Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the four gorilla destinations in the world that tourists from world over endeavour to visit at least once in their lifetime. Mgahinga makes part of the Virunga Massif area that has other parks like Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the south-western part of Uganda in the district of Kisoro, and covers only 33 square kilometres of land; making it the smallest protected area in Uganda. Gazetted as a national park in 1991 solely for the conservation of mountain gorillas that call the park a home, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a wonderful and very scenic gem that is worth a visit. This little gem is tacked away in the forested and mountainous areas in Kisoro and has an elevation that ranges from 2227-4127 meters above sea level.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a gem indeed that has a lot of magnificent features that travellers can be amazed with while at a safari tin Mgahinga. The park has three volcanic mountains that are shared by Rwanda and the Congo as well and they are Mount Muhabura with an elevation of 4,127 meters, making it the highest in the park, Mount Sabinyo with an elevation of 3645 meters and Mount Gahinga at an elevation of 3474 meters. These three extinct volcanoes are great for a mountain climbing adventure due to their varying elevations and very thick forest cover which influences the climatic conditions of the park. The flora and fauna of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are something to marvel at, with the highlights being the endangered mountain gorillas and the rear golden monkeys. There are many other primate species that can be found in the park like monkeys and baboons, as well as bird species some of which are endemic to the Albertine region.
Mgahinga has gorilla trekking, an activity that involves travellers hiking deep into the forest of the park in search of the endangered mountain gorillas, as the most sought after tourist activity. When gorilla trekking in Uganda is mentioned, though, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is not what comes to mind to many. The park however offers a refreshingly beautiful gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park experience, and its tranquil nature gives travellers an opportunity to fully explore the park on foot and uninterrupted.
There are a number of tourist activities that can be done by travellers while on a Mgahinga safari, and they include;
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the most done activity by travellers visiting the park. gorilla trekking has travellers hiking into the forested park to search for the endangered mountain gorillas. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the four mountain gorilla destinations in the world, and it inhabits about 80 gorilla individuals. The park has only one habituated gorilla family_ the Nyakagezi gorilla family, that travellers can visit for a gorilla trekking experience. With only one habituated gorilla family, there are less gorilla permits available here since only 8 persons per day can visit a gorilla family. This means that there are only 8 gorilla permits available per day in Mgahinga, booking way in advance to secure yours such that you have a less chaotic gorilla trekking experience is very important. At least 3-4 months in advance is advised. A single gorilla permit costs $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents and ugx250,000 for East African citizens, and they are purchased from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices or through trusted tour operators.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park starts very early in the morning with a brief by the park officials at Ntebeko, the park headquarters. After, travellers embark on the search of the mountain gorillas in the park and once encounter, they can spend up to only one hour with them. Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga has rules and guidelines to be followed, as well as gorilla trekking gear that will facilitate a better gorilla trekking experience.
Golden monkey tracking
Golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga is a unique activity that cannot be done elsewhere in the country. Golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga is possible due to the availability of habituated golden monkeys that travellers can track when in the park. golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga starts very early in the morning with a brief and then travellers get to track the very active golden monkeys that live in troops of 40-60 golden monkey individuals. Travellers need to purchase golden monkey tracking permits for them to be allowed to take part in the activity, and each costs $60 for foreigners while East African citizens pay only ugx40,000. The permits can be got from the Uganda wildlife visitor centre in the park or through a reputable tour operator.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has about 180 bird species with Albertine Rift endemics like the handsome spurfowl, dusky crimson-wig, red-throated alethe, collard apalis, among so many others that you should not miss out seeing while visiting. Clad with a bird guide and your binoculars, be sure to see up to 100 birds a day if you are keen given that you will move along developed bird watching trails.
The park’s many rivers, streams, and bamboo forests make a nature walk in Mgahinga all the more amazing. A guided nature walk in the park rewards travellers with tranquillity and knowledge of the park as they are given maximum attention by the guide.
Mountain climbing in Mgahinga is possible due to the availability of the three extinct volcanic mountains of Sabinyo, Muhabura and Gahinga. Climbing these mountains rewards travellers with great views of far off areas and whilst on Mount Sabinyo in particular that many travellers choose to climb, travellers can be in three different countries at the same time.
Batwa cultural trail
The Batwa cultural trail in Mgahinga gives travellers the best Batwa experience as they are taken through their trail. Travellers get to live through the life of the early inhabitants of the park that co-existed with the animals up until they were evicted not long ago. The travellers will get to take part in some of the activities the Batwa did back then that includes among others wild honey collecting, hunting, making fire from sticks and cooking. The Batwa cultural trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the best cultural encounter you can have while in the park, be sure to take part in it.
Mgahinga can be accessed by both road and air. By road, travellers can take a 9-10-hour drive from Entebbe or Kampala via Kibale-Kisoro. The road drive has many stops en-route where travellers can stretch or take pictures of some really catching features. The drive is also a great way to explore the countryside. By air, travellers can have chattered flights from Entebbe or Kajjansi to Kisoro. Aerolink has scheduled flights, booking in advance is much advised and travellers should know that it is quite costly. Alternatively, travellers can fly directly into Kigali International Airport of Rwanda and then be transferred by road to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park by road on a 2-4-hour drive through the rolling hills of Rwanda.
The park can be visited throughout the year, but it is in the dry season that travellers are most advised to do so. The dry season is the peak season as well, and it falls in the months of June-September and December-February. It is in this time that the paths in the park are more passable and the roads more accessible. It should be noted though that rains fall at any time in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park given that it is a rain-forested area and mountainous too. Travellers are therefore advised to pack correctly for such weather, as well as make sure to use a 4WD tourist vehicle when going to the park.
With all the above-mentioned tourist activities as well as tourist attractions in the park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a must see tourist destination in Uganda. Take time to get in touch with a reputable tour operator to help you plan the best safari to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.