MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a jewel seated high in the clouds, at an altitudinal range of 2,227 meters and 4,127 meters. The temperature range of Mgahinga gorilla national park during the day is 150C while the nights become a little colder at 100C. The park experiences two dry spells, May-August and December-February with March, April, September-November being the wettest months.
This Gorilla national park of Mgahinga is an exquisite Uganda safari destination situated in the beautiful lush countryside of southwestern Uganda. It is part of the gorgeous Virunga Massif, a misty mountain range that runs along the borders and spreading to three countries which are; Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda and protected as national parks famous for the Mountain Gorillas in the respective countries that is; Virunga National Park in Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.
The Virunga is a chain of nine (9) freestanding volcanos that are both extinct and active with Uganda hosting 3 extinct conical volcanos that is; Sabinyo at 3,634 meters, Gahinga at 3,474 meters and Muhavura standing at about 4,127 meters. The Virunga protects the second population/group of the Mountain Gorillas with the other group found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park also in southwestern Uganda.
At a size of 33.7Km2, Mgahinga Gorilla national park is Uganda’s smallest park situated along the southwestern border part of the country. It was declared a game sanctuary/ reserve in 1930 by the British administration and later gazetted as a national park in the year 1991 and it protects Uganda’s portion of the endangered Mountain Gorillas as well as the endangered Golden Monkeys which inhabit the Virunga range hence being referred to as a destination / place “Where Gold Meets Silver”.
People and the park
Mgahinga derives its name from a local word “Gahinga” which means piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmlands on the foot of the volcanos. The Batwa, a cultural group that dwells along the forested margins of western East Africa, at the edge of western Uganda, Rwanda and parts of Congo are a pygmy tribal group which lives a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and are the ancient residents of this natural habitat. Caves left by moving lava at the slopes of the mountain served as shelter to the resident pygmies before it (Mgahinga) was gazetted as a national park, these caves/ homes serve as tourist attractions.
Wildlife and attractions
Mgahinga national park protects Uganda’s portion of the Mountain Gorillas that dwell in the dense forests of the Virunga massif, with one habituated family in the park, which is however trans-boundary. The park is also an important habitat for the endangered Golden Monkeys.
Mgahinga has varied types of vegetation including; Afro-montane, montane forests, Bamboo, Tree Heathers, Montane woodland and cover around former farmlands. Mgahinga Gorilla national park shelters three of the Virunga volcanos’ whose slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically sundry. The peaks provide a remarkable milieu to this exquisite scenery.
There are a number of caves found on some of the steep mountain slopes, formed by lava tubes such as the famous Garama cave found near the Ntebeko park headquarters, these caves offered shelter to the Batwa especially during battles.
Activities in the park
Mgahinga Gorilla national park offers ultimate safari experience to travellers seeking to meet and stare deep into the eyes of the majestic Mountain Gorillas. Gorilla tracking is the major activity though it is not reliable since there’s one group that is trans-boundary and therefore can’t be done all year-round. However, other activities in the park are all available and can be done all year round.
Golden Monkey tracking is a new form of activity and experiential tourism that visitors can take part in. Moving through the dense Bamboo forests, looking out for these interesting creatures dressed in striking golden pelt is an experience you will long remember on your Uganda safari to this gem of a park.
Being home to three volcanoes, the park offers thrilling hiking, mountain/volcano climbing Uganda adventures to visitors. The volcanos can be summited taking about a day, with the peaks commanding stunning views into the surrounding countries of Rwanda and Congo, the majestic Rwenzori and some of the other Virunga peaks.
With a myriad of vegetation cover, Mgahinga national park is a glorious birdwatching Uganda safari site, with not a tremendous number of bird species, the park offers remarkable milieu for birdwatching safari in Uganda, and Nature walks are an ideal way to explore the park’s diversity.
The Batwa cultural encounter is worth the time to have a taste of the life of some of the forest groups of Africa, a guided walk lets you explore the Batwa trail.
Accessibility to the park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in southwestern Uganda in the district of Kisoro, lying about 8-9 hours from Kampala city centre. The journey to this side of the country is scenic especially as you proceed from Kabale to Kisoro; a route characterized by divine mountainous terrain with sheer ascents and descents. Detours can be done at the Equator-00 latitude.
Alternatively, Mgahinga can be accessed using air travel either domestic scheduled flights or charters from Kajjansi near Entebbe to Kisoro airfield.
Highlight of things to do in Mgahinga National Park
- Gorilla Trekking
- Volcano Climbing/ Hiking
- Golden Monkey Tracking
- Batwa Cultural experience
- Nature Walks
Sample Safaris to the Park