Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National park is Uganda’s smallest park with only 33 square kilometers, this forest sits high amidst a number of volcanoes. The park is part of the huge Virunga conservation area, a straddle that borders Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) with a total of eight (8) volcanoes of which two (2) are still active volcanoes, these are found in Virunga National park DRC side, its Volcanoes national park on Rwandan side and finally Mgahinga Gorilla National Park as already talked about on Uganda side.

The idea of Virunga conservation area was raised by international community to conserve and protect one of the rarest animal species, the mountain Gorillas and their habitat as they were first sighted in this area in the world over. The area is very unique with more unique and endangered wildlife species that cannot be found elsewhere in the world. These include the Golden monkeys and several bird species that are mostly endemic to Albertine rift. Other animal species found in this park include, bush Duikers, Forest Buffaloes, African rock Hilux, forest Elephants, Leopards, among many bird species.

We have compiled for you a range of possible rare encounters that won’t leave your life the same! All these adventure encounters or activities are possibly and surprisingly explored in one single destination area so that you don’t have to do long drives to participate in another activity.

Mgahinga is found in the south west bordering Rwanda and cong. It comprises 3 extinct volcanoes and 3 extensive swamps. It is the smallest national park about 550km from Kampala. It was established in 1991 and governed by Uganda Wildlife Authority. It is only this park and bwindi in uganda that protect habitat for mountain gorilla. The park is about 15 km by road, south of the town of kisoro and approximately 55km by road west of Kabale. It is the smallest park over the 3 national parks in the virunga conservation area the other two parks are Virunga national park in DRC and volcanoes National park in Rwanda.

Gahinga means piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes where cultivation is carried out.

The park has one habituated gorilla group called the Nyakagezi Group that can be visited by tourists. Although this group sometimes crosses the border into Rwanda  and DR Congo, the group has been stable in the park for the past 4 years and thus, it is a great option for those who would like to track the Virunga gorillas while in Uganda.

Things to Do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Gorilla trekking exploration

Exploring Mgahinga gorilla national park leads you to an encounter of a lifetime, gorilla trekking exploration. A gorilla tour is regarded by many as Africa’s adventure highlight, it involves walking early through a thick rainforest looking for the few of the remaining rarest and critically endangered species until you meet them in their natural habitat. Chances of meeting these gentle giants in their natural habitat are about 90% since they are tracked from where they were last seen a day before.

The walk can be odious as it may take between 30m to 5 hours looking for the gorillas but once you find them all the hassles and fatigue went through will all be immediately forgotten as you marvel at the size giant Silverback, a dominant male. looking into eye to eye with the gorilla makes you realize how close are these creatures to humans as figure out common characteristics like the way how the mothers breast feed, take care of the naughty infants, how the silverback will keep an eye on you to make sure you don’t encroach on the family peace. Watch them for one hour as they carry on their daily activities, as they foliage on fresh bamboo shoot outs and other vegetables. Take as many photos as possible and video clips. While with the gorillas please adhere to the instructions of the head ranger guide for the dos and don’ts of gorilla trekking exploration.

Golden monkey tracking

Like the famous saying Mgahinga gorilla national park is where “Silver meets Gold”. This means, this is among the few places in the world where you have chances of meeting the silverback gorilla and the golden monkey in the same forest. Golden monkeys are interesting monkeys to look at, very beautiful with their gold coated color, very naughty as they always from tree to tree taking a keen look at you in different angles making difficult for visitors to take photos and video clips. Golden monkeys are other world’s endangered species hence at the verge of extinction due to continued loss of their habitat. There are a number of habituated golden monkey troops in the forest making it easier for visitors or explorers to find them in their natural habitat.

Volcano hike exploration

Exploring Mgahinga gorilla national park can reward you with excellent volcano hiking, the park has three extinct volcano mountains and that is mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and mountain Sabinyo. A day hike to each of the peaks makes you climb over 3,500 meters high. A hike to the summit of Mountain Sabinyo rewards you with splendid views of three countries in one position, the beautiful views of neighboring communities in DRC, Uganda and Rwanda.

Batwa Pygmy cultural emersions

The Batwa pygmy tribe, is a group of people who used inhabit in gorilla forest. This minority tribe lived all their entire life depending on the forest for food, shelter and medicine. They hunted animals for meat, wild fruits, used forest materials to make fire and used to enjoy their free time drumming singing and dancing within the forest.

However, things turned against this tribe when the respective governments resolved to chase them away from their home to join and live in the communities around. This was so inconveniencing in their daily living as many of them died because they could not cope with the lifestyle like farming for food as well as building new shelters, going to formal hospitals which is still too hard for the few still surviving hence on a verge of extinction.

Today, the park authorities started Batwa Cultural experience within the park where batwa people take visitors through the forest reflecting on how they lived life in the forest, demonstrating hunting skills, fire making skills, revealing tree medicines by traditional herbalists, and a visit to one of their communities you will enjoy their traditional dance, drumming and songs. Money paid for this activity goes to support batwa pygmy communities building them schools, health centers, however if you buy some of their art and crafts money goes direct into their pockets that help to buy home basics like soap, salt and clothing among many.

Sun Set Canoe ride

In exploring Mgahinga gorilla national park, fix time to go for a nearby sunset canoe ride along lake Mutanda. This great lake has still waters and bilharzia free, the lake has many islands for you to explore including the punishment island where girls from the communities around who got pregnant before marriage were dumped by their families to death because they have become a disgrace to the society. The lake also provides beautiful views of the volcano cones as well as terraced rolling hills at the neighborhood.

What to pack for this park exploration

Like adventurers, exploring Mgahinga gorilla national park is for adventure minded people and the fact that you will be spending much of your time in the high altitude rain forest, you need to do thorough long packing list. this will include; A dull color rain jacket, warm clothing, Jungle boot or hiking shoes, simple light cloves, long sleeved shirts, pair of trousers, long stockings, a hut, backpack bag, enough drinking water, walking stick optional, book a gorilla trekking permit in advance, mosquito replant, sun screen among many.

Where to Stay