Find a comprehensive travel guide to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda, home to both mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Located far in the Southwestern part of Uganda, Kisoro district is a spectacular Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda’s smallest park.
Mgahinga National Park is compact, but spectacularly stunning with distinct landscape characterized by a lush bamboo, montane forest and Virunga Volcanoes. Established in 1991, Mgahinga is a splendid Uganda safari protected area lying within the Virunga Conservation Area, a region that also includes the Virunga National Park in Congo and Volcanoes National Park Rwanda.
The park occupies a compact land area of only 33.7sq.km and offers refuge to the world’s most sought for primates- mountain gorillas. The park takes its name from Kinyarwanda word Gahinga which means the small lava stones that are common in gardens along the foothills of the mountain. It is a charming protected area featuring woodlands, savanna grasslands, afro-montane forests, tropical forests, swamps, bogs, semi-alpine vegetation and others.
Three of the eight chain Virunga volcanoes make up the breathtaking landscape of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. These volcanoes include Mount Muhabura, Sabyinyo and Gahinga. Other Virunga Massifs include Bisoke, Nyiragongo, Nyamuragira, Mikeno, and Karisimbi. The park also plays an important part as remarkable water catchment area. There are many streams flowing from the Crater Lakes and swamps on the Virunga Volcanoes of Mgahinga to the rivers and lakes at the base area. These include River Ntebeko, Kabiranyuma and Nyabirerema.
Main attractions in Mgahinga
Mountain gorillas make up the top most sought for attractions in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The park holds only one habituated gorilla group for guests to visit that is Nyakagezi gorilla family. Other species of wildlife include vervet monkeys, golden monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, forest hogs, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, baboons, blue monkeys, golden cats, buffaloes, geckos, chameleons, patas monkeys, and more.
Virunga volcanoes- three Virunga volcanoes make up the breathtaking landscape of Mgahinga National Park. They include Mount Sabyinyo 3645m, Gahinga 3474m and Muhabura volcano 4127m.
Birds- consisting of over 115 bird species, Mgahinga is a special birding spot. The park’s varied birds are largely Albertine rift endemic species. The birds to expect to identify on a birding expedition in Mgahinga include rufous chested swallow, white-starred robin, yellow-vented bulbul, stone chat, white-necked raven, speckled mouse bird, white napped raven, yellow-throated long claw, cinnamon bracken warblers, western green tinker bird, Shelley’s dusky crimson wing, wax bills, streaky seedeaters, Rwenzori turacos, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, stray seedeaters, striped breasted tit, olive pigeon, Rwenzori nightjar, Southern red bishop, paradise flycatchers, red-faced woodland warblers, regal sunbird, pin-tailed whydahs, red-necked spur fowl,
Kivu ground thrush, montane nightjars, montane nightjar, olive thrush, fire finch stonechat, grey capped warblers, handsome francolins, Doherty’s bush-shrike, blue-headed sunbird, fly eagle, Chubb’s cisticolas, blue-headed sunbird, grauer’s swamp warblers, crowned crane, brown woodland warblers, archer’s ground robin, alpine chat, bronze sunbirds, scarlet-tufted sunbirds, olive woodpeckers, blue-headed coucal, banded prinia, black-headed waxbill, dusky turtle dove, and more.
Tourism activities to do on Mgahinga National Park safari
In Uganda, trekking the mountain gorillas in the dense forest is only possible in two places –Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In Mgahinga, guests can track Nyakagezi family, the only fully habituated gorilla group that is set for tourism. Winding through the jungles of Mgahinga and finally you come across a family of these large apes is such a mind-blowing experience of a lifetime.
It is a 2-6 hours trek through the bamboo and tropical forest starting at 8:00 am after briefing at Ntebeko area. Secure a gorilla trekking permit in advance through your reliable tour operator Uganda Holiday Guide, each gorilla permit costing USD700 per person.
Golden monkey trekking
Golden monkeys are unique primates that you should expect sighting on primate tour in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Golden monkey treks are carried out in already habituated troops and a large troop consists of 80 members. During golden monkey trek, there is a special one hour for a magical encounter and photography.
Enthusiastic adventure seekers are not left out when it comes to Mgahinga safaris. All the three Virunga volcanoes can be hiked in Mgahinga –Gahinga, Muhabura and Sabyinyo. This makes Mgahinga Gorilla National Park a preferred hiking destination in Uganda for you to explore some of the chain Virunga Massifs.
Mgahinga offers memorable birding tours and birders visiting the park enjoy the sight of Albertine rift endemic and forest species. The most favorable time go birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is during the months of April, May and October or November. The birds of interest on Uganda tour in Mgahinga include the white-necked raven, yellow-vented bulbul, white-starred robin, yellow-throated long claw, waxbills, stone chat, cinnamon bracken warblers, western green tinker birds, rufous chested swallow, pin-tailed whydahs, Southern red bishops, dusky crimson wing, handsome francolins, fly eagle, Rwenzori turacos, speckled mouse bird, mountain masked apalis, streaky seedeaters, striped breasted tit, fire finch stone chat, Doherty’s bush shrikes, paradise flycatchers, brown woodland warblers, banded prinia, archer’s robin chat, collared apalis, crowned hornbills, greater double collared sunbird, and more.
Soak yourself into the jungles of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, explore and experience the park on foot. You will be exploring the lush habitats rich in wildlife, especially the lakes, rivers, forests, swamps and mountain slopes, etc. There are incredible trails to conquer on a guided nature walk in Mgahinga National Park. Hike through the border trail taking you along the Sabyinyo volcano slopes to where Rwanda, Congo and Uganda border meets. It is a 5 hours hike through the lush vegetation cover and allows you to watch some primates and view the caldera on the Gisozi hill.
Sabyinyo gorge trek – this is a 5 hours hiking trail taking you to the steep slopes of Mgahinga National Park and some fitness levels are required. It is a meandering trek along Mt. Sabyinyo slopes and distinct vegetation zones can be explored, list to birds as they sing and spot some of them.
The Batwa trail & cultural experience
The Batwa trail offers the best of the Batwa encounter and deep exploration about the unique traditions, cultures and practices of the Batwa. Before Mgahinga was gazetted, the Batwa lived inside it co-existing with gorillas and other wildlife.
Explore the Garama cave located at the edge of Mgahinga National Park, 3km off from Ntebeko. This was once occupied by the Batwa and the cave stretches 342m.
When to travel to Mgahinga National Park Uganda
Not all destinations can be visited at any time of the year like Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The park enjoys favorable weather & climatic conditions all year-round, although the most ideal time is during the dry season- June, July, August to early September and December running till February. These driest months offers conducive environment for guests to enjoy a gorilla trek to see gorillas as well as hiking the volcanoes that make up this park. You can hire a car and drive from Entebbe via Mbarara, Kabale and on to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Accommodation inside/outside Mgahinga
Budget, midrange and luxury lodges are available accommodation options for guests visiting Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to enjoy a Uganda safari. They include Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mount Gahinga Rest Camp, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Lake Mutanda Campsite, Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp, and others.
How to get to Mgahinga
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) is positioned in the Kisoro district, Southwestern Uganda and getting there is possible by road or air. By road, there are 2 options to reach the park- driving from Kampala to Kisoro-Mgahinga, 8-9 hours’ drive or driving from Kigali via Katuna or Cyanika border to Mgahinga National Park, 4-5 hours. By air, spend the shortest time by taking a flight from Entebbe airport/Kajjansi airfield to Kisoro airstrip and pick up by the driver to transfer you to the park.