Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga is an alternative destination to Bwindi for mountain gorilla tracking in Uganda. Mgahinga is part of the Virunga Mountains, which are situated on the border area between Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The habituated gorilla group is quite nomadic and sometimes moves across the border to one of the other countries, making the park less reliable for gorilla trekking.
Mgahinga National Park covers 34 sq kms and the smallest national park in Uganda and derives its name from ‘Gahinga’ a Kinyarwanda word for a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps around which cultivation is done. It protects the Ugandan part of the Virunga Mountains that is a habitat for about 300 gorillas located in the virunga range. It has 3 main peaks Mount Muhavura (means guide and has a small carter about 36m wide at its summit) Mount Gahinga (means pile of volcanic lave stone and has a swamp filled carter about 180m wide) and Mount Sabinyo (means old man’s teeth and is eroded with deep gorges) offering some of the most memorable scenic viewing experiences as you get to set foot in 3 countries Uganda , DRC and Rwanda.
The park is at an altitude of between 2227m and 4127m and its home to not only the Mountain Gorillas but also the Golden Monkey – the place where Gold meets Silver! Within the park are 76 mammal species including the golden monkey, black and white colobus and the mountain gorillas among others and 115 bird species recorded, 12 of which are endemic to the Albert Rift Region. The park is famously known for gorilla trekking although there are no gorilla’s permanent within the park as they move freely between Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Uganda. One habituated group (Nyakagezi Group) frequently spends months at a time within the park. This park is managed and operated by Uganda Wildlife Authority
Mgahinga Area Activities
Mgahinga National Park came as 3rd most photographed travel destination in the world in 2019 after a survey by huawei via facebook. Below are activties to particpate during your visit.
Golden Monkey Tracking and Habituation Experience. The dominant primate endemic to the Albertine Rift can only be viewed in Mgahinga Uganda and Rwanda.
Gorilla Tracking from Ntebeko Entrance Gate is similar to a gorilla trek in the Virungas of Rwanda. The Nyakagezi Gorilla Family has got about 10 individuals with 5 silver backs though the park has got about 100 gorillas.
Batwa Cultural Forest Trail . This cultural walk experience gives one a chance to learn more about the traditional Batwa Forest Culture and their way of life that included hunting, gathering honey, making clothes out of barkcloth and using medicinal herbs. You get to visit the Garama Cave (342 metres long)where Batwa Songs and Music is performed.
Guided Forest walks leading to Rugezi Swamp for a glimpse of giant forest hog and offers chances of spotting bird species like Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis among others and great views of the Virunga ranges.
Birdwatching in the gorges between Mt. Gahinga and Mt. Sabinyo there are about 185 bird species recorded. Birding can be done all year round in the park; the best time is April to Mid-May, and October to November. There are migratory birds in the park between November to April. Look out for the beautiful Rwenzori Turaco among other Albertine Endemics in the park.
Volcano / Mountain Climbing to all the 3 peaks taking in amazing scenery of DR Congo, The Virunga’s, The Rwenzoris, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Lake Edward. There are 5 vegetaion zones that can be covered during the hikes. The least demanding is Mt. Gahinga 1100m that offers great chances of viewing forest birds in the bamboo zone, duikers and bushbucks. The Mt. Sabinyo 1300m that takes 6-7 hours passing through montane forest and moorland and the most challenging hike to Mt. Muhavura close to 9 hours offering great chances of viewing giant lobelias.
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Best Time to Visit
Mgahinga is open for gorilla tracking the whole year, but the best time is during the drier seasons from June to August and December to January.
|Best time to go:||June to August and December to January (Tracking gorillas is more easy because the trails are drier)|
|High Season:||June to September (Gorilla tracking permits need to be booked well in advance at all times of the year)|
|Low Season:||March, April, May, October and November (Some lodges and camps shut down)|
|Best Weather:||June to August and December to January (Lesser rainfall)|
|Worst Weather:||March to May and September to November (Higher rainfall, forest trails might be slick and challenging)|
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For a relatively small country, there’s a lot that’s big about the place. It’s home to the tallest mountain range in Africa (Rwenzori Mountains), the source that feeds the world’s longest river and the continent’s largest lake. And with half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas residing here, as well as the Big Five to be ticked off, wildlife watching is huge.
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