Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey. The park is home to three Virunga volcanoes, abundant wildlife, and awe-inspiring caves.
Whether you’re looking for mountain gorilla trekking, a lifetime wildlife adventure, or want to immerse yourself in the stillness of nature go hiking, backpack or take a nature walk in one of the most beautiful places, you’ll find your place in Mgahinga National Park. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.
As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled. For years, this was a rather unreliable prospect, as the habituated group regularly crossed into Rwanda, sometimes for months on end. Other wildlife includes elephant, leopard, buffalo, black-and-white colobus monkey and at least 12 bird species endemic to the Albertine Rift.
The gorilla permits cost $700 per person, and is booked 2 months in advance, for high season you need to book more earlier so as to be able to secure the permits on the trekking dates you intend. You can email our offices so as to secure for you a gorilla permit, as part of your gorilla package to Uganda in advance. You can as well ask for relevant information about the permits.
Activities in Mgahinga National Park
The stars in Mgahinga Gorilla National park are the mountain gorillas but this small park has in store other adventure activities one can do;
Mountain Gorilla Tracking
This is the leading activity here. As mount gorilla trekking is much challenging here with less crowd. There is only one habituated gorilla family called Nyakagenzi of about 15 gorilla members which visitors can track on a gorilla tracking safari. This gorilla family used to cross to Rwanda but ever since it returned to Uganda; its original home, it has not crossed back since 2013.
Many trekkers hire a porter to assist in carrying bags or give you a push along steep climbs since you can’t tell when you’ll locate gorillas and return back from the forest. Though seeing gorillas in the park is guaranteed, visitors should be aware of the steep terrain that requires fitness and unpredictable rainfall makes it necessary to carry enough drinking water, packed lunch and rain jackets.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is preferred for gorilla trekking because it’s easy to encounter them due to the availability of much vegetation which is food for gorillas and may move less as well as the forest cover which is bamboo covered. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) habituated one group of mountain gorillas called Nyakagezi Group which has 15 members including the 50 year old Silverback called Bugingo as well as two playful baby gorillas. Though not in large numbers, gorillas of Mgahinga are easily seen in their natural habitats and this makes tracking more easy compared to other parks.
Golden Monkey Trekking.
This is the only place you can do golden monkey trekking. This goes in for a permit of $100 per person. Just like gorilla trekking, the golden monkey trekking also follow the same procedures. Both clients are briefed at the same point and all set off at once with the gorilla trekkers though separate on locations after. Tracking golden monkeys is an activity that one should not miss out while on a Uganda or East African safari. They will entertain you with their acrobat skills, jumping from one tree to the other through the bamboo forest. Tracking Golden monkeys is easier than gorilla tracking.
Batwa Trail and Garamba Cave
Another great massive activity in the National park is the Batwa Pygmy trail which takes visitors to Garamba Cave which is a 3km hike. The activity starts from the National park head offices with a brief history about the cave and its importance to the Batwa- the forest people. Batwa would raid their neighbours, and return to the cave which is 342 metres long and 14 metres deep. Since the forest is now gazetted as a national park, the Batwa no longer live in the cave and it now home to bats.
You will also learn about how they made fires, treated diseases and worshipped. The Batwa experience is one of the most amazing experiences that can last for a whole half while having great time associating and touring the batwa social ways of life. The batwa trail experience cost $80 per person paid directly to UWA
Hiking Volcano Mountains
The National park is a diverse small park that can let visitors go hiking one of the three Virunga Volcanoes which can be combined with a gorilla trek, golden monkey trek or Batwa trail. These are Sabyinyo which is 366m or 1,200 feet. It is also known as Old Man’s Teeth because the crown has been eroded with time. Hiking Sabinyo can take about 8 hours depending on the hikers pace, and is 14 km or 8 miles. The second one is Mt. Gahinga which is 3,474 meters or 11,397 feet above sea level. One needs at least 6 hours to hike to the top through the bamboo forest zone.
Gahinga in the local language means a pile of rocks. It covers an 8 km distance or 5 miles. The last Virunga Mountain of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is Muhavura which means the guide in the local language because it can be seen from the whole or Kisoro area and acts as a landmark too. The hike to the top takes about 8 hours; of course this depends on one’s hiking pace and it is 12 km long. It is a tough hike and hikers will need to bring a lot of water, food, energy drinks and very nice trekking shoes.
Birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The National park is a birder’s paradise, so if you’re a bird watcher, this is a place to be. There are about 180 bird species in the Park, some which are Albertine Rift endemics and every birder on a Uganda birding safari should not miss a chance to go birding in Mgahinga National park. The park has montane bird habitants and is home to some of the birds that include Kivu Ground Thrush, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, White Starred Robin, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Archer’s Robin Chat, Olive Pigeon, and Black headed waxbill, Western Green Tinkerbird, Cape Robin, White-starred Robin, Brown Woodland Warbler, Striped breasted Tit, Malachite, Scarlet-tufted, Greater Double collared Sunbirds among others. You may go for a 3 hours gorge trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo Volcano mountains or take the bamboo trail which is at 2500 meters above sea level.
Border Trail Hike
A visitor to Mgahinga Gorilla National park may go for a 10km (6miles) hike that takes about 5 hours depending on the hiker, up to the base of Sabinyo Volcano Mountain. You will have great views of the gorge and the peaks. This trail follows the conger border before returning to the park offices. There are high chances of seeing golden monkeys and some forest elephants that reside in the area. This trail hike is also great for birders who would like to hike as they do birding around as there is high opportunity to sight a number of birds on the trail.
Lots of accommodations are available near the park areas at Ntebeko’s entrances and in Kisoro town ranging from luxury, midrange, tented camps, and budget lodging up to camping facilities. Advance booking as well applies to some lodging as they are filled up during peak season. For lodge and hotel booking, please get in touch with our sales team.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 510 km from Kampala; the most commonly used route passes through Kabale and Kisoro. The 434 km journey from Kampala to Kabale can be completed in 8 hours on good tarmac. It is then a further 76 km to Kisoro town on a mountainous tarmac road with steep ascents and descents.
An attractive, alternative route leaves the main road at Kabale and follows the shoreline of the superbly scenic Lake Bunyonyi to rejoin the Kabale-Kisoro main road at its halfway point at Muko. Ntebeko, the main entrance to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 14 km from Kisoro at the end of a dirt road with some steep and rocky sections.
Mgahinga can be reached from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. From Bwindi’s southern gorilla tracking trailheads at Nkuringo and Rushaga, Kisoro lies 28 km south and Mgahinga 14km beyond. Mgahinga is almost four hours’ drive from the main trailhead at Buhoma. Dirt roads from Buhoma pass the Ruhija trailhead to join the Kabale-Kisoro tarmac road (see above).
By Air : Mgahinga can also be reached by air using the daily flights from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro airfield.
From Kigali – Rwanda.
The easiest way to reach Mgahinga National Park at much comfort is through Kigali airport as you only have a roughly four hours’ drive via Gatuna border through Kabale – Kisoro town, it can as well be reached via, Cyanika border, from Kigali.
For more information about Mgahinga National Park, kindly contact our office by email: [email protected], you can well make a phone call: +250788439357