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.
The park is also an important destination for wildlife, with 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
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 landscape of the park is mainly mountainous, bordering Uganda with Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. The three countries share the Virunga conservation area each country protecting from its borders.
With a size of 33.7 square kilometers, Mgahinga Gorilla National park shares 8% of the total Virunga Conservation Area though it remains the smallest national park in Uganda. The park harbors one habituated Gorilla trans-border family that has two adult silver backs, 3 adult females, 2 infants and 2 juveniles.
The British administration declared the area a game sanctuary in 1930; it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991. The park is one of the reserves that were devastatingly affected by the civil wars in Uganda. It was only after 1986, that measures for gazetting several national parks were undertaken though it took about five years to be realized (1991)
Batwa Cultural Experience
Though many people are informed about Gorilla tracking in the two parks of Uganda, tourist often miss out on this experience assuming it is an unnecessary cost. The funny fact is, the batwa hunting experience, Collecting water, making fire, welcome ceremony, dancing and singing and a lot more interesting expeditions that you cannot miss out on.
It is always an unforgettable experience more so when your trail involving some hunting, and honey collection. You will be amazed on how these wonderful people continue with their life in a way that may seem ancient yet keeping environmental and wildlife conservation in mind.
The park is gifted with over 300 bird species 57 of which are endemic to Eastern Congo, and Virunga conservation area.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the south Western corner of Uganda, about 10 kilometers from Kisoro. The park is about 9-10 hours drive from Kampala though flights can be arranged to Kisoro to save you a few hours.
There a lot more the bafumbira community has to offer in terms of accommodation;
- Virunga Hotel
- Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge
- Traveller’s Rest
- Mountain Gahinga Rest Camp
- Nkuringo Safari Lodge
- If approached by a gorilla, you are advised to back off slowly to ensure that you keep a distance of at least five meters
- Do not point, waive or gesture with your arms to the gorilla. Though they have been habituated, they still remain wild animals that may interpret your gestures as a threat.
- When taking photos, you are advised to keep your flash off since a flash light may also be seen as a threat
- Keep in step with the guy, inquiring about anything you wish to undertake
- Keep your voice down to ensure that the animals do not pick your attention