Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled.
Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park covers 33.7sqkms in size, is the Ugandan part of the bigger Virunga Conservation Area, which is a jointly protected area with Congo and Rwanda. It includes three extinct volcanoes: Mount Sabinyo (3.669 m.), Mount Gahinga (3.474 m.) and Mount Muhavura (4.127 m.). “Mgahinga” is named after Mount Gahinga plus the initial of Mount Muhavura.
The vegetation is the one typical of afro-montane areas, with a consistent bamboo forest. There are 76 mammal species recorded, including buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, golden monkeys, leopards. 115 bird species have been recorded, including Rwenzori Turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite and crowned crane. Mgahinga hosts a population of golden monkeys and a few families of mountains gorillas called Nyakagezi a trans-boundary specie.
Activities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Each of the three volcanoes can be climbed with a day trip hike as recommended by the lonely planet, without special mountain equipment. Visits are organized to the Garama Cave, near the Park Head Quarter in Ntebeko, which is 432 m. in length and was once inhabited by the pygmies’ population. The main attraction was the “Gorilla tracking” to the only one habituated family of mountain gorillas, which in 2005 has migrated into Rwanda. A number of one day nature walks are available from the gate at Ntebeko (the Sabinyo Gorge trail and Rugezi Swamp trail), especially for bird watching activities, visit to the Batwa cultural centre and the Golden monkey trekking is now famous.
How to get there
Mgahinga National Park can be accessed by road and by air landing in Kisoro town at Nyakabande air field. The park is at the foot of Mt. Muhavura and lies about 540km from Kampala on a drive of about 8 hours via Kabale town on an excellent paved tar road surface. Mgahinga National Park is only 13 km from Kisoro town.