MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK UGANDA “Where Gold Meets Silver”
Mgahinga Gorilla national park is amongst the top tourist destinations in Uganda being a home to the some of the remaining population of endangered mountain gorillas just like Bwindi impenetrable national park. Mgahinga gorilla national park is termed as the destination where Silver meets Gold basically due to the fact that the park harbors both the Golden monkeys and the mountain gorillas which are both endangered primates covering an area of 33.9 Square Kilometers of land as the smallest park in Uganda the pearl of Africa.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is elevated between 2,227M to 4,127M is the best elevation that favor mountain gorillas. Mgahinga Gorilla national park is part of Virunga Massif which is shared amongst Uganda, Rwanda (Volcanoes national park) and Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga national park) which both harbor the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitats and as well harbor 8 volcanoes including Mount Gahinga, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhavura, Mount Mikeno, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park started as a wildlife sanctuary before being declared a park in the 1991 after forcefully evacuating all the Batwa people that resided in the forest alongside mountain gorillas. This is however done, to protect these gentle primates that were at a point of total extinction in the wild. This park is now managed and protected by the Uganda Wildlife Authority which is the body responsible for protection of the entire protected parks in Uganda the pearl of Africa this organization is as well responsible for issuing out of the Mountain gorilla trekking permits and other park permits needed to enjoy your stay in Mgahinga gorilla national park.
Being a gorilla trekking destination in Uganda, Mgahinga gorilla national park has only 1 gorilla family that has been habituated for trekking known as Nyakagezi Gorilla group/ family. This gorilla family is trekked by a maximum number of 8 persons per day that the Uganda Wildlife Authority issues out only 8 permits to trek the Nyakagezi gorilla family on a daily. Before finally settling in Mgahinga gorilla national park Uganda, Nyakagezi family is found of rotating across Virunga massif to Volcanoes national park and Virunga national park but as of now, tourists are guaranteed to trek in in Mgahinga national park Uganda.
Tourist attractions in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Obviously Mountain gorillas are the leading tourist attractions in Mgahinga gorilla national park. As mentioned earlier, the park has only 1 gorilla family that has been trekked and used to human presence unlike other gorilla destinations like Bwindi impenetrable national park which has over 21 habituated gorilla families and as well leading with the highest population of mountain gorillas in the wild. Other places to find gorillas apart from Mgahinga and Bwindi include Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and finally Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Apart from Mountain Gorillas, Mgahinga gorilla national park is the only destination in Uganda where has a golden opportunity of encountering with the Golden monkeys in their natural habitats. For this matter, the park obtained a slogan of “where Silver meets Gold”. Golden monkeys are known to be the most stunning and attractive primates in Uganda that thrill in large troops of up to 100 individuals.
Like any other forested park, Mgahinga gorilla national park as well harbors plenty of bird species with over 185 bird species recorded including the species endemic to Albertine rift, the forest birds, Migratory birds, water birds and many more. Some of these bird species include Rwenzori Turaco, Ibis, Handsome francolin, Rwenzori Nightjar, Dusky Crimson Wing, Grey-capped Warbler, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Rwenzori Batis and many more.
Being part of virunga massif, Mgahinga gorilla national park protects 3 stunning volcanoes including Mount Gahinga at 3,474M which lies with the park, Mount Muhavura also termed as Muhabura at 4,127m that is shared amongst Mgahinga gorilla national park Uganda and Volcanoes national park Rwanda and finally Mount Sabyinyo/ Sabinyo shared across all the 3 parks in Virunga massif including Mgahinga gorilla national park Uganda, Virunga national park Congo and Volcanoes national park Rwanda.
Apart from the above mentioned attraction, Mgahinga gorilla national park thrills with yet other fascinating tourist attractions including Mammals like Elephants, Buffaloes, Forest hogs, warthogs and many other attractions like the Caves where we see Garama caves that are very crucial in the life of the Batwa people as their sacred place which was used as a hiding places during the attacks and while invading their neighbors, they were as well used as the parliament for their leaders and many more.
Tourist activities done in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla trekking is the most enjoyed activity by the major tourists on a Uganda safari. With the one and only Nyakagezi gorilla family, Mgahinga gorilla national park enables a maximum number of 8 persons per day to engage in Mountain gorilla trekking safari. A 3 days gorilla trekking safari itinerary is the minimum duration one can choose to take on a gorilla trekking adventure in Mgahinga gorilla national park starting your journey from Kampala/ Entebbe. However, this safari can as well be achieved on 2 days gorilla trekking safari Uganda from Rwanda by landing into Kigali Rwanda and crossing into Uganda the pearl of Africa to trek gorillas in Mgahinga.
Each gorilla trekking permit in Uganda to trek Gorillas in Mgahinga gorilla national park costs $700 per person for Foreign Nonresidents, $600 for foreign residents and UgX 250,000 for East Africans. All these permits are obtained direct from the Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters in Kamwokya though we usually help our clients in obtaining these permits and organize their entire Gorilla trekking safari hustle free. The minimum age limit for gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park is 15 years thus below 15 year, one is termed as a minor and cannot participate in Gorilla trekking.
The duration of gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park is about 2-7 hours depending on the movement of gorillas and the trekking speed in favor of the slowest person in the group. However, upon finding gorillas, trekkers always have only 1 hour in presence of gorillas taking photographs and closely interacting with these gorillas. During gorilla trekking in Mgahinga gorilla national park, trekkers are advised to ensure that all rules and regulations are adhered too for safety purposes and to have an everlasting experience in the habitat of mountain gorillas.
Birding and bird watching in Mgahinga gorilla national park is such a breath taking activity enjoyed while a Uganda safari. With 185 bird species in the park, all you need is a pair of binoculars, a camera and an experienced birding guide who knows the best birding spots in Mgahinga gorilla national park and you will surely watch as many birds as possible. The major birding spot in Mgahinga including along the bamboo trail. Look out for birds like Kivu-ground Thrush, Rwenzori Turaco specie, Paradise Fly-catcher, Dusky turtle Dove, Rwenzori Batis, Black Kite, Grey-capped Warbler, sun birds and Red-faced Woodland Warbler among others. The best birding time is during morning hours.
Golden Monkey trekking
Uganda thrills with about 42 – 60 species of habituated golden monkeys within its Mgahinga gorilla national park which is the only place where Golden monkey trekking is done in the entire country out of about 4000 golden monkeys that thrill in the entire Virunga massif. An opportunity to spend an hour with the Golden monkeys in Mgahinga gorilla national park is such a rewarding and fascinating thing to enjoy at least once in a life time while on your Uganda safari to Mgahinga gorilla national park. This activity just like gorilla trekking starts early in the morning and it lasts about 4 hours with only 1 hour of close interaction with Golden monkeys in their natural habitats as they roam the bamboo forest in search of fruits and shoots to munch on.
The Batwa Trail
This activity was introduced in Mgahinga gorilla national park in order to allow tourist get a deep insight about the life style of the Batwa people when they lived in the forest with gorillas and other wildlife animals.
During the Batwa trail, tourists are led into the forest following a trail as the local Batwa guides explain about their previous forest life, how they used to hunt and gather fruits and honey, make fire by friction and use the herbs as medicine to treat various diseases. The Batwa trail then leads tourists to Garama caves that were used as offices for the Batwa administrators and as well the hiding places while attaching their neighbors.
With the 3 volcanoes in Mgahinga gorilla national park, Volcano hiking is such a breath taking adventure where adventurous travelers enjoy a hike to 3 stunning volcanoes in Mgahinga which include Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura and Mount Sabyinyo. Each of these 3 volcanoes has stunning attractions to enjoy while on a hike. For instance a 6 hours’ hike to summit Mount Gahinga enables hikers to have a glance at a 180M Caldera, the summit of Mount Muhabura has a 36M Crater and finally mount Sabyinyo enables tourists to have a stunning view of both 3 parks within Virunga massif.
Getting to Mgahinga Gorilla national park is either by road or by air.
Getting to Mgahinga gorilla national park by road from Kampala takes about 540km from the city center Kampala or Entebbe which is about 7-8 hours’ drive. While from Kisoro to Mgahinga it’s about 14Km which is a few minutes’ drive to the park. The park can as well be accessed from other neighboring destinations in western Uganda like Queen Elizabeth national park, Lake Bunyonyi and many more. There is yet the shortest distance from Kigali Rwanda to Mgahinga gorilla national park which takes about 3 hours’ drive.
There are flights to Kisoro thus tourist who wish to visit Mgahinga national park by air need to fly to Kisoro and embark on a 14 km drive to the park.