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Mgahinga National Park In Uganda

Gazetted as a national park in 1991, Mgahinga National Park has a geographical coverage of 33.7 km2 which makes the smallest national park in Uganda. The park is a second refigium for the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda with one habituated gorilla family named Nyakagyezi usually encountered on Uganda gorilla trekking safaris. Besides mountain gorillas, Mgahinga National Park also shelters populations of golden monkeys which only exist in the Virunga massif on the world scale. The park was initially an ancient dwelling of the forest people the pygmies who inhabited the forests with Garama cave as the palace for their King and a congregator area for all Batwa in times of festivals before these people were evicted to stay around the forest environs. Mgahinga National Park also has three of the eight volcanoes that form the greater Virunga massif including Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo. The protected area is 14km from south of Kisoro town and 519km from Kampala the country’s capital. It is located in the county of Bufumbira, Kisoro District.

How to get to Mgahinga National Park in Uganda

Mgahinga National Park can be connected to from the following points;

  • Mgahinga National Park can be connected to by Air travel. Scheduled flights from Entebbe to Nyakabande Airfield in Kisoro are operated by aero link.  Other charter services can be got from Kajjansi Airstrip or Entebbe Airport to Nyakabande Airstrip in Kisoro.
  • You can also use public means to transfer to Mgahinga National Park by boarding public buses from Kampala Bus Park to Kisoro town after which you can get a private taxi or a boda-boda to connect to the park for the remaining 14km. 

Tourist Attractions in Mgahinga National Park in Uganda

Mountain gorillas (Berengei-Berengei) in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Mgahinga national park is a second ground in Uganda after Bwindi Impenetrable National Pak where populations of Mountain gorillas can be traced. The dense forest cover and rich undergrowth that characterize the slopes of the volcanic highland present a fertile ground for existence of mountain gorillas which is one of the great attractions to be encountered while on safari in Uganda. 

Nyakagezi Gorilla Family in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

The Nyakagyezi gorilla family comprises of 10 members with 1 silverback and is the only gorilla family that exists in Mgahinga National Park. The gorilla group is led by silverback Mark who at times takes the family to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.  The gorilla family has however tried to settle on the Ugandan side since November, 2012. It is an impressive encounter to track gorillas in the volcanic highlands.

Local people around Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Kisoro district is one of the heavily populated districts with great counts of Bafumbira and the minority Batwa. The Bafumbira people are farmers and practice crop cultivation while the Batwa thrived in the forest of Mgahinga before they were evicted during the process of gazetting Mgahinga National Park.   These people have got rich traditions that are very interesting to encounter while on Uganda safari. The Batwa draw much attachment to the forest and have got rich heritage that can be explored in the forest including the ancient Garama cave, their modes of survival among others.

Scenery of Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Mgahinga national park contains three volcanic ranges with all their peaks in the park including; Muhabura (4127m), Sabyinyo (3669m) and Gahinga (3474m). The three volcanoes derive their names from the local dialects i.e. Muhabura means a guide meaning that its glowing cone was used as directing point in the traditional Africa; the Sabyinyo means Old man’s teeth which it gets from its rugged peaks that were shaped by forces of denudation while Gahinga means pile of stones. The three volcanoes offer impressive scenic views as they continue to adjoin their fellows in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Birds in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Mgahinga National Park has 115 species of birds among which include; Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Dusky Turtle Dove,  Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo,  White-starred Robin, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Equatorial Akalat, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Kivu Ground Thrush, Banded Prinia, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Grauer’s Warbler, Collared Apalis, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Mountain Masked Apalis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Rwenzori Batis, Strip-breasted Tit, Blue-headed Sunbird, Mackinnon’s Fiscal,  Regal Sunbird, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Montane Oriole, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Strange Weaver, Shelley’s Crimsoning and Dusky Crimsonwing among other bird species.

Wildlife in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Apart from Mountain gorillas, Mgahinga National Park also has a range of other wildlife that can be encountered in Uganda safaris. These wildlife species include; golden monkeys, golden cats, giant forest hog, side-stripped jackals, giant forest hogs, buffaloes, elephants, bush pigs among other wildlife. This wildlife is however not easily seen.

Vegetation in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Since the park comprises of volcanic highlands, it has got a range of vegetation zones that mark different altitude levels. The lower layers are covered by grass and bush that is regenerating after encroachment by the locals; this is followed by layers of montane woodland, Bamboo zone, montane forest and the Ericaceous zone that contain giant tree heathers. The Alpine zone is dotted with giant forms of Lobelia and groundsel like in any other altitudinal areas in East Africa that are above 3,000m

Tourist activities in Mgahinga National Park in Uganda

Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Mgahinga National Park offers gorilla trekking encounter to Uganda gorilla safari undertakers. The Nyakagyezi gorilla family is habituated for tracking. The gorilla trekking encounter commences at Ntebeko area or the Muhabura section depending on the direction of Mountain gorillas. Like in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, gorilla trekking duration is unpredictable but ranges between 2–8hours commencing at 8am local time with short briefing from the park rangers or the warden. It involves hiking the volcanic slopes and traversing the jungle which makes interesting and beyond only gorillas.

Birding in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Mgahinga National Park also offers good birding encounters. Birding is carried out along the gorge trail between the mountains of Sabyinyo and Gahinga and chances to encounter bird species like; Dusky turtle dove, Bronze sunbird, Olive Thrush, Regal sunbird, Kivu ground Thrush and Cape Robin-chat exist. The trail takes 3-4 hours. The Bambo belt offers sights of Rwenzori Turaco. The Buffalo wall in the north of the park also offers birding opportunities commencing at 17:00 – 18:00 with a guide while the boarder trail exposes you a wetland with counts of Ibis, speckled mouse bird and fire finch are found.

Cultural encounters in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Formerly, the Batwa forest people lived in the forests of Mgahinga National Park and depended on the forest for survival in terms of food, medicine, shelter among others. Their eviction from the forest did not erase their heritage from the forest and the Batwa trail has been designed traversing the park with the Batwa themselves as the guides taking Uganda safari undertakers through their traditions, their modes of survival including wild honey harvesting, edible wild fruits and roots, their architectural modes and finally their King’s palace at Garama cave where women sing songs of remembrance commemorating their good times in the forest. The Batwa trail takes 6 -7 hours though there is also a shorter trail that lasts about 2 – 3 hours.

Mountain Hiking in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

With three volcanoes in the par, Volcano climbing cannot be avoided on Uganda safari.  Mt. Sabinyo (3,669m) stretches for 14km and lasts about eight hours with a steep climb over the ridge to the top after which you traverse its series of peaks. Mount Gahinga (3,474m) takes six hours round trip since it the shortest of the three volcanoes. Mt. Muhavura (4,127m) is the highest stretching for 12km round trip and takes about eight hours with its summit offering impressive views of Bwindi Impenetrable forest and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountains.

Nature walks in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Mgahinga National Park can also be explored on foot. The walks through the Sabyinyo gorge offer a rich encounter with nature including birds such as the Rwenzori Turaco.  The trek takes 4 hours passing through the Rugezi swamp where a range of birds can also be encountered. There is also the Congo border walk offering encounter with different vegetation zones and sights of calderas on Gisozi hill, Bunagana and Kisoro towns not forgetting the scenic Lake Mutanda across the valley.

Golden Monkey Tracking in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

The golden monkeys thrive along the Bamboo forest and they only exist in the Virunga massif in the whole world thus making the encounter with them in Mgahinga rewarding while on Uganda safari. The golden monkey tracking tend to last about four hours including 1 hour direct encounter with them.

Accommodation Facilities in Mgahinga National Park in Uganda

Amajambere Iwacu Camp in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

This camp is located by the entrance to Mgahinga National Park and is only 12 km from the southwestern town of Kisoro near the Rwandan border. A variety of choice between the campsite, dormitories or bandas. The camp has a wide area for camping as well as five bandas, of which two serve as dormitories all which combine to settle the worries of overnight visitors on Uganda Safari.

Camp amenities

  • Camping facilities and 4 bandas
  • Spacious gathering shelter with indoor and outdoor dining
  • Well-stocked canteen serving beers, sodas, snacks and basic essentials.
  • Restaurant serving typical Ugandan meals

Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

This lodge is located at the boarder of Mgahinga national park providing an easy reach to the park while undertaking a Safari in Uganda. It has a warming open fireplace, massage room, delicious three course meals and blissful views of the mighty volcanic peaks, qualifying it worth of stay while on Uganda safari. Mount Gahinga Lodge has eight attractive bandas that sit at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes. All bandas have their own patio seating area, as well as private bathrooms with composting toilets and bush showers, which are filled with hot water upon request. Lighting is solar powered thus environmentally conscious.

Lodge Amenities

  • Restaurant and bar
  • Open fireplace
  • Laundry service
  • On-site wildlife viewing
  • Outdoor sitting area for bird watching, surrounded by wild plants
  • A sunroom facing the volcanoes
  • Solar power

Kisoro Tourist Hotel in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Kisoro Tourist Hotel is the most pleasant and comfortable hotel at a budget tariff price. It offers first class accommodations with self-contained rooms. Enjoy the warm atmosphere of the lounge and the authentic fireplace. After your activities in the surrounding area, relax with a massage, sauna or steam bath. All rooms have fireplace, TV – Cable/Satellite, Local Stations, Fans, Hot water, Private Bathroom thus suitable for your stay while on Safari to Uganda.

Lodge Amenities

  • On-site restaurant
  • Tour/Travel desk
  • Conference Facilities
  • Internet Access
  • Gift shop
  • On-site Bar
  • Fitness Room/Gym
  • Laundry/Dry Cleaning
  • Library/Reading Area

Kisoro Travelers` Rest Hotel in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

Located in Kisoro town 14 kilometers from Mgahinga national park. It is a colonial-style hotel which was more less a second home to famous American ‘gorilla-woman’ Dian Fossey in 1960s while undertaking her research about mountain gorillas in the Virunga area that later provided a basis for gorilla tracking. Available rooms include single, twin, double, triple and a suite. All have private bathrooms with hot water.

Lodge Amenities

  • Restaurant
  • Travel desk
  • Bikes to rent
  • Lounge area with fireplace, bar and large meeting table
  • Internet access
  • Massages
  • Laundry service
  • Gift Shop
  • Enclosed garden
  • Huge selection of Congolese masks

Countryside Guesthouse Kisoro in Mgahinga National Park-Uganda

This is located along Kisoro to Bunagana Road a few minutes’ walk from the town center and 500m from the Taxi and bus park. It has 14 clean, comfortable and affordable rooms for budget travelers. The rooms include; double and single rooms while there is a provision for self-campers with their camping gardens accommodating 6-10 people in their own tents. Shower and toilet facilities are available for Uganda Safari undertakers however the camping rates exclude breakfast.

Lodge Amenities

  • On-site restaurant
  • Tour/Travel desk
  • Conference Facilities
  • Internet Access
  • Gift shop
  • On-site Bar
  • Fitness Room/Gym
  • Laundry/Dry Cleaning