Though small, Mgahinga National Park is remarkably one of a few most exceptional protected areas in the world. This park is located in southwestern and covers an area of about 33.7 square kilometers making it the smallest park in Uganda. It forms part of the Virunga Conservation Area (VCA) that covers areas of Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in eastern DR Congo. This picturesque park stands at elevation of about 2227 meters and 4127 meters featuring 3 volcanoes that make up the Great Virunga Massifs. They include Gahinga where it derived its name and this straddles at altitude of about 3474 meters, Muhabura at 4127 meters and Sabyinyo volcano at 3645 meters. This park was gazetted 1991 making it one of the 10 stunning parks in Uganda.
What to see in Mgahinga National Park
This park inhabits about 39 mammal species and most importantly, it is a home to a section of mountain gorillas that make up a total of 1004 in the world today. The others include elephants, buffaloes, golden monkeys, spotted hyenas, black fronted duikers, giant fronted hogs, bushbuck and not to forget about 79 avifaunal species.
Activities to do while on safari in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The available safari activities for you to engage in while on safari in Mgahinga National Park include;
Mountain gorilla trekking
Mgahinga National Park is Uganda’s second destination where gorilla trekking is conducted. Treks in this park kick start early in the morning at Ntebeko with morning briefing on dos and don’ts to be followed while in the forest searching for a group of mountain gorillas. Nyakagezi is the only group that has been habituated and readily available for visitors to track gorillas in this park. Equally, only 8 visitors are allowed to track these creatures in Mgahinga National Park and permits still cost $600 per person. Treks to see mountain gorillas in this park may last you about 2 to 6 hours or even more depending on location of these creatures, nature of the habitat and your hiking speed. While in the jungles in search of these magnificent primates, you also have a chance to spot out many monkeys, birds and others.
Mountain or volcano climbing
For adventure enthusiasts, Mgahinga National Park is that one incredible destination you need to consider a must in your travel plan if you are interested in the most thrilling volcano adventures. Three volcanoes that make up part of the Great Virunga Massif are all found in this park. They included Mount Muhabura which literally denotes the guide. This volcano stands at altitude of 4127 meters and can take you about 8 hours to hike through it. While on a hike, you also come across small shrubs, grasses and rock ground in addition to incredible views over the magical peaks of Mount Rwenzori, Virunga Mountains, Bwindi forest and others. In case of long hikes, you are advised to spend a night at the base camp and you need water, tent, food and sleeping gear.
Mount Gahinga is another beautiful volcano that is found within this park and its name denotes a pile of lava stones heaps around which cultivation is carried out. Climbing this volcano may last you six hours through bamboo forest and rewards hikers with amazing views. The other is Sabyinyo volcano which denotes old man’s teeth and climbing it takes you about eight hours and for those who may wish to embark on a little more challenging hike this is the best place for you. On top of this volcano, you have opportunity to have clear view over Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo.
This park boasts with about 79 bird species making it one of the most significant birding area in Uganda. On a bird watching tour in this park, you will sight at birds like black kit, white necked raven, paradise flycatcher, double collared sunbird, ibis, whydah, Ruwenzori nightjar, Ruwenzori turaco, dusky crimson wing, Kivu ground thrush, yellow vented bulbul, waxbills a mention but a few. For any plans to do bird watching in this park, the wet season is preferably the best time for you to realize your dreams.
Nature walks are best done within the mountain edge and rewards visitors with excellent sights at its lush vegetation, bamboo forest, Rugezi swamp which comes with breathtaking views over the farmlands, Lake Mutanda and others.
Golden monkey tracking
Golden monkeys are a few most beautiful creatures that you should count a must to catch a glimpse at while on Uganda safari in Mgahinga National Park. Permits for this experience costs $50 per person and if you wish to take part in golden monkey habituation, you can obtain a permit at $100.
Mgahinga National Park offers more than just primate adventures. A visit to this park offers you opportunity to also engage in thrilling cultural experiences especially in the Batwa community. On cultural safari, you have opportunity to learn more about the daily activities of the Batwa, their traditions and cultural practices.
Accommodation in Mgahinga National Park
The available lodges for visitor overnight while on safari in Mgahinga National Park include Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge which is situated in the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park just along the Nteko ridge; Nkuringo safari lodge which is situated along the shores of Lake Mutanda just close to Mgahinga National Park; Traveler’s Nest Hotel, Mount Mgahinga Rest Camp, Mount Mgahinga Lodge and many others.
Getting to Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park is reachable by both road and air. By road, you will spend about 8-10 hours and your journey may start from Kampala or Entebbe. You can take the Kampala-Kabale route then connect to Ntebeko part gate. Alternatively, you can take a flight from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi airfield then land into Kisoro airstrip where you can easily connect by car to Mgahinga National Park.
When to visit Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga national park can be visited at any time of the year. However, it is important that any intending visitor take note of the dry and wet season before embarking on a road trip to this this. The wet season usually starts from March to May and from October and this is characterized by heavy rainfall whereas the dry season begins from June to September and from December to February.
In conclusion, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of Uganda’s most spectacular parks. Despite its size, this park has a lot to offer and for you to enjoy that will leave a lasting memory in you.