Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The Park covers 38 kms in size, is the Ugandan part of the bigger Virunga Conservation Area, which is a jointly protected area with Congo and Rwanda. It includes three extinct volcanoes: Mount Sabinyo (3.669 m.), Mount Gahinga (3.474 m.) and Mount Muhavura (4.127 m.).

Mgahinga is part of a larger ecosystem, the Virunga Conservation Area (434km sq) which includes two adjacent parks in Rwanda and Congo. The park which is a cultural heritage featuring in the history, folklore and traditional healing practices for local people, covers the north slopes of the three northern Virunga volcanoes  Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabinyo. The park derives its name from “Gahinga Kinyarwanda word for a pile of volcanic lava stone heaps around which cultivation is carried out.”Mgahinga” is named after Mount Gahinga plus the initial of Mount Muhavura.

This small national park protects the Ugandan portion of the Virungas, chain of six extinct and three sporadically active volcanoes which follows the borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mgahinga was proclaimed with the primary aim of providing sanctuary to the rare mountain gorilla, some 300 of which live in the Virungas, and gorilla tracking remains the most popular activity. Here, though it is dependent on the seasonal movements of the habituated groups. Mgahinga supports a diverse forest and moorland fauna, notably the localized Golden monkey and at least 12 bird species endemic to the Albertine Rift but also small populations of elephant, leopard, buffalo and black and white colobus monkey. The spectacular setting at the base of the volcanoes, the tallest of which reaches an elevation of 4, 507 m, is among the most stirring in East Africa.

Quick Facts
Size: 38.6 sq Km
Location: Far south west, bordering Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 14km from Kisoro town.

Activities:
Gorilla tracking depends on whether the gorillas are around (they some times-not often-move across the boarder). Permits must be booked at the UWA office in Kisoro or Kampala. Guided walks to the volcanic peaks require an early start. Enroute to Kisoro lies lovely Lake Bunyonyi, hemmed in by steep mountains and studded with small islands.
Visiting Time: Any time but check that the gorillas are around.

Species
 The vegetation is the one typical of afro-montane areas, with a consistent bamboo forest. There are 76 mammal species recorded, including buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, golden monkeys, leopards. 115 bird species have been recorded, including Rwenzori Turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite and crowned crane. Mgahinga hosts a population of golden monkeys and a few families of mountains gorillas called Nyakagezi a trans-boundary species to Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. You can book a cheap and memorable Uganda gorilla safari to Mgahinga National park through a local tour operator.

Activities

 Each of the three volcanoes can be climbed with a day trip hike as recommended by the lonely planet, without special mountain equipment. Visits are organized to the Garama Cave, near the Park Head Quarter in Ntebeko, which is 432 m. in length and was once inhabited by the pygmies’ population. The main attraction is the “Gorilla tracking” to the only one habituated family of mountain gorillas which is not reliable due to its crossing the three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Congo). A number of one day nature walks are available from the gate at Ntebeko (the Sabinyo Gorge trail and Rugezi Swamp trail), especially for bird watching activities, visit to the Batwa cultural centre and the Golden monkey trekking is now famous.

Accessibility
Mgahinga National Park can be accessed by road or air transport. Kisoro Town at the foot of Mt. Muhavura is about 540km from Kampala and takes about 8 hours via Kabale on an excellent paved road surface. Public transport by bus is available on a daily basis. Mgahinga is located 13 km from Kisoro town and can be accessed by Public transport. Kisoro Town can also be accessed by air. The town boasts of a bitumen runway Airfield at Nyakabande.

Accommodation facilities
For clients who want to visit this park accommodation can be organized from the basic Camp-site to the luxurious full board hotels, these include Traveler’s Rest, Sky Blue, Mt. Gahinga Rest Camp, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Safari Lodge, Rugigana Campsite and Mubano Hotel.

An up market lodge, community-run bandas and camping are available at the entrance gate. There is plenty of accommodation in Kisoro town