Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
At just 33.7 square kilometers, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest national park. The park is located in the corner of the South Western Uganda in Kisoro District approximately 12.5 kilometers south of Kisoro Town Council.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the second mountain gorilla park in Uganda and one of the only four mountain gorillas parks in the world, it makes up the northeastern part of the Virunga Volcano ranges which extends in Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda and is composed of 3 out of the 8 Virunga volcanoes namely Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabinyo.
The summit of Mount Muhavura is the highest point of the park at 4,217 meters and has a small crater lake, the summit is frequently obscured by the clouds.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is part of the Great Virunga Conservation which stretches along the Virunga Volcanoes and includes other two gorilla parks namely Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in DR.Congo.
The park is dominated by different types of vegetation at varying altitude including montane, alpine and sub-alpine flora. All the 3 volcanoes can be climbed.
History of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Initially in 1930, the area/forest known as Mgahinga Gorilla National Park today was gazetted as a game reserve by the British administration until 1950. Most parts of the area were turned into crop fields in the lower altitude areas and biological surveys were initiated in 1989. In the process wire traps were destroyed, rangers were trained and planted trees.
In early 1990s, Residents of the forests – The Batwa people were relocated to areas outside the park’s borders. In 1991, the reserve was upgraded to a national park status giving birth to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The park was established as a park together with Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Mountain Gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park hosts about 80 gorillas with only 1 habituated gorilla family in the names of Nyakagezi with 5 silverbacks, two which matured from blowbacks into silverbacks thus increasing the number from three to five silverbacks “Bugingo, Mark, Mafia, Rukundo and Ndugutse”. The group also included two adult females by names of Nyiramwiza and Nshuti and juveniles namely Fred, Nkanda and Furaha and an infant Mutagambwa.
Nyakagezi gorilla family is known for being mobile and it used to move to Rwanda and DR.Congo, however the family finally settled in Uganda in Mgahinga.
Golden Monkeys in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the few areas in the world hosting the rare and endangered golden monkeys which are only found in the Virunga Mountains. The park hosts about 60 individuals of the 3,000 – 4,000 golden monkeys.
Wildlife in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to 76 species of mammals which include black – fronted duiker, leopards, elephants, giant forest hog, bush pig, buffaloes, golden cats, side striped jackals, black fronted duikers and South African porcupines. among others.
Birdlife in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to 115 recorded bird species including 12 species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift, other bird species in the park include Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Speckled Mousebird, Stone Chat, Grey-capped Warbler, Wax Bills, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Firefinch, White-napped Raven, Black Kite, Rwenzori Turaco, Blue-headed Coucal, Paradise Fly-catcher, Rwenzori Batis, Double-collared Sunbird, and Rwenzori Nightjar among others.
SAFARI ACTIVITIES TO DO IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mountain Gorilla Tracking
Mountain gorilla trekking is main activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers visitors a chance to meet and see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat and spend one hour with them.
Mgahinga Gorilla National park has only one habituated gorilla family by names of Nyakagezi, this means only 8 gorilla permits are issued on a daily basis.
Gorilla trekking starts early in the morning with briefing at the park’s headquarters at 08:00 am where a senior ranger takes you through rules and regulations to follow. With a guide and armed rangers you will hike into the jungle looking for the Nyakagezi gorilla family, the time spend while on trek depends on the movement of the gorillas. When you find Nyakagezi group, you will spend one hour in their presence watching them play with each other’s, take pictures and film them. After the breathtaking experience, you will return to the park’s headquarters to pick your gorilla certificates.
Golden Monkey Tracking
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only national park in Uganda where golden monkey trekking can be done, the playful golden monkeys are only found in the Virunga volcano ranges and the forests of central Africa.
Golden monkey tracking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers visitors an encounter with the playful golden monkeys in the bamboo vegetation where they live. The trek starts with briefing at the park’s headquarters with briefing then head into the forests of Mgahinga looking for the golden monkeys which are found in the bamboo trees.
When you locate the golden monkeys, you will spend one hour while watching their behavior, watch them pick fruits and shoots which they eat and take amazing pictures.
Batwa Trail Experience
The Batwa people originally inhabited the forests of Mgahinga Gorilla National park but were evicted from the forest when the area was declared a national park. Currently they live in communities along the borders of the park.
Batwa Trail Experience offers you a deeper insight into the life of the Batwa people, you be entertained by local dances and drama, learn how to prepare local meals, learn how to make local crafts such as baskets, make gorilla dolls among others. You will also enjoy demonstration of their hunting skills, learn how to they build their local house, and visit the medicine man among others.
Mountain / Volcano Hiking at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mountain climbing is one of the amazing activities done at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the park has three Volcanic mountains which are part of the Virunga volcanoes ranges and these include Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga and Mount Muhavura.
Mount Sabinyo at 3,669 meters offers the opportunity of straddling Uganda, Rwanda and DR.Congo simultaneously. There are three peaks to climb, one peak is reached along a ridge on the eastern side and reaching peak two (2) involves a traverse along the ridge with Rwanda on one side and Uganda on the other. Trekking peak three (3) involves use of a series of ladders to help cover the terrain.
Mount Gahinga at 3,474 meters – it is a pleasant climb including a hike through bamboo forest locally known as Rugano before the gradient increases uo the summit. There is a small crater lake at the summit but it has turned into a swamp overtime. Round trip takes six hours.
A shorter walk includes a visit to the enormous Garama Cave which is over 340 meters in length and 14 m deep, this where the Batwa (pygmies) warriors used to live during their long running conflict with their neighbors, the Bantu almost 1000 years ago.
Mount Muhavura is the highest mountain at 4,127 meters and from the top you see other Virunga Mountains and Kisoro Town. Climbing Mount Muhavura is a 12 kilometers hike and takes 8 hours to and from the peak. From the peak, you can see Lake Edward, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and peaks of Rwenzori Mountains.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Kampala, to get to Mgahinga Gorilla national park it is a drive of about 9 to 10 hours’ drive via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, and Kisoro then to the park’s headquarters.
There are domestic flights from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro airstrip and then proceed to the park by road, the flight takes approximately 1 hour.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation options in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include
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