Activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park: In the southwestern Uganda is where you meet Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. It is located on the border of Congo and Rwanda covering 33.7sq kilometers of land. The park has mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas move around the whole forest in search for food. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has primates that are rarely seen in the world this makes it one of the most attractive tourist site in Uganda and worldwide.
Mgahinga has a thick rain forest with a variety of tree species thus making it a favorite habitat for vegetarians like Gorillas. The food in the park is enough thus migration of people from Congo and Rwanda to this place. Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga National Park is easy to access better than other parks since they’re easily seen in their natural habitats.
Usually, when you arrive at Mgahinga, you will find a guide who takes you through the behaviors of gorillas’ and this will increase your interest to know more about these intelligent gorillas. The lifetime experience with natural beauty gorilla trekking safari begins from Ntebeko entrance gate. It good for one to utilize well his/her time with these beautiful gorillas’ since maximum time allowed to spend with them is one hour.
If you are from Kampala and you wish to use the road means of transport like a car, you can drive from Kampala via Kabale to Kisoro. It is an 8-hour drive. The easiest and fastest means of transport to access the park is by air. You can book in advance with AAV so that a daily scheduled flight can be booked for you. It takes only 1 hour to reach the park if it is by boarding of a plane from Entebbe to Kisoro Airstrip which is near the park.
The best tracking period is during the two dry seasons. During this period the park is easily accessed since the paths are not as muddy as it is in the rainy season. In this period the thick forests are easily penetrated into. The two dry Seasons best for Gorilla Safari are; end of February and June to October and mid-December. Though these are the best seasons for gorilla tracking, gorilla tracking tourism is possible throughout the year.
Tourists planning for a gorilla trekking adventure in Uganda should observe the following rules and regulation;
Before gorilla trekking safari commences, you must verify your age to UWA officials using your passport bio data page. 15 years is the minimum age required for gorilla tracking trips in Uganda.
Visitors should always keep a distance of seven while with mountain gorillas in Bwindi and Mgahinga national park
Tourists should avoid direct eye contact with Silverback gorilla.
Avoid eating and running while with gorillas in the jungle
Maintain low voice while with gorillas during your Uganda gorilla trekking tour.
Avoid using flash light cameras to take photos of the gorillas
Avoid littering rubbish in the forest during trekking
You need to be physically fit to trek gorillas since they live in volcanic mountains of Bwindi and Virunga ranges and requires hiking long distances. Senior citizens may hire “helicopter” (sedan chairs) from porters at a minimum cost of $300 per person.
Tourists with communicable diseases like flu and TB are not allowed to trek gorillas because they are vulnerable to human diseases.
Four visitors are allowed to go gorilla habituation experience for a period of four hours while eight tourists can go for gorilla trekking tour to watch the gorillas for one hour.
Visitors are advised to wear long sleeved shirts, cotton clothes, trousers, hiking boots and rain coats during gorilla trekking in Uganda
Turn your head away when coughing or sneezing before the gorillas.
Avoid making unnecessary movements during the one-hour observation of mountain gorillas
Birding in Mgahinga is also something that cannot be missed out because of the beautiful scenery it has got. In-between Mt Sabinyo and Gahinga you will observe beautiful birds of different feathers flying together in groups or sometimes you will sight one bird flying alone thus making the scenery look attractive. Rwenzori Turaco can be observed through montane forest and bamboo forest.
The Rwenzori Turaco is seen at about 2,700m on the Congo-Uganda border. There are wonderful birding places at the bamboo belt of about 2,500m above sea level. There is also a tall montane forest of about 2,660m. there are also vocal inhabitants at the forests edge of the tangled vegetation and they include; the Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Banded Prinia, Red-faced Woodland Warbler and Chubb’s Cisticola.
The Cape Robin-chat, Streaky Seedeater, Kivu-ground Thrush, Black-headed Waxbill, Olive Thrush, Blue-headed Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis and Dusky Turtle Dove are sighted in the gorge trail between Sabinyo and Gahinga.
For decades, Mgahinga acted as a defense forest for the Batwa. It was like their home. Batwa were hunter gatherers who depended on the forest for food. They were also fierce warriors who depended on the forest for war and medication. The forest was also a source of shelter for them.
Emerging of the national park caused he eviction of the Batwa hence had to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and try something else. The cherished culture of Batwa still exists and this is expressed by allowing the Batwa to act as tour guides in the forest and talk about the Batwa trail. The only way to preserve culture is allowing the community to participate in the preservation of their own heritage. The cultural heritage of Batwa and their magic is felt when touring their ancient homes. I can tell you it I interesting.
The Batwa gather honey, show the techniques of hunting and the medicinal plants used to heal different diseases. They teach also how to make bamboo cups. The sacred Garama Cave is a heritage cave for the refuge Batwa. Visitors are allowed to access this cave and they are entertained by the women of the community. They perform a sorrowful song which brings in mind the rich of culture the Batwa have but is in vain of fading away.
When tour fee is paid, these musicians are paid a portion and also the community gets a share so as to facilitate and improve the livelihoods of the Batwa.
Hiking through Sabinyo Gorge forest gives a chance to sight good birding opportunities and also provides opportunities to spot Rwenzori Turaco. The walk is estimated for four hours and you will have to pass through Rugezi swamp where a good birder will be overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery of birds.
Hiking on the foothills of the volcanoes of the Virunga gives tourists an opportunity to sight wonderful agricultural villages and surrounding lakes, forest birds, bamboo forests, Rugezi swamp and wild vegetation.
Golden monkey track is a wonderful two-hour trek from the former farmland to the bamboo forest. When on Virunga Volcano range you can sight duiker and buffalo but it is best viewed during a clear day. More so when walking to the Congo border you find different vegetation zones. Hiking around Gisozi hill makes a hiker to sight Kisoro, lake Mutanda and Bunagana.
The three volcanoes can be covered in three days each taking a day. On the peaks you take a look in Rwanda, the Rwenzoris, DR Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the Virungas and Lake Edward. Mt. sabinyo is at 3,669m and it takes eight hours to cover it. It is around trip of 14km. it takes six hours to cover Mt Gahinga which is at 3,474m. it is a swampy topped filled crater with giant lobelia. On climbing Mt Gahinga, a lucky climber will spot golden monkey on their way to the bamboo forest.
Mt. Muhavura has the highest peak at 4,127m. It has 12km round trip and also takes around eight hours. Once at the top, on a clear day, hikers will spot Lake Edward, Virunga Volcanoes, Impenetrable Forest, Bwindi and the peaks of the Rwenzori.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park has got finest and various lodges nearby that make you feel you are in your own home. Therefore, no worries when it comes to accommodation in the area. These are located in Lake Mutanda, Kisoro and Ntebeko. Volcanoes mount Gahinga Safari lodge and Amajambere Iwacu camp are located in Ntebeko. Lake Mutanda Chameleon Hill Lodge is situated at Lake Mutanda. Kisoro Traveler’s Rest Hotel and River Mucha Hotel are located in Kisoro.
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