visitors are allowed per day and each visit lasts for one hour. Golden monkey tracking requires a permit that costs $100 per person and can be booked in advance through Uganda Wildlife Authority or a tour operator.
For those who love adventure and challenge, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers three options for volcano hiking: Mount Muhabura (4,127 m), Mount Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mount Sabyinyo (3,645 m). Each volcano has its own features and rewards, such as panoramic views, crater lakes, and unique vegetation. The hikes can take from 6 to 8 hours depending on the difficulty and weather conditions. Volcano hiking requires a guide and a fee that ranges from $80 to $100 per person depending on the volcano.
This is a cultural activity that gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the Batwa people, their history, and their way of life. The trail is led by a Batwa guide who takes visitors through the forest, showing them how they used to hunt, gather, and live in harmony with nature. The trail also includes a visit to a Batwa community, where visitors can interact with the locals, watch their dances and songs, and buy their crafts. The Batwa trail costs $80 per person and can be booked through Uganda Wildlife Authority or a tour operator.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 180 species of birds, many of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift region. The park has several trails and viewpoints that offer excellent opportunities for birdwatching. Some of the birds that can be seen in the park include the handsome spurfowl, the dusky crimson-wing, the Rwenzori turaco, the Rwenzori batis, the regal sunbird, the strange weaver, and the Grauer’s swamp warbler. Birdwatching can be done independently or with a guide who can help identify the birds and their calls.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the common questions that visitors may have about Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
When is the best time to visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park?
The park can be visited all year round, but the best time is during the dry seasons of June to August and December to February. These are the ideal months for gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, and volcano hiking, as the trails are less muddy and slippery and the visibility is better. However, the park can also be visited during the wet seasons of March to May and September to November, as these are the best months for birdwatching and photography, as the vegetation is greener and more lush.
Where can I stay in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park?
The park has a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Some of the lodges and campsites in or near the park are:
Mount Gahinga Lodge
This is a luxury lodge that offers spacious cottages with en-suite bathrooms, fireplaces, and verandas overlooking the volcanoes. The lodge also has a restaurant, a bar, a lounge, a library, and a spa. The lodge is located near the park headquarters and charges from $300 per person per night.
Travellers Rest Hotel
This is a mid-range hotel that offers comfortable rooms with en-suite bathrooms, TVs, and Wi-Fi. The hotel also has a restaurant, a bar, a garden, and a fireplace. The hotel is located in Kisoro town, about 14 km from the park entrance and charges from $100 per person per night.
Amajambere Iwacu Camp
This is a budget campsite that offers basic tents with shared bathrooms and toilets. The campsite also has a restaurant, a bar, and a fireplace. The campsite is located near the park headquarters and charges from $10 per person per night.
How can I get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park?
The park can be accessed by road or by air from Kampala or Kigali. By road, it takes about 8 to 10 hours from Kampala or 6 hours from Kigali to reach Kisoro town, which is the nearest town to the park. From Kisoro town, it takes about 30 minutes by car or motorbike to reach the park entrance. By air, it takes about 1 hour from Kampala or 30 minutes from Kigali to reach Kisoro airstrip, which is about 12 km from the park entrance.
There are daily flights operated by Aerolink Uganda or Fly Uganda from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield in Kampala or by RwandAir from Kigali International Airport in Kigali. From Kisoro airstrip, it takes about 20 minutes by car or motorbike to reach the park entrance.