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Mgahinga Gorilla National Park – Travel Guide, Map & More

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, located in the extreme southern part of Uganda, is the country’s smallest national park, covering an area of 33.7 square kilometers.

It borders Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo.

Mgahinga National Park derives its name from Mount Gahinga, which means “piles of stones” as named by the locals because of the small piles of stones gathered in heaps from their farmlands.

The park was first gazetted as a game sanctuary in 1930 and later established as a national park in 1991.

Mgahinga National Park is also home to three of the Virunga ranges: Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhabura, and Mount Gahinga.

The Virunga ranges are known for harboring the only mountain gorillas in the world, with half of them found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Mgahinga is easily accessible by tourists on Kigali to Bwindi gorilla tours.

Top Things to do in Mgahinga National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

1. Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga

Gorilla trekking is the main activity for tourists at Mgahinga National Park.

Mountain gorillas share 98% DNA with humans, making them humans’ closest relatives.

You can encounter these unique primates at Mgahinga National Park without the crowds often found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The only habituated gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is the “Nyakagezi gorilla family.”

The family is composed of 2 adult females, 2 infants, 2 black backs, a toddler, and three silverbacks led by Mark as the dominating silverback, assisted by the others.

Nyakagezi gorilla family was habituated in 1991 and was formally opened for tourists to visit in 1994. The family is one of the easiest Gorilla groups you can ever trek since they have a more limited range of mobility.

Read this detailed guide about gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

2. Mountain Climbing and Hiking

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to three of the Virunga ranges volcanoes that can all be hiked for an unforgettable experience.

Mount Sabyinyo is one of the volcanoes you can hike and it can only be done from the Ugandan side because of its rugged nature on the Rwandan side.

Standing at an elevation of 3,669 meters above sea level, it takes about 8 hours round trip to reach the peak.

Mount Gahinga, on the other hand, is 3,474 meters above sea level with scenic views and a crater at its peak.

The hike roughly takes about 6 hours for a round trip, depending on the speed of the hikers.

Mount Muhabura is the highest peak of the Virunga volcanoes in Uganda at an elevation of 4,127 meters above sea level.

The climb to Mount Muhabura will require some physical fitness, but the reward of stunning views at the top is worth the effort.

3. Golden Monkey Trekking

The renowned golden monkeys are endemic to the Albertine Rift and are on the list of some of the most endangered species of monkeys in the world.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to over 4,000 golden monkeys.

Trekking golden monkeys is not as strenuous as gorilla trekking because they live on the lower slopes, unlike gorillas who occupy the higher slopes.

One advantage of trekking golden monkeys is that there is no limited number of persons allowed to trek a given group, unlike gorillas, where only 8 people are allowed to track in a group.

The golden monkey permits are also cheaper, costing only $50 per person.

4. Wildlife Viewing

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is not only home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, but there are also many other animals living in the park, such as bushbucks, duikers, bush pigs, waterbucks, civets, giant forest hogs, and primates such as the black and white Columbus monkeys, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, De Brazza monkey, L’ Hoest monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, and many others.

5. Birding in Mgahinga

Mgahinga National Park is home to various birds, some of which are endemic to the Albertine region.

There are 79 species of birds recorded within the park, including Grey-capped warbler, yellow-vented bulbul, speckled mousebird, firefinch bird, whydah, stonechat, Lagden’s bush shrike, scarlet tufted Machalite sunbird, black kite, crowned hornbill, Kivu ground thrush, montane double-collared sunbird, dusky turtle dove, crowned crane, white-tailed blue flycatcher, Ruwenzori Turaco, Chubb’s cisticola, Alpine chat, Doherty’s bush shrike, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Mackinnon fiscal, white-eyed slaty flycatcher, yellow-crowned canary, grassland pipit, wing-snapping cisticola, yellow-throated long claw, and many others.

6. Cultural Encounters

The Batwa trail in Mgahinga National Park is a must-visit place while in the park.

This will provide you with insight into the Batwa tribe, whose guide will give you all the information you need about the Batwa tribe that once lived in the forest before it became a national park.

The Batwa people were hunter-gatherers who depended on the forest for everything.

The trail leads you to the Garama cave, which is about 300 meters long and was used by the Batwa in ancient days as a counseling chamber.

The visit ends with a Batwa traditional dance performed by local dancers at the cave.

Along the way, you can encounter various wildlife and birds, and learn about different plant species and how they were used from the Batwa guide.

Accommodation

Mgahinga National Park doesn’t provide a variety of accommodation options, but tourists can stay at Mount Gahinga Lodge or do camping.

Other lodges near Kisoro town include Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Kisoro Travelers Inn, Mgahinga Safari Lodge, Virunga Hotel, Muhabura Motel, Kisoro Tourists Hotel, 3 Way Gorilla Resort, and Mucha Hotel, to mention a few.

Best time to go

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be visited all year round, although some months are better than others.

The best seasons are during the dry season from June to September and December to January when the roads are in good and passable condition.

Mgahinga National Park can be reached from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, by car within 8 to 10 hours, with magical views along the way.

However, the easiest way is to fly into Kigali, Rwanda, and then drive to Mgahinga within 4 hours by road.


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