Mgahinga National park is found in the south west bordering Rwanda and Congo. It comprises 3 extinct volcanoes and 3 extensive swamps. At 34 square kilometers, it is Uganda’s smallest National Park but most beautiful protecting the Ugandan side of the Virunga Mountains where visitors enjoy breath-taking views of the three extinct conical shaped volcanoes. This park is another place popular for gorilla tracking and is towards the southwest of Uganda and borders the countries of Congo and Rwanda . The park also covers part of the Virunga volcanoes, which are three volcanoes from the Virunga group of volcanoes and are now extinct.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park derived its name from Mount Gahinga, an extinct volcano found in the Virunga Mountains on the border between Rwanda and Uganda. “Gahinga” is a local word in Runyarwanda meaning ‘piles of volcanic stones cleared from a place of cultivation at the foot of the volcanoes’.
The park experiences two wet rainy seasons that is; February to May and September to December. The Gahinga has a beautiful swamp at the top, Muhavura has a crater lake and the Sabinyo give you the best and amazing experience ever whereby climbing to its top you see a foot in 3 countries (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda).
There are also great scenic views of vegetation and for that reason it is really a stunning place with the tree volcanoes as earlier mentioned where by hiking to the top of them gives an unforgettable experience one can ever get.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled.
Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.
Park at a Glance
Size: 33.7km2, making it Uganda’s smallest National Park.
The park takes its name from “Gahinga” – the local word for the piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes.
The British administration declared the area a game sanctuary in 1930; it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991.
Mgahinga has one habituated trans-boundary gorilla group.
The Batwa were self-sufficient – and visitors can see how during a fascinating tour with a Batwa guide to learn the secrets of the forest.
The park is about 15 km by road, south of the town of Kisoro and approximately 55km by road west of Kabale. The Park is 600km away from Kampala and you can get there by road or air. On road, it is approximately 10-12 hours’ drive from Kampala to Mgahinga, passed via Kabale to Kisoro. The route is tarmacked, Mountainous and a bit steep. The park can be accessed by air whereby you can make earlier bookings on flights that move from Entebbe International Airport to Kisoro Airfield.
The park has about 39 mammals that is The Mountain Gorillas, Buffaloes, Elephants endangered golden monkeys, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, leopards, spotted hyenas, black fronted duikers to mention but a few. On top of this, the park has a variety of bird species of about 79, an activity of watching birds that can be carried out through the bamboo forest.
It is only Mgahinga and Bwindi Forest in Uganda that protect habitat for mountain gorilla.
Even though the park was established to protect the Mountain Gorillas, it has one habituated gorilla group although this group sometimes crosses the border into Rwanda meaning that for tourists much interested in Gorillas, Mgahinga is not a very reliable park to spot for viewing gorillas although there are other mammals, birds and primates for attraction.
Apart from gorilla tracking this park also has hiking as one of the activities it offers. Hiking is to the top of one of the three extinct volcanoes and can be an exhilarating experience. There are three volcanoes that offer a unique hiking experience. Mt. Sabyinyo is the one that offers the steepest challenges and has a lot of sharp drops. The top most peak of this volcano is called peak 111 and once on top of this you are afoot on three different countries – Rwanda , Congo and Uganda all at once!
Mt. Gahinga is a gentler when compared to Mt. Sabyinyo and provides an opportunity of a six hours round trip and parts of which through lush bamboo forest.
Mt. Muhavura is slightly more strenuous with a round trip estimated to be eight hours. Tourists are advised to camp on top of the mountain, which provides one of the most breath-taking views of nature in the entire country. The site itself has no facilities and therefore campers should take their own food and camping gear on the top.
The other experiences to look forward to while in this park are Cave exploration and bird watching which are both very relaxing and can be done on your own or with the help of a guide.
Golden Monkey Tracking
Apart from Gorilla reserves, Mgahinga offers a diverse range of activities such as; track golden monkeys (endemic to this park within Uganda); hike to the volcanic peaks; or a cultural experience at the Batwa Trail where visitors will witness a variety of activities intrinsic to the lifestyle of these former forest hunters.
Knowing where to rest after a tiresome activity of tracking is very important. There are various accommodation facilities ranging from Campsites, Budget, Mid-range to luxury lodges within and around the park. These may include;
Luxury facilities, Clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Nkuringo Safari lodge, Mutanda lake Resort Mid-Range facilities that is, Traveler’s Nest Hotel. Amajambere Iwacu community Camp provides various units that range from Bandas to Domentories along with camping under Budget range.