Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a jewel high in the clouds, at an altitudinal range of 2,227metres and 4,127metres. The park’s temperature range during the day is 150C while the nights become a little colder at 100C. The park experiences two dry spells, May-August and December-February with March, April, September-November being the wettest months. Mgahinga is part of the gorgeous Virunga Massif, a misty mountain range that runs along the boarders and spreading to three countries of; Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda and protected as national parks in the respective countries that is; Virunga National Park in Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga in Uganda. The Virunga is a chain of nine (9) freestanding Volcanos that are both extinct and active with Uganda hosting 3 extinct conical volcanos that is; Sabinyo at 3634metres, Gahinga at 3474metres and Muhavura standing at about 4127metres. The Virunga protects the second population/group of the Mountain Gorillas with the other group found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda.
At a size of 33.7Km2, Mgahinga is Uganda’s smallest national park located in the southwestern part of the country. It was declared a game sanctuary/ reserve in 1930 by the British administration and later gazetted as a national park in the year 1991 and it protects Uganda’s portion of the endangered Mountain Gorillas as well as the endangered Golden Monkeys which inhabit the Virunga range.
People and the park
Mgahinga derives its name from a local word “Gahinga” which means piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmlands at the foot of the volcanos. The Batwa, a cultural group that dwells the forested margins of western East Africa at the edge of western Uganda, Rwanda and parts of Congo are a pygmy tribal group which lives a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and are the ancient residents of this natural habitat. Caves left by moving lava at the slopes of the mountain served as shelter to the resident pygmies.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in southwestern part of Uganda in the district of Kisoro, lying about 8-9hours from Kampala city centre. The journey to this side of the country is scenic especially as you proceed from Kabale to Kisoro, a route characterized by exquisite mountainous terrain with sheer ascents and descents. Detours can be done at the Equator-00 latitude.
Alternatively, the park can be accessed using air travel either domestic scheduled flights or charters from Kajjansi near Entebbe to Kisoro airfield.
Wildlife and attractions
Mgahinga protects Uganda’s portion of the Mountain Gorillas that dwell its dense forests, with one habituated family which is however trans-boundary. The park is also an important habitat for the endangered Golden Monkey.
The park has varied types of vegetation including; Afro-montane, Montane forests, Bamboo, Tree Heathers, Montane woodland and cover around former farmlands. Mgahinga shelters three of the Virunga volcanos’ whose slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically sundry. The peaks provide a remarkable milieu to this exquisite scenery.
There are a number of caves found on some of the steep mountain slopes, formed by lava tubes such as the famous Garama cave found near the Ntebeko park headquarters, these caves offered shelter to the Batwa especially during battles.
The park offers ultimate safari experience to travellers seeking to meet and stare deep into the eyes of the majestic Mountain Gorillas, tracking the Gorillas is the major activity though it is not reliable since there’s one group that is trans-boundary and therefore can’t be done all year-round. Golden Monkey tracking is a new form of activity and experiential tourism that visitors can take part in, moving through the dense Bamboo forests looking out for these interesting creatures dressed in striking golden pelt.
Being home to three volcanoes, the park offers thrilling hiking, mountain/volcano climbing adventure to visitors, the volcanos can be summited taking about a day, with the peaks commanding stunning views of the surrounding countries of Rwanda and Congo, the majestic Rwenzori and Virunga range.
With a myriad of vegetation cover, Mgahinga supports Bird watching with a tremendous number of bird species, Nature walks are an ideal way to explore the park’s diversity. The Batwa cultural encounter is worth the time to have a taste of the life of some of the forest groups of Africa, a guided walk lets you explore the Batwa trail.
Brief of thing to Do
- Gorilla Trekking
- Volcano Climbing/ Hiking
- Bird Watching
- Golden Monke Tracking
- Batwa Cultural Expereince
- Nature Walks
Sample Safaris to the Park
5 Days Gorilla, Golden Monkey tracking + Hiking and Bunyonyi Visit
12 Days Highlights of Uganda Wildlife and Adventure