Mgahinga Gorilla National Park: Uganda’s tinniest among all the 10 national parks, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park seats an area of 34sqkm. Though its tiny size, Mgahinga lists on the greatest places one wouldn’t love to miss on their Uganda adventures. Mgahinga forest is an endemic habitat for the mountain Gorillas and the golden monkey which makes a special destination where “Gold meets Silver”.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is an extension of the Virunga Massif (Virunga Conservation Area. The park geographically shares on the borders of three countries Uganda, Rwanda and DRC sharing on the inhibits of the forest among some are endemic species including the giant Mountain Gorillas and the special beautiful Golden monkeys.
The park was reserved in 1991 as a National Park to protect the endangered mountain gorillas which were at the edge of extinction by then. Together with Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are the only endemic habitats for the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda.
The overlooking conical peaks, dense tropics or rich biodiversity describe the geographical nature of Mgahinga. Before it was gazatted as a park, the park was occupied by the Batwa Pygmies who co-lived with other forest dwellers including the mountain gorillas. But when concern to conserve the gorillas for their future, then these people were evicted by the government from their ancestral land without any compensation consideration.
Being at the borders sharing the forest with the Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Virunga National Park, gorillas at Mgahinga has always not been reliable as gorillas could cross borders to neighboring countries making their encountering so difficult. However, there a one habituated gorilla family known as Nyakagezi gorilla family which is readily available for trekking on a daily basis with highest chances of encountering the species.
Accessing Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located at the far ends of southwestern Uganda in Kisoro districts where Uganda share borders with Rwanda and DRC. It’s among the most distanced parks in the country from the capital of Kampala. The park can be accessed by either road or taking a chartered plane, by Road it’s about 9hrs drive from Kampala via Kampala- Masaka- Mbarara- Kabale- Kisoro road drive. However, one can take a chartered plane from either Kajjansi or Entebbe airport to Kihihi airstrip in Kisoro which can take about 1½hrs and take a 1hr drive to the park.
The park can also be accessed from Rwanda, flying to Kigali airport and drive crossing Kyanika border to Uganda. The drive can last for about 4hrs drive from Kigali capital, though may have some delaying connecting from the border.
What to do at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla trekking safaris
The highlight of all African adventures, gorilla trekking has positioned to be the most stirring adventure to undertake. Trekking gorillas at Mgahinga is a continuation of the Virunga Massif, which joins Uganda with Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Virunga National Park of DRC. Trekking at Mgahinga forest is atleast hectic compared to that of Bwindi forest with the most limited trekking daily chances.
At Mgahinga Gorilla National Park there is only one habituated gorilla family, meaning only a group of 8 people are allowed to track gorillas a day. The trekking trail here is very challenging due to raised altitude of the park as the trekking can continue through the slopes and the hikes of the forest before encountering the gorillas. The trek can last for about 30 minutes to over 4 hours in accordance to where the apes are located on the trek.
Golden monkey tracking
This is another complement to gorilla trekking at the park, Mgahinga is the only endemic forest for these endangered Golden Monkeys. The presence of the golden monkeys and gorillas in the same forest, nickname a park a place where ‘Gold meets Silver’ an amazing encounter of finding the Albertine Golden monkey living alongside the volcanos silverback. Golden monkeys live in communities called troops and they tend to wander for longer distances a day but the golden monkeys here are fully habituated to ensure that trackers have the wondrous encounter on their tracking trail. The park has three habituated golden monkey communities, there are two experiences with the monkeys at Mgahinga gorilla forest National park. Golden monkey is set for an hour encounter on finding the community and done by 8 trackers and there golden money experience (habituation experience) where tracker have at least more hours with the monkeys. Golden monkey tracking costs US$60 and Golden monkey experience goes for US$100.
The Batwa people are among the few counted real indigenous ethnic people in Uganda. Commonly known as the Batwa pygmies who dwelled in the Mgahinga and Bwindi impenetrable forests national park before where forcefully evicted from their ancestral forests without compensation by the government in the name of gorilla conservation. These by 1991, almost lost it all in life, however, human rights advocates worked so hard to ensure that these people gain back their rights of living as citizens of the country. Today, the Batwa have stood to use their culture which almost dwindling to sell it to the world, the Batwa cultural experience has worked exhibits a lot about ancestral life through tales, dances, daily activity engagements including bee keeping among others. The cultural experience always is an accompaniment which can’t be missed on an adventure to the park.
The Mgahinga being part of the Virunga Massif, it’s also made of the three volcano chain of Muhavura, Sabinyo and Gahinga. Seating at the within the rift valley, Mgahinga proposes on of the famous and fantastic hiking trails in the country. The three volcanoes are raised on an altitude range to 4127m, 3669m and 3474m respectively. The most challenging hiking trails remains the highest peak of Mahavuran and the most famous and trekked volcano is the Sabinyo volcano which strategically located on borders of the countries of the Virunga Massif and reaching at the peak of the Sabinyo volcano then know you’re standing on the borders of the three countries and overlooking in each of the countries.
Other adventures done at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include, Nature Walks, Birding watching activities which leads to watching even species endemic species to the Albertine region.