MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK “Where Gold Meets Silver”
Mgahinga Gorilla national park “Where Gold meets Silver” : Mgahinga Gorilla national park is known as the only destination in Uganda where Silver meet Gold implying that it is a home for both endangered mountain Gorillas as well as Golden monkeys. Mgahinga Gorilla national park is the smallest park in Uganda situated in the south western part of the country covering an area of about 33.7 square Kilometers elevated between 2227M to 4127M above the sea level that is the best altitude for the habitat of endangered mountain gorillas.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park is part of the Virunga massif which is shared amongst Virunga national park, Mgahinga Gorilla national park and Volcanoes national park in Congo, Uganda and Rwanda respectively.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park was gazette in 1991 alongside Bwindi impenetrable national park and Semliki national park which were all habitats for the Batwa people before they were forced out of the forest to gazette the forests into national park to protect their precious fauna and flora species under the management of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) which is the governing body for all the protected areas in Uganda the pearl of Africa.
Wildlife in Mgahinga gorilla national park
Mgahinga Gorilla national park thrills with only one habituated gorilla family (Nyakagezi which is the major tourist attraction of the park. the only challenge this park faces is that the Nyakagezi gorilla family usually 8crosses the border into the neighboring parks of Volcanoes national park in Rwanda as well as Virunga national park in Congo.
Apart from the Nyakagezi gorilla family, Mgahinga Gorilla national park as well thrills with the rare and endangered Golden monkeys and surprisingly, this is the only park in Uganda that harbor these beautiful primates in their natural set up. Mgahinga Gorilla national park is as well a home to several mammals like Buffaloes, duikers, elephants, jackals, bush pigs and plenty of bird species including Rwenzori Nightjar, Grey-capped Warbler, Grey-capped Warbler, Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Ruwenzori Turaco, White-napped Raven, Rwenzori Batis and many more.
Flora of Mgahinga Gorilla national park
Mgahinga Gorilla national park thrills with the best vegetation filled with stunning rolling hills, forests and many more. The park harbors 3 mountains including Mount Muhavura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo. These are part of the 8 volcanoes that occupy Virunga massif. The other 5 volcanoes include Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Nyamulagira, Mount Mikeno and Mount Nyiragongo.
What to do/ tourist activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla national park
First and foremost, Mountain Gorilla trekking is one of the top tourist activities done in Uganda the pearl of Africa thus the most done in Mgahinga Gorilla national park. As stated above, Mgahinga Gorilla national park thrills with only 1 habituated Nyakagezi Gorilla family thus only 8 persons are allowed to take part in Gorilla trekking per day since 8 people is the maximum number of trekkers per gorilla family. There is therefore a need to book your gorilla trekking permit in advance and be part of the 8 trekkers to encounter with the endangered mountain gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla national park per day.
As of 2021, mountain gorilla trekking permit for Mgahinga Gorilla national park costs $700, $600 and Ugandan shilling 250,000 per person for both the foreign nonresidents, foreign residents and East African community member states. The Gorilla trekking permits are obtained either direct from the Uganda Wildlife Authority or through a trusted tour operator like Achieve Global safaris.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla national park starts very early in the morning at the park headquarters where all trekkers are required to report with their gorilla trekking permits for briefing before embarking on a forest walk to search for the Nyakagezi gorilla family. The duration of Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla national park is unpredictable but can be estimated to last from a few hours to several hours depending on how far the gorillas move in search of food in the forest.
Upon finding the Nyakagezi gorilla family, trekkers are limited to only 1 hour of close interaction with the Gorillas, taking photographs and recording some videos after which you exit the forest and return to the respective lodges for relaxation or proceed with other activities.
Birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park thrills with over 180 species of birds thus birding and bird watching is one of the most fascinating activity to enjoy while on your Uganda safari to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Most of the birds are spotted within the bamboo forest in between Mount Sabyinyo and mount Gahinga. Some of the bird species to look out for include Paradise Fly-catcher, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black Kite, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Double-collared Sunbird, Rwenzori Turaco, Grey-capped Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Yellow-vented Bulbul and many more.
Golden Monkey trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only destination in Uganda the pearl of Africa where Golden monkey trekking is enjoyed. Unlike Gorilla trekking, trekking Golden monkey is such a fascinating and fun filled experience in that tourists are able to take photographs with the flash light on. These cute creature are seen jumping over the bamboo plants and cheerfully swinging their tails as they jump even over your shoulders. Trekking Golden monkeys also starts early in the morning with briefing before embarking on the real forest walk to search for a habituated troop of Golden monkeys. Upon finding them, you as well have only 1 hour with these primates interacting and taking photographs.
The Batwa Trail
The Batwa trail is one of the fascinating cultural tour enjoyed in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park where tourists experience a real adventure in the jungle as they walk with the help of the local Batwa as the guide. You will be able to follow a well designated trail in the forest exploring different attractions including the Garama caves and many other attractions in the forest. Tourists are also able learn about how the Batwa used to hunt and gather fruits when they still lived in the forest. You will as well be able to identify plants that were used to cure different diseases.
Hiking and guided nature walks
Apart from the Batwa trail, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park as well has other modified walking trails that lead to various attractions. For instance, there are different hikes to different mountains like Mount Gahinga at 3,474M Mount Muhavura at 4,127M and Mount Sabyinyo which are all easily hiked from the Ugandan side to explore different attractions like the swampy caldera, Crater, and the neighboring countries of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Getting to Mgahinga Gorilla national park is either by road or by air.
By road, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is situated about 540Km from Kampala/ Entebbe thus a driving distance takes about 7-8 hours depending on the stopovers along the way. Such as stopover at the Equator for photo taking, in Mbarara city for lunch and many more.by air, there are both scheduled and charter flights from Entebbe international airport or Kajansi Airfield to Kisoro and finally connect by road drive to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Where to stay/ Accommodation in and around Mgahinga Gorilla national park
One may choose to stay in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or around depending on availability of accommodation and the price. Here are some of the Lodge where one can stay while on a Uganda safari to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park they range between budget, Midrange and luxury and they include; Mount Gahinga Safari lodge, Amajambere Iwacu rest camp, Kisoro Traveler’s Rest Hotel, Lake Mutanda Island Lodge, Kisoro Traveler’s Rest, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Bwindi Jungle Lodge, Montana Guest House, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Virunga Hotel, Kisoro Tourist Hotel and many more.
Since Mgahinga Gorilla national park is situated in south western part of Uganda, it can easily be accessed by tourists from Kigali Rwanda who opt to land into Kigali and trek gorillas in Uganda. It can as well be easily combined with other nearby destinations like Lake Bunyonyi, Bwindi impenetrable national park and Queen Elizabeth national park and many other parks in Western part of Uganda.