Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in South Western corner of Uganda, bordering Rwanda and Congo, about 540 km from Kampala and an addition of 14 km from Kisoro town. This is the smallest national park in the country with an area coverage of about 33.7 km 2 but very vital in Uganda’s tourism industry, as it is one of the only two parks in Uganda that offer habitat for the endangered Mountain gorillas offering the opportunity for gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda. Mgahinga Gorilla National park is also famous golden monkey trekking tours and Volcano climbing adventure safaris in Uganda.
Gorilla Trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla trekking is the most thrilling tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The habituated gorilla group in this park is called the Nyakagezi, which consists of 9 members, 2 juveniles, 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, and 2 infants. However, due to their constant movement at time crossing to Rwanda it is advisable to check the current location of the gorillas first.
Tracking Gorillas in Mgahinga National Park is an adventurous activity that can take the whole day. The guide leads you through the jungle for what is referred to as Gorilla Trekking Tour in search for the endangered mountain gorillas, explaining aspects of their ecology and behavior along the way.
The guides will take you to the area where they left the gorillas the day before. Before leaving they may be able to suggest how long the hike might be. While walking, please feel free to ask guides to slow down if they are going too fast and if you need to take rest before getting the next point that may be assumed the gorillas are. Feel free to stop and look at birds or flowers, the guide will ensure that you aren’t left behind.
Chances of seeing gorillas are 99% however, success is NOT guaranteed. Gorillas are wild creatures with no fixed routine, and finding them requires the skill and efforts of you the trackers and guides, as well as luck.
Bird Watching in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is gifted with plentiful species of bird fauna; over 80 bird species have been so far recorded within the park, including several species from East Congo Montane region. Examples of bird species include Black kite, Augur Buzzards, Crowned Crane, Rwenzori Turacos, Fiscal shrike, crowned hornbill, Bird watching safaris are carried out along the edge of the park very possible and can be arranged on request, the guides are readily available to take you out for birding from 5-6 p.m. If you book by 10am. That morning. A stroll along the Buffalo wall towards Congo takes you through a wetland where Ibis are, Grey-Capped Warbler, Whydah, Speckled Mouse bird, and Fire Finch are found, Stone chart, Waxbills and Yellow-Vented Bulbul are always seen around the campground. Ask your guide where the best spots are. Always be observant, take your time and go at your own pace. Do not forget to carry your Binoculars as the major instrument in the activity!
Batwa Cultural Experience
The communities within Kisoro District are heavily populated with the Bafumbira who lead a simple life-style mainly as cultivators. These are the major ethnic group. The Batwa (Pygmies) who once lived in caves and fed on wildlife is the minority group. When Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was established, the Batwa, a group of indigenous people, were suddenly evicted from the forest and forced to abandon their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. Now landless, they work for local farmers. The only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guides on the Batwa Trail. A visit to the Batwa trail permits visitors to discover the magic of the indigenous people old home while partaking in nature walks and learning about the group’s cultural heritage.
Volcano Climbing Experience
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park avails extinct volcanoes for physically fit mountain hikers.
Greatly seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. This typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip covering 12km.You are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before the site has no facilities so you need a tent, water, food and sleeping gear.
Due to erosion gradually, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to peak one. If you are to continue, the climb to peak eleven involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda. Finally, the hike up to the peak 111 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak 11! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda at the same time. The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14 km stretch.
Where to stay in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Kisoro offers a wide range of Safari accommodation facilities ranging from the basic Camp-sites to the luxurious full board hotels, these include; Virunga Hotel, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge ,Traveler’s Rest Hotel, Mt.Gahinga Rest Camp, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Safari Lodge, Mubano Hotel among others.
At the park gate, there is a community Camp ground with ample space where you can pitch your own tent, besides that excellent traditional Bandas managed by the local community are also in place.