Gorilla Trekking In Mgahinga National Park

Mountain gorillas can only be found in volcanoes national park (Rwanda), Virunga national park (DR Congo) and Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga national park (Uganda).

Gorilla Tracking In Mgahinga National Park

Are you looking for gorilla tracking in Mgahinga national park, tour price, permits and accommodation in the park? Mgahinga national park is Uganda’s smallest national park covering an area of 33.9 sq.km and seated on a high attitude of 4127m. The park is located in Kisoro district in the southwestern of Uganda on the borders with Rwanda and DR Congo. Mgahinga national park was gazzated in 1991 in order to protect the endangered mountain gorillas. Mgahinga national park is famously known as one of the places where you can see mountain gorillas in the whole world. The other parks are volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Bwindi national park in Uganda and Virunga national park in DR Congo.

The park has a stunning scenery with 3 of Virunga extinct volcanoes mountain Muhavura, mount Sabinyo and mountain Gahinga and all these having slopes inside the park. The forest acts as shelter and a source of food for mountain gorillas and other animals in the park. Although the park is situated in Uganda, it can easily be accessed from Rwanda using Cyanika border and this journey might take you only 3 hours to reach the park. The park can also be accessed using air transport from Kajjansi airstrip and Entebbe international airport up to Kisoro airfield taking you only 2 hours. The road journey from Kampala to Mgahinga national park takes you 8-10 hours.

Mgahinga national park has an estimated total number of 8o mountain gorillas with only one habituated Nyakagyezi family and it’s open for tourism. Nyakagyezi family used to migrate to Rwanda but it has now settled permanently in Uganda for more than 3 years now. Gorilla safaris in Mgahinga national park are good because the park attracts less tourists so there are no crowds. Because the park having only one habituated group, it means that only 8 gorilla permits are issued out a day. Visitors coming to Mgahinga national park are advised to book their gorilla permits in months or weeks in advance from Uganda wildlife authority in Kampala or at the park headquarters or they can use a trusted tour operator. A gorilla permit in Mgahinga national park costs 600USD which is lesser than USD100 of Rwanda.

Gorilla tours are done throughout the year in Mgahinga national park. But the best time to see gorillas in Mgahinga national park is during the peak season/dry season which is in December to February and from June to October. During dry season, the trails are not sleeper and the forests are not over grown with vegetation. Tracking mountain gorillas begins early in the morning at 7am with a briefing at Ntebeko gate. During briefing, the tourists are given rules and regulations for gorilla tracking too follow. The trekking time at Mgahinga gorilla park is lesser than of Bwindi impenetrable national park and this is because the park is small and the gorilla don’t live far in the forest while the habituated gorillas live and feed in a smaller range making it easy to find them. However trekking mountain gorillas in Mgahinga national park is sometimes challenging because gorillas in Mgahinga live at a higher attitude which requires you climb the mountain so you must be fit. If you hike any of the three mountains it’s very challenging, navigating through the steep mountain slopes can be very tiresome. If you not fit like the elderly, you might need to hire porters. When you come across the gorillas, you will be allowed an hour with them as you learn their behaviors, watch them feed, play, breast feed and take photos.

How is gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park compared to Bwindi impenetrable national park?

Mountain gorillas can only be found in volcanoes national park (Rwanda), Virunga national park (DR Congo) and Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga national park (Uganda). In Uganda gorilla safari can be done in 2 national parks so how does gorilla tracking in Mgahinga differ from that in Bwindi impenetrable national park

About 80% of the total mountain gorillas in Uganda is found at Bwindi impenetrable forest. The park being a UNESCO world heritage site it makes gorilla trekking more popular than in Mgahinga national park. Bwindi has 19 habituated gorilla families so visitors have a variety of groups to choose one for trekking. Mgahinga national park has only one habituated group called Nyakagezi. However Nyakagezi group is among the best groups for gorilla tracking in Uganda. It’s the gorilla group with the highest number of silverbacks in Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda. Both national parks can be accessed by road transport from Kampala taking you about 8-10 hours and from Rwanda you can access Bwindi using Katuna boarder and Mgahinga using Cyanika boarder all taking you about 2-3 hours. By air you can also access the parks by boarding a flight from Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe international airport for about 2 hours up to Kisoro airstrip.

Bwindi impenetrable national park has four sectors in the east, north and south of the park where visitors can go and do gorilla trekking namely Rushaga, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Buhoma. Unlike Mgahinga, it’s possible to do double trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park. In Bwindi it is possible to trek gorillas in one second and you visit another section the second day. Trekking gorilla twice enables you to compare experiences tracking different gorilla groups and in different sections of Bwindi.

Bwindi impenetrable national park is the only park in the world which harbors gorillas and chimpanzees. Maghinga harbors mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Mgahinga Gorilla Park is the only place in Uganda where tourists can track golden monkeys and mountain gorillas

There are higher chances of seeing mountain gorillas in both national parks. The one gorilla habituated family in Mgahinga has a record of migrating from Uganda to Rwanda but it has been 3 years ever since it settled permanently in Uganda. There is one possibility of not seeing these gorillas and that’s when they have moved deep into the forest. It’s not common and the activity is always cancelled to allow trekkers go back to their hotels before it’s late.

Bwindi impenetrable national park is found near some of Uganda’s best national parks like Queen Elizabeth national park famous for tree climbing lions and Kibale national park. Visitors can combine gorilla safaris with other activities in the neighboring parks.

The cost of mountain gorilla tracking is similar for both national parks Mgahinga and Bwindi a gorilla trekking permit costs $600 and gorilla habituation $1500 but Bwindi impenetrable national park has more accommodations that Mgahinga gorilla park.

Other activities in Mgahinga national park

Mgahinga national park is not only for mountain gorillas. The Park has the highest number of endangered golden monkeys, colobus monkeys and other primates. The park is also a home to leopards, buffaloes, porcupines, golden cats, tortoise, bushbucks and bush hogs. Around the park there are batwa group of people and visiting them is a worthwhile.

Golden monkey trekking:

Golden monkeys can only be seen in Virunga ranges. In Uganda, golden monkeys are only seen in Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Golden monkeys are subspecies of blue monkeys and they are considered to be endangered by tourists. Golden monkeys are among the most beautiful monkeys in the whole world.

Nature walks:

Nature walks are done in the different sections of the forest using different forest trails i.e. Sabyinyo gorge walk, batwa trail, border walk trail. These nature walks can be done on the slopes of volcanoes, Rugezi swamp, forest, plantations and along the shores of Lake Mutanda. Visitors can go for nature walks with a help of a guide and armed robbers. The nature walks gives you opportunities to see different tree species, birds, forest animals, insects and butterflies.

The batwa trail:

The batwa trail gives you an opportunity see people who originally stayed in the forest. The batwa were hunters and fruit gatherers in the forest while living in the Garama caves many years ago. The government evicted and settled the batwa pygmies outside the forest to gazzate the place for tourism and other wildlife activities. The batwa are slowly copying the new of life outside the forest. The batwa trail is always lead by a batwa guide who show visitors the traditional ways of how they used to live in the forest. They will demonstrate how they hunted, gathered fruits, sang, dance, collect honey and how they made fore. The visitors are allowed to take in any of the activities.

Cave exploration:

This involves visiting Muhavura and Garama caves. This activity is attached to the life and history of the batwa group of people. The batwa used these caves as a meeting and assembling point the days they were fighting the Bantu neighbors. When the batwa were evicted from the forests the caves become homes of bats and moving inside them requires on to have a torch. The Garama caves are very long and deep that they reach Rwanda.

Mountain Climbing in Mgahinga National Park

One of the best activities to do when you visit Mgahinga is hike any of the mountains of the extinct volcanoes found with in the park. Hiking to the top of any of these mountains takes a day and it requires hiking permits which can be bought at the park offices.

Mountain Muhabura/Muhavura:

The mountain is at an altitude of 4127 making it the highest mountain with in the park. Hiking mountain Muhavura takes you about 8-10 hours passing through tough, cold as well as muddy terrains before reaching the top. The reward of hiking mountain Muhavura is spotting green vegetation, swimming in a crater lake, beautiful views of Mountain Rwenzori, Virunga mountain ranges as well as Bwindi impenetrable national park.

Mountain Sabinyo:

The word Sabinyo means “old man’s teeth”. It’s the second highest mountain in Mgahinga national park with an altitude of 3,634 meters above sea level. Hiking and descending mountain Sabinyo takes you about to 8 hours. At the summit of the mountain you will find a point that marks the border between Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda. Once you reach the peak, you can put your feet in three countries in a minute.

Mountain Gahinga:

Mountain Gahinga is the lowest mountain in Mgahinga national park with an elevation of 3,474m and hiking and descending the mountain might take you 7 hours. The reward of hiking Mountain Gahinga is the beautiful scenery while ascending and descending and hiking and descending the mountain might take you 7 hours. The reward of hiking mountain Gahinga is the beautiful scenery while ascending and descending the mountain as you pass through bamboo forests, wider view of Virunga Mountains, seeing the large shallow crater swamp, great views of Mountain Rwenzori.

Bird watching 

Mgahinga National Park is one of the best places to do birding form in Uganda. Birding in Mgahinga national park gives you an opportunity to see over 184 bird species that have been so far recorded in the park. a well-trained bird guide will take you out to look for species such as Collared Apalis, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, chestnut-throated apalis, Double-collared sunbird, Dusky Crimson wing, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Dusky Turtle Dove, Equatorial Akalat, Fire finch, Grauer’s Warbler, cape robin-caht, Grey capped warbler, Handsome Francolin, bronze, Kivu Ground Thrush, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Montane Oriole, blue headed sunbird, Mountain Masked Apalis, Olive pigeon, Olive Thrush, Olive woodpecker, black kite, Paradise Flycatcher, Pin-tailed whydah, Red-throated Alethe, barred long tailed cuckoo, Regal Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori night jar, Rwenzori Turaco, blue-headed coucal, Shelley’s Crimson wing, Speckled Mouse Bird, banded prinia, Strange Weaver, Strip-breasted Tit, Waxbills, White necked raven, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, African jacana, White-starred Robin, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, grey crowned crane and Yellow-vented bulbul among other.

Accommodation during gorilla trekking in Mgahinga national park

Mgahinga national park has a variety of accommodation to choose so finding one is not a problem. The park has lodges, hotels as well as campsite offering luxury, mid-range and budget options in the areas of Kisoro, Ntabeko and also near Lake Mutanda. These include Mount Gahinga safari lodge, Amajambere I’wacu camp, chameleon hill lodge, Nkuringo safari lodge, traveler’s nest hotel, clouds mountain gorilla lodge, mountain Gahinga rest camp and mountain Gahinga lodge.

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