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;
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.
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
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
- Mgahinga Volcanoes lodge– Luxury
- Travellers’ rest in Kisoro (Mid range) – This is where DianeyFossy used to stay during her research days of the mountain gorillas
- Lake Chahafi Lake resort– A beautiful budget lodge, the only lodge that offers great views Lake Chahafi and the Volcano Mountains.
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