Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Situated in southwestern Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the four protected areas in the world where mountain gorilla trekking is conducted. It was gazetted in 1991 and it covers an area of only 34 square kilometers making it the smallest national park in Uganda. Sitting high in the clouds, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a world known national park that was created to protect the endangered mountain gorillas. Though this is Uganda’s smallest national park, it is one of the most scenic destinations in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.

Mgahinga National Park is the second option for mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda. It is also famous to offer refuge to the rare golden monkeys. The park also features 3 extinct volcanoes that make up the Virunga Mountain ranges. They include Mount Gahinga which stands at 3474 meters, Mount Muhavura at 4127 meters and Mount Sabyinyo at 3669 meters.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers refuge to over 80 mountain gorillas. For lifetime experiences in the park, only one gorilla group has been habituated for visitors to track every day. Nyakagezi gorilla group is the only one group that is tracked by visitors on safari to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The family consists of ten (10) members with one silverback. The troop is headed by a dominant silverback Mark who is famous for its migratory behavior across the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, for sometime the group has settled and can be tracked in Mgahinga National Park. Around May 2013 the group received a newborn baby. Permits for trekking this gorilla family can be booked at Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Mgahinga National Park located within Kisoro Town.

Getting There

Mgahinga National Park is situated 15 kilometers by road south of Kisoro district and about 55 kilometers west of Kabale. The park straddles within Bufumbira County, Kisoro district southwestern Uganda. To reach to Mgahinga National Park, you need to hire a four by four safari vehicle. The park is 540 kilometers away from Kampala city centre which takes about 9 to 10 hours drive. If you are in Queen Elizabeth National Park, it can be reached within 4 hours’ drive or from Lake Mburo National Park for 5 to 7 hours’ drive. Alternatively, you can take direct flights from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Kisoro airfield and then connect to Mgahinga.

Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park begins at Ntebeko entrance gate at around 8:00am in the morning. The treks take from 30 minutes to 5 hours depending on the visitor speed and location of the gorilla group. Visitors are always accompanied by a park guide who will be explaining more about the apes and other attractions to visitors in the park. While with the ape, you are advised to keep a distance of 8 meters away from them. Given the nature of this adventure, visitors are required to come with waterproof hiking boots, long sleeved shirts/T-shirts, gardening gloves, bottle of drinking water, snacks, first aid kit, hat, sun screen, camera without flash lights and if it has you are advised to turn it off while taking photos of the mountain gorillas, rain jacket or poncho, walking stick which can be got at the park headquarters, insect repellents, toiletries, day pack and many others.

Best Time to Visit

For lifetime experiences, you can visit Mgahinga National Park for gorilla trekking from June to September or December to February. These are the two dry seasons suitable for gorilla trekking in the park since the habitat remains dry and becomes easier for visitors to track through the thick forest and the steep slopes of the park. However, you can also visit during the wet season. The advantage with the rainy season, there is a lot of food for gorillas to feed on compared to dry season. Most of these creatures are kept within the foothills of the park.

Things to See & Do

Besides mountain gorillas, the park also comes with other attractions. There over 76 mammal species which include big forest hogs, leopards, forest elephants, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, the golden monkeys and many more as well as over 115 distinct bird species for instance the whydah, ibis, fire finch stonechat, the yellow vented bulbul, speckled mouse bird, Red throated alethe, Archer’s robin chat, Barred long tailed cuckoo, dusky long tailed cuckoo, the Rwenzori Turaco, Equatorial Akalat, grey capped warbler, Kivu ground Thrush, Banded Prinia, and waxbills and many more. The park also features the Garama cave which is frequently visited while on Batwa encounters. These caves are a few remarkable historical sites where the Batwa pygmies once lived and fought against their neighbors. This means that Mgahinga National Park isn’t only for mountain gorilla trekking but also for birding, hiking and cultural safaris and many more exciting adventures. The cave stretches up to 342 meters long and 14 meters deep. The site has been occupied by bats but a visit to it rewards with amazing cultural traditions, norms and lifestyles of the Batwa who lived in the forest for over 500000 years and left it without any foot print.

In conclusion, Mgahinga gorilla national park offers the second option in Uganda for visitors to track mountain gorillas. It is regarded as the smallest of all the ten national parks in the country but its abundant biodiversity is something not to be missed while on Uganda safari.