Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorillas & Golden Monkey Tracking- Uganda Gorilla Safaris
Mgahinga national park is located in southwestern Uganda. It is located in the Virunga Mountains and encompasses three inactive volcanoes of mount muhabura, mount gahinga and mount sabinyo. The park was founded in 1991 and is one of the few national parks in the world that is home to the mountain gorillas and is also blessed with a unique type of primates known as the golden monkey’s where the parks gets its other name as a place where gold meets silver.
Mgahinga national park is also blessed with unique features like mount sabinyo and mount muhabura which are situated in the Virunga ranges which cut in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. The other attractions to find in Mgahinga include Lake Mutanda and the Batwa people who give a cultural experience when visitors come to this national park.
Things to do in Mgahinga national park
Gorilla trekking is the major activity carried out in Mgahinga. This national park in Uganda is one of the homes to the endangered mountain gorillas. The gorilla trekking starts in the morning with a briefing about the rules and regulations at the park headquarters. The gorilla trekking takes about 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on where the mountain gorillas are located because they are likely to move from one place to another in search for food. During the trekking, you will be able to see other primate species, birds plus different plant and tree species among others and once the gorillas are found, you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat which gives you an opportunity to learn about their behavior, watch them feed, breastfeed, playing which enables you to have videos and pictures taken for memories of these moments.
Golden monkey trekking
Mgahinga national park also offers golden monkey trekking which is an interesting and active activity that involves moving into the forest in search for the golden monkeys. This national park is the only home to the endangered golden monkeys and the trekking process is similar to that of the mountain gorillas. Trekking of the golden monkeys in Mgahinga national park is not so strenuous like gorilla trekking because the golden monkeys live in the lower areas, during trekking you will look out for fresh leftovers of bamboo shoot because golden monkeys do not leave behind clear evidence of their previous day’s location. Once the golden monkeys are found, you will be allowed to spend one hour with then in their environment which gives you an opportunity to experience their way of life and record some memories of your time with the golden monkeys.
Mgahinga gorilla national park has 3 dormant volcanoes within its heart where visitors can also do the hiking adventures. They include Gahinga volcano which is the smallest of the 3 volcanoes in the park and hiking takes about 6 hours round trip depending on your hiking speed. When you reach on the top of the summit, you will find the crater filled swamp and giant lobelia.
Mount sabinyo which is 3669 meters above the sea level and hiking takes about 8 hours round trip. During the hike, you will pass through steep ridges, dense forest with afro-montane vegetation where you will enjoy scenic views of primates like the golden monkeys, duikers, forest elephants and different bird species. We you reach on the top of the summit, you will be standing in three countries which are Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
Mount muhavura is the highest of the three volcanic mountains in Mgahinga gorilla national park. Mount muhavura stands at an altitude of 4127 meters above sea level and hiking takes about 10 hours. During hiking, you will pass through different vegetation zones and the summit offers spectacular views of other Virunga volcanoes, Queen Elizabeth national park, Lake Edward, Rwenzori mountain ranges.
Mgahinga national park is a home to more than 155 recorded bird species which makes it one of the best birding destinations in Uganda. There are different birding destinations in Mgahinga national park such as montane forest, bamboo belt, the gorge trail between gahinga and sabinyo among others. During the bird watching, you will be able to see bird spices like Rwenzori batis, brown crowned tchagra, bronze sunbird, dusky turtle dove, olive thrush, alpine chat, montane double collared sun bird, handsome francolin and others.
Batwa trail experience
This national park was formally a home of the Batwa tribe or pygmies before it was gazetted into a national park. The Batwa trail experience begins with a prayer and gives visitors a chance to meet with the Batwa people, experience their ancient ways and culture. During the Batwa trail, you will have a Twa guide that will demonstrate their hunting, honey harvesting and gathering skills, show off how to make the bamboo cups, and visit the Garamba cave which acted as food storage and hiding place for the Batwa. The trail ends with storytelling and dance presentations by the Batwa women.
Best time to visit Mgahinga gorilla national park
The park experiences two rainy seasons of March to May and September to November. October is the wettest month, with 250mm of rain and July the driest with just 10mm.most of the visitors go for gorilla safaris during the dry months of June to October and December to march since it is easier to trek through the forests. it is advisable to book your gorilla permits at least 4 months to the travel period given since there is a high demand for the Mgahinga permits.
How to get there
Mgahinga gorilla national park is located southwestern of Uganda and can be accessed by both road and air transport.
By road transport, it is approximately a 9 to 10 hours’ drive from Kampala to Mgahinga that is around 8 hours to Kabale town covering 434km and there are more 76km to Kisoro town, this route is tarmacked and abit mountains and steep.
There is also an alternative of using a route from Kabale town passing near the beautiful lake Bunyonyi and joining again kabale-kisoro tarmac. From Kisoro to the park it’s around 14km to Ntebeko the park main entrance.
The park can be accessed by air whereby you can make earlier bookings on flights that move from Entebbe international airport to Kisoro air field, using flights saves more time and it is less tiresome.