Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, 5 Amazing Things To See And Do in Mgahinga, Where Gold meets Silver
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the most spectacular destinations in Uganda with Mountain gorillas, Golden monkeys, numerous birds, three volcanoes that are surprisingly part of the splendid and vast Virunga range that cuts across the borders of Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
It is also a huge cultural significance for the indigenous Batwa pygmies in particular. These and so much more have made it an iconic destinations and the question is what are some of the things to see and do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park?
This magnificent park is found within Bufumbira County in Kisoro district in the southwestern part of Uganda. It is the smallest National park in Uganda with 34 square kilometers.
Top 5 Things to see in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Of the numerous things you can see in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Mountain gorillas are the most sough-after. The park is a habitat to the ever-mobile Nyakagyezi gorilla group, which has been known for crossing the border into Rwanda and Congo.
This group has the head known as silverback Bugingo who is around 50 years old and a father to Mark and Marfia, and two black backs who love to pose and play in the trees that is Rukundo and Ndungutse, and also two females that is; Nshuti a mother to baby Furraha and Nyiramwiza who is a mother to baby Nkanda.
The park gives you a rare opportunity to see the endangered golden monkeys which are endemic to the Albertine Rift, high in the dense bamboo forest on the Gahinga trail.
The Virunga volcanoes
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the most beautiful National Parks because of its breathtaking landscape. The Park lies on the northern slopes of the three volcanoes namely; Mount Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabinyo which give you an unforgettable regional backdrop.
Birds(Bird Watching Safaris)
Uganda’s smallest National Park is characterized by varied habitats which make it a home for over 174 bird species. These include the ibis, Pin-tailed whydah, speckled moosebird, stone chat, Grey-capped warbler, wax bills, yellow-vented bulbul, fire finch, white-naped raven, black kite, Rwenzori turaco, blue-headed coucal, paradise fly-catcher, Rwenzori batis, double-collared sunbird, Rwenzori nightjar among others.
Some steep mountain slopes in the park have caves which are formed by lava tubes. These include the famous Garama cave found near the park headquarters, which is a sacred place for the Batwa. During the Batwa trail, you will get an opportunity to find out how this cave was used as a shelter during the battles and as a place to store looted treasures.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is also a habitat to the forest elephants, leopards, giant forest hogs, bush pigs, forest buffaloes, bush bucks, serval cats, golden cats, bushbucks, side stripped jackals, black-fronted duikers, and the South African porcupines, although they are difficult to spot within the thick forest vegetation.
Tourist Activities, Safari activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mountain Gorilla tracking
Mountain Gorilla Tracking is the main thing to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and undoubtedly the main reason tourists throng the Park. There is one habituated gorilla family which you can track called the Nyakagyezi Gorilla family. The group is mobile and at times crosses to Rwanda and Congo.
The three volcanoes in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be summited that is; to hike Mount Sabinyo which is 3,669m takes around 8 hours to cover the 14kilometer round trip which is following a steep ridge up to the peak.
It takes about 6 hours to climb up and down Mount Gahinga which is 3,474m and it has a swamp-filled crater as well as giant lobelia on its top where you can get an opportunity to view golden monkeys on their way through the bamboo forest.
Hikers can take about 8 hours to hike the highest peak that is Mount Muhavura at 4,127m which is a 12-kilometer round trip, and it gives you a chance to view the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward, Bwindi impenetrable Forest and the peaks of the Rwenzoris.
This activity gives you a chance to get to know the Batwa people through a walk, which is conducted by the Batwa guides who provide insights into their traditional forest life and culture. They are hunter-gatherers and fierce warriors who used to depend on the forest for shelter, food and medicine. You will get to know the magic of their ancient home, hunting techniques, how to gather honey, how to point out medicinal plants and how to make bamboo cups through their demonstrations.
Birding – Bird Watching
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park provides a spectacular sighting of the Dusky turtle dove, cape robin-chat, Kivu-ground thrush, olive thrush, brown-crowned Tchagra, bronze sunbird, regal sunbird, blue-headed sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed waxbill and streaky seedeater during a 3 to 4 hour Gorge trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo.
You can also view other bird species such as the Chubb’s cisticola, red-faced woodland warbler, Banded Prinia and Doherty’s Bush-shrike along the Uganda-Congo border and on the level ground.
Hiking and nature walks
These involve guided walks through the forest to the deep Sabinyo Gorge which is a massive gash in the flank of Mount Sabinyo, and provide a good birding opportunity to spot the Rwenzori Turaco. It is a 4-hour walk, and passes through the Rugezi swamp which is extraordinary for bird watchers.
You can also view the calderas on top of the Gisozi hill, spot the Kisoro and Bunagana towns and be captivated by Lake Mutanda through a walk to the Congo border which transcends different vegetation zones.
The two-hour interesting golden money track which is a gentle steep through former farmland to the bamboo forest on a clear day, gives you a great opportunity to sight the Virunga Volcano range as well as coming across buffalos and duikers.
Where to stay in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Apart from its beautiful attractions, there are also good and comfortable accommodation facilities such as Amajambere Iwacu camp and Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge which are located in Ntebeko, Bird nest at Bunyonyi Resort, Bunyonyi Overland Resort, Kisoro Tourist Hotel, and Kisoro Travelers’ Rest Hotel in Lake Bunyonyi or Kisoro areas.
How to get to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park can be accessed by both the road and air. For road transport, the Park is about 510 kilometers from Kampala through Kabale to Kisoro, which is the most commonly used route and it is an 8-hour journey.
Another attractive route is from the main road at Kabale and follows a shoreline of the superbly scenic Lake Bunyonyi to rejoin the Kabale-Kisoro main road at its halfway point at Muko. The main entrance to the park that is Ntebeko is 14kilometers from Kisoro at the end of the dirt road with some steep and rocky sections.
For air transport, there are daily flights from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro airfield.