Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park the park of the clouds is Uganda’s smallest national park located in the South west region of Uganda the pearl of Africa. Mgahinga national park is one of the finest tourist destinations in Uganda and ecological systems lieing in the Virunga Conservation Area which is made up of two other conservation parks that is Virunga national park of the democratic republic of Congo and Volcano national park of Rwanda. Mgahinga national park covering an area of 33.9 square kilometers stretches through 3 Virunga mountains that is mount muhabura, mount gahinga and mount sabyinyo which makes it contiguous with volcano national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mgahinga gorilla national park derives its maiden name from a local word GAHINGA which means piles of volcanic stones which were cleared from farmlands at the foot of the tree volcanoes in the park, the park is one of the few high altitude national parks in Uganda lieing at the altitude range of 2,227 meters and 4127 meters above the sea level. Mgahinga national park is one of the most visited conservation areas because of its endless wonders that is a historical, cultural and ecological system, the park is situated 15 kilometers south of Kisoro town and approximately 55 kilometers west of Kibale which is the nearly by largest city.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is part of the Nile river watershed area and also lieing in the Albertine rift valley at higher altitude which greatly influence the vegetation cover encompassed in the park at different zones, vegetation in gahinga include Afro-montane forests at altitudes 3,200m of comprising of grasses, mosses, lichen and liverwort, wild herbs and shrubs, grassland, afro-alpine which consists of e Lobelia, Haege-nia tree species, and bamboo at the altitude of 1,800meters to 3,300 meters.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is one of the oldest tourist destinations in Uganda receiving mild climatic conditions which is cold and wet which is due to its higher altitude, in mgahinga, there is no dry seasons it is typically wet throughout the year. The park receives two notable wet seasons that is in months of February to May and from September to November, less rain fall in the park is received in the months of December to January and June to July that is wise to carry rainproof clothing items as you plan your safari to mgahinga. Mgahinga gorilla national park receives average annual temperatures of 20°C during day time and 9°C in the evening, it is always cold in the evening and as you climb temperatures drop by approximately 6.5°C for every 1,000 meters you take.
Mgahinga gorilla national park is a fascinating conservation park and an amazing tourist destination as it is home to a variety of interesting wildlife, the park harbors 39 species of mammals which include elephants, leopard, buffalo, bush pig and many more. Mgahinga national park is famous for harboring the extremely endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, there is numerous bird species in the park approximately 79 recorded bird species and among these bird species there is Albertine endemic birds such as 4: handsome francolin, dusky crimson-wing, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, collared apalis, mountain masked apalis, Archer’s ground robin, stripe-breasted tit, blue-headed sunbird, regal sunbird, strange weaver, montane nightjar, red-faced woodland warbler and Grauer’s swamp warbler which are seen in the deep forests of the park on the slopes of 3 Virunga volcanoes.
Attractions in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga gorilla national park is enclosed with many attractions which are of interest to tourists, they include
Primates: Mgahinga gorilla national park is a home to a number of amazing primates which are very interesting to look at while on a safari that is mountain gorillas and golden monkeys which live in the deep forest on the slopes of mount sabinyo, mount muhavura and mount gahinga. The presence of these amazing animals facilitate gorilla trekking and golden monkey trekking, mgahinga national park is a home to only one gorilla family in the names of Nyakagezi and approximately 4000 individuals of golden monkeys which are endemic to the Albertine rift.
Volcanic cones: Mgahinga gorilla national park consists of three Virunga volcanoes that is
- Mount muhabura meaning the guide standing at the altitude of 4127 meters
- Mount gahinga meaning small piles of stones standing at altitude of 347 meters
- Mount sabyinyo meaning Old Man’s Teeth standing at altitude of 366 meters. These mountains facilitate mountain gorilla trekking and volcano hiking.
Culture: Mgahinga gorilla national park is surrounded by numerous tribal groups of people such as the great Batwa, the Batwa gatherer-hunters are the early inhabitants of the forests on the volcanoes. Unfortunately, as the mgahinga region was demarcated as conservation these people were forcefully dragged out of this area thus them living on the outskirts of the park. The Batwa experience gives tourists the insights of the cultural side of mgahinga as you encounter activities like the local ways of making fire, collecting and picking local herbs, traditional way of building a house and many more. Apart from the Batwa there is also the bafumbira farmers.
Ntebeko visitor centre: Ntebeko visitor centre is a viewing platform on top of an 800 meters uphill, from this view point you get to a god scenic view of the park.
Garama cave: Garama cave is a 342 meters long and 14 meters deep cave which was a habitant for the pygmy batwa people, the cave was used as used as a hiding place and a base for the batwa as they were planning their attacks to the neighboring societies.
Mgahinga national sometimes referred to as a place where gold and silver meets is one of the finest tourists destinations offering unforgettable safari experiences such as
Mountain gorilla trekking: Mountain gorilla trekking in mgahinga national park is one of the loved activities by tourists, this activity take the tourist through the deep forests of the park in search for gorilla members of Nyakagezi gorilla group. The activity begins from Ntebeko entrance gate as early as 8:00 am in the morning taking 2 to 4 hours, gorilla trekking safari allows you only hour with the endangered mountain gorillas after purchasing a gorilla trekking permit which costs US$ 700 per person.
Golden monkey tracking: Gorilla monkey trekking in mgahinga national park is a two hour interesting trek through trails leading to bamboo forests, golden monkeys are amazing animals with fascinating features such as bright orange golden body, cheeks, tail with a golden crown end and black limbs. Golden monkeys live in groups of 3-30 individuals feeding on shoots, leaves and fruits from the bamboo trees, to participate in golden monkey trekking you pay US$ 50 for foreign tourists and 20,000 UG shs for East African citizens.
Bird watching: Mgahinga national park is a bird haven with numerous forests bird species and Albertine rift endemic birds, these birds are seen while hiking, mountain gorilla trekking and while golden monkey tracking. Many bird are seen in the deep forests species such as bronze sunbird, olive thrush, cape robin chat, kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori batis, black headed wax bill, streaky seedeater, Rwenzori batis, red faced woodland warbler, banded Prinia and Doherty, Rwenzori turaco and many more.
Volcano climbing: Volcano climbing in mgahinga national park involves climbing the three volcanoes of gahinga, muhabura and sabinyo, hiking these volcanoes is not as easy as it sounds as it takes different period of time as the volcanoes have different altitude. Hiking mount sabinyo of 3669 meters is a 14 kilometer trip taking approximately 8 hours as you navigate through the steep ridges to the peak, hiking to mount muhavura the highest peak in the park standing at height of 4127 meters is a 12 kilometers trek taking 8 hours and hiking mount gahinga of 3474 meters of altitude is a 8 kilometers hike lasting 6 hours, takes the hikers through giant lobelia to the swamp filled crater. While volcano top you get to see Rwenzori peaks, Lake Edward and other surrounding Virunga volcanoes.
Culture encounters (Batwa trail encounter): On a culture encounter safari in mgahinga national park you get to encounter the batwa pygmy people and their ancient life style on what is termed as batwa trail, the batwa people still a primitive life style in the forests around the park. On this trail you get to witness cultural dances and songs, local ways of hunting, building houses using local traditional materials, you also visit the sacred garama cave where many cultural activities are performed.
Accommodation in mgahinga gorilla national park is got from golden monkey guest house, Ruhondo beach resort, mount gahinga lodge, east Africa amazon guest house and many more
Mgahinga gorilla national park can reached using roads and by air. By road you use Kampala to kabale route of 434 kilometers then from kabale you go to Kisoro which is a 76 kilometer, you can also use kabale-Kisoro route. By air you use a chartered flight from Entebbe to Kisoro airport then you continue to the park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in Kisoro district southwestern Uganda approximately 510 kilometers about 8-10 hours’ drive from Kampala capital city