Mgahinga National Park

Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park only 33 sq km of size, is located in the far southwestern corner of Uganda bordering Rwanda and Congo,14 km from kisoro town in Bufumbira County about 540 km from Kampala-the capital. Mgahinga National Park was gazetted in 1991.

mgahinga_gorilla_parkThis Park covers the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes namely; the 3,474 m high Mt. Gahinga, Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The park is bordered to the south by the Republic of Rwanda and to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Each of these surrounding countries protects its own share of the Virungas. The three parks together form the ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ ( VCA) totaling to 434-sq. km of which Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the VCA.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park experiences two wet rainy seasons; February – May and
September- December of each year. The maximum amount of rainfall it receives in a year is 250mm-October and Minimum is 10mm -July.

Despite being the smallest in Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of Uganda`s prime tour-safari destination very important to the country for it is one of the only two parks in Uganda that are habitat for about half the world`s endangered Mountain gorillas hence a Uganda Gorilla safaris destination as well as a great African Wildlife safari spot due to a large variety of wildlife such as buffaloes, elephants, bush bucks, the threatened golden monkeys just to mention but a few.

This park consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. These huge cones of the virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape when viewed from a distance and front you as you approach the premises. When you get to the park, a 15 minutes’ walk up the viewpoint from Ntebeko Gate can get one a great overview of the area. Mgahinga Park is of a great biological importance because it’s one of those mountains that provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals that moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages. The Virungas are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

The park experiences a cool climate that supports the growth of Afro-montane vegetation and the abundant type of Vegetation is the bamboo, a delicacy to the Mountain gorilla. The Lobelia, Haege-nia spp are among the other types of vegetation is park.

The major ethnic groups of people in Kisoro District are the Bafumbira who occupy most of Kisoro area and are majorly cultivators/farmers. The Batwa (Pygmies) who once lived in caves and fed on wildlife form the minority group in the area;

Gorilla Tracking; The most thrilling tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is that of Gorilla Tracking safaris-tours. The Nyakagezi is the habituated gorilla in this park and it which consists of 9 members; 2 silver backs, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants.

Gorilla tracking is a vigorous activity that can take a full day. During this tour, you are led by a guide through the gorilla’s empire/tracks as he/she explains all about gorillas such as their ecology, movements and general behavior.

Please note: success of seeing gorillas is NOT guaranteed despite the high chance of seeing them. Since they are wild animals living in the jangle, they don’t have a fixed routine; therefore finding them requires luck and the experienced of your guides. These guides know gorillas intimately since they habituate them, they will hence take you to the area where they saw them last. They may also be able to suggest how long the hike might take at the journey start.

Please note that you are free to ask guides to slow down if they are going too fast or if you want to have a rest, look at birds /flowers, and your guide shall wait for u.

Dos and don`ts
• It is advisable that you put on jangle shoes best for steep muddy slopes
• The weather is unpredictable and it can change any time. Please carry rain wear, sunscreen, a hut and sun glasses, as.
• You are advised to Carry water and food because this activity is lengthy and tiresome especially to first time trackers
• Once tracked, ensure that you keep 5m distance from Gorillas. If approached by one, back away slowly.
• Avoid pointing or waiving your arms- this can scare away annoy gorillas.
please Move slowly and Keep your voice low/better if silent for better tracking
• When taking photos, ensure that your flash is off for can threaten gorillas.
• You may carry binoculars, these help u see far features and creatures in details.

HIKING:-Volcano Climbing
Mt. Sabyinyo; (366m)
As locally known literally meaning ‘Old man’s teeth’ has an eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to expert climbers. Climbing up this mountain takes 0ne up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to the first peak. If you want to continue, the climb to the peak 2 involves walking along a ridge with breath-taking drops into Rwanda and Uganda`s gorges, a life time memorable dual hiking safari experience one can only achieve here in the world!.

Omusozi gwa VirungaFinally, the hike up to the steep peak 3 steep that has several ladders and mush scrambling, here you are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to this peak. Once on top, you will be in three countries; Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda at the same time!!, yet an exclusive experience to only this destination. This hike takes about eight hours to cover the 14km stretch round trip.

Mt. Gahinga; (3474m) This Mt`s name (Gahinga) literally means a pile of small stones according to the native people. On your way to Mgahinga National park, these small piles of stones are visible in the garden fields.
Mount Gahinga is reasonably bigger than the average ‘gahinga’ but her proximity to Mount Muhavura makes her look small. This trek that takes you about six hours round trip, goes through a good sample of a pure Bamboo forest. Mt. Gahinga had a Crater Lake on top some time past, but this has changed into a Lush swamp. This 8km Distance swamp is one of Gahinga`s attractions.

Mt. Muhavura; (4127m) (as called by natives literally meaning ‘The Guide’)
This mountain is seen from all over Kisoro and it acts as a guide. This typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb traverses a rocky surface covered by short grasses and small shrubs. Once hikers reach the top, they get rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the Rwenzori Mountain peaks. This 12km hike takes approximately 8 hours all rounds. Hikers are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before, the site has no facilities so one needs a tent, personal water, food and sleeping equipments.

Garama cave; This cave is 342m in length and 14m deep, long ago, in this cave lived the crafty Batwa people who were warriors as they pursued their neighbors but now inhabited only by bats, From the park head-quarters to the cave entrance, is 3 km long and it takes about 4 hours. Your guide will narrate to you how the Batwa lived and made their attacks out of the cave.

Viewing Platform; This point is about 800 meters from the Park gate. Once one gets to the top, you will be rewarded with a good view of the Park and the surrounding environment. The activity is free and doesn`t require a guide. Information about this spot can be gotten from the displaying panels at the hill point.

Border Trail; – Visa Not Required. This 5 hours hike covers 10km a distance. It takes you first toward Sabinyo and climbs up the base of Sabinyo for a while through fine Montane forest before turning toward the Congo. Along the trail you will get a great view of Mt. Sabinyo’s gorge and peaks. When you get to the Congo you get back along the international border. The route back to the Park Head Quarters is a great section for birding with a wide range of bird species. There are 2 rest huts along the way that are good places for taking a break. Common on the same route are the golden monkeys and elephants.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is a prime birding safari-tour spot in Uganda blessed with 79 unique bird species that have been recorded within the park, these include several species endemic to the East Congo Montane region.
Over 295 species have been recorded in the Virunga Conservation Area as a whole and are endemic to the Albertine Rift Afro-montane region representing 59% of the region`s total of known endemic species.
Please contact the Park Management for a guide who will take around and tell you all about these birds. Ensure you carry binoculars for the best view!!!

Free Birding; Now available on request is free birding along the edge of the park. The guides are always happy to take you out from 5-6 pm (in the evening) if you book by 10:00 a.m. the morning of the day you wish to go for this activity. You have a choice to go for a long walk or simply relax in the campground. If one takes the long buffalo wall toward the Congo you get to a wetland area where you have a splendid view of a wide range of birds such as Fire Finch, Stonechat, Grey Capped Warbler, Ibis, Whydah, Speckled Mouse bird, Waxbills, and Yellow-Vented Bulbul. Do it at your own pace-relaxed and your guide can show you the best spots are.

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