Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is Uganda’s smallest park covering 33.7 square kilometers. The park is located in the mountainous southwestern region of Uganda on the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It covers the three volcanoes – Muhavura, Gahinga & Sabinyo – which are Uganda’s portion of the Virunga Mountain range which spans along the borders of Uganda – Rwanda – Democratic Republic of Congo. Mgahinga is thus contiguous with Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The lowest point of the park is 2227m and the highest point is the peak of Mount Mughinga at 4127m. The park experiences up to six vegetation zones, including former farmland, montane woodland, bamboo, montane forest, tree heathers and afromontane.

Mgahinga is Africa’s oldest park established in 1924 primarily to protect the mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif. The park is home to several other species which are endemic to the Albertine Rift region, such as the beautiful Golden Monkeys.

Wildlife of Mgahinga National Park

One very unique aspect about Mugahinga National Park is that it is the only park in Uganda with both the Gorillas and the Golden Monkeys. The park is home to 76 species of mammals some which of include Bush Pig, Elephant, forest buffaloes, bushbucks, golden cats, and South African porcupines. There is 180 species of birds, of which includes 24 Albertine Rift endemic birds.

Activities to do in Mgahinga National Park

Mountain Gorilla trekking

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the other home of Mountain Gorillas in Uganda apart from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. There is only one habituated group of the Mountain Gorillas for tracking compared to Bwindi’s 12 habituated groups, however the three lush Virunga volcano cones of the park offer a breathtaking backdrop to a more exhilarating Mountain Gorilla trekking experience. Mugahinga’s only habituated group Nyakagezi however often crosses into the other parts of Virunga in Rwanda. That makes Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park unavailable at times and you therefore advised you first check for its availability on the Ugandan side before setting out to go tracking.

Volcano climbing / hiking

The three volcanoes Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabinyo offer some of the best hiking / climbing adventures in Uganda. Each volcano has a trekking trail to the summit that is covered in a day’s hike. Gahinga, 3474m, being the smallest of the three offers the easiest and fastest hike while Muhavura, 4127m, offers the longest hike. Sabinyo, 3645m, which is located on the meeting point of the three borders – Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo, is the known to give the most challenging hike. It has the most rugged terrain of the Virunga volcanoes that is filled with several craters with very steep ridges which deem it dangerous, so much that the Rwandan side closed trekking to it.  However, Sabinyo offers the best views of the Virunga ranges and the challenging trek actually makes it the most exciting. Muhavura and Gahinga are shared with Rwanda and can also be hiked from the Rwandan side, unlike Sabinyo though shared by all the three neighboring countries is only managed from the Ugandan side.

The Volcano mountain treks offer breathtaking views of the Virungas and the sprawling mountainous landscape of the region. Also the mountains are entirely covered with layers of vegetation which will give you a chance to encounter an array of wildlife during the trek including the gorillas, golden monkeys, mountain plant life and birds.

Golden monkey tracking

Mgahinga is the only park in Uganda where you find the golden monkeys and so far one troop of the Golden monkeys with nearly 70 individuals has been undergoing habituation and is available for an exciting Golden Monkey trek. The monkeys live in the lower zone of the mountains in the bamboo forests which makes trekking easier when tracking them. The Golden Monkeys love to feed on bamboo shoots. The Golden Monkey trek does well for an add-one to the Gorilla trekking and Volcano hiking.

Birdwatching

Birding in Mgahinga National Park is one of Uganda Important Birding Areas (IBAs) and rewards with many Albertine Rift endemics.

Batwa trail

The Batwa set up a trail into the park to show what their life was in the park. The Batwa are a tribe which lived in the forests within the Albertine rift away from any kind of civilization. They lived a unique lifestyle of hunting and gathering, depending on the forests for their livelihood and habitat. The Batwa were then evicted to protect the parks from poaching and have since been integrating into regular communities outside the park.

On the trail the Batwa will explain and show you how certain things were done before they were evicted such as how they constructed their tree house, hunting, making firewood, treating of ailments using medicinal herbs, and then wind up with a traditional dance.

Accommodation in or near Mgahinga National Park

Luxury: Mount Gahinga Lodge, Chameleon Hill Lodge

Mid-range: Lake Mutanda Resort

Budget: Traveler’s Rest Hotel Kisoro

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