Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park: Mountain gorillas are an endangered primate species that can only be found in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, the Congo’s Virunga National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park of Uganda that make part of the Virunga Massif area, as well as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda where the mountain gorilla population is more than half of the world population. Mountain gorillas live in densely forested areas that are as well mountainous in nature. There are about 1063 mountain gorillas still left in the world, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park inhabits about 80 individuals.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the south-western part of Uganda in the district of Kisoro and was gazetted as a national park back in 1991 to conserve the inhabitants especially the gorillas. With about only 80 gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, there is only one fully habituated gorilla family, the Nyakagezi gorilla family, that travelers after a gorilla trekking in Mgahinga experience could visit.
The Nyakagezi gorilla family is a unique gorilla family that has more than one silverback in a single group. It is in this gorilla family that an overthrown dominant silverback still lives with the rest of the family and do so peacefully. This is unusual as most overthrown dominant silverbacks leave the gorilla family and become loners till they die.
To be able to take part in a gorilla trekking in Mgahinga adventure to encounter the Nyakagezi gorilla family, travellers need to have a gorilla permit that allows them to proceed. A gorilla permit can be purchased or booked from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala or through a trusted tour operator. A single entry gorilla permits costs $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents whereas East African citizens pay ugx250,000 only. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park perms are only 8 per day. This necessitates travellers to book permits at least 3-4 months in advance so as to secure their dates.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park starts very early in the morning with a briefing by the park officials at Ntebeko, the park headquarters. The park officials then give travellers rules and guidelines to follow while on a trek before they depart along with a ranger guide to search for the gorillas. Once travellers encounter the gorillas, they can take pictures and make videos, and are allowed up to one hour only with them. After, they trek back to the park headquarters from where they get a gorilla trekking certificate that shows that they successfully trekked gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. the trek can take anything between 2-4 hours or more depending on the terrain or location of the gorilla family.
- Comfortable hiking boots and preferably waterproof so as to keep your feet dry when you cross rivers and small water puddles and mud, or when it rains
- Long safari trousers
- Long-sleeved shirts to keep insects from biting you and also reactive plants that might irritate your skin
- Garden gloves for a good and strong grip on your hiking stick as well as the grass when hiking
- Waterproof jackets or jackets with a hood
- Waterproof backpack to safe keep your important items like cameras, phones, watches, among others
- A hat, preferably waterproof as well as sunglasses
- A camera, without a flash
- Insect repellent creams
- Energy giving snacks
- A hiking stick which you will get from either your lodge of stay or at the start of your gorilla trek at the park headquarters
These are some of the rules and regulations put up that travelers are expected to adhere to while gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park;
- Gorilla trekking is for persons 15 years and above
- Persons who are sick with infectious diseases like flu and cough should not do gorilla trekking
- Maintain a 7-meter distance away from the gorillas at all times
- Do not touch the gorillas
- Stay in the group you are placed in at all times, more so during the trek and do not at any time surround the gorillas when you do encounter them
- Maintain silence while in the forest, whisper if you need to talk
- Do not litre the forest, take back all your rubbish to the park headquarters, including your food wrappings
- Do not use flash cameras
- Do not look straight in the eyes of the gorillas, this stresses them out and might charge at you
- Stay calm when charged at by a gorilla. Bow your head submissively and don’t run or scream
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can take place throughout the year, that is during both the dry season and the wet season for as long as you carry the appropriate gorilla trekking gear. The dry season is the most recommended time since the paths in the park are more passable and less bushy and the roads easily accessible. The dry season runs during the months of June-September and December-February. Despite it being a dry season, though, rains can still fall because of the nature of the forest. Make sure to pack appropriate clothing.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be accessed by both road and air, and by road it can be reached in 9-10 hours’ time from Entebbe or Kampala. The road drive is a great way to explore the countryside and travellers can have a number of stops for stretching and photography of some scenic areas. By air, travellers can have charter flights that are operated by Aerolink from Entebbe or Kajjansi to Kisoro. Alternatively, travellers can fly into Kigali International Airport of Rwanda and then be transferred to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park by road in a 2-4 hours’ drive.
Apart from gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, there are other activities that travellers can take part in while in Mgahinga and they include golden monkey tracking, nature walks, mountain climbing of the volcanic mountains of Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura, Batwa cultural trail and bird watching. Alternatively, travellers could have tourist activities like game viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park or chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park. Take time to reach out to a trusted tour operator to plan for you the best gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park safari.