Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has become a top-selling product on most tour itineraries of tour operators in Uganda. Trekking mountains gorillas in Mgahinga is marked one of the highlights of any visit to the national park.
Mgahinga National Park is situated in the south western region of Uganda in the Kisoro district. This national park covers a total surface area of 34km², thus making it the smallest national park in the country.
The national park derives its name from the local word ‘Gahinga,’ which means a pile of volcanic stones cleared for farmland, at the foot of the volcanoes. It was first established as a game sanctuary in 1930, to protect the endangered primate species such as mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. The park was later gazetted as a national park in 1991.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is elevated at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m above sea level. The national park has one habituated trans-boundary mountain gorilla group, which is a major attraction in the park.
The park encompasses three extinct volcanic mountains namely; Mount Sabyinyo; which stands at an altitude of 3,669m, Mount Gahinga; standing at 3,474m and Mount Muhavura, elevated at 4,127m in altitude. All these mountains fall under the Virunga Mountain Range.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park lies in the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is part of the Virunga Conservation Area and includes adjacent national parks in Rwanda and National parks in Congo.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mgahinga National Park in Uganda is home to only one habituated gorilla group, called the Nyakagezi gorilla group. One unique aspect of trekking mountain gorillas is Mgahinga Gorilla national park is that the gorillas are shared by Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo; and in addition to this, visitors can easily locate the gorillas.
Visitors trekking the Nyakagezi gorilla group in Mgahinga should know that the group consists of 9 members; including 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 Juveniles and 2 infants.
Gorilla trekking activities in Mgahinga national park commence at the park’s headquarters in Ntebeko at exactly 8 am. Visitors are advised to be at the Ntebeko park entrance gate by 7 am; it is very important the visitors doing gorilla trekking in the park, always keep time.
Gorilla trekking in the park usually begins with a briefing of tourists by the head ranger at the park and given a set of rules and guidelines to follow before, after and during tracking.
Visitors trekking mountain gorillas in Mgahinga gorilla national park MUST be in a group of 8 members only and tracking usually takes between 4-6 hours; with an hour of direct contact with the gorillas.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Mgahinga is easy as compared to Bwindi national park because locating the gorillas in the park’s forest is much easy and less tedious. The gorilla trekking activity in the park involves hiking through the park’s forested vegetation and identifying fresh gorilla droppings, with an aim of locating the gorillas.
Cost of Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga National Park.
Gorilla trekking permits in Mgahinga national park cost USD 600 per person. Visitors will need to present a copy of their valid IDs or passports when booking a gorilla permit. Visitors have the option of acquiring a gorilla trekking permit from either a trusted tour operator or directly from Uganda Wildlife Authority; a government organization that manages all the national parks in Uganda.
Rules and Regulations of Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
There are certain guidelines that every tourist doing gorilla trekking in Mgahinga should know and observe. These include;
- Every tourist must have acquired a gorilla trekking permit before visiting the park.
- Have a valid Uganda or East African Tourist Visa and your passport MUST be valid for at least 6 months.
- Gorilla Trekking can be done by adults 15 years and above.
- Tourists can interact with gorillas for only an hour.
- There is a maximum of 8 visitors per day per group.
- No use of flashes in cameras when taking photos of gorillas as this can easily disorient them.
- A safe distance of 7 meters should be maintained between the tourist and gorillas.
- Only tourists who are healthy are permitted to trek gorillas so as to reduce the chances of spreading diseases between the tourist and gorillas.
- Tourists are advised to lower your voices when in the forest and when in close proximity to the gorillas.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke when in the presence of gorillas.
- Limit unnecessary movement when with gorillas and do not maintain eye contact with the gorillas, especially the silverbacks.
What to wear when trekking gorillas in Mgahinga.
Visitors trekking mountain gorillas in Mgahinga National Park in Uganda should pack the following essentials; a good pair of hiking boots, sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat/ cap, a raincoat, mineral water, packed lunch/ snacks and a camera.
The Best time to do Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park can be done throughout the year. However, the best time for visitors to trek gorillas in the park would be during the two dry seasons; which are between mid-December- February and June- October. During this period, it is much easy for visitors to hike through the forests and walk the trail paths in the national park.
Where to stay when trekking mountain gorillas in Mgahinga National Park.
There are some accommodation facilities that offer visitors trekking gorillas in Mgahinga and these include; Lake Mutanda Chameleon Hill Lodge, Kisoro Traveler’s Rest Hotel, River Mucha Hotel, Amajambere Iwacu camp and Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge among others.
How to get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be accessed by road and air. The national park is located about 494km from Kampala City via Kabale-Kisoro; which is about 8 hours of driving till you get to the park’s headquarters.
Alternatively, travelers can fly from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro Airstrip which takes about an hour. The Kisoro Airstrip is close to Mgahinga national park and hence is a convenient means of travel.
It is no doubt that gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park is an exciting and adventurous activity, which and traveler visiting Uganda should not miss out.
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