Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park     (Gorillas and golden monkeys – Top things to do and see)

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is only 33 sq km (13 sq mile) in size and lies 14km (8 miles) from Kisoro town. Mgahinga Gorilla National park is one of the small national parks in Uganda and it is located far in South Western Uganda bordering Bwindi Impenetrable national park in the South, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. Explore Rwanda and DRC with Bird’s Nest Safaris on one of our exciting safaris. It is famous for gorilla tracking, golden monkey tracking and Batwa trail making it perfect for a traveler who is interested in seeing silver backs, golden monkeys and a cultural experience of the forest people- the Pygmies.

It is also located on the northern slopes of the three northern most extinct Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura which is 4,127 metres above sea level, Mt. Gahinga which is 3,474 metres above sea level and Mt. Sabinyo at 3,645 metres above sea level. Although the sun shines on this park, because of its high altitude, it can get very cold and chilly in the evening but thankfully the lodges always have an open campfire to warm you up. We recommend that you bring warm clothing for this weather and a list of what to bring is included in a pre-departure guide that we always email to our clients signed up on any of our safaris to Uganda, Rwanda and Congo

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park cannot be under estimated because of its small size. It is well endowed with adventure activities like hiking to the ‘lslands of the sky’- the Virunga volcanoes as mentioned above, gorilla tracking, Batwa trail experience and the endangered golden monkeys.

Activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The stars in Mgahinga Gorilla National park are the mountain gorillas but this small park has in store other adventure activities one can do;

A close up encounter with a gorilla in Mgahinga gorilla national park.

Mountain Gorilla Tracking
Mgahinga National park is home to man’s closest, the mountain gorillas which roam freely in the forest looking for food. The park is one of the 4 places where the rare and endangered mountain gorillas can be seen since they can not survive any else. Because it is one of the few places with the mountain gorillas, the park is visited throughout the year on a Uganda safari for the gorilla adventure trek.

Golden Monkey Tracking
Mgahinga Gorilla National park offers travellers a golden opportunity to track golden Monkeys. These monkeys are absolutely gorgeous and all that glitters is gold. The golden monkey is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List because its habitat is threatened due to destruction.
Tracking golden monkeys is an activity that one should not miss out while on a Uganda or East African safari. They will entertain you with their acrobat skills, jumping from one tree to the other through the bamboo forest.    Tracking Golden monkeys is easier than gorilla tracking. Look out for other animals and the countless birds in the area.

Batwa Trail and Garamba Cave
Another great activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National park is the Batwa Pygmy trail which takes visitors to Garamba Cave which is a 3km hike. The activity starts from the National park head offices with a brief history about the cave and its importance to the Batwa- the forest people. Batwa would raid their neighbours, and return to the cave which is 342 metres long and 14 metres deep. Since the forest is now gazetted as a national park, the Batwa no longer live in the cave and it now home to bats. You will also learn about how they made fires, treated diseases and worshipped.

Hiking Volcano Mountains
Mgahinga Gorilla National park is a diverse small park that can let visitors go hiking one of the three Virunga Volcanoes which can be combined with a gorilla trek, golden monkey trek or Batwa trail

These are Sabyinyo which is 366m or 1,200 feet. It is also known as Old Man’s Teeth because the crown has been eroded with time. Hiking Sabinyo can take about 8 hours depending on the hikers pace, and is 14km or 8 miles.

The second one is Mt. Gahinga which is 3,474 meters or 11,397 feet above sea level. One needs at least 6 hours to hike to the top through the bamboo forest zone. Gahinga in the local language means a pile of rocks. It covers an 8km distance or 5 miles.

The last virunga Mountain of Mgahinga Gorilla National park is Muhavura which means The guide in the local language because it can be seen from the whole or Kisoro area and acts as a land mark too. The hike to the top takes about 8 hours; of course this depends on ones hiking pace and it is 12km long. It is a tough hike and hikers will need to bring a lot of water, food and very nice trekking shoes.

Birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National park is a birder’s paradise. There are about 180 bird species in the Park, some which are Albertine Rift endemics and every birder on a Uganda birding safari should not miss a chance to go birding in Mgahinga National park. The park has montane bird habitants and is home to some of the birds that include Kivu Ground Thrush, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, White Starred Robin, RwenzoriTuraco, RwenzoriBatis, Archer’s Robin Chat, Olive Pigeon, and Black headed waxbill, Western Green Tinker bird, Cape Robin, White-starred Robin, Brown Woodland Warbler, Striped breasted Tit, Malachite, Scarlet-tufted, Greater Double collard Sunbirds among others. You may go for a 3 hours gorge trail between Gahinga and Sabinyovolcano mountains or take the bamboo trail which is at 2500 meters above sea level.

Border Trail           
A visitor to Mgahinga Gorilla National park may go for a 10km (6miles) hike, that takes about 5 hours depending on the hiker, up to the base of Sabinyo Volcano Mountain. You will have great views of the gorge and the peaks. This trail follows the conger border before returning to the park offices.
There are high chances of seeing golden monkeys and some forest elephants that reside in the area. This trail hike is also great for birders

Viewing platform
800 meters from the national park gate, there is a viewing platfoam where visitors can get a beautiful panoramic view of Mgahinga Gorilla National park. The platfoam has display panels that visitors can use to know what they are viewing.

Accommodation in  Mgahinga Gorilla National park
There are different accommodation options for a very traveller that range from luxury to Budget

Contact Bird’s Nest Safaris for an adventure safari to Mgahinga Gorilla national park to experience its mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and a hike to the Volcano Mountains and or to take part in the Batwa trail to experience how these forest people used to live, hunt and worship

How  to  get there:          
Mgahinga gorilla national park is easily accessible from Entebbe, Kampala and from Rwanda. There are two options;

Road transport: By road, it will take a full day drive from Kampala, Entebbe to Kisoro town and then take about half an hour further from Kisoro to the park entrance or gorilla tracking briefing offices. From Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, it takes about 3 hours to this park.

Air transport:  Mganhinga gorilla national park can easily be accessed by air from Entebbe International airport to Kisoro town. Bird’s Nest Safaris partners with Aerolink which offers scheduled and chartered flights to most of Uganda’s national parks and reserves.

Recommended safaris to Mgahinga Gorilla national park


There is so much to see and plenty of tourist activities to undertake while visiting Uganda. Of this fact, Bird’s Nest Safaris is in position to organise customized safaris and tours involving these tourist activities and so much more. Here are some of the major tourist activities in Uganda.

The mother gorilla with a 2 days baby gorilla !!!

Gorilla Trekking /Tracking and Gorilla Habituation

Gorilla tracking or Gorilla trekking is the biggest highlight for most travellers on Uganda wildlife and adventure safaris. Gorilla trekking or gorilla tracking takes place in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo and one needs a gorilla tracking permit.

It is actually the main reason many travellers get on the plane to Uganda since it is one of the unique activities in the world, considering that highly endangered mountain gorillas cannot live anywhere else, but where they are now which is Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Although about 880 mountain gorillas live in these three countries, half of the world’s them live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National park and little Mgahinga Gorilla National park. One needs to prepare very well for the gorilla trek and Bird’s Nest Safaris always provide a per-departure guide to help with preparations.   Click here for our gorilla tracking safaris.        These safaris offer you a great opportunity to come close to the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.The whole gorilla tracking process can take place from 1 hour to 8 hours depending on where they nested the previous night. When finally found, one is allowed 1 hour with them, taking photos, ‘selfies’ and observing how they live. Mountain gorillas live in family groups headed by a giant silverback gorilla. The family normally has black backs, females, juveniles and babies. Coming face to face with Mountain gorillas in one of the best feeling; a feeling that is forever memorable.

Gorilla Habituation Experience
Gorilla habituation is a new activity that Uganda Wildlife Authority has opened up for travelers in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Gorilla habituation can only be done in Uganda, in Rushaga which is the southern sector of the park for $1500 a gorilla habituation permit

There are two gorilla groups that are being habituated and one can be part of that habituation program with researchers from Uganda Wildlife Authority. Instead of 8 people as is the case of gorilla tracking, only 4 people are allowed to participate in the gorilla habituation.

You will spend 4 hours with the gorilla family being habituated from the time you find where they nested the previous night; learning about their behaviors and so on. Your data collected will be added into the data base and even when you go back home and are still interested in updates about the gorilla family you habituated, they will be availed to you. The activity begins at 7 am, with a team of trackers, researchers and ranger guides.

Cost of the Gorilla Tracking and Gorilla Habituation permits.
As per Uganda Wildlife Authority, the conservation body in Uganda, a gorilla tracking permit is $ 700 USD and the gorilla habituation permit costs $ 1500.

In Rwanda, one gorilla tracking permit costs $ 1500 USD while in Democratic Republic of Congo, it costs $ 400 USD depending on the time and conditions

Bird’s Nest Safaris can help organize your gorilla tracking and habituation permits in these three countries

Best Time for Gorilla Tracking.
There is no bad or best time for gorilla tracking because it can be done throughout the year, evenly good since there is no higher or lower success of seeing the mountain gorillas in the different seasons. Visitors are guaranteed 95% chance to see them.

During the rainy season, the trek especially in the boggy areas might be with more mud, but the gorillas do not move very far for food too. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a rain forest, so there is no big difference between a rainy or dry season since it can rain anytime in the forest. The forest is always wet anyway.

The advantage of tracking during the rain season is you will likely track the gorillas alone or in a very small group since green months in Uganda are low season months

Is it easy to book a gorilla permit?
All our safaris that include gorilla tracking, a gorilla tracking permit is included in the cost. Gorilla permits are on high demand and only 80 gorilla tracking permits are available per day. In high season, the gorilla permits are sold out very fast and we advise you to always book your gorilla permits in advance to avoid disappointment. The demand has been made worse since Rwanda increased their gorilla tracking fees from $ 750 USD to $ 1500 USD. Kindly note that we always have to check if gorilla permits are available before we confirm your Uganda and gorilla tracking safari

If you’re a sole traveller and you don’t want to book a gorilla tracking safari with us, we can help organize your permits at on $ 50 USD  as handling fees. We will then organize on how you can get your gorilla permits, either from Kampala or Entebbe or from your lodge

How many Gorilla Family groups in Uganda?
In Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National park, there are about 12 habituated for gorilla tracking and 1 gorilla family in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Bwindi Impenetrable has three sectors but 4 places where one can go for gorilla tracking of the habituated gorilla families. There is the Northern sector also known as Buhoma which has three gorilla families. Gorilla tracking first took place from here and the first gorilla family to be habituated and open for tracking in 1998 is Mubare gorilla family. Then the Eastern sector also known as Ruhija has three habituated families too and Rushaga and Nkuringo in the Southern Sector. There are 5 gorilla groups in Rushaga and 2 gorilla groups in Nkuringo.

Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga Gorilla family is easier and takes a shorter time because the park is small. Nyakagezi gorilla family that is tracked from here is found mainly in the open areas of the bamboo Zone. The gorilla family used to cross boundaries from Uganda to Rwanda but came back to Uganda and has not gone back since

What is the best gorilla family to track?

This is one of the frequently asked questions by travelers coming on a Uganda gorilla tracking safari. The further ask which gorilla family has more members, is better and the time to track a particular gorilla family.

It is very hard to answer those questions since the mountain gorillas live and move freely in free nature. Much as they are habituated, they are still wild and it is hard to predict their movements, behaviors and so on.

Some gorilla families like Rushegura of Buhoma are easily spotted because it doesn’t move far but this too is unpredictable.

When a traveler wants to track the nearer or easier gorilla family, with the help of the safari guide, on the day of tracking at the gorilla briefing point, one can easily get an easier family to track depending on where they last nested the previous day.

There are four different places in Uganda for mountain gorilla tracking each with a distance of 2 to 5 hours drive from each other. So the choice of accommodations also plays a big part in which area one will track gorillas from.

Unfit for Gorilla Tracking? No problem

A traveler who is not fit and not able to walk long distances should go for gorilla tracking in Rwanda or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In Rwanda, all gorilla treks start from one point and easier and less difficult treks are chosen according to the fitness level of visitors

However, it is more expensive to track gorillas in Rwanda- 1500 USD for a gorilla permit and the trek is not as exciting as it is in Uganda

It is easier to track mountain gorillas in Mgahinga Gorilla National park because it is a very small area and the gorilla family is around the open areas of the bamboo Zone. A gorilla trek here can be combined with a golden monkey trek which is not the case with gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. If you want to read more about Mountain Gorilla Trekking, have a look at https://www.animalsaroundtheglobe.com/mountain-gorilla-trekking/

Some of the gorilla tracking rules to keep in mind during the gorilla trek

  • Only 8 visitors are allowed to visit each habituated gorilla family and only 4 visitors for the gorilla habituation
  • Always wash your hands before you head out into the forest to see the gorillas
  • Do not leave rubbish in the national park
  • Always keep your voices very low so you are able to enjoy other sights in the Park. But you can still ask your ranger guide questions
  • When you finally get up close to the gorillas, follow your guide’s instructions. He will inform you when to get your cameras ready to photograph these giant apes

Rules while with the mountain gorillas

  • Remember to keep a distance of 7 meters (21 feet) from the gorillas
  • Your voices must be kept low at all times
  • Do not eat or drink while you are with the mountain gorillas
  • When the gorillas charge which happens sometimes, follow your guide’s instructions. He will tell you to crouch down slowly, and please don’t look in the eyes of the gorillas
  • Don’t attempt to run away. This will increase the risk of the attack from the gorillas
  • Gorillas are wild animals, do not touch them
  • Turn off the flash from your camera. Flash photography is not allowed
  • You will only be allowed a maximum of one hour with the gorillas

Gorilla trekking safari Requirements:

  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Water proof trousers
  • Long sleeved Shirt/blouse
  • Water proof raincoat/jacket
  • Sun Cream
  • Gloves
  • Insect repellent
  • Backpack for carrying water/packed lunch
  • Camera