Things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga gorilla national park is located in Kisoro district- southwestern Uganda nestled amidst the three Virunga Volcanoes.

Distance From Kigali To Mgahinga Gorilla National park

The driving distance from Kigali to Mgahinga gorilla national park is shorter compared to pick-ups from Kampala or Entebbe. Getting to Mgahinga Gorilla Park from Kigali Rwanda is a popular travel style adopted by a number of tour operators and travel agents selling gorilla tours and safaris in Uganda through Kigali International Airport.

One of the advantages of flying into Kigali to trek mountain gorillas in Uganda is the price of the gorilla permits which is lower compared to Rwanda. Gorilla permits in Uganda cost USD700 while in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park, the permits go for USD1,500. The cost of just the gorilla permits in Rwanda can run a 3 days gorilla trekking safari package in Uganda with a gorilla permit, transport and accommodation.

More still, In Uganda for USD1500 you can book gorilla habituation experience to stay longer with mountain gorillas. Visitors normally stay 4hrs with the gorillas during this experience while during gorilla trekking, travelers spend strictly one hour with them. Gorilla habituation Experiential tour is done in Rushaga sector Bwindi impenetrable forest national park which is approximately 5nhours drive from Kigali. Rushaga Gorilla Trekking sector is also considered to be among the best Region for gorilla trekking safaris In Bwindi with 5 habituated mountain gorilla families and most playful young mountain gorillas hence making fun-filled gorilla trekking tour.

Yes; Rwanda is one of the top travel destination Rwanda in Africa offering gorilla trekking experiences however, Uganda and DR Congo are also a home of mountain gorillas in different national parks such as Bwindi, Mgahinga and Virunga.

Mgahinga Gorilla Park is a smallest national park in Uganda covering an area of about 33.7 Km². Currently the park has only one habituated Mountain Gorilla family called Nyakagezi Gorilla Group which is ready for gorilla trekking tours. Nyakgezi Gorilla family has 10 individuals ie 05 silverbacks, 02 adult females, 02 juveniles and 01 infant. Most travelers consider this gorilla family to be the easiest to track because it is often roaming in lower areas of the park with abundant food hence tourists move short distances during trekking adventures.

The distance from Kigali Rwanda to Mgahinga national park is 134km which is 3- 4hours (including border crossing time).

Things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga gorilla national park is located in Kisoro district- southwestern Uganda nestled amidst the three Virunga Volcanoes. The Park is characterized by tropical rain forest and bamboo forests with golden monkeys and mountain gorillas. The park is described by many travelers as Where Gold Meets Silver. The park can either be accessed by road or air from Entebbe international airport through Kisoro airstrip. The location of the park conveniently placed to suit one driving in from Kigali with a short driving distance from Kigali.

Gorilla Trekking

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to some of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas making gorilla trekking a must do activity while at the park. The trek starts at about 8am and lasts 2 to 4 hours, which duration is mostly dependent on the location of the gorillas or how far they moved in their search for food. There are a few guidelines to keep in mind before you go gorilla trekking which you will be acquainted with at the orientation but we picked a few to keep in mind before then. Gorillas can catch human diseases so if you have a cold or other infectious diseases, it is wise that you save the adventure for after your recovery. If you have to ease yourself while gorilla trekking, all waste must be buried 30cm deep. Flash photography should not be used and all trekkers should be at least 15 years of age. Only 8 people per trekking group are allowed. Depending on how far the gorillas moved, your reward for the trek maybe a silverback out of the 5 in the one family of Gorillas found in the park. This ought to remind you that by trekking you have a chance to see the gorillas but it is not a guaranteed that you will see them.

Golden Monkey Trekking

You can shoot two birds with one stone by using your gorilla trekking experience to simultaneously trek golden monkeys. These primates are small and fast which makes golden monkey trekking a rather active adventure. The activity takes about 4 hours per session during which you are allowed the opportunity to view, take photos of the primates before heading back to your lodge or camp. The habituated family of these monkeys is about 6 in number and they have due to the habituation process grown fond and less evasive of human presence in their sanctuary. The route you take to find the monkeys may be akin to that which they tread looking for young bamboo branches; a hike through the bamboo forest. Remember to carry your Camera to freeze your golden monkey adventure memories, binoculars for spontaneous birding, appropriate hiking gear like waterproof hiking boots, gloves, a long sleeved shirt and a rain poncho and you will be good to go.

Birding for Albertine Rift Endemics

The Dusky Turtle Dove, Black-headed Waxbill and Streaky Seedeater, Kivu Ground Thrush and Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Olive Pigeon, Brown Woodland Warbler, Cape Robin-chat, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, White Starred Robin, and Black headed waxbill, Western Green Tinker bird, Malachite Sunbird, Cape Robin, White-starred Robin, Greater Double collard Sunbird, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Shelly’s Dusky Crimsonwing, Archer’s Robin Chat, Striped breasted Tit, Malachite and Scarlet-tufted Sunbirds, are some of the bird species  found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which is said to have about 180 bird species. Bird watching in Mgahinga can be an all year round. You will enjoy a good list of the Albertine rift endemics in this area especially on the gorge trail. Be ready to bird the whole day and therefore you should carry packed lunch.

Volcano Hiking or Mountain climbing

There is something in the landscape of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park that your eyes will not miss; Volcanoes, a whole three volcanoes! They form part of the Virunga Ranges found in Rwanda, Democratic republic of Congo as well as Uganda. For each name given to these mountains is a literal translation: Sabinyo to mean Old man’s teeth, Gahinga to mean Pile of stones and Muhavura means a guide. Mount Muhavura is the highest of them all with the advantage of seeing the other Virunga Mountains from its peak. It can be seen from as far as Kisoro town and is justifiably called the guide given how it leads one to the rest of the mountains in the ranges. Mount Sabinyo is a gateway to Rwanda and the DRC while in Uganda; at its peak you are geographically standing in Rwanda, Uganda and The DRC at the same time! The way to the summit of Sabinyo is filled with mushy vegetation whose uncomfortable impact can be reduced by dressing appropriately in waterproof hiking boots. Climbing up Mount Gahinga on the other hand requires a hike through a bamboo forest. All three of these mountains can be climbed in a day each up to their summits as long as you are in good physical shape.

Batwa Trail Experience

Before the area on which mgahinga gorilla national park was set aside for the purpose of being a gorilla national park, the Batwa or African pygmies lived and thrived in these forests and mountains as hunter gatherers. They were later displaced but some of them still live around the park to participate in the tourism industry as porters and guides. They are also entitled to a portion of the tourism proceeds and a tip for their guide services will be welcome. A Batwa trail experience is an activity that takes you through their history and transition over time. The Garama Cave, a very sacred piece of Batwa history is a good place to start. It is in this cave that they were able to hide from Bantu invasion many years back. The ease with which they bustle through the forest and glide uphill is awe striking and a reminder that east or west, home is best to the Batwa.

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