Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is Uganda’s smallest national park covering an area of 33.7 square kilometers. The national park is located in south western Uganda and boarders with Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Bwindi impenetrable national park in the south. The park is best known for gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking and the Batwa cultural trail. The park covers the Ugandan part of the Virunga Mountains which has three main peaks that is Muhabura (4,127m), Gahinga (3,474m) and Sabinyo (3,645m).
Mgahinga gorilla national park was established as Gorilla game sanctuary in 1930 and was gazetted as a national park in 1991. The park is also Africa’s oldest oldest national park and has stunning panaromic views of Bwindi, sky line views of the Virungas stretching over vast vegetation zones.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is rich in bio-diversity as it hosts 76 mammal species with the most popular being the golden monkeys. Mgahinga is a great destination as it offers visitors to the park an opportunity to trek mountain gorillas and golden monkeys in one place. The park also hosts mammal species that include black-and-white colobus monkeys, giant forest hog, buffalo, bush pig, elephant, bush buck, golden cats and other small predators like rodents, bats. The national park also hosts 180 bird species with 24 of these species considered to be endemic to the Albertine Rift region making it a popular birding hot spot.
Activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mountain Gorilla Tracking
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla national park is the most popular tourism activity in the park that brings you face to face with the endangered mountain gorillas. About 1004 mountain gorillas are left across the world making them an endangered specie and Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the best places in the world to see the gorillas in their natural habitat. The trek starts early in the morning at the Uganda Wildlife Authority office in the park, here you receive a briefing from the guides with guidelines on how to behave around the gorillas.There is only one habituated mountain gorilla group in this park named Nyakagezi, this gorilla group is available for trekking all throughout the year depending on availability of gorilla trekking permits issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Golden Monkey Trekking
Mgahinga gorilla national park is home to the active golden monkeys and is the only place in Uganda to trek these monkeys. The Golden Monkey trek is a rewarding experience offering an opportunity to view the golden monkeys in their natural habitat as they hop around the trees in the bamboo forest and feed on bamboo shoots.The trek is less strenuous than the mountain gorilla trek and takes a shorter time to locate these monkeys. For more on golden monkey trekking in Uganda.
Mountain Volcano Hiking and Climbing
Mgahinga gorilla national park offers guided hiking to the three Virunga volcanic peaks in Mgahinga. The Virunga Mountain ranges are shared between 3 countries Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The first volcanic peak is Sabinyo (3,645m) which is the most challenging as you climb up using ladders at some point during the hike. The day hiking trail takes about eight hours as you pass through montane forest, thick forest and moorland. The guided hiking trails allows for stopovers along the way to rest, look out for bird species and other small animals along the trail.
The second volcanic peak is Gahinga (3,474m), this is the easiest hike of the three and it takes about six hours to complete. This hike offers a chance to see forest birds in the bamboo zone, duikers and stunning views of the marshy crater at the peak.
The third volcanic peak is Muhabura (4,127m), this is the highest peak and a hike to this peak is challenging. The hiking trip takes about nine hours and offers great views once at the top and takes you through open moorland. The best view is at the small Crater Lake at Muhabura and the giant lobelias that surround it.
We recommend that you physically prepare before your hike and purchase great hiking shoes that are water proof for all these volcano hiking treks.
Birdwatching in Mgahinga Gorilla National park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a great destination to include on your Uganda birding safari as it is home to 180 species of birds including the Albertine Rift Endemics and a variety of forest birds. Birds to look out for while birding in Mgahinga national park include the Dusky Turtle Dove, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Cinnammon Chested Bee-eater, White Starred Robin, Strange Weaver, Cape Robn Chat, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Western Tinkerbird, Kivu Ground Thrush, Handsome Spurfowl, Rwenzori Turco, Rwenzori double-collared Sunbird, Stripe-breasted Tit, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Rwenzori Batis, Regal Sunbird, Mountain Masked Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird.
The batwa pygmy trail is a great activity to interact with the former inhabitants of the forest. The 3 km trail takes you to the Garamba cave where the batwa will take you through how they used to hunt for food, light a fire with sticks, gather fruits, show you medicinal leaves in the forest and stories about their time living in the forest. The trail then ends with a traditional dance from the batwa and you are free to join them in the dance. The Batwa trail is a good way to experience the culture and traditions of the batwa.
Accommodation in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park has accommodation facilities that are situated near the park and for some lodges you walk directly to the park headquarters which is the starting point for all activities withing the park. These accommodation facilities include;
Mt. Gahinga Lodge – This is a luxury lodge that was established in 2002 and is a perfect choice for a gorilla trekking safari in Mgahinga Gorilla national park. The lodge is well situated and you can access the gorilla trekking footpath directly from the lodge. Mt.Gahinga Lodge features 8 guest bandas that have been carefully constructed with locally sourced materials. All the rooms are en-suite, have comfortable warm linen and strong wooden beds. The lodge also has a massage room with professional massage therapists and guests are welcome to enjoy a relaxing massage after a day’s activities.
Lake Mulehe Safari Lodge – The private facility offers breath-taking views of Lake Mulehe and features comfortable lodging, single rooms, double rooms, triple rooms and family cottages are available for booking. The lodge is a perfect mid-range facility while on safari in Mgahinga Gorilla naational park. Be sure to capture the sunset while here as it is truly a beautiful sight!
Traveller’s Rest Hotel – This is a budget accommodation facility located in Kisoro town and is one of the oldest’s hotel in Uganda. The hotel is situated away from Mgahinga Gorilla national park and is a 20 minutes drive to the park headquarters. The hotel consists of 12 en-suite rooms featuring comfortable beds and linen. This hotel is a good option for the budget traveler.
Getting to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The park can be accessed by road from Kampala or Entebbe to Kisoro town and drive further to your accommodation. It is an 8 hour drive,that is without factoring in the stopovers and short breaks along the journey. It is a scenic drive that gives you a glimpse into the beautiful landscape and highlands of Uganda. The journey also involves stop overs at landmarks like the Uganda Equator.
Mgahinga national park can also be accessed by flight from Entebbe airport to landing at an airstrip in Kisoro town after which you transfer to your lodge on arrival. The flight duration is 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park can also be accessed from Kigali, Rwanda and this route is shorter as it takes only 3 hours and 15 minute drive to the park headquarters.
Tours to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park – Our Tailored Itineraries