Discover Mgahinga: Uganda’s Gorilla Haven

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) is a special primate destination offering not only gorilla trekking experiences but also unforgettable golden monkey trekking and golden monkey habituation adventures. Mgahinga happens to be the smallest Uganda National Park, and it was created the same year Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was gazetted. Mgahinga National Park was created in 1991 and the primary reason for its establishment was to offer refuge to the rare mountain gorillas.

The location and size of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park lies far in Kisoro district, Southwestern Uganda, about 8-10 hours’ drive if you are starting your trip from Kampala/Entebbe. The park sits within the Albertine rift area and forms part of the extensive Virunga Conservation Area –VCA. This region encompasses the Virunga National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga.

Mgahinga National Park boundaries stretch covering only 33.7sq.km and it takes its name after the scenic Gahinga Volcano. The park holds 3 of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes and all of them can be hiked. They include Mt. Gahinga (3474m), Muhabura Volcano (4127m) and Sabyinyo volcano (3645m). This park lies at an altitudinal range of 2227 to 4127 meters.

While Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was primarily founded to shelter the endangered mountain gorillas, there are many other wildlife that share the same habitats with these unique apes. This makes it an exceptional travel destination regardless of its size.

The vegetation cover of Mgahinga National Park

At Mgahinga Gorilla National Park –MGNP, vegetation zones range in the different altitudes. The available vegetation variations in the park include savanna grassland, afro-montane forest, woodland, marshes, bamboo forest, semi-alpine vegetation, tropical rainforest and others. Considering its vegetation variation and altitude, the park plays a significant part as the main water catchment area in Kisoro and surrounding areas. The park has several streams that flow from the Crater Lakes on the summits of its volcanoes downwards feeding the Lakes and Rivers located at the base area. These include River Kabiranyuma, Ntebeko River and Nyabirerema which also serve as the important water sources to the residents living near the park.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
5 Day Rwanda Gorilla Safari

Tourist Attractions in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga is compact but rich with wildlife, inhabiting over 39 species of mammals, 180 bird species mostly the Albertine rift endemic species. The park’s wildlife species include the forest buffaloes, mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, spotted hyenas, elephants, bushbucks, black fronted duikers, red-tailed monkeys, golden cats, African porcupines, vervet monkeys, serval cats, and others.

The birdlife of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park contains over 180 bird species and majority of its alluring avifaunal species are endemic to the Albertine rift valley and forest birds. The park’s birds to watch include the speckled mouse bird, Southern red bishop, streaky seed-eaters, olive thrush, Rwenzori nightjars, thrush and cinnamon bracken warblers, white stared robin, yellow throated long claw, white necked raven, striped breasted tit, stone chat, stray seed-eaters, western green tinker bird, shelley’s dusky crimson wing, white napped raven, red-faced woodland warblers, rufous chested swallow, Rwenzori doubled-collared sunbird, Grauer’s swamp warblers, handsome francolin, brown crowned tchagra, blue-headed coucal, collared apalis, Rwenzori turacos, Regal sunbird, pin-tailed whydah, olive woodpecker, malachite sunbird, Archer’s robin chat, ibis, yellow-billed kite, dusky turtle dove, paradise flycatchers, montane nightjars, scarlet-tufted sunbirds, fly eagle, fire finch stonechat, crowned hornbill, brown woodland warblers, black kite, Kivu ground thrush, Doherty’s bush-shrike, bronze sunbird, black-headed waxbill, Chubb’s cisticolas, crowned crane, yellow vented bulbul, cape robin chat, and more.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - birding
people and culture

The People and Culture

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was once occupied by the Batwa –the renowned forest keepers till the time the park was gazetted. Today, the Batwa and other tribal groups live adjacent to the park boundaries. Other than the Batwa, there are also Bakiga and Bafumbira communities to interact with on a cultural visit or community tour.

Mountain gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Gorilla trekking is a thrilling adventure and Mgahinga is one of the 2 places to consider visiting to see the rare mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). The Mgahinga sits in the Kisoro district, Southwestern Uganda and has only one habituated gorilla family. Trekking with Mgahinga gorillas lasts for 2 to 6 hours with guarantee of one hour for a magical encounter and taking pictures. Nyakagezi is the only family that has been habituated and opened for trekking in Mgahinga, with each gorilla permit costing USD700 per person.

5 Day Rwanda Gorilla Safari
mount sabinyo

Volcano hiking

All the 3 of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes can be hiked while you are in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They include Mount Muhabura 4127 meter –the 8 hours hike to the summits and Mt. Sabyinyo 8 hours trek, & Gahinga volcano 6 hours hike.

Golden monkeys trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Golden monkeys are among the interesting primates that reside within Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. These primate species occupy the Virunga Region and these are forest-dominated areas. Trekking with golden monkeys takes 2 to 4 hours and includes one hour for a close interaction and taking their pictures. Golden monkey permits for guests visiting Mgahinga N. Park to trek to see these apes require a permit and each permit is issued at USD 60 and or embark on habituation experience with permits costing USD100 per visitor.

 

4 Day Gorilla and Golden Monkey Tracking
birding

Bird watching in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Birding tour in Mgahinga provides birders an amazing chance to search for the park’s diverse birds, majority of which are Albertine rift endemic species. These include the yellow-vented bulbul, Kivu ground thrush, yellow-throated long claw, cinnamon bracken warblers, montane nightjar, white starred robin, rufous chested swallow, olive woodpeckers, striped breasted tit, blue-headed sunbird, mountain masked apalis, alpine chat, Rwenzori batis, olive pigeon, and more.

Nature walks in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Nature walking within Mgahinga Gorilla National Park introduces you to areas with hidden gem. This involves exploring floral and faunal species. The park has beautiful water bodies such as Rivers, Lakes, Swamp and it is also dominated by lush forest/vegetation. The main trail to hike through is the border trail which is found at the slopes of Mt. Sabyinyo –the 5 hours’ guided walking experience.

Batwa trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The Batwa trail is a long day of exploring how the Batwa pygmies lived, their ancient traditions, cultures and etc. This is accompanied by cultural entertainment dances, and music performance.

uganda - batwa

When to Visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga NP holidays can be done at any time of the year, although the most favorable time is during the dry months. The park records dry season around June, July, August till September and December to February. These are preferred months for gorilla trekking, volcano hiking and golden monkey tracking.

Comfortable places to stay in or around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

There are budget, midrange and luxury lodging options to consider for overnight stay and include Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Lake Mutanda Campsite, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Mucha Hotel Kisoro, and Traveler’s Rest Hotel, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp, Travelers Nest Hotel and others.

Getting to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for a tour

Road & air transportation are the 2 available options for guests to connect to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The long drive takes you from Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Kisoro route, about 8-10 hours. A short drive involves crossing from Kigali to Kisoro via Chanika border. By air travel – the setting off point will be at the Entebbe International Airport (EBB)/Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip.

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