MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK – GORILLA TREKKING UGANDA SAFARIS | ACTIVITIES | ATTRACTIONS | SAFARI LODGES/ACCOMMODATION IN MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK.
Find ALL The Much-Needed Information About Mgahinga Gorilla National Park In Uganda Such As:- Gorilla Trekking In Uganda Mgahinga Safari, Attractions, Activities, Mgahinga Gorilla Park Safari Lodges/Accommodation/Where To Stay, How To Get A Uganda Gorilla Safari Permit, Uganda Gorilla Trekking Travel Tips/Advice, What To Wear For Gorilla Trekking, When To Go/Best Time To Go And Trek/See Mountain Gorillas In Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is set in the clouds at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m, a spectacular and home to Gorillas and Golden Monkeys.
Covering an area of 33.7km2, the little scenic Mgahinga National Park has plenty of memorable things to do and see without the worries of crowds. These include Gorilla Trekking, Golden Monkey Tracking, Batwa Trail Experience, Birding, Nature Walks, and Volcano
Mgahinga National Park is situated amid the dramatic Virunga Mountains at the confluence of the Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo borders. It is part of the greater Virunga Conservation Area (434km2) that includes Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (160 km2) and DR Congo’s Virunga National Park (240 km2). Its most striking features are the 3 extinct conical volcanoes; Mount Sabinyo at 3,645m, Mount Gahinga at 3474m, and Mount Muhavura at 4,127m.
Hikers will enjoy the long treks to all 3 peaks that offer panoramic views of the snow-capped Margherita Peak in the Ruwenzori Mountains, Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and the neighboring Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. At Mount Sabyinyo’s summit, you can curiously stand in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo at the same time! The first people of the forest, the Batwa pygmies, still live in this scenic area to this day.
Quick Mgahinga National Park Facts
- Location: South-western Uganda
- Size: at 33.7km2 it is Uganda’s smallest national park.
- Altitude: 2,227m and 4,127m above sea level
- History: Gazetted a national park in 1991
- Mgahinga takes its name from ‘Gahinga’, the word for piles of volcanic stones
- Scenery: Fantastic scenery with views of volcanic peaks
- Species: 76 mammal species and over 180 species of birds
- Best known for Gorilla trekking & golden monkey tracking,
Location Of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park ∣ Where Is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Located?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in southwestern Uganda, about 510km by road from Kampala. The park is situated in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District along the border region of Uganda, DR Congo, and Rwanda.
Other Uganda Safari Destinations Around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
SAMPLE POPULAR UGANDA GORILLA TREKKING SAFARIS IN MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
How To Get To Mgahinga Gorilla National Park;
–From Kampala City; It’s an 8-hour drive via Kabale to Kisoro town using 4×4 (4WD) Uganda safari cars as recommended i.e 4×4 safari land cruisers & 4×4 safari vans. For those without private transport, one can take the daily bus transport services, which sets off at 0700 hours. From Kisoro town, you hike or hire a car to the park gate.
-One can fly to Kisoro, Flight arrangements can be made with Eagle Air. This company has flights on Mondays and Fridays from Entebbe to Kisoro.
Top Attractions In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park ∣ What To See In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park?
There are a variety of amazing things to see in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The park is a mixture of rain and bamboo forests, golden monkeys, silverbacks, and deservedly described as the place where “Gold meets Silver”. Here are the details of all top attractions in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
1. Mountain Gorillas in Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park protects around protects a section of about 83 Mountain Gorillas in Uganda (Gorilla beringei beringei) that account for the world’s 1063 individuals today. This makes it one of the best and second alternative Uganda national park after Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to visit for the once-in-a-lifetime travel experience of gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Nyakagezi Gorilla Family is the only habituated gorilla family group in Mgahinga. It was habituated for Uganda gorilla trekking tours in 1994. During habituation time, it was lead dominant Silverback Bugingo but was ousted by his own son Mark. Mark has since been at the head of the family and is helped by his brother Mafia.
Unlike the other gorilla families who have overthrown dominant silverback becoming a loner and leaving the family, the Nyakagezi gorilla family still has its old leader living happily and peacefully with his family. Bugingo in the family is regarded as the Mzee which literally means old and wise man and plays the perfect grandfather role to his sons’ offspring. The family currently comprises 9 individuals including:
- 4 silverbacks
- 2 infants
- 2 adult females
- 1 Juvenile
2. Beautiful Golden Monkeys in Mgahinga National Park
Golden monkeys (Cercopithecus kandti) are very beautiful, large, inquisitive, and mischievous old-world monkeys that are endemic to the Albertine Rift. About 5000 individuals inhabit the bamboo zone of the Virunga volcanoes in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo. They feature a bright orange-gold body, cheeks, and tail, with black limbs, crown, and tail-end.
These gorgeous endangered creatures are among the most amazing Uganda safari attraction in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. A group of about 60 Golden monkeys has been habituated to human visitors for tracking.
3. More Animals in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Besides gorillas and golden monkeys, there are about 76 animals of Uganda you can see on your Uganda wildlife tour to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. But many of these animals are not easy to see in the wild forest vegetation. These include:
- Forest elephants
- Forest Buffalo
- Giant Forest Hog
- Golden cat
- Side-striped Jackal
- Black-fronted duiker
4. Albertine Rift Endemic Birds in Mgahinga National Park
If you are interested in birds of Uganda, then one best Uganda birding spots to consider a must-visit is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, home to over 180 bird species. The park has several localized forest specials including 14 Albertine Rift Endemic species such as:
- Rwenzori Turaco
- Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird
- Kivu ground thrush
- Handsome francolin
- Dusky Crimsonwing
- Red-throated Alethe
- Rwenzori nightjar
- Rwenzori batis
- Archer’s robin chat
- Dwarf Honeyguide
- Mountain Masked Apalis
- Rwenzori Apalis
- Strange Weaver.
5. The 3 Scenic Virunga Mountains in Mgahinga NP
Straddling the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo, the Virunga Mountains (also known as Mufumbiro) are a chain of 8 isolated freestanding volcanic cones strung along a fault line associated with the same geological process that formed the Rift Valley. The name “Virunga” is an English version of the Kinyarwanda word ibirunga, which means “volcanoes”.
The chain comprises 6 inactive and 2 highly active volcanoes including Mount Nyiragongo in Congo, a very dangerous beautiful volcano which is last erupted in May 2021 and is responsible for nearly 40% of documented volcanic eruptions in Africa. Three of these beautiful volcanic cones are found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and are the most spectacular features that can be seen by travelers on Uganda safari tours in the park. These include:
- Mount Sabyinyo at 3,669m
- Mount Gahinga at 3,474m
- Mount Muhabura at 4,127m
The names of the 3 Uganda volcanoes in the Virunga chain reflect local perceptions. Sabyinyo translates as “old man’s teeth” about the jagged rim of what is probably the most ancient and weathered of the eight volcanoes. Gahinga is variously translated as meaning “pile of stones”. Muhabura is “the guide”, and the Batwa Pygmies, the first people of the forest used to look for its high peak to help orient themselves in the forest.
6. Batwa Heritage Trail in Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga is not only significant for its wildlife and picturesque volcanoes but also has a profound cultural significance, particularly on the Batwa People.
The Batwa are a hunter-gatherer tribe that has spent thousands of years living in the forests. They lived a typical hunter-gatherer culture; the men used simple spears or bows and arrows to catch birds, monkeys, small antelopes, and bush pigs, while the women foraged for wild honey, fruits, and berries.
Until early 1991, the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was one of the homes of the Batwa people who were co-existing with the wildlife in this park before it was gazetted to protect the endangered Gorillas and Golden monkeys. The former hunter-gatherers struggled to adapt to life outside of the forest since they were completely unaware of modern ways of life.
However, as part of their rehabilitation and cultural conservation in harmony with tourism, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, with support from USAID and the Dutch Embassy, established the now-famous Batwa trail, through which the Twa are kept in touch with their roots by sharing their rich culture and history with visitors on Uganda tours in Mgahinga.
Amazing Safari Activities In Mgahinga National Park ∣ What to Do In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park?
While gorilla trekking is the most amazing Uganda safari activity conducted, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park also has a variety of other most memorable safari activities worthy of participating in. Most of the park’s activities begin at the Ntebeko Visitor Centre. Here are the most amazing Uganda safari activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
1. Gorilla Trekking In Mgahinga National Park
Gorilla trekking in Uganda‘s Mgahinga follows the same model as in Bwindi. Treks depart in the morning at about 8 am. The length of the trek before you make contact with the gorillas is about 2-8 hours depending on the location of the gorilla family.
Contact lasts for 1 hour, during which you will be about 10 meters from the gorillas. When the hour has elapsed, you return through the forest to Park headquarters, normally returning by early afternoon. Although gorilla families constantly cross the border from Rwanda to Uganda, there is only one family habituated to make contact in Mgahinga. Called the Nyakagezi group, it has 4 silverbacks, 2 adult females, and 3 young gorillas.
Like in Bwindi, Mgahinga gorilla treks can be tough and challenging experiences. You need to be physically prepared and adequately dressed. Get that right, and you will enjoy one of the most memorable wildlife safaris in Uganda and the world at large.
Mgahinga Gorilla Trekking Permit Price
- USD 700 Per person per trek for foreign non-resident visitors
- USD 600 Per person per trek for foreign resident visitors (with work permits)
- UGX 250,000 for East African Citizens
2. Golden Monkey Tracking In Mgahinga Gorilla Park
Golden monkey tracking is another most captivating wildlife encounter offered to visitors on the Uganda safari holiday in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Golden monkeys are very beautiful creatures and they are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Unlike mountain gorillas, the golden monkeys are active and very playful creatures. A section of these strikingly beautiful primates has been habituated for golden monkey tracking.
Every permit for golden monkey tracking allows you to spend an hour for you to observe and taking photos of golden monkeys.
Remember to carry your Camera to freeze your golden monkey adventure memories, binoculars for spontaneous birding, appropriate hiking gear like waterproof hiking boots, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and a rain poncho and you will be good to go.
Gorilla Trekking Fees in Mgahinga
- USD 60 Per person per trek for foreign non-resident visitors
- USD 60 Per person per trek for foreign resident visitors (with work permits)
- UGX 40,000 for East African Citizens
3. Volcano Climbing In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The park has 3 of the 8 scenic Virunga Volcanoes; Muhabura (4127m), Sabyinyo (3669m) and Gahinga (3474m). Guided day hikes to each of the three volcanic peaks in Mgahinga leave on-demand daily from 07:00 to 07:30. A reasonable level of fitness is required for these hikes, all of which take between 7 and 9 hours.
Uganda Hiking safaris on the 3 of these magnificent volcanoes offers climbers a great view of the surrounding area ranging from other Virunga volcanoes, Crater Lakes, vegetation, Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Edward, Swamps, the lush Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and many others.
Mt Sabinyo hike is the most popular ascent, starting from Ntebeko Gate and taking you through regenerating forest, home to bushbucks and buffaloes before entering a beautiful bamboo forest where you might be lucky and see the Golden monkeys. You then trek through a fairy tale of an Afro-montane forest with various species of Albertine rift endemic birds including the striking Rwenzori Turaco. As you hike further, the upper slopes support a cover of alpine moorland vegetation dotted with bizarre giant lobelias and groundsels. At the peak, you have an opportunity to stand in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo at the same time!
Volcano Climbing Fees in Mgahinga
- USD 80 Per person per trek for foreign non-resident visitors
- USD 70 Per person per trek for foreign resident visitors (with work permits)
- UGX 50,000 for East African Citizens
4. Scenic Hikes & Nature Walks in Mgahinga
The foothills of the Virunga Mountains make for an exciting landscape for walks and hikes, through 5 vegetation zones; farmland, montane woodland, bamboo, montane forest tree heathers, and afro-montane. Hikes and nature walks start at the Visitors Centre at Ntebeko
Sabinyo Gorge Trail is 4 hour, 6km hike that passes through the Rugezi swamp and dense Afro-montane forest to culminate at the Sabinyo Gorge, a massive gash on the side of Mt Sabinyo. It is a fantastic hike for birders who have the best opportunities to sight the Rwenzori Turaco, with the backdrop of Mt Sabinyo. Golden monkeys and duikers are also commonly sighted on this track.
Sabinyo Gorge Trail fees
- USD 30 Per person per trek for foreign non-resident visitors
- USD 15 Per person per trek for foreign resident visitors (with work permits)
- UGX 15,000 for East African Citizens
5. Birding for Albertine Rift Endemics in Mgahinga
The park is one of Uganda’s best birding destinations, home to over 180 bird species including 12 Albertine Rift Endemics.
Uganda bird watching safaris and tours here exposes enthusiastic birders to its diverse of Uganda birds including endemics likes Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori nightjar, Rwenzori batis, handsome francolin, Kivu ground thrush, Dusky Crimsonwing, Red-throated Alethe, Archer’s robin chat, and stripe-breasted tit, blue-headed sunbird, and regal sunbird
You will also enjoy amazing sights of black-headed waxbill, western green Tinkerbird, white starred robin, yellow vented bulbul, white-naped raven, western green tinker bird, bronze sunbird, red-faced woodland warblers, pin tailed whydahs, olive woodpecker, and many others plus migrant birds from Europe that confine here in November and April.
Birding Fees in Mgahinga National Park
- USD 30 Per person per trek for foreign non-resident visitors
- USD 30 Per person per trek for foreign resident visitors (with work permits)
- UGX 10,000 for East African Citizens
6. Batwa Trail Experience in Mgahinga National Park
A Uganda safari tour to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is never complete without the Batwa Trail Experience. Undertaking this heritage trail is a remarkable encounter as it introduces you to the Batwa People, the last remaining members of the pygmy tribe who for generations depended on the forest for shelter, food, and medicine.
The Batwa lived in the forest peacefully and happily as hunter-gatherers for thousands of years. There was no destruction of the forest and they lived in harmony with the Gorillas. But, times changed for them in 1991. In the cause of preserving the rainforest and gorillas, the Batwa were displaced and relocated to neighboring communities.
But, as part of their rehabilitation and cultural conservation in harmony with tourism, the Uganda Wildlife Authority enacted the now popular Batwa Trail. It is carried out in the park and led by a local Twa guide. The Batwa trail offers an opportunity to learn some of their secrets such as:
- Lighting fire by rubbing sticks together,
- Bivouac building that they lived in,
- Hunting and trapping techniques; target practice with a bow and arrow,
- How to fetch water in a bamboo cup,
- Food gathering; nutritious leaves, plants, berries that are found in the forest,
- Plants, roots, herbs, bark from trees that they used as medicine for centuries.
The trail ends inside the Garama Cave where a group of women in the darkness sing and acts out a song of sadness about the loss of their beloved forest and their desire to return to what is now a national park.
Batwa Heritage Experience fees
- USD 80 Per person per trek for foreign non-resident visitors
- USD 80 Per person per trek for foreign resident visitors (with work permits)
- UGX 50,000 for East African Citizens
Looking for the best places to stay in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park? There are several different properties around Mgahinga ranging from budget, mid-range to luxury Uganda safari lodges. The lodge offers well-appointed guestrooms and suites for a comfortable stay at reasonable rates. Mid-range and luxury lodges boast a wide array of services and amenities for you on your Golden monkey and gorilla trekking Uganda safari adventures. Here is the best accommodation around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
1. Mount Gahinga Lodge
Owned and operated by Volcanoes Safaris, this property is an excellent option for travelers interested in tracking gorillas in a very scenic national park! The accommodation is of high quality, and the range of activities is seriously impressive.
The lodge is conveniently positioned close to the entrance into the park. Children are welcome, but only those aged 15 years and older are permitted to take part in gorilla treks. However, as the property provides a wealth of other activities, there’s something for travelers of all ages to enjoy.
- Comfortable accommodation close to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
- Six guest bandas, all with en-suite facilities
- Open-plan lounge and dining area, sunroom, massage room, gift shop, and terrace
2. Mutanda Lake Resort
Mutanda Lake Resort is situated on a peninsula in the spectacular Lake Mutanda, between the town of Kisoro and the national parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi. The property boasts amazing views over the lake as far as the Virunga Mountains! It is perfect for keen gorilla trackers who would like to enjoy a great mix of activities, all from a comfortable base!
- Well-appointed resort between Kisoro, Mgahinga National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
- Thirteen cottages, including family rooms
- Pleasant restaurant, bar, and viewing deck
- Gorilla and golden monkey tracking, walking, hiking, boating, cultural tours
3. Chameleon Hill Lodge
Chameleon Hill Lodge is set in a beautiful location on the shores of Lake Mutanda, between Bwindi and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks. The lodge has lovely views of Lake Mutanda, its islands, and hills all around. And in the background, rise the majestic Virunga Volcanoes!
It is terrific for travelers who are considering going gorilla tracking and enjoying a lot of other activities too! It is situated not far from the town of Kisoro and is accessible via flight or road transfer, for example from Kampala.
- Colorful accommodation on the shores of Lake Mutanda, between Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks
- Ten sumptuous chalets, all with private garden and amazing views
- A stylish lounge, dining area, dining deck, and bar
- Gorilla tracking, golden monkey tracking, boat trips, hiking, biking, local culture
4. BirdNest @ Lake Bunyonyi
BirdNest is positioned at the magical Lake Bunyonyi 70km from Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. A lake is a great place for relaxing, boat cruises, canoeing, swimming, birdwing, hiking, community tours, and zipping. It is dotted with 29 islands of different shapes and sizes and encircled by green hills covered with the farming terraces which define the look of the region.
- Single, double, triple, and family room
- Swimming (pool and lake)
- Lounge bar with DSTV
- Restaurant with local and international dishes
- Free WIFI for guests
1. Lake Chahafi Resort
Lake Chahafi Resort is located on the shore of Lake Chahafi in Kisoro South-Eastern direction close to the Rwanda border and has a twin lake called Lake Kayumbu.
It is situated about 11 kilometers to the Cyanika border and Kisoro airstrip and 17 and 22 Kilometres to Muhabura and Ntebeko gate at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The lodge is surrounded by the rolling hills of the Virungas.
2. Lake Bunyonyi Rock Resort
Located on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Bunyonyi Rock Resort is your comfortable, affordable, ecofriendly, and best place to stay on your Uganda safari to southwestern Uganda.
Whether you travel for gorilla trekking in Bwindi forest/Mgahinga gorilla national park, golden monkey trekking, Batwa community visits, visiting Lake Bunyonyi, or touring any other tourism site in southwestern Uganda, Lake Bunyonyi Rock Resort offers you exceptional food and sleeping services at affordable rates.
- 22 rooms 19 of which are self-contained while three are basic non-self-contained.
- Each of these rooms has a private balcony, private showers, and clear views of the lake
- The arrangement of the rooms can be single, double, twin, and triple
1. Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp
Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp is located at the entrance to Mgahinga National Park and is only 12 km from the south-western town of Kisoro, near the Rwandan border.
At the camp, visitors can enjoy the magnificent views of the famous Virunga Volcanoes and take part in monkey trekking as it is located at the starting point for golden monkey trekking through the National Park. Apart from providing accommodation for tourists, the camp also supports community-based initiatives such as a handcraft group for women.
- Campsite accommodating 20 people and includes self-catering.
- Six dormitories and each can sleep up to 12 people on bunk beds.
- Two bandas and each has a double bed and is set in the lush garden.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mgahinga
When Was Mgahinga National Park Gazetted?
Mountain gorilla conservation on the Virungas dates back to 1925 when the Belgians gazetted the portion of the range in present-day Congo and Rwanda as a national park. The British administration declared the Ugandan section as a game sanctuary in 1930. Mgahinga was upgraded to national park status in 1991.
What does Mgahinga Mean?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park derives its name from Mount Gahinga which is one of the three mountain peaks in the park. “Gahinga” is a local word that means piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes.
Where Is Mgahinga National Park Found?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is found in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District on the extreme corner of Southwestern Uganda along the border region of Uganda, DR Congo, and Rwanda. The park is about 14 kilometers by road south of the town of Kisoro. Mgahinga has also located about 510 km by road from Kampala through Kabale town and Kisoro town.
How Big Is Mgahinga National Park?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest of the 10 national parks in Uganda. It covers an area of about 33.7km², on the slopes of Muhavura, Gahinga, and Sabinyo mountains.
What Is Mgahinga National Game Park Famous For?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is famous for mountain gorilla trekking adventures amidst very scenic volcanic peaks. The park also hosts the endangered golden monkeys Albertine Rift Endemic birds.
How Many Gorillas Are In Mgahinga National Park?
Approximately 83 mountain gorillas reside in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, although they are free to cross the borders between Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
How Do You Get To Mgahinga National Park?
Mgahinga is 14km on rough roads from the town of Kisoro, the entry point to southern Bwindi. Kisoro is best accessed using a scheduled light aircraft flight from Entebbe. Daily departures take about 90 minutes. Alternatively, Kisoro can be reached by road from Entebbe/Kampala – a long day drive of 10 hours or 5/6 hours from Lake Mburo National Park.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Mgahinga National Park?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be visited at any time of year, but the best times to trek the gorillas, golden and the volcanos are the drier months of June to mid-September and December, January, and February.
However, due to Uganda’s equatorial position and an increasingly variable climate, you should always expect rain when visiting Mgahinga. However, the heaviest rainfall normally occurs from mid-March to the end of May and then again at the end of September through to November. While the rains in March to May are often short, those in September to November are more often characterized by hours of soft drizzle.
But don’t discount the ‘rainy season’. Permits are easier to come by at relatively short notice and something is exhilarating about sitting, mud-covered and uncaring, among a group of gorillas, feeling like you are the only people in the forest.
Is Mgahinga Gorilla Park Safe To Visit?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a safe and secure place to visit. No activity in Mgahinga Gorilla Park without the escort of armed Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers. Behind the scenes, the Ugandan Army patrols the park. Add to that equation, local Police, and the Uganda Tourism Police force, and you have a park that protects you.
The UWA Rangers are highly trained professionals that are security-minded, yet friendly, most informative, and fluent in English. Uganda is the Best English Speaking Country in Africa.
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