Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the smallest park in Uganda is located in the Virunga Conservation Area (VCA), a region which also encompasses Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park in Congo. Mgahinga National Park is found in Kisoro District, Southwestern Uganda and it is one of the best locations to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

Established in 1991 together with Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a compact protected area with a land area coverage of about 33.7sq. km. Mgahinga makes up the list of 4 places where the endangered mountain gorillas live. The park is endowed with more than mountain gorillas, as it also supports golden monkeys, endemic species to the Virunga Region.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is compact but naturally endowed. It boasts of its natural beauty, with unique vegetation consisting of bamboo forests, tropical forests, woodland, savanna grassland, bogs, afro-montane forests, marshes, semi-Alpine vegetation, and montane forest. Three of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes all exist in Mgahinga National Park, Uganda including Mt. Muhabura, Gahinga Volcano, and Mt. Sabyinyo. Its location in the Virunga Region defines its high-altitude range of 2000-4000m.

History

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park’s history dates back to 1991 when it was officially gazette as a national park in Uganda. Its creation was primarily to ensure that the endangered mountain gorillas are well-protected. It was established at the same time as Bwindi National Park which is in the Southwestern part of Uganda.

In 1930, the British administration declared it a Game Sanctuary and later, it became a National Park in 1991. Currently, Mgahinga consists of only one habituated gorilla family -the Nyakagezi group.

Tourist Attractions in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

There are lots of amazing attractions in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park worth exploring on safari. They include the endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and Virunga volcanoes, Gahinga, Sabyinyo, and Muhabura volcanoes.

Faunal species

Mgahinga National Park is compact but holds distinct animal species. There are unique mammal species not to be missed on Uganda safari including the rare mountain gorillas, and golden monkeys – these are spotted during gorilla trekking or golden monkey tracking safari. Other mammals that freely roam within the Mgahinga National Park: are buffaloes, leopards, bush pigs, blue monkeys, golden cats, bush babies, bushbucks, forest hogs, spotted hyenas, patas monkeys, African porcupines, colobus monkeys etc.

Birds

A record of about 184 bird species are supported in the various habitats of Mgahinga and they include mostly the Albertine endemic species. The list of birds to expect to identify on birding tour in Mgahinga: Blue headed coucals, black kite, white napped raven, grey capped warblers, speckled mousebird, Rwenzori nightjar, Rwenzori turacos, firefinch, yellow vented bulbul, paradise flycatcher, double collared sunbird and many nightjars.

The People & cultures

Mgahinga National Park is surrounded by the Bakiga, Batwa and Bafumbira communities. These local communities can even be visited during cultural walk or community walk/visit before or after mountain gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The most popular cultural experience to enjoy at Mgahinga is the Batwa cultural encounter/trail.

Tourist Activities or Things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Gorilla trekking is the premier safari activity enjoyable by most tourists who visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The park is comprised of only Nyakagezi group, a gorilla family that is visited by maximum of 8pax. This makes Mgahinga the best place to visit for visitors interested in the least crowded gorilla trekking destinations. You can arrange 3 days Mgahinga gorilla safari and have the best of mountain gorilla encounter. On the other hand, Mgahinga is the best place to be for golden monkey trekking. 

Golden monkey tracking

Golden monkey tracking is a lifetime opportunity to encounter the charming golden monkeys in the wild. These are the blue monkey’s sub-species endemic to the Albertine rift and Virunga Region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. They are a few most playful creatures, very active and to take pictures, you should be keen enough. At USD100 per golden monkey permit, you can be part of the enchanting golden monkey habituation experience. And normal golden monkey trekking permit are available for booking at USD60 per person.

Mount climbing/hiking safaris

Safaris in Mgahinga National Park don’t leave out mountain climbers or enthusiastic hikers. There are plenty of hiking/climbing opportunities at Mgahinga in the 3 volcanoes: Gahinga (3474m), Muhabura (4127m) and Sabyinyo (3674m). 3 days Mgahinga hiking safari suits best for hikers/climbers to conquer the peaks of the scenic Virunga volcanoes in Mgahinga National Park.

Birding

Birding in Mgahinga is a great opportunity to identify birds that freely live in the park’s different habitats. They include western green tinker bird, white napped raven, stone chat. Yellow throated long claw, red faced woodland warblers, scarlet tufted mountain masked apalis. Paradise flycatchers, Kivu ground thrush, red necked spur fowl, finch stonechat. Banded prinia, cape robin chat, crowned crane, fly eagle, Doherty’s bush shrike, Archer’s ground robin.  Alpine chat, archer’s robin chat, Black kite, Brown crowned tchagra, double collared sunbird and more.

Nature walks

Mgahinga National Park is beautiful with incredible trails introducing visitors into its diverse habitats to explore floral and faunal species. The key trail not to miss exploring on Mgahinga Gorilla National Park safari include the border trail at Sabyinyo volcano slopes. This is 5 hours’ nature walking trail and it allows you see variety of primates, enjoy the scenic view of surrounding hills and more.

Batwa trail

The Batwa trail offers the best of Batwa cultural encounter. Meet the Batwa pygmies to learn more about their ancient hunting and gathering techniques. On the Batwa trail experience, visitors are led by experienced Batwa pygmy guide who will share the unique stories, lifestyles, traditions, cultures and more about the Batwa.

Garama caves

Visit the Garama caves in the adjacent to Mgahinga. These are unique historical sites located 4kms off from Mgahinga Park’s head offices. The caves are 200m long and they renowned Batwa pygmies’ sacred places. 

When to visit Mgahinga

Mgahinga National Park enjoys conducive weather and climate all year-round. But its activities can be enjoyed perfectly during the dry season: June, July, August, September or December, January, February. However, the park can be visited any time of the year. On the other hand, the wet seasons are associated with their advantages like reduction in traffic. Additionally, the lodges tend to offer discounts during low or rainy seasons. Talk to a travel consultant now for the best advice on when to visit the Park. 

Where to stay

All categories of lodging options exist at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park: budget, midrange and luxury. The lodges in and adjacent to the park include Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Virunga Hotel, Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp and others.

Getting to Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park

By road: Travel in a 4×4 tourist vehicle from Kampala via Masaka-Mbarara to Mgahinga National Park, about 8-10 hours’ drive. Other than the road, you may visit the park by  air transport. By air; Board the aircraft at Entebbe Airport or Kajansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip then drive to the lodge or Mgahinga offices.

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