Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda is only 33 sq. km of size, located in the southwestern corner of the country bordering Rwanda and Congo,14 km from Kisoro town in Bufumbira County about 540 km from Kampala-the capital city of Uganda and this national park was gazetted in 1991.
This Park covers the northern slopes of the three northern most Virunga Volcanoes namely; the Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), Mt. Sabyinyo (3,645 m) and Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m). The park is bordered by the Republic of Rwanda in the south and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the west, each of these countries protects its own share of the Virunga area and these parks together form the ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ which totals to 434-sq. km of which Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the Virunga conservation area
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda experiences two wet rainy seasons; February – May and September- December of each year. The maximum amount of rainfall it receives in a year is 250mm-October and Minimum is 10mm –July, in that if you’re coming to trek the mountain gorillas in Mgahinga, you need to carry with you the gum boots, rain coats umbrella because the weather keeps changing around the Mgahinga area.
Despite being the smallest in Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of Uganda`s most loved safari destinations. Very important to the country for it is one of the only two parks in Uganda that are habitat for about half of the world`s endangered Mountain gorillas as well as hiking safaris / tours hence preferred by travelers looking for Gorilla trekking safari tours in Uganda. as well as a great African Wildlife safari spot. Due to a large variety of wildlife in Mgahinga gorilla national park such as, the threatened golden monkeys and so many other animals, the park’s main attraction is one habituated gorilla group – Nyakagezi Gorilla family.
Although this group sometimes crosses the border to Rwanda;, which means Mgahinga is not a reliable spot for viewing gorillas but it can give you a chance to cross to Rwanda or Congo without applying for any visa. This makes the Mgahinga gorilla national park Uganda the best park to trek gorillas; because it gives one a chance to be in the tree countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo at the same time.
This park consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes, that is to say the cones of the Virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape when viewed from a distance and front view as you approach the premises. As you reach the park, a 15 minutes’ walk up the viewpoint from Ntebeko Gate can get one a great overview of the area.
Mgahinga Park is of a great biological importance because it is one of those mountains that provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals that moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler throughout the climatic changes of the ice ages. The Virunga are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. Mgahinga gorilla national park experiences a cool climate that supports the growth of Afro-montane vegetation and the abundant type of Vegetation is the bamboo, a delicacy to the Mountain gorilla. The Lobelia among the other types of vegetation and different types of flowers in the park
When you visit Mgahinga gorilla national park Uganda, you will encounter the different people in Kisoro or Kabale which is dominantly inhibited by the Bufumbira, Batwa, Bakiga and other tribes and the major ethnic groups of people in Kisoro District are the Bufumbira who occupy most of Kisoro area and are majorly cultivators/farmers, which will give you an opportunity to practice some farming with the local people an activity which makes you feel the life of a local mufumbira and also the locals will take you through the process of growing sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes since it’s their one of the staple foods they eat in Kisoro and this experience with the locals makes Mgahinga national park number one to Bwindi forest national park.
Kisoro District is found in the southwestern corner of Uganda, where it borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It covers an area of approximately 701.4 square kilometers (270.8 sq. mi). About 3.88% of the district is covered by open water. Another 2.95% is covered by wetlands and national forest reserves (Mgahinga national park) cover another 0.96%. The District is mountainous and hilly and raises an average of 1,980 metres (6,500 ft.) above sea level. Due to the delicate nature of the environment and the pressure of a rapidly increasing population, the natural environment in Kisoro District is under severe threat of degradation since most of its population is farmers and cultivates.
Tourists coming to visit Mgahinga via Kisoro should travel with the four wheel drive cars which will make you move smooth around Kisoro. The district was formed in 1992. Prior to that it was known as Bufumbira County and was part of Kabale District. Kisoro District has 13 sub-counties: (a) Kanaba (b) Nyakabande (c) Chahi (d) Murora (d) Kisoro Municipality (e) Nyarusiza (f) Nyakinama (g) Nyarubuye (h) Muramba (i) Busanza (j) Nyabwishenya (k) Kirundo and (l) Nyundo. The district has four parliamentary constituencies; it is from these areas where by the cultural tourism has been developed from because there are always the nature walks through these villages visiting the women groups doing some developmental projects
In addition to the Bufumbira, you will be able to encounter the Batwa (Pygmies) who once lived in caves and fed on wildlife form the minority group in the area. The Batwa community demonstrates a number of skills like hunting techniques, gathering, and point out medicinal plants and demonstrates how to make bamboo cups which all this has attracted many tourists to this community in love to learn the Batwa culture and ancient way of leaving life.
Guests are also invited to the sacred Garama Cave, once a refuge for the Batwa and also you will be able to have more time with the Batwa people who are believed to be the shortest people in Uganda because they lived in the mountains which make them too short for life, more so with the Batwa community they will teach you on how to make the local bamboo cups which is the most beautiful experience you do not have to miss while at Mgahinga
Volcano Climbing/ Hiking In Mgahinga National Park Uganda
Hiking is one of the amazing and incredible activities one should engage in while on the Ugandan safaris and these mountains in the Mgahinga national park will give you the best experience and also a chance to be in the 3 countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo at the same time.
Mt. Muhavura (4127m) – ‘The Guide’
Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The 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.
Mt. Sabyinyo (3,645m) – ‘Old man’s teeth’
Like an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s 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 the peak. If you are to continue, the climb to the peak 11 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda, a dual experience you will achieve here. 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 peak111! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, what a triple experience this is!!! The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14km stretch.
Mt. Gahinga (3474m)
On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields. The local people call such a pile a ‘Gahinga’. Mount Gahinga is quite bigger than the average ‘Gahinga
’ but sitting next to Mount Muhavura does make it look small. A hike, which takes you about, six hours round trip, goes through a good example of a pure Bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a Crater Lake on top but time has changed it into a Lush swamp. Distance to the swamp is 8km
This is a 5 hours hike which covers 10km distance. It takes you first toward Sabyinyo and climbs up the base of Sabyinyo for a while through fine montane forest before turning towards the Congo side without applying for a visa. Along the trail you will get a great view of Mt. Sabinyo’s gorge and peaks which gives you a clear view of these gorges and Sabyinyo. When you get to the Congo side you get back along the international border, you can take a breath at this site to take some photos with your group.
The route back to the Park Head Quarters is a great section for birding with a wide range of bird species so for birders this is a chance to see some birds at no cost because they will be along the trail as you go back to the headquarters of the park.
There are two rest huts along the way that are good places for taking a break while on this route you will be able to spot some animals like the golden monkeys and elephants, more so you will be eating you snack at this resting point which makes Mgahinga the best national park no matter how small it is.
Other activities to participate in while in Mgahinga national park Uganda
The Batwa Cultural Trail
The dense forests at the foot of the Virunga Volcanoes were home to the Batwa people: hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who depended on the forest for shelter, food and medicine thanks to ancient knowledge passed down for generations.
When Mgahinga Gorilla National Park was established in Uganda, the Batwa were suddenly evicted from the forest. They were forced to abandon their low-impact, nomadic lifestyle. Now landless, they work when they can for local farmers, and the only time they are permitted to re-enter their cherished forest is as tour guides on The Batwa Trail, where they invite visitors to discover the magic of their old home.
During this trail tour, the Batwa exhibit hunting techniques; gather honey; point out medicinal plants and show how to make bamboo cups. Guests are finally invited to the sacred Ngarama Cave, once home to the Batwa King, where the women of the community perform a sorrowful song which echoes eerily around the depths of the dark cave, and leaves guests with a striking and moving sense of the richness of this fading culture
Gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National park Uganda
This is the most exhilarating tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The only adapted gorilla family in this park is the Nyakagezi Gorilla Group. It consists of 9 members, 3 adult females, 2 silverbacks, 2 juveniles and 2 infants. However, due to their constant movement it is advisable to check the current location of the gorillas first.
The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and behavior along the way. Gorilla tracking can be tiring and may take the whole day. We must stress that, while you have a very good opportunity of seeing gorillas, success is not certain. They are wild creatures with no fixed routine. Finding them requires the skill and familiarity of your trackers and guides, as well as luck. The trackers and guides have helped to habituate the gorilla groups and know them closely. While walking, please feel free to ask guides to slow down if they are going too fast. Even if you need to rest. Take time to stop and enjoy the trees, flowers and birds. Gorilla Tracking can be physically demanding, so go prepared. Take time to read through the Gorilla trekking rules prior to your trip.
Birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National park Uganda
The Park is set apart with a unique bird fauna; 79 bird species have been recorded within the park, including several species prevalent to the East Congo Montane region. For the Virunga Conservation Area as a whole, over 295 species in the Virungas are prevalent to the Albertine Rift Afro montane region. They represent 59% of the total of known endemic species. So if you’re interested in birding, Mgahinga national park is the place to enjoy such good experience. This is due to the fact that it has several Cave Exploration
This is also one of the adventurous activity which you will be able to engage in while at Mgahinga gorilla national park. The cave is 342m long and 14m deep. These caves are that historical because; long time ago the Batwa who were commonly known as worriers used to live in the caves. They used them as their sacred places and shelter. The Batwa is a also commonly known as pygmies. They are believed to have come from Congo during the early days.
They came stayed in the mountains of Mgahinga. So, when you visit these caves, the Batwa local guide will take you around. This will take palce as he narrates to you how life was in these caves. These people are also known to be great gatherers, hunters, and artists. They will teach you on how to make the bamboo cups as you move these former homes of the Batwa.
These homes are now inhabited by bats and cob webs. This is due to the fact that these people were removed from the forests by the government. It wanted to civilize them; and please don’t hesitate to give the Batwa guide some tip if you have because; it is channeled in the buying of books and school materials for the young people since the government. Other NGOS want to make them civilized. this will enrich them with knowledge about tourism hence reducing on the encroachment in the National park.
Scenic Viewing Platform:
Mgahinga national park Uganda is one of the top most parks. It gives a good scenic viewing point because of the existence of this special point. This is about 800M from the Park gate .Once you’re on top of this view, you will be rewarded with a good view of the Park and the surrounding environment and you will also have a clear view to Rwanda, lake Edward and the beautiful queen Elizabeth national park. The best thing about this activity; it is free and doesn’t require a guide which will cut your cost of the trip.
Another exciting element about this point is that we are not allowed to give all the details about this spot. This is because, one who reaches the top gets to read and know the information from the display panels. These panels are on top of the hill. Lastly you will be able to take best shots with your friends while making the Virunga mountains your backgrounds. You cannot miss such a wonderful experience because words cannot say it all. You need to visit the national park and you will be my witness.
How to reach Mgahinga Gorilla national park Uganda
From Kampala; it’s an 8 hours’ drive via Kabale to Kisoro town using 4wd cars as recommended because the roads can become slippery when it rains; and for those without private transport, you can contact Love Uganda Safaris to organize your ground travel or one can take the daily bus transport services. From Kisoro town, you hike or take a special hire vehicle to the park gate. But it is advisable to use Love Uganda Safaris to plan your trip. This is because you don’t have to hustle while on the trip, just contact us and we will give you the best of your trip
One can fly to Kisoro; Flight arrangements can be made with Eagle Air. This company has flights on Mondays and Fridays from Entebbe to Kisoro. So arrangements can be made to book your ticket and also organize for the ground transportation while in Kisoro. This means, you will need to book in advance with eagle air in order for you to be put on the flight. Then us we will be waiting for you to do the ground transportation as you go to encounter the Gorillas.
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